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"M-2-F Transexual Issues in Prison" by Anastasia

Definitions:

Alienation- The act of alienating or the condition of being alienated. People turning a cold shoulder to you because they see you as being a homosexual. Regardless of your explaining to them the differences between a homosexual and a transsexual. People avoiding you because of what others say. Example: Trying to be friends with someone and having others ask them, “What are you talking to that punk for?” Then having that person shun you because of peer pressure.

Emotional Isolation- Emotional: Of or relating to emotion. Isolation: The quality or condition of being isolated. Example: Having no one to share common experiences with. No friends or even trustworthy associates. Having no one to talk to that actually understands the emotions and/or difficulties you go through trying to deal with being a transsexual in prison.

Ridicule- Words or actions intended to evoke contemptuous laughter at or feelings towards a person or thing. Example: People say “Act like a man” or “Look at that thing there, it/he thinks he/it’s a woman,” knowing that these words or others like them are hurtful. People making comments and remarks that cause others to laugh at you.

Gibe- To make taunting, heckling, or jeering remarks. Example: When you walk down the hallway and officers or inmates or both call you by your make gender name out of spite in a sarcastic way. Or they say things like, “So you think you’re a woman?”
(Definitions taken from the American Heritage College Dictionary 3rd Edition)

When you are a transsexual you generally feel as if you do not belong. If you are a transsexual you feel alienated from both genders. The females do not accept you as being female and the males usually look at you as being a homosexual.

You long for acceptance for what and who you are instead of what others perceive you as. You get so tired of constantly explaining yourself; who and what you are, the differences between you and a homosexual. About why you do not act like a “man,”why you feel that you are a female trapped in a man’s body.

Sometimes you so long for a companion to share with (non-sexually) that you will let yourself be used and sometimes even mentally and physically abused just to feel needed and/or wanted. You know intellectually that the companionship/friendship is not genuine. But you are willing to deceive yourself emotionally just so you can have even the insincere companionship/friendship. You want to be accepted so badly at times that you are even willing to try and be what you are not.

At times you get so disgusted with how your body looks and feels that you are willing to do almost anything, go through almost anything, to change it. Even to the point of performing your own surgery to remove your male genitals, in spite of the pain caused by it and the real serious risk of life threatening infections or even death due to these infections or bleeding. Sometimes the physical pain seems worth it to get rid of the constant mental anguish and pain that seems at times to be more than just mental.

Being in a prison setting can and does increase these feelings a hundred fold. At times the inmates and staff can be so closed-minded. Even the mental health and medical staff that is supposed to know better. The continuous jibes, taunts, and ridicule are mind-boggling at times. And the more you want to get away from it the worse it seems to be.

I had a licensed psychologist that has over 20 years experience tell me that being transsexual is just a “lifestyle” choice, as if anyone would voluntarily choose to be a transsexual. That is like a person choosing to have cancer or a heart defect. No sane person would choose to be a transsexual.

You struggle daily to deal with all the negative comments and feelings that you are surrounded by all the time. And no matter what, you are at the mercy of the administration, so therefore cannot escape the feelings of anger, hopelessness, isolation, and emotional abuse.

The constant pressure to “be like” everyone else, the constant alienation is very draining emotionally and physically. You strive to find your own niche. To put some balance in your life. You have to be careful or you can fall prey to others in prison. This goes for everyone in prison, but especially for the transsexual.

Some inmates will see you as a “thing” to relieve their sexual desires with. Others will see you as a safe target to relieve their general frustrations on. Even the guards with sometimes use you as their whipping post. They also see you as someone that it is safe to mentally and sometimes physically abuse.

Some inmates with see someone that they can use to try and make themselves feel superior. Some as something to relieve their boredom with, a form of toy. The staff may even turn a blind eye to this if it does not involve physical violence or does not jeopardize their jobs.

You are sometimes desperate to find your own group. Someone you can relate to. To talk to. Someone or something, that can help you find a balance. To help you recharge your emotional batteries.

If you are nice and friendly you can be perceived as weak, or easy to use. Some will even say that you are being nice just to have sex with someone or to “get under” someone. (Get under is prison slang for trying to get close to someone so that you can use them for your own purposes.)

If you act “tough” some inmates and guards will see you as a challenge, or as a threat.

I have discovered that some inmates will feign an interest in you or a liking of you just to get something from you. Whether it is food, money, sex, or something else entirely. I have also discovered from others and from my own personal experience that you can often confuse someone’s sexual interests as “liking” you as a person instead of just a sexual object. That wanting to have sex with you is caring for you or liking you.

The pitfalls that face a transsexual in prison are even more numerous than those faced by non-transsexuals. The challenges are more numerous too. It is a daily struggle to avoid the one, and overcome the other. Take the need for treatment. This is a big challenge. You may get what is called psychotherapy. You may not. You may be able to get hormone therapy. But in most cases you MUST be able to prove that you were receiving them prior to your incarceration and that they were prescribed by a licensed physician. Taking “black market” hormones such as birth control does not count no matter how long you may have taken them.

The courts have ruled repeatedly that the prison is required to give you some form of treatment. But, that you are NOT entitled to the treatment of your choice. If you can get the doctors that work in the prison or even free world doctors to prescribe you hormones then the prison MAY be required to give you this medically necessary treatment.

But in most cases you will only be able to get the psychotherapy. And in a lot of cases that is not enough. But while in prison there is little that you can do except file a grievance if you feel that you are not getting the necessary treatment. If the doctors say that you do not need treatment then there is not much that you can do. Just file the grievances. Follow them ALL THE WAY THROUGH to the final stage. If you do not do this then you may not be able to file a 1983 complaint in the courts.

Being able to do so little can and often does engender a sense of hopelessness. There are many things that a transsexual has to deal with. Some easy, some hard. All that you can do is try. What works for me may not work for you or may not be appropriate. The best thing to do is to educate yourself as best as you can. Write to advocacy groups. Talk to the mental health workers at your unit if you can. If they are not knowledgeable, they may at least be sympathetic. Educate them when you can. Educate your fellow inmates also if you can do this without causing tension. DO NOT PUSH IT ON ANYONE! But most importantly, endure. Do not give up.

If there is not a support group for transsexuals at your unit, see about starting one. Mental health may be able to help you do this.

Be mindful of your actions and interactions with others. The staff and your fellow inmates are more apt to misconstrue your actions simply because you are a transsexual and therefore seen as different and suspect. Being a transsexual you will be under constant scrutiny. Not only by other inmates but by the staff as well. Watch yourself.

But most importantly believe in yourself. Don’t give up. I have been in prison for almost seventeen (17) years. I have roughly twenty (20) months to go before my release date. I have been a transsexual for all my life. I am now 41 years old. I have been trying to get the department to give me treatment for over 4 years now. I did receive psychotherapy for about a year and a half, until my therapist quit. I do not expect to get anything more than the psychotherapy that I have already received but I am not giving up. I plan to file a 1983 suit soon.

Keep up the fight.”

Anastasia, Arkansas

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