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As relevant today as it was six years ago

The Lifein MVSNA blog has had discussion about prostitution at 4th & K Streets NW. One commenter dug up a six year old news story to illustrate how little has changed. Below is the cut & paste.


DC Has Plan To Cut Back on Transvestite Prostitutes
Sam Ford , NLJA (ABC TV affiliate) Channel 7
7/12/2002

[WASHINGTON, DC] – The District has a new plan to cut back on transvestite prostitutes, and drug abuse around 4th and K Streets in Northwest Washington, near the INS Headquarters.

The plan includes removing nuisance properties, including city owned abandoned trailers, where the prostitutes are sleeping. They also plan to cut back on trees where they are hiding, and prosecutors tell ABC 7, they have hopes for their plan.

Kathy Worthington with the U.S. Attorney’s office says when there is an arrest, there will be diversion programs to try to attempt to rehabilitate these individual so that there are no repeat problems.

There are also plans to write victim’s impact statements, so when the prostitutes are arrested, judge’s will keep them off the street for longer periods of time.

A Closer Look

They come to the area from as far away as Baltimore: men who dress as women, often working as prostitutes that are driving away long-time residents.

“It’s noise, drugs, cursing and screaming and jumping all out in the street to keep you awake at night,” says Henry Anderson.

Henry and his wife Ida are leaving their high-rise apartment, located just north of the U.S. Capitol, after 18 years because of what’s right outside their window.

“Sometimes, they’re in the act [of having sex]. … I never thought I would live to see the things I’m seeing now,” says Ida.

The activity is happening in the shadows of the Capitol–around Fourth and K streets in Northwest Washington, near the headquarters of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization. Residents say it’s an anything-goes market–transvestites make money selling sex and then spend that money with the drug dealers who have moved into the area.

From apartment windows, tenants in nearby buildings see the constant traffic of female impersonators soliciting sex, while drugs are being examined and consumed on the street. In the same area two weeks ago, police say a 20-year-old man on a bicycle was murdered in what is believed to be a drug-related murder.

At a community meeting in June, police were blasted by residents of several apartment buildings, church-goers, and even by officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that’s headquartered in the region.

“These are armed security guards, federal officers protecting my building … they get accosted,” says Kurt Anderson, an INS security official.

“People are exposing themselves, pulling their genitals in front of people. It’s embarrassing and something is going to have to be done,” argued a resident.

As for police presence, Sergeant Mark Gilkey says, “I have only 11 officers in my unit, and we’re spread citywide.”

The police department’s prostitution unit and others have so far had little impact. They mainly shoo people away. Meanwhile, advocates for the transgendered say the transvestites need counseling and treatment–and don’t need to be put in jail.

“I’m and ex-offender myself. I know what it is to used substance abuse, but somebody has to provide help. We can’t just keep moving them from one ward to another ward,” says transgender advocate Earlene Budd.

Regardless, the Andersons are moving out next month.

“Yeah, we can’t stand it anymore. We don’t get any rest at night at all,” says Henry.

A community meeting will be held Thursday night to discuss possible neighborhood patrols and a letter-writing campaign to urge judges to keep transvestites in jail longer, once they’re arrested.

Interestingly I googled the title of the article and the primary sources that had archived the information were transgender sites. In fact TGcrossroads archive of the article was categorized under “Civil Liberties watch”. I think there is some merit to that. You’ll notice the article mentions a “letter-writing campaign to urge judges to keep transvestites in jail longer.” Why would the letters single out transvestites rather than the blanket term of prostitutes? The problem for the community isn’t men dressing as women so the emphasis many add to the discussion by focusing on the word transvestite often isn’t helpful. The core issues are prostitution, including open air sex trade, and the related drug dealing.

That said the transgender angle isn’t totally irrelevant as how you rehabilitate a transgender prostitute may require a different plan. It’s also possible that the genital flashing is more present with transvestites than other prostitutes. But the issue at 4th and K Street NW is not about sexual orientation it’s the lewd acts of prostitution, the related drug issues and the hostile environment that goes along with these things.

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