On October 13 and 14, a team of formerly imprisoned transgender people and anti-prison advocates held a conference at City College of San Francisco called Transforming Justice: Ending the Criminalization and Imprisonment of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People. The conference had special significance, since it was the first planned by those most impacted by transgender oppression, prisons, policing and surveillance. It also served as an opportunity to bring together members of the anti-prison movement and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender(LGBT) movement, connecting two significant communities. Throughout the weekend, the connections between LGBT organizing and anti-prison organizing were made clear: LGBT organizing and anti-prison and prisoner advocacy organizing both need to be informed by and conscious of the targeting of queer, especially trans and gender non-conforming, people by the state.
The conference began with digital storytelling, screening a film in which formerly imprisoned transgender people recounted their experiences and shared how their lives had been impacted by transphobia and discrimination. Later sessions included discussions on understanding the cycles of imprisonment and the criminalization of transgender and gender-nonconforming communities. Another session allowed participants to share successes, challenges, and strategies related to their work and organizing.
At the end of the second day, which was spent in smaller groups organized by topic and region, we gathered to discuss what we had learned and what we all wanted to do together to move forward. From this discussion, four main decisions emerged:
1) Create a national coalition to support local organizing work led by former prisoners and trans people.
2) Work to support transgender and gender-nonconforming people coming out of prisons and jails to break the cycle of criminalization and poverty.
3) Create a platform of action specifically for trans people who are immigrants and in the criminal justice system.
4) Focus on creating and establishing responses to violence and harm that don?t create further violence and harm (i.e., create alternatives to locking people up)
The Transforming Justice conference was truly unique. It felt very special to be a part of an event that was planned by and for formerly imprisoned trans people who have been silenced and shut down at every turn. CCWP was well represented at Transforming Justice and is committed to supporting the plan of action which emerged from the conference. We will keep everyone up to date on what develops from this amazing event.