Transwomen in Prison

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By Zaquoya Rogers

The Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” highlights many different female experiences that tend to occur in prisons across the globe. They portrayed the problems of women in prison within every race, sexual orientation and background. One that caused an increase in conversation was about trans women and how they were being treated within prison. Since, obviously, male and females are separated into different prisons, where do transwomen fit? People started asking what it means to be a women. Also, why are transwomen’s gender is being trivialized? Lindsay King-Miller states “A woman, no matter her background, should never be asked to prove she is a woman.”

Laverne Cox, a transwomen actor and speaker, played Sophia Burset in the popular series and accurately depicted the struggle and mistreatment of transwomen in prison. In prison, transwomen go through difficulty in consistently receiving necessary hormone medication. In Season One, Sophia’s medication had been reduced because it wasn’t deemed as necessary which caused her male characteristics like facial hair to return. This happens in prisons today and scars transwomen’s sense of self.  A transwomen inmate named Mary was placed in the male prison Boggo Road Gaol located in Australia. She was denied any access to hormones medication. She states, “It was like my identity was taken away from me. I look like a woman and I think if a transgender person is genuine and they are living as the opposite sex, then they should be housed in a female prison, even if you’re in a wing on your own.” Denial of one’s gender is abuse and is not fair.   

In Season Three, Sophia clashes with some of her fellow inmates and is brutally attacked by the same group. Instead of punishing the perpetrators, Sophia is the one sent to the SHU (Security Housing Units/Solitary Confinement) supposedly for her protection. In reality, this type of solution downgrades transwomen and serves as an injustice. Not only do transwomen experience abuse, discrimination and bullying when serving time but they cannot count on higher authority in prison to ensure their safety. They are turned against and devalued as human beings simply because of who they identify as. This is a problem that won’t change unless more conversations take place about these injustices. I think that a great majority of people still see being transgender as something unnatural. This is why transwomen are subjected to so much abuse. The more we speak on it and accept people for who they are and not who we want to see them as, the better it will get for transwomen.