Trans Women and the Prison Industrial Complex
There were a couple of pieces this week on trans experiences in the prison system that are really worth reading! This one, at RH Reality Check, talks to Janetta Johnson, the program director of the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project and formerly incarcerated trans woman, along with other incarcerated trans people. It details the violence trans people in prison face both from the institutions themselves and from other inmates, especially as trans inmates are often housed with people of the gender they were assigned at birth, making the prison environment especially dangerous for them. In addition, while legally prisons are supposed to provide hormone treatment for trans prisoners, in reality this isn’t often the case.
Many trans women in prison submit to coercive sex—a form of sexual violence—for protection or access to hormones, according to National Prison Rape Elimination Commission testimony. A UC Irvine study found that sexual assault is 13 times more prevalent among transgender inmates than the general prison population, with 59 percent of transgender prisoners reporting being sexually assaulted while in a California correctional facility.
Often, Johnson says, she would wake up to find her cellmate touching her breasts and fondling her. She went to report the assault to a guard, but before she could finish, the guard urged her to stop, according to Johnson. The only place he could house her for protection was in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), a solitary confinement cell where she would be locked in for 23 hours a day. In addition to the isolation, the SHU would make Johnson ineligible for the prison’s residential drug treatment program, and the 18-month-early release that went with it. To stay out of the SHU, Johnson realized she had to face the sexual violence by herself.
There’s also this piece at Jezebel, which includes the experiences of incarcerated trans woman Passion Star and details the extensive sexual assault and abuse occurring in Texas’ prison system, even as Texas prison administration continues to insist it has a “zero tolerance policy” about sexual misconduct and despite the practices outlined in the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. It’s an environment where, as Star reports, inmates who are trans women and/or are read as “feminine” are raped and forced into “relationships” with other inmates, and are denied protection or safekeeping by correctional officers. Star was moved to safekeeping, a living situation where she’s protected from other inmates but not in solitary confinement, only after a New York Times reporter began looking into her case and Lambda Legal became involved.
That New York Times reporter, Deborah Sontag, now has her own piece on Passion Star’s experiences with the Texas prison system up. It is also very worth reading!
“Look, I got 36 stitches and have scars on my face that prove the prisons are not safe and the current system does not work,” [Star] said. “Somebody needs to be intrusive into this state’s business. Because if somebody was intruding, probably these things would not happen.”
If you’re interested in this topic, our own Mey wrote about the experiences of trans women in prison as well!
Police, Violence, Police Violence
+ The Madison, WI police officer, Matt Kenny, who killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson Jr. will not be charged in relation to his death. Kenny responded to a 911 call saying that an intoxicated Robinson was running in front of cars and attacking strangers; when he arrived, he was inside the home for 20 seconds and fired his gun at an unarmed Robinson seven times in three seconds. Kenny’s statement claimed that “because Robinson had punched him already, he feared that the teen might punch him again and knock him out, and take his firearm to kill him and others.”
+ Six months after his death, the investigation into the shooting of Tamir Rice still hasn’t wrapped up; it’s not clear what next steps there are or when Tamir’s family can expect any answers. After so much time, and fearing the potential of being re-traumatized by an exhumation at a later date, Tamir’s family has cremated his body.
+ A brief flick of the time turner back to 30 years earlier! Yesterday was the 30-year anniversary of the MOVE bombing, an incident which white America has largely swept under the rug. A radical Black liberation group called MOVE had made a compound out of a row house in West Philadelphia; as part of an effort to arrest four of its members, a Philadelphia police bombing operation destroyed 60+ homes and killed 11 people, a number which included five children. Vox has an explanation of the original events and how they map onto our current reality (hint: not much has changed!) and at NPR, Philly native Gene Demby tries to make sense of what happened.
Bodies and Rules Regarding Them
+ The FDA is finally figuring out a plan to end the lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with other men. The new plan will likely fall in line with guidelines that suggest a one-year ban on blood donation after same-sex sexual encounters. Critics say that this still amounts to policy that stigmatizes gay and bisexual men (after all, if you’re a man having sex with men regularly, a one-year ban may as well be a lifetime ban).
“This policy prevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply,” said David Stacy, [HRC]’s government affairs director, in a statement.
+ Some “crisis pregnancy centers” (actually anti-abortion traps for pregnant women in need) are getting glitter-bombed. I dunno, thought you’d like to hear about it.
+ A new survey by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, over half the women in Texas face “at least one barrier” to accessing reproductive healthcare! Wheee!
“Poor, Spanish-speaking women with low educational attainment report the most barriers to effective contraception use and being unable to use their contraceptive method of choice,” the researchers note. Over 60 percent of women using less effective birth control, like condoms or withdrawal, would prefer to use a more effective method, like the pill or IUD, if they could afford it.
+ There was an election in the UK that has, to the extent that I understand it, just totally fucked everything up. I haven’t discussed it much here because I know that I know very little about it, but a new minister for equalities and under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice has previously voted against same-sex marriage, saying that banning it would “take nothing away from their relationships.”
+ Waverly Wilson, a Native American graduating high school student, was told by her principal that she couldn’t wear an eagle feather with her high school graduation gown. She was told she could wear it hidden underneath her robe or wear it visibly after the ceremony for pictures, but not have it visible during the graduation.
“Our textbooks are all wrong and I get marked down for defending who I am. I have always been told to be who I am—to have to hide this? I am like, ‘No, that is not how it is.” she said. Waverly’s mother Andi Dillon, an enrolled member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community says she is emotional and angry about the school’s decision.
+ George Zimmerman, noted advocate of the right of citizens to shoot guns at other people literally whenever, and person who has been involved in several other violent incidents including but not limited to killing unarmed Trayvon Martin, was reportedly shot in an incident earlier this week. His injuries were reported to be minor.
+ So far, the infant news cycle of the 2016 election has sort of taken this shape where every week or two a new Republican candidate is picked out to be the One Who’s Screwing Up and have their campaign picked apart. It’s not that hard because many of the Republican candidates are kind of goofy. This week, Jeb Bush drew the short straw. You’ll like this one, it’s Rachel Maddow.
+ The Vatican has officially recognized Palestinian statehood via a legal document negotiated with Palestine that constitutes diplomatic recognition.
+ Laramie, Wyoming, the town famous for Matthew Shepard’s death, has passed a local anti-discrimination ordinance 17 years later.