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!
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.
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.