Greetings Friends and Family,
Thank you for commemorating the J22 International Day of solidarity with Trans Prisoners. I was so glad to hear that some of you were able to do a support event this year. Incarcerated people everywhere in the US continue to suffer the consequences of the Covid pandemic. Though it has ebbed and flowed in cycles, like the tides – most of us inside are still dealing with some level of restriction in visitation, programming, work, medical care access or visitation due to the measures being enforced to attempt to contain the spread of the virus. Going in and out of lock-down, as Units either test positive or negative for Covid, has caused a lot of stress, hardship and increased isolation for so many this past year.
It is against this chaotic backdrop that trans prisoners have struggled to have their particular situation addressed. If anything, the hysterical and hyperbolic propaganda of discrimination has created an even more toxic environment. A recent Wall Street Journal interview with Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who was recently returned to his family in exchange for Brittney Griner’s release is an example of heightened trans hate-speech. Bout’s poisonous words indicting trans and queer people’s responsibility for the “decline of the West” are the excuse being given for Russia to attack first Ukraine and then to sweep through Europe as the army of G..d. This calls to mind other fascist wars also described as “holy’ and claiming some cultural superiority.
More than ever, trans people (and queer people) in prison need to know that you have their back. We need to hear from you that we are part of your community, your movement – and that we are family. With your help, we can begin to open the gates that have shut us out, shut us down and blocked our access to medical care that helps us live with dignity.
We are closer to that goal than ever before, as trans prisoners. This year, the Transgender executive Council began meeting again to make decisions about transitioning in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Several prisoners, both trans men and trans women, were told that they had met the requirements for medical transition and were approved for gender affirming surgeries. I was one of these fortunate few. This felt like a huge step forward, but so far the only actual procedures that have been done were done within the state prison systems. It was reported by the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project that a client of theirs, Mx. Doe, has been the first to receive gender-affirming surgery. This is great news, but there are so many others who are not even getting the most basic medical care or psychological supportive care.
So many are still being discriminated against and being placed in isolation or put in physical jeopardy because of identifying as trans. Dominic Barber, a trans man at SCI- Muncy, gives powerful testimony for this in his article in Let’s Get Free/Winter Issue. And there are so many others whose voices are never heard.
There was a great civil rights activist in Detroit, John Conyers – who once answered, when asked by an inexperienced volunteer what issue the movement should focus on in order to succeed. He said that “Everything is everything!” It’s ALL crucial; it’s all equally important, it’s all one more step forward. Climate change, crimes against Native sovereignty, animal and environmental oppression, impending and continuing wars, theo-fascism, homo-and trans- phobic, racist, misogynist hate crimes all demand our energy to confront and end these existential threats to our world. Solidarity with trans and queer prisoners is just one way among many, many ways that we re-shape and rebuild this broken life we share.
So what do we do?
Whatever we choose or have the capacity to do can and will move us forward. Something as small as reaching out with a letter of connection and care could save a life. Too many transfolks I have met in prison have lost their family and community connections because of being who they are – so showing them there is a place for them in the world we are creating is powerful and healing. Please become an advocate, a pen pal, an educator or counselor to trans prisoners. Just being known by someone in the free world can make them safer and more likely to be treated more humanely and more fairly in the system. We are stronger together.
Love and solidarity, Marius