The Philadelphia Sheriff's Office unveiled guidelines Friday on how deputies should deal with transgender individuals, from using the correct pronoun — he, she, they — to asking whether they prefer to be searched by a male or female deputy.
"It's about fairness and treating people the way they want to be treated," Sheriff Jewell Williams said.
His office has nearly 300 deputies who transport suspects from detention centers to court, process individuals held in contempt by a judge, and arrest people for outstanding warrants.
As part of the guidelines, newly processed individuals who identify as transgender can list on a form their preference for a male or female deputy to search them. Deputies are also expected to call the individuals by their preferred name, even if it's different from the one on their government-issued ID.
The new transgender policy is similar to one used by Philadelphia police.
Williams said deputies sometimes encounter transgender individuals on a daily basis. Transgender people of color are particularly likely to have to deal with law enforcement, said Deja Lynn Alvarez, a transgender activist who joined Williams to announce the guidelines Friday at City Hall.
"A lot of people don't realize that, for the trans community, the percentage of us having to deal with the sheriff's department on one level or another, or one time or another, is way greater than the average citizen of Philadelphia," Alvarez said. "At some point, we're going to have to deal with law enforcement."
Alvarez called the guidelines "amazing for our community."
Being transgender means identifying with a gender different from the one with which a person was born. Some people opt for surgery to make a transition, but it isn't required, nor is hormone therapy, which would result in a more gradual process.