Editorial-Fight to End Gender Oppresion

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.