Gender's Role in CeCe McDonald's Imprisonment
Crishaun "CeCe" McDonald, the 24-year-old black transgender woman who recently pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter, will be incarcerated as a man at a Minnesota state prison. However, according to ColorLines' Akiba Solomon, it's not that simple. McDonald's situation will be investigated by a team of prison officials to determine where they feel most comfortable placing her, because, according to Katie Burgess, the executive director of the Minneapolis-based Trans Youth Support Network, if you are transgender, you are viewed as a threat to other inmates:
"People tend to think about how CeCe identifies as a woman and say she should be able to go to a women's facility. But there's really no history of transgender people being placed according to their gender identity. So once CeCe is placed in a permanent facility, she'll look around and decide if she feels safe there. If she doesn't, she'll move forward with a civil suit against the Department of Corrections to be relocated to a safer place. That may or may not be a women's prison."
At the moment, the larger issue for McDonald is the state's evaluation process. Over the next month, says Burgess, an ad hoc committee of prison health officials and wardens will form to determine McDonald's gender (you read that right), whether or not she'll continue to receive the hormones she's been prescribed in the past and if she'll be placed in administrative segregation, which is really just a glorified version of solitary confinement.
"In my experience, the committee process is remarkably abusive and just disgusting," says Burgess. "Generally, they're made up of all non-transgender people with absolutely no cultural sensitivity. They look at three things: physiology—meaning your genitals—sex orientation and prior placement. Rather than protecting transgender people, who are easily the most vulnerable group when it comes to sexual violence in prison, the underlying idea is that transgender people are sexual predators."
Read Akiba Solomon's entire piece at ColorLines.
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