UK: Trans and gender-queer prisoners face a double punishment.

One of my mates inside called me ASBO, and I hope I will always be anti-social. Prison is designed to control, to oppress, to separate and alienate. However, even in a mansion of aching hearts, there are ways to keep your head held high. It’s easy to fixate on the moment you will leave jail and walk through the gate, but there are many possibilities for rebellion and solidarity along the way.

‘Transgender prisoners defy the institutionalised segregation of the prison system. The multiplicity of combinations of gender/sex/surgery/hormones/identification that people embody resist simplistic and dogmatic solutions. Consequently, given that no capacity (or desire) to comprehend these differences exists, transgender people are subject to what amounts as focussed repression.’ – Lockdown: Prison, Repression and Gender Non-conformity, Bent Bars Project.

‘While feminist anti-prison researchers and activists have worked to make imprisoned women visible, we have tended to assume that women’s prisons house only women, and that all women prisoners are in women’s prisons.’ – Julia C. Oparah

The ministry of justice has stated that there are 100 trans prisoners in the UK. However some LGBTQ activists have speculated that reality is probably much higher than this, especially in men’s jails. Incarceration is often the final, brutal expression of the systemic repression of trans people. As has been highlighted, many reformist organisations and feminist groups simplify custody arguments into a gender binary, minimising the male role in a child’s upbringing, and ignoring the complexities of issues around gender non-conformity and those who identify as non-binary, trans or gender queer. One example of this is ‘Women for Independence’ (WFI), a group who call for a cap on the number of women in jail in Scotland, demanding that no more than 100 women are incarcerated there at any one time. In making such short-sighted and arbitrary demands, reformist organisations such as this ignore the myriad of issues that contribute to issues surrounding gender in custody.

The daily life of a trans prisoner in jail can be one of constant battle. Trans people make visible the oppressions and prejudices that inmates and prison staff act out. There is increasing awareness around these issues, but it is an ongoing struggle. Read more via Red Pepper