The first transgender woman to be housed in a women?s facility in Califor- nia is Nikki Lee Diamond. Nikki recounts her experience in her essay ?Behind These Mascaraed Eyes: Passing Time in Prison? recently published in Nobody Passes.
From the moment of my arrest in 1976, and then through my stay at the county jail and in California Institution for Women, I was pointed at and whispered about by both staff and inmates …I had already survived an abusive relationship and a lifetime of brutality …In prison, I was determined to earn respect the hard way. I looked people straight in the eye when they made comments about me.
This issue of The Fire Inside is dedicated to Ms. Diamond for her courage in struggling against gender oppression and her commitment to fighting for the people she left behind in prison
BG, former CCWF prisoner
I used to dress like a girl, but I was always a little tomboy — I didn’t talk or act or sit all girly, and I would get in trouble like a boy. When I was locked up at 16 I said to myself, no I can’t be with a girl because I was too worried about what people would say, but then I said to myself, let me try it and I also started dressing like a boy all the time. Both the prisoners and the cops would say “oh, she’s a boy” but I would say “no I’m a girl” and they would call me he but I really wanted to be called she. I would just be like “okay I’m a boy, whatever.” As long as I knew what I was I didn’t really care.
Since I got locked up in 2000, there is more acceptance of gays. Even though some people are still against gays, you don’t have to hide in the closet and there are more places for us to be comfortable. People do stare at me and it gets me mad but I don’t want to say nothing because one thing will lead to another and get me in trouble. When I was looking for work, one employer told me I could have the job if I dressed in tighter clothes, did my hair, and wore make-up. I know that just because of the way I dress I am not going to get a really good job, even though I can dress the way I want and still look professional. My family and friends gave me a hard time saying “you’re a grown woman now, you’re not young any more, you should dress like a girl, you should dress like you used to dress.” I tell them I dress the way I dress because it is how I feel comfortable, and I try to make them understand that I tried it and this is what I know I like. I tell them to check out a gay park and a gay festival so they can see more than me, that a lot of other people are like me. You don’t have to try to be like me, but try to understand that there are a lot of people like this. Have an open mind to see where I’m coming from and understand me a little bit.
I feel like the reason people think that it?s wrong for me to dress the way I do even though I am a girl is that they think girls shouldn’t be with girls, girls should be with boys. People think it is a sin to be gay but they don’t know because they haven’t tried it. I don’t think it?s bad to dress the way I do and be with girls, because my heart tells me to be like this. The world should be so that people can dress however they want. I think they should just accept us.
To me, even though people stare, I’m going to be who I am. I’ve found myself.
BG, persona ex prisionera del CCWF
Yo me solía vestir como niña, pero siempre fui un pequeño muchacho, yo no hablaba o actuaba o me sentaba como niña, yo tendría líos como un niño. Cuando fui encerrada a los 16 años me dije a mi misma, no, no puede ser como una chica porque me preocupaba mucho las cosas que la gente iba a decir, pero luego me dije a mi misma, vamos a tratar y empecé a vestirme como un chico todo el tiempo.
La gente en la prisión y los policías dirían “OH, pero si ella es un chico” pero yo diría, “no, yo soy una chica” y ellos me llamarían “el” pero yo realmente quiero que me llamen ella.
Yo estaría resignada y diría “esta bien, soy un chico, y que”. Si lo que importaba era lo que yo sabia sobre mi, no me importaba que pensaran los demás.
Desde que me encerraron en el año 2000, hay más aceptación a la gente homosexual aunque todavía hay personas en contra de la gente gay, tú no tienes que esconderte en el closet, hay más lugares para nosotros sentirnos cómodos. Pero cuando la gente me mira de manera intrusita me enoja mucho, pero no quiero decir nada porque una cosa le seguiría a la otra y me pondría a mi en problemas. Cuando yo estaba buscando trabajo, uno de los empleadores me dijo que yo podría tener el empleo si es que yo me ponía ropa apretada, arreglar mi pelo y que me maquillara. Yo sabia eso pues en la forma en que yo me vestía, no iba a conseguir un buen trabajo. Yo me podía vestir bien a mi propio modo y lucir profesional. Mi familia y mis amigos me dieron muchos problemas diciendo “tú ya eres una mujer adulta ahora, ya no eres una jovencita. Tu debes vestirte como una señorita, tu debes vestirte como solías vestirte antes”. Y yo le dije a ellos, yo me visto como quiero porque me siento cómoda, yo trate de hacerles entender, yo les dije que vayan a los espacios donde estaba la gente gay y entonces verían mas personas como yo. Tú no tienes que tratar de ser como yo, pero trata de entender que hay mucha gente como yo. Abran su mente para ver de donde yo vengo y entenderme por lo menos un poquito.
Yo siento que la razón por la que la gente piensa que estoy equivocada al vestirme así, aunque soy una chica, es que piensan que chicas no deben estar con chicas, chicas deben estar con chicos. La gente piensa que es un pecado ser una persona gay, pero ellos no saben porque no lo han probado. Yo no pienso que es malo vestirse de la forma en que lo hago y tampoco el de estar con chicas, porque mi corazón me dice que sea de esta manera. El mundo debería ser un lugar donde todos puedan vestirse de la forma que quiera. Pienso que solamente nos deben aceptar. Para mi, aunque la gente me mire mal, yo voy a ser de la manera que quiero.
Me he encontrado a mi misma.
You violated me when I couldn’t defend myself.
You lied to me when I thought you were all I had to trust in.
You beat me for something I had no control over.
You not only cheated me, but you cheated on me.
You didn’t protect me, you left me with people who hurt me. Time and again.
You expected sexual favors from me at an age when all I wanted was a ten-cent ice-cream. The lesson learned at a young age was beware, a trap maybe set. What is said may not be what is meant.
You told me that I wasn’t of any value to anyone. Not even myself. When for real, for real I was and am the best thing yet.
You made me believe that I was crazy when there was nothing wrong with my mind. All the time it was my heart that was broken from all the pain of all the you’s.
You made me believe that I wasn’t a good mother, wife, daughter, sister or friend. Locked me up. Dehumanized me; and continue to do so. But you don’t think that I know.
You took all that I had worked for. Never asked if I needed. Told me I deserved nothing good then, and still don’t! When the pain became too great after so many years of you I lashed out at someone who had some you’s, too. Now the pain at my guilt outweighs the pain of you’s. So I pray every day and night that Allah will bring the light. Insha-Allah!!!
Oh! Mankind, you think you are so great. Do you not see? You devalue at such a speedy rate.
by Cassie Pierson, Staff Attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Since the mid-1980s, several cases have been litigated on issues affecting transgender people in prison. Below is information on a recent case against the California Department of Corrections.
Alexis Giraldo v. California Department of Corrections is a case brought by Alexis Giraldo, a Latina transgender rape survivor, who sued the CDCR for failing to protect her from sexual assault. While at Folsom State Prison in 2006, Ms. Giraldo’s requests for help were ignored by multiple prison staff members prior to and during the attacks. Motivated by her compassion for transgender women who are still in prison and surviving sexual assault, Ms. Giraldo filed the case to seek damages for her own injuries and to force the CDCR to develop policies and practices to better protect transgender people in prison. A recent study of sexual assault in California’s prisons found that 59% of the state’s transgender prisoners reported being sexually assaulted, compared with 4% of the general prison population.
The case went to trial in San Francisco in July 2007. Ms. Giraldo and her supporters, including Transgender in Prison Committee (TIP) and Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), used this case to educate the public on what happens to transgender people in prison. Through court observation and protests outside the courthouse, the community supported Alexis as she braved the grueling and discriminatory court process. On August 2, 2007, the jury found some of the defendants not guilty, but deadlocked on one defendant. This entitles Ms. Giraldo to a new trial with respect to this defendant. Ms. Giraldo can also ask for a dismissal on the entire case, and pursue an appeal on her claim that the state’s practice of putting transgender women in men’s prisons violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in California’s constitution.
Ms. Giraldo and her attorney are moving forward with a new trial and a growing coalition of community-based organizations is united to support her in her continued fight for justice for all transgender people.
Some other cases are listed below in chronological order, starting with the most recent:
DiMarco v. Wyoming Dep’t of Corrections, 300 F. Supp. 2d 1183 (D. Wyo. 2004): segregating an intersexed prisoner from the general population of a male prison for 438 days in severe conditions violated her due process rights.
Barrett v. Coplan, 292 F. Supp. 2d 281 (D.N.H. 2003): transgender prisoner had a valid 8th Amendment claim when prison officials refused any treatment for her ?gender identity disorder?.
Kosilek v. Maloney, 221 F. Supp. 2d 156 (D. Mass. 2002): prisoner’s ?transsexualism? was a serious medical need; prison officials must provide adequate treatment recommended by a doctor experienced in treating ?gender identity disorders?, including hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery.
South v. Gomez, 211 F.2d 1275 (9th Cir. 2000): prisoner suffered an 8th Amendment violation when her hormone therapy was cut off when she was transferred to a new prison
Maggert v. Hanks, 131 F.3d 670 (7th Cir. 1997): Sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment may be withheld because neither private nor public health insurance programs will pay for sex reassignment.
Lucrecia v. Samples, 1995 WL 630016 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 16, 1995): no 8th Amendment violation where prison officials transferred a transgender prisoner from a woman’s prison to a men’s prison, where she was subjected to verbal, physical, and sexual harassment and assault by other prisoners and guards.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994): court adopted a narrow definition of “deliberate indifference” where a transgender woman was brutally beaten and raped by her male cellmate; the court held that prison officials must have subjective knowledge that the prisoner is at risk of violence rather than adopting an objective rule that officials “should have known” the prisoner was in danger.
Phillips v. Michigan Dep’t of Corrections, 731 F. Supp.792 (W.D.Mich.1990): granted preliminary injunction directing prison officials to provide estrogen therapy to a transgender woman who was taking estrogen for several years prior to her prison transfer.
White v. Farrier, 849 F.2d 322 (8th Cir. 1988): male-to-female transgender prisoner does not have the right to cross-dress or wear cosmetics and does not have a constitutional right to hormone therapy; See also Long v. Nix, 86 F.3d 761 (8th Cir. 1996).
Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408 (7th Cir. 1987): transgender prisoner has a constitutional right to some type of medical treatment for diagnosed condition of ?transsexualism?, but not the right to any particular type of treatment such as estrogen therapy.
Lamb v. Maschner, 633 F. Supp.351 (D. Kan. 1986): transgender prisoner has no right to hormone therapy.
Information for this article was found on the website for the National Center for Lesbian Rights; www.nclrights.org and TGIJP?s website www.tgijp.org
What is the first question we ask after hearing that a loved one is expecting a new baby? “Is it a girl or a boy?” From then on, every decision made about that child’s life will be based on her/his gender. What about those of us who do not subscribe to or fit into the gender given to us at birth? Or those among us that identify as gender queer?
The two-gender system is used to regulate gender expression. For those of us who fail to follow these two rigid options for gender expression, female or male, we are forced to the fringes of every segment of society. Transgender youth are routinely kicked out of their families of origin, drop out of school, are denied housing and medical care, and a majority find it almost impossible to obtain employment. Consequently, many resort to illegal economies to support themselves leading to the high rates of imprisonment in transgender communities.
It is estimated that 30% of the transgender population is either imprisoned, formerly imprisoned, or on probation or parole. According to Alexander Lee, attorney for the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project, an organization dedicated to changing the current California Department of Corrections and “Rehabilitation” (CDCR) policy regarding transgender people in California’s prisons, the exact number of transgender prisoners is virtually impossible to determine as a result on the invisibility of transgender prisoners to the prison administration. In the CDCR’s 204-page document outlining California’s prison regulations, the only mention of transgender or gender variant people concerns housing policy. Essentially, if a prisoner identifies as “homosexual,” that prisoner may require “special housing”, also known as Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), supposedly reserved for prisoners with disciplinary issues. People who speak out against sexual assault are also routinely segregated. Thus transgender prisoners are forced to live in isolation because of homophobic and transphobic prison housing policy.
The absence of policy regarding transgender prisoners culminates in the majority of transgender folk being housed in institutions according to their genitalia without regard for their gender identity. This discriminates not only against those trans folk who cannot afford sexual reassignment surgery, but also against those who choose not to have surgery. Current policy allows continued hormone therapy for prisoners who can prove that they were receiving treatment prior to incarceration. However, many transwomen, specifically transwomen of color, are denied treatment because they may have obtained hormones without a prescription prior to incarceration. More than half of transgender prisoners are people of color. This intersection of race, class and transgender significantly impacts the discriminatory practices experienced by transgender prisoners of color.
CCWP is committed to raising awareness to issues impacting transgender prisoners and advocating for measurable changes in the ways in which gender variant people are treated inside and outside of prisons. We believe that in order to arrive at the solutions that will liberate us all, we must fight to end all forms of oppression. The bodies of transgender people of color represent the nexus or center of systems of oppression – systems that create violent social, political, and economic outcomes for those forced to this location. The people most impacted by these systems of race, class and gender are the same people who are working towards real and sustainable solutions. CCWP is invested in supporting the leadership of transgender and gender variant people because we understand that in order to end oppression, we must support the right to self-determination for all.
En el siguiente articulo, estaremos usando el termino transgenero con un termino que sombrillas que retome a la gente quienes han cruzado las fronteras construidas sobre el genero, por su misma identidad de genero, por su presentación, o por que su actitud no es típicamente asociada con las percepciones de su genero asignado. Estamos usando este termino para incluir femenino y masculino, así mismo, las personas transgenero como personas que sus géneros no “caben” dentro de “masculino” o “femenino”.
El lenguaje nunca puede definir quienes somos y es importante siempre respetar los derechos de cada persona a su propia identidad. (Definición por la Sociedad de Alianza Trans/Trans Alliance Society).
Nuestras vidas están íntimamente formadas por como el estado trata a la gente que esta basada en su genero. La fundación del sistema de poder que oprime a las personas basadas en su género, es que solo hay dos géneros y que el género masculino es superior. En este sistema, la violencia contra las mujeres es vista como natural porque las mujeres están definidas como interiores. Las personas transgenero, quienes no están acorde con la definición del estado de femenino y masculino, enfrentan degradaciones específicas, humillación y hasta asesinato, reafirman que la violencia de género es aceptable y que algunas vidas de personas son menos valiosas que las de otras. Esta mentalidad de castigo lleva a justificar los actos policiales así como la violencia que todas las personas en prisión enfrentan cada día.
Las personas transgenero dentro y afuera de prisión enfrentan discriminación, pobreza, encarcelamiento, violencia física, sexual, y asesinato. Esta violencia específicamente pone a las personas transgenero y de color quienes no enfrentan solamente la trasnfobia pero también la supremacía Blanca y el racismo institucional. Una de tres personas transgenero han estado en la cárcel o en prisión. Enfrentando una discriminación extrema en los trabajos y en las escuelas, las personas transgenero son mas propensas a la pobreza y a estar viviendo bajo niveles económicos muy bajos. Personas transgenero que viven en condiciones de pobreza, especialmente mujeres de color transgenero, son hostigadas por la policía, arrestadas y encarceladas. Se les hace un archivo por cosas tales como ser percibidos como trabajadores sexuales, no tener documentos de identidad que se relacione con su genero, y/o también por usar el baño “equivocado”.
Desde abrirles un expediente hasta arresto y encarcelamiento, las personas transgenero enfrentan un aumento de violencia verbal, física y sexual. El sistema criminal de justicia no esta construido para acomodar personas quienes no “quepen” dentro de un sistema tan angosto que solo concibe dos géneros, las personas transgenero enfrentan una lucha intensiva para sobrevivir. Por ejemplo, las personas transgenero en prisión experimentan rutinariamente el confinamiento solitario, aumento de violencia sexual y abusos en las manos de otros prisioneros y personal de la prisión, se les deniega acceso al servicio medico como hormonas y otros tratamientos para las modificaciones de su cuerpo, forzándolo los a cambiar de apariencia de genero y llegar hasta el asesinato.
Las personas transgenero que sobreviven dentro y fuera de la prisión están liderando la lucha para terminar con la violencia contra las personas transgenero. Algunas de las organizaciones que nosotros en CCWP miramos para el liderazgo son el Comité de Prisiones para Transgenero (TIP), El Proyecto de Justicia para Variantes de Genero e Intersexo (TGIJP), y el Proyecto Legal Sylvia Rivera (SRLP). En CCWP nosotros estamos buscando cómo mejorar el apoyo a las personas transgenero en prisión y como trabajar en solidaridad conorganizaciones para realizar este trabajo.
Creemos que sin luchar para eliminar la opresión de género en todas sus formas, estaremos solamente fortaleciendo el sistema de supremacía masculina que atenta para peleando entre unos y otros, en vez construir comunidad. Enfocando en el Boletín de The Fire Incide en los asuntos de opresión de genero y personas transgenero en prisión, esperamos empoderar a nuestros/as miembros/as para desafiar de una manera mejor la violencia de estado y así poder construir relaciones mas saludables y comunidades que no sean hostigadas por la vigilancia, la policía o las prisiones.
In the following article, we are using the term Transgender as an umbrella term that embraces people who cross socially constructed gender boundaries because of their gender identity, presentation, or behavior that is not typically associated with their perceived or assigned gender. We are using this term to include female and male transgender people as well as people whose genders do not “fit” into “male” or “female”. Language can never define who we are and it is important to always respect each person’s right to self-identify. (Definition from Trans Alliance Society)
Our lives and experiences are intimately shaped by how the state treats people based on their gender. The foundation of the system of power that oppresses people based on their gender is the idea that there are only two genders and that the male gender is superior. In this system, violence against women is seen as natural because women are defined as inferior. Transgender people, whose genders do not conform with the state?s definitions of male and female, face specific torture, humiliation and murder, demonstrating that gender violence is acceptable and that some people?s lives are worth less than others. This punishment mentality drives and justifies policing, prisons and surveillance as well as the horrific violence that all imprisoned people face everyday.
Transgender people inside and outside of prison face discrimination, poverty, imprisonment, physical and sexual violence, and murder. This violence specifically targets transgender people of color who not only face transphobia but also white supremacy and racism. For example, at least one in three transgender people have been in prison or jail. Facing extreme discrimination in jobs and at schools, transgender people are more likely to be poor and forced to engage in underground economies. Poor transgender people, especially transgender women of color, are more likely to be targeted by the police, arrested and imprisoned. Transgender people are specifically profiled and arrested for such things as being perceived as sex workers, not having identity documents that match one’s gender, and using the ?wrong? bathroom.
From profiling to arrest to imprisonment, transgender people face increased verbal, sexual and physical violence. The entire police and prison system is segregated into two genders and relies heavily on gender policing. Since the criminal injustice system is not built to accommodate people who don’t “fit” into a narrow two-gender system, transgender people face an intensified fight to survive. For example, transgender people in prison experience routine solitary confinement, increased sexual violence and abuse at the hands of prisoners and staff, denial of access to medical care including hormones and other body modification treatments, forced changing of gender appearance and murder.
Transgender people surviving inside and outside of prison are leading the fight to end state violence against transgender people. Some of the organizations we at CCWP look to for leadership and guidance are the Transgender in Prison Committee (TIP), Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP). At CCWP, we are continuing to figure out how to best support transgender people in prison and how to work in solidarity with other organizations doing this work.
We believe that unless we fight gender oppression in all its forms, we will only strengthen this system of male supremacy that attempts to keeps us separated and fighting each other rather than building community. By focusing this issue of The Fire Inside on gender oppression and transgender people in prison, we hope to empower our members to better challenge state violence as we build healthier relationships and communities that do not rely on prisons, police or surveillance.
In January 2007 the Supreme Court ruled in Cunningham v. California that California’s laws which allowed sentencing judges to impose enhanced sentences based on their determination of facts not found by the jury violated the Sixth Amendment. Juries not judges are supposed to decide the truth of sentencing factors used to increase a person’s sentence. This ruling potentially impacts ten thousand people in California prisons.
Senator Gloria Romero authored SB40 as a two-year, “quick fix” which gives the authority back to the judges to decide sentencing factors so long as the judge states a “reason” supporting his or her decision. Romero claimed that requiring juries to decide additional facts would overburden the jury system. In reality, Romero, the legislature which voted for SB40 and Governor Schwarzenegger who signed it were worried that the Cunningham decision would overturn the lengthy sentences of thousands of prisoners and result in their release.
Prisoners who filed petitions under Cunningham before SB40 went into effect on March 30th still have an opportunity to have their cases reviewed in court. SB40 disproportionately impacts Blacks, Latinos and other people of color. There have been a large number of studies demonstrating huge disparities between the length of sentences given out to people of color in comparison to those of white people.
The constitutionality of SB40 is being challenged in court. SB40 has a sunset provision of January 1, 2009 – it will no longer be in effect as of that date.
Assemblymembers Mark Leno, Sandre Swanson, Loni Hancock, Chuck Devore and Fiona Ma voted NO on SB 40. Senators Tom McClintock and Carole Migden also voted NO.
SB40 is a manipulative political ploy aimed at keeping thousands of prisoners locked up even at a time when California?s prisons are criminally overcrowded!
Please write The Fire Inside with stories about sentences that are potentially impacted by the Cunningham decision.
We received information from a federal prisoner in California for a company calling itself the “National Association for Equal Justice”, claiming to offer “inmate community release packages, valued at over $4,500” for only $100. Sounding too good to be true, we tried calling them and were told that the company is not at that number anymore and there is no forwarding address or phone. The website offers no further information on the program, only instructions on how to send money. Please alert your loved ones and friends.