Trans Teen Settles Abuse Case

Lamda Legal on how it changes the Department of Human Services Youth Study Center

Philadelphia’s Youth Study Center was at the center of an abuse case brought by a transgender teen who said she was abused and mistreated while at the center every day for a year and a half. The woman – who’s now 18 – reached a settlement with the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Youth Study Center in a complaint filed in 2009 that includes revisions in the way that transgender teens are treated, says Lambda Legal.

It all started in 2008 when a family court judge ordered DHS to provide the teen (whose name has not been made public) with appropriate medical treatment, including hormone therapy. And that she should be respected as a young woman. But the teen says the Youth Study Center failed to do so, and instead reprimanded her for acting “too feminine,” refused to refer to her by her chosen female name and female pronouns and denied her access to grooming items and clothing that other females are provided.

She also says she was verbally and physically abused, a violation of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance because she was discriminated against based on her gender identity. At one point when asked that she be referred to by her female name, one of the staff members responded, “You ain’t no f—ing female, you are a dude…till you get your d—k cut off, I’m not going to call you [by your female name].”

The staff also allowed other residents to subject the young woman to degrading treatment. She was routinely referred to as a “f—-t” and “wanna-be girl.”

Interestingly, on the DHS website, the organization says it provides “services that promote healthy physical, social, educational and emotional development,” and that it’s “committed to upholding standards of best practice” and that it strives “to be caring and competent.”

But late last week, both parties settled, says Lamda Legal. Trans teens will now be allowed to live in private rooms in the unit that appropriately corresponds to their gender identity. And even if their names have not legally been changed, staff must refer to them by the chosen name that reflects their gender identity. Clothing and grooming items will also be provided accordingly – as will training for all staff at the center on LGBT issues.

The City of Philadelphia also paid an undisclosed sum to the teen who brought the case.

“Youth Study Center’s new policies and trainings adopted as a result of this settlement will help to ensure that other transgender youth under the facility’s care are safe and don’t face discriminations because of who they are,” explains Flo Bermudez, an attorney with Lamda Legal. “The resolution of this case means that transgender youth in Philadelphia have one more safe space where they won’t be abused and discriminated against, but respected and safe.”

The teen adds: “I am happy that the case is settled. I hope that these changes will ensure that no other young transgender person experiences the physical and emotional abuse that I experienced at the Youth Study Center.”