Gender Transition in Prison
Date:  05-26-2015

Denial of hormone therapy, violence and harassment are just some of the daily experiences trans people in prison face
Once again Vikki Law, writing for TruthOut, brings to light issues that people in prison face but which are often ignored by the media. This time Law focuses on the life (and sometimes death) struggle trans people face while incarcerated. Law points out that while corrections has made some policy changes that are more progressive, there is still a long way to go to assure equal justice for trans people who are incarcerated.

Despite Advances, the Trans Struggle for Justice Behind Bars Is Just Beginning

By Victoria Law May 22, 2015

For the past three years, Ashley Diamond has been denied health care as well as protection from recurring violence from the men around her. But she has been fighting back - and her fight has been making headlines and wresting small changes from the Georgia Department of Corrections. Her story starkly illustrates the challenges facing trans women behind bars - from frequent violence and sexual assaults to the denial of hormones and other medical neglect. But Diamond's experiences are far from unique, or even unusual. Nor is her decision to challenge prison policies around trans health care and safety an exception. Across the country, trans people have individually challenged and collectively organized to be free from physical, sexual and medical violence.

In 2012, Ashley Diamond, a black trans woman, was sentenced and sent to a men's prison. There, she was denied access to the hormones she had been taking prior to her arrest. This was in line with Georgia's policy to "freeze" treatment and current levels when a person is first sent to prison and to deny "new" hormone treatment. In Diamond's case, it was unclear why she was denied her existing treatment. Without the estrogen, progestin creams, testosterone blockers and anti-androgen medications, her body began to change.

But medical neglect was not the only form of violence she experienced. Although new standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act recognized trans people as an especially vulnerable group whose placement should be considered and continually reviewed, officials ignored these standards when placing Diamond, who announced that she was a trans woman during intake. Despite her declaration, officials assigned her to a high-security men's prison. Within a month, six gang members attacked her, punching, stomping, raping and knocking her unconscious. She was transferred to another high-security prison, where she endured repeated harassments and sexual assaults. When she reported the assaults to prison officials, she said that they told her, “You brought this on yourself.'"

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