This past January 22 marked the first annual day of solidarity with trans prisoners. First imagined by Marius Mason [https://supportmariusmason.org/], it has quickly become a movement for prison abolitionists and prisoner support activists both on the inside and outside to collaborate and bring awareness to struggles faced by trans and gender variant inmates. Jan 22 organizers compiled a zine with stories and relevant information about this struggle, which can be downloaded and printed here:
Below, I have transcribed Vanessa’s essay for easier online reading.
My name is Vanessa. I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to participate in this program to share my struggles and pleas for help with you!
I’m truly in debt to Xylah Gray who was kind enough to write and ask me to participate in this zine.
Without wonderful people like X and you, our lives in prison would be a nightmare for real! So thanks!
As a transwoman in prison, I can attest to the abuse we deal with every day, Not only from inmates; but from guards too!
I have been in prison close to 11 flat years. I’m soon to be 38 in Feb 2016. I was certified as an adult at the age of 16 for agg, Robbery. When I turned 17 yrs. old, I came to prison which was one of the scariest moment in my life because I was instantly attacked!
I grew up dealing with abuse. It was nothing new. I was raped when I was 8 years old, and growing up, I stayed in fights because being different was hard as hell! In a insane way, This made me mentally tough! But prison shook me to my core! I never experienced Nothing like this or the level of abuse.
True enough being raped is brutal – but I had Never been beaten so bad in my life!
My first day in prison I was beaten and stomped bloody by gang members who were determined to force me to pay protection and to force me into prostitution!
I know I fought 6 to 8 people back to back – The harder I fought 0 the worse I was beaten!
I was a kid! My first day in prison – I had sex – with 3 people. It’s sick! I was still bloody! My mouth was bleeding, my chin was split and my eyes were swollen and they still wanted to have sex with me!
The whole time I fought – I remember saying over and over; go Fuck yourselves!
But I gave in! I was exhausted mentally and physically. This older Mexican inmate told them to get of me, and let him talk to me. He basically told me: you have a choice – you can either get in line or this will continue!
I thought my best way to survive would be with him, He was in a prison gang called TS. But it wasn’t for long he was trying to share me with his home boys!
Fortunately my mother came to see me! When she seen how bloody I was beaten, she with into a rage! She was crying and demanded to see the warden. They naturally put her off – but told her I’d be Ok.
The next day I was placed in safe keeping.
Although this was 22 years ago, Rape still happens and it’s a fact that trans women are more at risk than any other prisoner because we are the closest thing to a real female and it makes it dangerous for us!
The would not happen if prison officials would create policies that allowed us to be kept separately or housed with other transwomen!
I believe there is no consenual sex in prison! Especially if it’s done under deress or intimidation. Alot of cases, rape does not occur by violence. The threat of being hurt is usually the way it happens. Or a transwoman can be in a place with 2 or 3 inmates and they will pressure her into having sex.
I encourage all girls to have a walk partner – someone to be with them at all times, and to report all abuse!
TDCJ has become zero tolerance for sexual assault and it has made prison safer.
Since I have been in prison I have tried to commit suicide 3 times. Coping with my dusphoria has been extremely difficult for me! For years TDCJ would not treat me because I was not diagnosed in society or on Estrogen.
Due to policy change and abusing myself – I have been on Estrogen and other medication to help me cope with my Gender dysphoria. I’m still being denied treatment! My doctor at UTMB Kevin McKinney prescribed me the real-life experience and recommended that I be allowed to live full time as a female and to have the items to live as a female.
The Doctor on my unit denied my Doctor’s orders! Sadly! His name is; _______ Greene. He doesn’t even specialize in GID treatment!
It’s my hope that my story will inspire you to become more active in prison rights and be our voice so our please for help will be heard!