Layleen Polanco: 10th trans woman found dead in the US in 2019

A 27-year-old Afro-Latinx transgender woman called Layleen Polanco was found dead in her cell at the prison on Rikers Island, New York, on Friday (June 7) afternoon.

Layleen Polanco was arrested on April 16 for allegedly assaulting a taxi driver and being in possession of a controlled substance in Harlem, New York.

She was found unresponsive in her cell on Friday (June 7) at around 2.40pm by an officer conducting a tour of the Rose M. Singer Centre – the part of the prison on Rikers Island that houses female inmates.

Prison officers performed CPR until medical staff arrived around 10 minutes later. Medics then spent an hour trying to revive her before pronouncing her dead.

Polanco is the 10th trans woman to be found dead in the US this year.
Her death comes just days after it was announced that a new monument would commemorate Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riveira, two trans activists, in New York.

In a statement, her family said, “We are heartbroken over the death of our beloved Layleen, whose bright light was an inspiration to all who knew her,” adding that the city “failed to protect Layleen.”

“The family demands answers and we are entitled to them,” the statement said.

Polanco was part of House of Xtravanganza

Polanco was a member of the House of Xtravanganza, which was founded in 1982 and became publicly recognised after featuring in the 1991 documentary Paris is Burning. House of Xtravanganza emerged from the New York underground ballroom scene.

Janet Mock, who directed Pose – an FX series about the 1980s ballroom scene in New York, on which Mock was also a writer and producer – said, “Heartbroken and enraged from the harsh reality that Layleen Polanco, who was incarcerated on Rikers Island.”

“Folks are gathering Monday in NYC and collecting donations to help lay her to rest. We need to check and challenge anyone seeking to police our bodies, genders, and identities. Rest in power, Layleen,” Mock said.

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