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.