Transgender, gender variance, and related issues are some of the toughest to write about, because they are often the least understood by the general public. Indeed, I don’t even think I understand enough to really write about it. But what’s happening in PA’s prisons is a tragedy and a human rights violation; we’re not treating these individuals with the respect and dignity they deserve, and as a result they experience more violence and harassment than the average prisoner.
Here are just a few ways transgender individuals have it worse in Pennsylvania’s prisons:
- Prisons often restrict the vital use of hormones by transgender inmates, even when they are under the care of a doctor. Stopping hormone treatment can cause serious heart and blood pressure problems, hair loss, depression and anxiety, and other mental and emotional health issues.
- Only about 30% are in prison for violence or sex offenses. The other 70% are imprisoned for prostitution, drugs, probation violation, or minor infractions like bench warrants.
- Housing transgender inmates is a complicated issue in prison. Bathrooms and other areas become places for harassment and violent attacks.
- Administrators often place transgender inmates “in the hole,” for an average of 5 months per person, ostensibly for their protection or in retaliation for filing grievances to improve prison conditions.
- Harassment, violence, and discrimination are institutionalized against transgender inmates.
Even with my limited understanding of transgender issues, what I always want to emphasize is that transgender, gender variance, and other deep sexual issues are *not* the same as cross-dressing, drag, etc. So it’s deeply inaccurate and harmful to think of these people as a “man dressed as a woman” or “woman dressed as a man.” It’s much more than that.