These days, she works as a community navigator for Women with a Vision, a community based nonprofit founded by African American women in New Orleans to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. With the help of a grant under the Violence Against Women Act, Cooper focuses on preventing violence against transgender women of color.
But before she worked at Women with a Vision, she was a client.
For years, Louisiana enforced a two hundred year old felony prostitution law, part of canada goose clearance an anti sodomy law known as Crimes Against Nature, that disproportionately criminalized LGBT people, and in particular women of color. In modern times, even a verbal agreement to sell oral or anal sex was enough to get a conviction and a place on the sex offender list.
But in 2012, Women with a Vision successfully argued in federal court that the law was unconstitutional with Cooper, who had been convicted under the law twice, as one canada goose outlet jackets of the plaintiffs.
Cooper, who grew up in what she calls “one of the notorious housing developments that we had in canada goose New Orleans,” has come a long way since those days. She is now on her way to a master’s degree in criminal justice, and dreams of becoming canada goose outlet nyc a judge.
But not everything has changed. She is still is struggling to find a full time job. After all, she still has to check the box that says she’s a felon, because the judge’s decision only applied to the sex offender requirement. Even though Louisiana has since gotten rid of its felony prostitution law, it didn’t apply retroactively.
Checking that felony box, Cooper says, means that “no one ever calls you.”
While hardly sudden, the pace of policy and cultural changes for transgender people has been dizzying.
This year alone, the Obama administration issued an executive order banning canada goose outlet new york city employment discrimination by federal contractors against LGBT people, clarified that Title IX sex discrimination protections extend to transgender college students and that Canada Goose online veterans’ healthcare applied to transgender veterans, and extended Medicare coverage to sex reassignment surgery. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that employment discrimination against transgender people can be redressed through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination. The White House held canada goose outlet online events commemorating the transgender day of remembrance. Time magazine, with “Orange is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox resplendent on its cover, declared a “transgender tipping point,” and Janet Mock’s memoir of being a young trans woman was a bestseller. The Amazon show “Transparent” has drawn wild critical praise.
Related:Laura Jane Grace: Coming out made me a better person
But the cascade of progress can obscure just how profound the disparities still are, particularly outside of the reaches of the federal government. Transgender people face healthcare disparities, economic vulnerability, and violence. The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal estimates that trans people “make up 1 to 1.5% of the world’s canada goose outlet uk population but about 400 times https://www.cheshuntteamministry.org.uk more likely to be assaulted or canada goose outlet reviews murdered than canada goose uk black friday the rest of the population.” According to the 2011 report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, “19% of respondents have experienceddomestic violence at the hands of a family member because oftheir transgender identity or gender non conformity.”
“You canada goose outlet uk sale don’t have to deal with abuse just to feel like you’re wanted.”
People can be fired just for being transgender in 32 states, even as the 47% uk canada goose outlet of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported that they had been denied a job or a promotion or being fired because of their gender identity.
Nowhere canada goose outlet canada is the picture starker than in Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal allowed the “sexual orientation” portion of the state’s anti discrimination law for state employees to expire in 2008, and more recently has referred to moves to bar businesses from discriminating against gay people as a “silent war on religious liberty.”
Last spring, the Louisiana House declined to repeal its anti canada goose outlet online uk sodomy statute, under which consenting adults were still being arrested as recently as last year, after fierce opposition from the Louisiana Family Forum. The forum sent a letter to each legislator saying the law was “consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral.” It didn’t matter that the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional a decade ago, or that the provision of the same law that put Cooper on the sex offender list had already cheap canada goose been thrown out in court.
Cooper knows from experience that as important as policy is, there are psychological wounds to heal too. All the canada goose outlet store dynamics that lead anyone uk canada goose to stay in an abusive relationship, she said, are even more acute for trans women whose status in broader society is fragile. “We look at [an abusive relationship] as a form of acceptance,” she said. “Like canada goose outlet if we experience this, it means, ‘he loves me.'”
“As a navigator, I have to let them know, no, it’s not okay,” she continued. “You can get somebody to love you without hitting you or without controlling you. You don’t have to deal with abuse just to feel like you’re wanted.”
Wendi Cooper, photographed in New Orleans in May 2014.
In Cooper’s late teens, she canada goose coats began purchasing hormones on the street to begin transitioning. Though Cooper had the support of her family, she had been bullied by teachers and students throughout her childhood. Suddenly, she was getting a lot of positive attention.
“I was transitioning, and I had my gold hair,” Cooper recalled. “Everybody, they used cheap canada goose uk to always say that I was pretty, and they’d be all over me like, ‘I’ll take care of you.'”
A man she was dating gave her $300. That was how the sex work started, Cooper said.
One night, in 1999, she was stopped by a man who asked how much she wanted. “I gave him a price,” Cooper said. cheap canada goose “And when I gave him that price he went into his wallet and he said, ‘You’re under arrest,’ and he charged me with a felony.” Cooper had never been arrested before. She pled guilty, without, she said, being told she would be placed on the sex offender list.
Cooper had no idea there were separate and unequal prostitution laws at the time. There was the relatively minor misdemeanor, and there was “unnatural carnal copulation,” a felony that carried mandatory sex offender registration for at least 15 years. It was up to law enforcement to decide how to charge.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which litigated the case, 76% of those convicted of Crimes Against Nature were women, and 80% of them were black. Almost 40% of the registered sex offenders in Orleans Parish owed their place on that list to a crimes against nature conviction, which as Women with a Vision pointed out often amounted to a “talking crime” the verbal promise of oral or anal sex for money, no actual sexual contact or transaction required.
“By me being a trans woman, I just feel like he gave me the harshest they had,” Cooper said of her first charge.