Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Transphobia, Prison and Policy

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe individuals who do not conform to traditional gender roles. Transsexuals, transvestites, cross dressers, gender queers and intersexuals would fit under the category of transgender. A transsexual person is an individual who has the desire to assume the physical characteristics and gender role of the opposite sex; this also includes a person who has undergone hormone treatment and surgery to attain the physical traits of the opposite sex (http://www.dictionary.com/). Transsexual people opting to undergo SRS (sex reassignment surgery) and hormone treatments are burdened with an unbelievable expense. However, it is a necessary expense in order to be able to assume the physical characteristics of their desired sex.
Transphobia, which is the fear of transgendered individuals, is commonplace in Canadian society. Ignorance surrounding transgendered individuals perpetuates the fear and hatred of the transgender community. Transsexual people are systemically oppressed, for example in health care coverage, but the daily discrimination is an enormous social issue. Oftentimes the medical procedures that are required in order for a transsexual person to "pass" as their desired gender are extensive and very costly. In these cases the individuals who are not able to afford SRS are easy to pinpoint, by the public, and thus become an easy target for transphobia.
The oppression of transgendered individuals is magnified within the Canadian prison system. Due to incarceration, these transgendered individuals are unable to escape to the safety of a transgender positive space. Oftentimes there is the presence of transphobic guards within the prison; this leads to a severe lack of respect towards the transgendered individuals. There is no consistency in health care needs, and there is often an outright negligence in terms of these needs (http://www.prisonjustice.ca)/. Harassment and abuse from both staff and other inmates is a daily occurrence within the prison system. And, the placement of individuals based solely on external genitalia is an issue faced by all incarcerated transgendered individuals. With little to no hope of any access to SRS while incarcerated, many inmates have to live for long periods of time within a body that seems foreign to them.
The oppression within the prison system varies according to staffing, inmates, and other variables. Although, we will go on to examine, through this web log, the larger systemic oppression of transgendered individuals through prison policies. The Commissioner’s Directive 800 subsection 36 policy, regarding sex reassignment surgery within prisons, will be investigated in order to identify the ways in which Canadian policy is discriminatory towards transgendered individuals (http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/). The history of this policy, and other policies related to this issue will be explored. Through critical analysis of this social issue and its concomitant policy, alterations and improvements will be researched as alternatives to the current approach.

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