Look over here: queer/transfolk in prison

Posted in Uncategorized by ajshort314 on May 1, 2010

Queer and transfolk face many unique problems in prison. Transfolk are often housed in the jail of their assigned-at-birth sex. Many times they are kept in “protective custody,” which is commonly called solitary confinement. This is cruel and punishes them for their gender, not for a crime. Transfolk are often denied medical care or are treated by doctors who know nothing of trans-specific health problems. Queer and transfolk are often targets for sexual assault by both inmates and guards. There have been reported incidents where queer-identified folk are segregated separate sections, euphemistically called “queen tank” or “butch tank” depending on whether gays or lesbians are housed there. Because of racism, sexism, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, and the criminalization of survival crimes like prostitution, queer and transfolk are imprisoned in larger numbers than the rest of the population. There is a lot of activism going on around these issues, but most of the activism in city-specific. This leads groups of people in various cities to all be working separately on the same issues. Even though there is a lot of great activism going on, queer and transfolk in prisons are often ignored by the queer/trans communities in academia, in the clubs, and in organizations. Help the most vulnerable parts of our communities by getting involved!

Some Resources:

The DC Trans Coalition is working on a number of campaigns right now, one of which is improving life for transfolk behind bars. They are working to ensure that transfolk are housed responsibly, that they aren’t sexually assaulted, that they get proper medical treatment, and also working on issues like prostitution, which put transfolk in jail to begin with.

The Transgender Law Center is a CA-based organization working to change the laws to affect transpeople.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is working to change laws, raise awareness, and gather data about transfolk.

Just Detention International is working to end rape in prisons

TGI Justice Project is another CA-based org

California Prison Focus is working to fundamentally transform prisons

The Audre Lorde Project’s TransJustice initiative is an grassroots movement for creating justice in prisons and in the streets.

Black and Pink is working toward a distinctly queer version of prison abolition. It also has a pen-pal campaign.


2 Responses

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  1. nr459 said, on May 2, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Respecting the gender preferences of individuals have been an ongoing problem in the United States. We have to check either male or female boxes on applications, doctor’s visits, etc. But what if you identify with something other than your biological gender or even something in between. While many accept those concerns, the government and law enforcers find it imperative to stick people in one or the other.
    It’s interesting to think about the prison situation, which you brought up, and how that could be so detrimental to a person. In these instances they become targets from not only the guards but the inmates. They are extreme targets for sexual assault, violence, rape, etc. And despite the fact that they are in jail, no one deserves to have this done to them, and something seriously needs to be done about it. And nation-wide!

  2. sarah said, on May 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. I never considered the conditions and experiences of transsexuals in prisons. It wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind. I think it’s so interesting how they call it “protective custody,” that just masks solitary confinement. I think it’s interesting because we oppress to oppress different classes, races, groups using words, or laws disguised for “the name of nationalism” or security. Even though separating them would protect them, it just sets them apart, saying they are too different to be apart of the normal jailers. This could even cause more alienation, “bullying” and trouble for transsexuals. I was shocked that transfolk are denied medical care. I think this is mainly due to the lack of knowledge about transsexuals and general indifference or stigmas against transsexuals. People think “You must choose.” But why must they choose a gender? WHY? So that it fits YOUR mold, your perception of what they are? This is one of the biggest things that bothers me about this controversy. Why must someones sexual orientation be defined, labeled by others who know nothing about that experience? I guess that is my general problem with a lot of people. Lol I think it’s great that there is a lot of activism going on around this but I wish there was a way to bring together all the different cities with this problem.

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