Young transgender individuals currently housed in juvenile correctional facilities in the State of New York are beginning to reap the benefits of a progressive policy decision made by new Governor David Paterson back in March of this year. Apparently Paterson's directive assuring that transgender teens receive appropriate, non-discriminatory treatment from corrections staff went into effect the same day as his executive order assuring that New York would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, but this initiative has flown low on the media radar until recently.
Response to the new policy among LGBT youth and proponents of equal rights has been extremely positive thus far. While utilization of the new rules has been relatively limited due to the small number of transgender individuals currently housed by the New York corrections system, some of the estimated 20 to 30 transgender youth within the system have begun to request more appropriate clothing or use of gender-appropriate pronouns when interacting with staff. This news story from the Associated Press details the resources that New York has put into place to ensure that transgender youth can reap the full benefits of Paterson's March 17 order. I was particularly pleased to see language in the 14-page Office of Children and Family Services guide produced in response to Paterson's directive that acknowledges the importance of talking openly about sexuality and gender identity, and of educating one's peers to do the same.
Clearly, New York is working on all fronts to create environments that not only protect the rights of LGBT individuals, but also foster nurturing environments that promote positive development. This proves especially important for young people in correctional environments, as the quality of the relationships a young person cultivates with peers and staff during time served there can exert a huge impact on the choices that person makes after his/her release. And speaking of foster care, the new policy also applies to transgender New York youth currently placed in foster care, increasing the chances that they will receive the same respect when interacting with OCFS staff that their cisgender peers do.