A Vision for Love and Justice

Interview with Miss Major, Community Activist with Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project/ Transgender in Prison Committee
Most people cannot imagine what happens to a transgender person in prison. For instance, a transgender woman who is stuck in a men?s prison will be sexually abused, assaulted and degraded because of how men feel they can treat women. There is never a chance to catch your breath. At any moment that cell can pop open because some guard decides to let some idiot in to calm his nerves at your expense. Nobody wants to be assaulted and nobody wants to be degraded. The system promotes this violence and we carry the burden. And there is no help.
In prisons they also separate us from one another. To control us, they isolate us. If we complain about something happening to us, they put us in segregation. When we do get a chance to be with other girls, we bond with one another. There?s an acknowledgement across barriers such as language. When we see another girl, we give her a smile or a nod to help her keep going because we know some of what she is going through. We know that she is being abused and tortured. That?s why TGIJP?s pen pal program is so important. It helps us believe that this is not going to last forever. Because in prison, you think tomorrow will never come. They can do what they want, beat you up, throw you out, kill you and there?s no one out there who cares.
Our pen pal program hooks up transgender people inside with people on the outside, like myself, that have had a chance to get off that merry-go-round. The recidivism rate is really high. I think that 70% of the girls that get out go back in. You begin to think that it?s a done deal.
My vision is a different solution other than prison. The system is not working. It might be different if they were training, not torturing people in prison. And if people got out with a clean slate. You get out and you still have that stigma. We don’t need more prisons, we need social services, job training, livable housing.
I wish people would talk to us and realize we are no different from anyone else. We don’t want to steal and run around and hook, but if that is all that is presented to you, that’s all you can do. You have to do those things to survive, because you have to eat, and you have to have someplace to live.
There is a thread that links all people together, and if one of us is hurt, we all hurt. We all need support and encouragement for who we are. It’s difficult enough being transgender — to walk down the street and know that you have to keep your eye on everybody. It’s a scary situation. I want us to be safe wherever we go. I want that for everybody.
It is really important that we all support a trial going on right now in San Francisco. Alexis Giraldo is a Latina transgender woman who was brutally raped while incarcerated in a CA State Prison. She complained multiple times to the guards about her cellmate threatening to sexually assault her, but they did nothing and she was repeatedly raped. She went to the authorities and they locked her up and denied her medical attention for two weeks. So she is suing the prison system. It is so important for people to get involved and support this. And for people in prison who are hearing about it- stand up for your rights. You don’t have to take this anymore. Get in touch with somebody. We can at least band together and fight it. They say don’t rock the boat, I say sink it.