Being a women who is transgender within a women’s prison does come with its challenges. I am often targeted by staff who are transphobic, and at times I have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of other inmates. I often wonder why when I am touched inappropriately why am I not view as a victim? It’s clear that within this system I will always be viewed as a man. I often hear staff referring to me as “he” when they are talking to other staff on the phone. My months at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, have been a journey. I have had to fight very hard for my right to exist and my right to be treated equally. I had to fight long and hard to become a unit representative and to sit on the board with the commissioner. Yet, all of this has now ended due to my own actions.
Society expects women to act a certain way and maintain certain roles in life. Being a woman who is transgender, I am also expected to act a certain way, look a certain way even talk a certain way. Yet, I have been clear that my transition is for me and not for no one else, my view of who I am is not defined by what society thinks I should be. I live in a system that believes I should wear my hair a certain way or that I should talk in a feminine manner. I believe that such ideology is based from decades of ignorance towards who transgender women truly are. I refuse to live my life according to someone else’s standards. This is a huge reason why I have taken time with choosing gender affirming surgery. In addition I truly believe that my sense of gender identity is deeply within me and not something that others may be able to see. I try to lived by my own standards and not by others. Even, my sexual orientation is expected to be a certain way. I often hear people say “real transgenders are not attracted to women” yet the truth remains that sexual attraction and gender identity are two separate things.
My journey and transition within Edna Mahan Correctional Facility has been tough. A lot of the things that I go through, I have remained silent about. I have been scared to speak about some of the abuse and harassment, not because of retaliation but instead because, I have often feel obligated to just deal with it. For so long staff have told me that because I am transgender I am should keep my mouth shut and appreciate the fact that I am here at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility. Well I am not keeping my mouth shut anymore. I have suffered abuse and staff have often ignored me and my request to be housed where I feel safe. When I am touched inappropriately I am never viewed as the victim, but instead as a man having a good time. There are times when I am also pressured into doing things that I don’t want to do yet time after time, no one listens to me. Within Edna there is a sexually charged environment, one where sex and drugs (medication) are a common component of ones day. I have often sought to get out of these housing units and to move to locations where I felt safe, yet my request have always been denied. Because as a transgender woman, I am viewed as having a great time, no matter how much I report no one listens.
Even when it comes to gender affirming surgery, I do not believe a surgery is what defines someone’s gender. In fact rather some one does or does not choose to remove their penis, is truly their option and does not define their gender. I have often felt pressured to listen to others and to satisfy others by having surgery, but a few months ago I realized that I needed to focus on doing things that makes me happy and stop giving a damn about what others wanted me to do. Finally when I did get approved for surgery I got approved for top surgery which to me means a lot and will help me affirm my gender. I have given up on listening to society’s views of transgenders and more than anything I refuse to make long lasting changes to my body solely because of what society thinks.
Finally, its clear that EMCF may never help me, with regards to educating the population and staff with regards to what it means to be transgender. So it will continue to be my duty to not get upset when I find myself having to explain who I am or having to assert myself as a woman when others refuse to see me as such. More than any thing I refuse to live by society’s view point of what a transgender woman is. No one knows the pain and hurt that I often feel each day when I get up, no one gets it. They are too busy trying to compare me to Jerry Springer transgender who are simply acting.
I have to except that some people may never agree with me being in a women’s prison. And many of the women will never understand my struggle. I have acknowledged that this journey is long and tiresome. Now with the fact that I am having a child I have to acknowledged that there will he a backlash towards my community. Again, how can In expect judgemental people to understand my struggle.