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