1.26.2016 | Nick Addamo

Institutionalized discrimination is one of the biggest challenges affecting gays and lesbians, and has shaped the LGBTQ community into what it is today. The problems are most acute for members of the transgender community. Transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, particularly those of color, continue to be widely -- and, in many cities, legally -- discriminated against in housing, healthcare, and public accommodations.

The high levels of violence against trans and gender nonconforming people cannot be understated, as the number of trans people murdered in the United States has hit historic highs. Many of these attacks occur in public space, with public transit being a primary location. Recent news reports tell of attacks on trans women on public buses, including a trans woman who was stabbed at a bus stop in Washington, DC. In New York City, a trans woman was pushed onto the subway tracks in 2015. The threat of potential harassment, violence, and murder powerfully inhibit how LGBTQ people use and experience public spaces.

The lived experiences of women and LGBTQ individuals in public spaces have been invisible to planning professionals because their activities are generally considered to be part of the private, not public, realm. In recent decades the planning profession has begun to experience a shift as the notion of who constitutes the public has expanded. New planning paradigms have recognized that there in fact exist multiple publics whose disparate public space needs cannot be dismissed, and planning practices are changing as a result.

As part of Hunter College’s Master of Urban Planning program capstone, the Gender Inclusive Planning Studio (GenderInc) will produce a report describing planning interventions and policy recommendations that will elevate LGBTQ safety and equity in the urban public realm. We will use the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens as a focus area for our efforts, as it is home to a large LGBTQ population and has been the site of several recent instances of gender-based violence. Jackson Heights also contains varied land uses, transportation options, and a richly diverse populace, enough so to capture the wide range of planning issues that one could encounter in New York City at large.

Our initiatives and recommendations will be aimed at reducing harassment and violence against LGBTQ people in public spaces, with a particular focus on public transit as well as on transit’s street-level access points. These recommendations and initiatives will be specifically designed to be executed on a broader level across the five boroughs of New York City. Such a citywide application of the report’s findings would position New York City as a national leader in addressing gender-based violence and harassment.

Join us in elevating LGBTQ safety and equity in the urban public realm. 

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