Forward By Christopher
The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 34 USCS 30302, also known as PREA was passed into law on 4 September 2003 to protect prisoners and vulnerable populations within our nation’s prisons, jails and lockups. The act establishes “a zero-tolerance standard for the incidence of prison rape in prisons in the United States.” and to “increase the accountability of prison officials who fail to detect, prevent, reduce, and punish prison rape.” (34 USCS 30301)
Transgender inmates face difficult situations while incarcerated. They face discrimination by their peers and even by the very warders tasked to oversee them. In the post “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” a NJ prisoner wrote about how the inclusion of transgender inmates at her facility, Edna Mahan Correctional (EMCF), resulted in a staff assault on one of these prisoners. The January 2021 incident drew national attention after officials at the facility attempted to cover up the incident. The NY Times reported on 28 January 2021 “31 Guards Suspended At Women’s Prison Plagued By Sexual Violence” “31 GUARDS SUSPENDED AT WOMEN’S PRISON PLAGUED BY SEXUAL VIOLENCE” and the incident has resulted in federal assault charges “Five More Charged In Edna Mahan Women’s Prison, Including Top Administrator On Duty”. Shockingly there is video footage of the incident that staff at the facility attempted to cover up. Google “EMCF assault”.
While the author of the post One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest presented another side of the narrative in support of the good staff and prisoners at her facility, vulnerable LGBTQ prisoners routinely face lesser degrees of adversity.
Today’s post is written by a transgender prisoner currently at a male facility. She tells of the day to day struggle she and other transgender prisoners face. Here in her own words are examples of the difficulties transgender prisoners face. It also exposes the difficulties facilities and their administrators encounter overseeing the needs of their vulnerable populations.
By Lynn S
Imagine people telling you that you’re not who you know you are. Being ridiculed, insulted and berated for being different. The rules meant to protect you instead set you apart. Some people do accept you for who you are but a small percentage of those are fetishist or stalkers. A few of those are even dangerous. In this prison culture it even sets you apart from most cultures as an outcast. Yet you are stereotyped and disrespected by those same people. If you ask that rules be followed or to be addressed properly you are met with derision by staff and further ostracized by inmates.
Of my 16 years incarceration I’ve been “out” as a transgender woman for 11. I’ve been (and continue to be) counseled by mental health staff untrained in trans health for 9 years, and have generally taught most of them. Usually I am the first one they have met. Treatment decisions about hormone treatment (HRT) is made by a committee with no formal training in trans health either. I’ve personally been turned down 3 times for various absurd reasons. None of which follow the W.P.A.T.H. guidelines.
Every day it’s shave a face I don’t recognize and shower a body I don’t identify with. I have a few friends but mostly stay to myself. The anxiety of a crowd of prejudiced, judgmental people with their abusive opinions is often more than I can bear. It is a daily beat down that sometimes pushes me toward self-mutilation and thoughts of suicide. I’m not a weak person. Combined with the fact that I’m only halfway through my sentence and my struggle with my need to transition; it’s cruel. I only carry this losing battle because the people who are responsible for my care and wellbeing seem more concerned with budget than a human’s life.
Imagine that you have been diagnosed mentally and medically as having a serious medical condition that Medicaid and Medicare treat. The Supreme Courts have ruled on multitudes of cases about, and an entire medical organization has developed because of. But you are not treated for it because you are a ward of the state. So you are constantly reminded and have nothing but time to think about it. The only concessions you have are bras and panties. No medical treatment to help the physical transitioning. None of the other items allowed for the Cis-women (so called normal) such as earrings or cosmetics that are social cues and signify social transitioning. These things are the stuff that make life normal for trans women. Regardless of the likely attention it will draw, it’s a means to equality and normalcy afforded to all other inmates.
If my experiences interest you, there is so much more including the positive (few) growth and changes for the LGBT+ community in Ohio prisons.
Lynn S. (OH)
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