Juan Evans, a transsexual man who was harassed and dehumanized by police officers in East Point, Ga., received a small measure of justice this week after hearing a heartfelt apology from the town’s mayor. But he is continuing to seek an apology and an indication of future changes from the town’s police department.
On October 23, Evans was pulled over by police for speeding. Having left his wallet at his office several blocks away, Evans identified himself by providing his birth name, birth date, social security number, and address. He told officers he was a transsexual after an officer accused him of lying.
In response, a police officer allegedly demanded to search Evans’ genitals on the side of the road to determine his gender. When Evans refused, he says the officer laughed and stated, “I have a right to search your mother’s genitals to find out who you are.”
Evans was then arrested and taken to a police station. Once there he was threatened multiple times with forced genital searches, yelled at, outed in front of his cellmates, and called “it” and “a thing.”
Following his release without charges, Evans made his story publicly known in a video from the Solutions Not Punishment Coalition, a group working towards freedom from police harassment for transsexual and gender-nonconforming people.
“I will not give East Point police officers my dignity, I will not live in fear of you, and I will not let you shame and humiliate me into submission”. “I heard what you think of me and my community, with all of the names you called me. And I will apologetically tell you who I am. I am not an ‘it,’ I am not a ‘thing.’ I am trans, and you don’t have the right to arrest me for being trans.”
On October 29, 50 protesters marched from the East Point Police Department to City Hall, condemning the town’s police discrimination and demanding an apology from the police department. In addition, Solutions Not Punishment Coalition has requested to work with the police department to deliver sensitivity training’s making it clear that genital searches cannot be used to determine gender and preferred names are not “lies” or aliases.
A week after the incident, Evans says he received a “sincere apology” from East Point Mayor Jannquell Peters, but the issue has yet to be fully resolved. “As I told her, the apology from her touched my heart”. “But to hear it from the officers would heal my soul.”
Solutions Not Punishment Coalition will continue to seek an apology and policy changes from East Point police officers on Evans’ behalf, “What happened to Juan, we know happens often. This is all part of our fight.”