Transgender people face discriminatory treatment
In both the US and Canada, transgender inmates have had their rights violated, as prison systems place them in gender-divided cells that do not match their gender identities.
Nikita Dragun, a transgender woman and an influencer, “was arrested and held in a men’s unit of a Miami jail” on November 8, 2022, according to NPR. Dragun was accused of walking around a hotel pool naked. Upon the security guards’ arrival, Dragun reportedly splashed them with water. Afterwards, officers arrived at Dragun’s room to confront her about the disturbances. She “allegedly then threw an open bottle at a security guard and police officer, hitting them and covering them in water,” reads an NPR article. As such, she faced charges of “felony battery of a law enforcement officer” and disorderly conduct.
According to Local 10, in court on November 8, Dragun inquired about whether she would be forced to stay in a men’s cell when jailed. “I don’t make the rules up there,” Judge Mindy Glaze had stated, though she told Dragun that she could be released if collateral, not cash, was provided—or bonded out.
In response, a representative for Dragun, Jack Ketsoyan, stated that “the situation with Nikita, who is legally female, being placed in a men’s unit of a Florida jail is extremely disturbing and dangerous.” A day later, Dragun was released without having to pay bail. As her case moves forward, Dragun will be appearing before the court on December 7, 2022.
Dragun’s experiences are not an unusual occurrence—violations of transgender people’s rights occur in countries other than the US. In Canada, there are also cases of transgender inmates receiving unfair treatment from prisons’ system.
Notably, Erica Wilson, a transgender woman—who underwent hormone therapy, altered her physical appearance, and requested to wear feminine clothing in a men’s prison—was denied transfer to a women’s jail in 2018. This conflicts with an interim Correctional Service Canada (CSC) policy—effective since in December 27, 2017—which stipulates that “CSC has a duty to accommodate based on gender identity or expression, regardless of the person’s anatomy or the gender marker on identification documents. This includes placing offenders according to their gender identity in a men’s or women’s institution […] unless there are overriding health or safety concerns which cannot be resolved.”
According to the assessment of Wilson’s request, she was denied transfer to a women’s institution because of “negative peers, gang affiliations, entrenched criminal values, and poor problem solving and decision-making skills.”
As reported by CTV News, Wilson has encountered several violent incidents in the prison. The news report reads: “Wilson was slashed in the face by another inmate with a homemade weapon at Kent Institution in November 2018 and also detailed another instance where she was attacked and suffered a black-eye in October 2020.”
Wilson has been subject to much abuse within the prison. Correctional service guards have reportedly used derogatory terms when speaking to Wilson, which caused other prisoners to follow their example. “I’d rather be locked in a cell for 24 hours a day to deal with my journey on my own without any abuse or verbal attacks,” said Wilson in a phone interview with CTV News.
The Transgender Inmate Management of Ontario takes pride in their progressive policy for transgender inmates, which states that “all inmates are treated with the same dignity and respect regardless of their gender expression or gender identity.” However, as exemplified by Wilson’s case, the validity of such statements can be questioned.
Staff Writer (Volume 49) — Zitong Chen is currently a third-year student at UTM, majoring in Professional Writing & Communication, and minoring in Creative Writing and English Literature. Zitong finds that writing is a way of storytelling—a way to reflect on and extend the meaning of life. Aiming to bring some insights and creativities to The Medium, Zitong hopes to become a mature writer through this journey. During her spare time, Zitong spends a lot of time in cafés, or watching movies.