New Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office’s policy calls for treating transgender people with respect by not misgendering them

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Oh, shit. A new progressive policy just dropped from the Michigan county that has decriminalized psychedelics, consensual sex work, and has vowed to no longer charge juveniles for low-level crimes.

In honor of Transgender Day of Visibility, Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit announced a detailed policy regarding interactions with transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people, which starts with the simple act of “addressing people in a manner consistent with their gender.”



“Among other things, *every* employee is now required to treat individuals — defendants, victims, witnesses, attorneys, & the general public — in a manner consistent with their gender identity, which may be different from sex-assigned-at-birth or sex on government identification,” Savit wrote on Twitter.

“This is not just a matter of basic decency and respect (though it is, emphatically, that),” Savit added. “It's also a matter of public safety.”



Savit explained that when people are misgendered by law enforcement or other institutions, it “breeds distrust,” which leads to hesitancy to report crimes, serve as witnesses, or pursue medical treatment. One study cited in the policy found that 29% of young transgender people avoid seeking medical services for fear that they might be misgendered.

The directive also defines terms commonly used to describe identity within the LGBTQAI+ community, including designated sex, gender identity, gender expression, gender non-conforming, intersex, and transgender, as well as highlights the mental health toll of being disrespected, misrepresented, and misgendered as a transgender, nonconforming/nonbinary individual can have.

In 2020, The Trevor Project revealed the alarming findings following a national survey of LGBTQ youth and mental health. Of those surveyed, 48% admitted to engaging in self-harm in the last 12 months, and 40% reported to have seriously considered attempting suicide within the year. For those who identify as trans or nonbinary, that percentage rose to more than half.

While Savit says this policy “is only the beginning” it also details the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's partnership with a local non-profit advocacy and outreach group to expand legal protections to the county's LGBTQ+ community. The partnership with Fair Michigan, which was announced earlier this month, will also aid in the prosecution of crimes that target LGBTQ+ individuals and/or crimes that are motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination as hate crimes under state law.

“Washtenaw County is — and must be — a welcoming and affirming place,” Savit wrote. “To members of our transgender community: you have friends & allies in the Prosecutor's Office. And with today's directive, you can know you'll be treated with respect & dignity. Happy #TransDayOfVisibility.”

To read the full directive, visit Washtenaw.org. To learn more about Fair Michigan, visit FairMichigan.org.

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