Phoenix Transgender Woman Appeals Prostitution-Related Charge

By  Stina Sieg
August 05, 2014

(Photo by Stina Sieg)
Monica Jones was arrested on prostitution-related charges after accepting a ride from two undercover police officers.
(Photo by Stina Sieg)
Television star Laverne Cox spoke in support of Jones on Tuesday.

A Phoenix transgender woman appealing her conviction on a prostitution-related charge has the support of the ACLU and a well-known television actress.

Monica Jones said she lost faith in the legal system the night she accepted a ride from a man who turned out to be an undercover cop on a prostitution sweep. He said she exposed her breasts to him, which Jones denies.

Jones was found guilty of “manifesting prostitution.” She believes she was profiled because of being transgender and African American, using what she calls an overly broad Phoenix law. At a news conference Tuesday, she said she’s appealing her conviction on behalf of other transgender people.

"Some people don’t have a voice, and I use to be ashamed of my voice," Jones said. "I used to say, like, ‘Oh my god, my voice is too deep.' But people listen to my voice, and they remember it, and so, I’m using my voice for something good."

And that’s brave, said transgender actress Laverne Cox. Cox is best known for her role in the TV show "Orange is the New Black," and she says she felt like it was her duty to travel to Phoenix to vocally support Cox.

"Monica standing up against this law has been such a huge inspiration to me and transpeople all over this country," Cox said. "So often our lives are treated as if they don’t matter. Monica standing up today says that our lives do matter."

Cox believes Jones was targeted because of who she is. Like Jones, Cox is a transgender African American woman.

"If any of our citizens, any of our citizens are treated unfairly, it affects all of us," Cox said. "It affects the rights of every single American."

Cox said Jones is standing up for trans people everywhere by fighting a Phoenix ordinance Cox and the ACLU calls unconstitutional and too broad.  The official name is "manifestation with an intent to commit prostitution." It prohibits behavior like flagging down cars and engaging passersby in conversation if it’s deemed related to the solicitation of prostitution. 

Updated Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 5:59 p.m.