Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration alumna Tia Sherèe Gaynor (MPA ’05, Ph.D. ’11) was recently awarded a $150,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, for her project: “Intersectional Subjection and Law Enforcement: Examining Perceptions Held by LGBTQ People of Color in New Orleans, LA.”
Gaynor, assistant professor of public administration at Marist College, is the project’s co-principal investigator along with Brandi Blessett, assistant professor of public administration at Rutgers University–Camden.
Gaynor and Blessett submitted their grant proposal in May 2016 after evaluating reports released by the Department of Justice that identified areas where institutional racism was prevalent in local law enforcement agencies. New Orleans was one such area, with a long history of discriminatory and unconstitutional practices against people of color who are LGBTQ.
Their project is a two-year endeavor during which they will conduct interviews with LGBTQ people of color in New Orleans, and highlight their interactions with law enforcement officials.
“This is a population whose voices have been muted, and we hope this project helps to illuminate their voices and experiences,” Gaynor said.
Gaynor discussed the disparate treatment of white women compared to transgender women of color who are arrested for sex work as an example of discrimination.
According to Gaynor, when transgender women were arrested for sex work, they were charged with crimes against nature by solicitation and if convicted, they suffered long-term consequences, including being listed on a sex offender registry. Gaynor contrasted their plight to the arrests of white female sex workers who were charged with prostitution – a misdemeanor with fewer and less serious consequences.
Louisiana state law has recently outlawed disparate penalties for transgender sex workers, but the effects of the discriminatory practice will continue to be felt within those communities, Gaynor said.
Gaynor’s goal is to broaden the national discussion surrounding discriminatory policing against people of color to include violence perpetrated against transgender women of color.
“We’re mindful of the impact our work can have,” Gaynor said. “We’re working to ensure that our NIJ funded project highlights the issue of discriminatory policing across the country, especially in New Orleans, and ultimately offers practical solutions for those people most impacted, and for law enforcement agencies.”