Being Trans in the Washington DOC: Transferring to a Women’s Facility (or trying to)

I was thinking it may be helpful to take some time to talk about what my daily life is like and why raising money for these surgeries is so important to me.

As I stated in my initial post, I am a girl stuck living in a men’s prison. As I am sure you can imagine, this is not a particularly safe place to be. Not for a (let’s face it) comely flat-chested gal with the wrong plumbing, and especially not for a feminine girly-girl who is 5’9” (175 cm) and weighs 118 lb (53.5 kg) like myself. Long story short, I get hit on and propositioned for sex A LOT. Anyone that talks to me on a regular basis get harassed and accused of trying to get in my pants by the very same people that are, in fact, pressuring me for sex.

Whether this is a matter of them subconsciously projecting, or purposely trying to isolate me doesn’t matter. Every time this happens I am reduced to being nothing more than a sex object just like the billions of women that are subjected to the patriarchal male gaze every day. I really don’t like it. I stand my ground and make it clear to them that I am not interested and that even if I wasn’t a lesbian they never would have had a shot in the first place.

If this were happening in a school or a corporation I would be able to file sexual harassment against them. However, I live in prison and such action would, in all likelihood, get me killed.

So what does this have to do with me getting surgery?

According to the DoC’s trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming policy, they consider the following regarding men’s and women’s facilities when deciding what facility to house me in:

  • Medical or mental health issues
  • Length of sentence
  • History of victimization and/or predation (likelihood of being taken advantage of or taking advantage of others)
  • Ability to stand up for one’s self without resorting to violence
  • Ability to pass as each gender (not just as one’s gender identity)
  • Management and/or security concerns (including current charge and behavioral record)
  • Where one has been housed in previous incarcerations
  • Concerns or risks regarding cellmates
  • The inmate’s view of their own safety
  • What housing options have been considered (special needs units, lower custody units, men’s facilities, women’s facilities, etc)

As far as I know, at this point in time there has not been a single trans person changed from a men’s facility to a women’s facility or vice versa in Washington. (If you know of anyone that has… please please please let me know!) However, according to the new policy, it is supposed to be happening in order to keep us trans people safe.

My thinking goes like this: I may not be the prettiest girl at the ball, but with some minimal tweaks I can pass without makeup. I just need to have my Adam’s apple reduced and my beard hair removed. That’s it, with just those two things I pass. And I’m saying this at the point of having just recently started hormones, so they haven’t even had time to do their work yet. Even my hands and feet are fairly small (I wear a size 10 woman’s shoe, not unheard of for a gal of my height). So if I can tip the DoC’s considerations just a little more in my favor, I should be able to get myself moved. That then opens the door for equal protection lawsuits. If they do it for me they are required to move any trans person that, according to their behavioral record, poses little to no risk to the inmates around them (safety considerations is my main argument). I figure that if we can leverage things to that point it should be easier to then help the trans people who only have negative behavioral records due to being forced to defend themselves to be transferred as well.

Look, I’m not going to pretend it’s a perfect plan, or that my own self interest isn’t thoroughly tangled throughout the whole thing. I don’t want to be casually living in the level of danger that I currently do for the rest of my life. I don’t want to hate what I see when I look in the mirror for the rest of my life. I don’t want to feel the way I feel for the next however many years every day until I die, or, by way of some miracle, get clemency. And I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror at all if I only help myself and not do what I can for others.

Furthermore, I don’t want to be excluding or alienating or anything like that to the transmen stuck in the woman’s facilities, I just don’t want to see any of you to be put in a position where you could potentially be placed in a men’s closed custody unit. I barely survived 8 years in the Walla Walla closed custody (the “west complex”) and that is not an experience I would wish on anyone.

I’ve heard that the BAR units (Walla Walla’s “protective custody” unit) has a suicide rate 10 times that of the west complex. I don’t know because I haven’t been there, but I have spoken to people that did time there and apparently it’s no picnic either.

Being in medium custody is no fun, but being in closed is terrifying.

While I believe you guys could handle it, I also believe that no one should be forced to live like that, least of all my trans brothers. So I strongly suggest you boys stay put and we all fight to get you what you need in the women’s facilities rather than having you guys move here.

I know, I know that may not be what the trans men in WCCW and elsewhere want to hear, and I honestly would not be surprised if they had much the same opinion about their closed custody regarding us trans women. One thing I do know for is that when it comes to prison, the grass is rarely greener… It’s more a question of how weed-choked it is and whether or not the field is currently on fire (to overextend the metaphor).

Anywho, I’m sorry these posts so far are a bit of a ramble. I’m not really sure where to start when it comes to describing what it is like being a trans girl in a men’s facility. Hopefully as things get rolling you will give me some feedback that I can use to guide what I talk about in the future.

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