This Law Criminalizes Black Trans Women
March 30, 2023
This Friday, we celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility, an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions trans people have made to society as well as raise awareness for the work that needs to be done to achieve gender equality for all.
We are currently witnessing a wave of anti-trans legislation across the country, but the criminalization of trans people is nothing new. For over 20 years, Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature by Solicitation law (or CANS for short) made offering certain sexual acts for money a felony, with penalties including up to 5 years in prison, hard labor, and mandatory registration on the sex offender database. These harsh penalties never applied to the state’s other anti-sex work laws, and were specifically designed to target queer people, especially Black trans women. Louisiana strengthened CANS in 1992 and by 2011, 40 percent of people on the New Orleans sex offender registry were convicted under CANS. Of that, 75 percent were women, and 79 percent were Black.
Our guests today have been fighting to make New Orleans a safer place for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the face of this pernicious law that targets and criminalizes them. In addition to building spaces for Black trans women to rest, learn, live and thrive, Wendi Cooper and Milan Nicole Sherry have dedicated their lives to repealing the law that once threatened their own lives.
A recent documentary, “CANS Can’t Stand,” highlights Wendi, Milan, and others’ fight against CANS and efforts to build community for trans women in New Orleans and beyond. We are so excited to speak with them all about their tenacious activism and the experience of releasing “CANS Can’t Stand” at a time of such backlash against LGBTQ rights and representation.