Today is TransGender Day of Remembrance. This day is set aside to remember Trans people lost to violence. To add my voice to the call for safety and equality for Trans people, I want to point out some of the issues that Trans people deal with in the criminal justice system.
Trans people are overrepresented in both the juvenile and adult criminal system. Trans youth are a high risk of homelessness due to rejection by their families and therefore may resort to survival type crimes to stay alive – things like sex work, theft, and small time drug distribution. Sixteen percent of trans adults have been incarcerated—this is 5% higher than the cisgender population. Again, things typically thought to be survival type crimes are common among poor trans adults – things like sex work and drug distribution. Not only does this put trans people at a high risk of arrest and incarceration but also violence against their persons.
When incarcerated, trans people report higher rates of assault and sex assault. Perhaps one third of the trans incarcerated population will be assaulted in some way. Because of this, jails and prisons should reform their policies to allow trans peope to stay in the unit that they feel is most gender affirming. Jails and prisons should not simply use the sex assigned at birth to determine unit housing for trans people.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice took a radical step forward – finally – in 2015 and allowed for inmates experiencing gender dysphoria to undergo hormone replacement therapy while incarcerated and to live as their true gender. This means that trans people who go to prison in Texas will not have to gender conform due to regulations and should not have an interruption in their HRT.
The standard of care for Trans people and also our common sense of decency and fairness toward all people demand that Trans people be treated with full equality and be allowed to express their true gender identity regardless of their involvement with the criminal justice system. They should not be forced to conform to their gender assigned at birth by judges, probation officers, or prison administrators. Also, we should work to end policies that make it more likely for Trans people to resort to small time, petty crimes for survival purposes that make them vulnerable to arrest and violence.
We mourn the losses of Trans people and call for universal respect for Trans people and an end to violence.