'Trapped' in Sing-Sing: Transgendered Prisoners Caught in the Gender Binarism
70 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2006
This Article examines the multitude of troubles confronting transgender prisoners, applying theoretical understandings of the relationship between gender and society. Many transgender prisoners have HIV, are people of color, are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and/or are incarcerated for property crimes or prostitution related to their quest for transformation. Their condition demonstrates flaws both multiple and fundamental in the hierarchization of gender, sexual orientation, race, class, and deviance. Transgendered prisoners' position both behind bars and at society's bottom rung crystallize such problems into an array of intermingled and overwhelming legal dilemmas. This Article first summarizes gender, transgender identity, and legal issues facing transgender people to contextualize the lives of transgender prisoners, questioning the gender binarism used to distinguish "males" from "females." It then explores how corrections authorities, through indifference or incompetence, foster a shockingly inhumane daily existence for transgender prisoners in placement and treatment. We can understand the plight of transgender prisoners through the metaphor of the miners' canary. Transgender prisoners signal the grave dangers facing all of us in a wide array of social structures, elucidating the apparently intractable problems of gender.
Keywords: transgender, gender, prisons, prisoners rights
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