Transgender women prisoner warriors: Bianca Sawyer, Tara Hudson, Vikki Thompson

November 20th was the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to honor transgender people who have been murdered and transgender communities, past, present, future, who have survived. This is the story of Bianca Sawyer, Vikki Thompson and Tara Hudson, transgender women who were all `released’ this week.

Yesterday, it was reported that Vikki, or Vicky, Thompson was buried near her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, in England. She was twenty-one years old. Her story is short, too short by far. Vikki Thompson, born male, identified all her adult life as a woman. She was arrested for robbery and sent to a men’s prison. She said if she were sent to a men’s prison, she would kill herself, and she did. The State is `investigating” … again. Vikki Thompson was released from all of that, however.

Yesterday, it was reported that Tara Hudson was also released. Tara Hudson is twenty-six years old. Born male, Tara Hudson has also self identified and lived as a woman all her adult life. She was arrested for getting in a fight with a barman, and was sent to a men’s prison. After much organizing, including a petition that went viral, Tara Hudson was finally moved from a men’s to a women’s prison. Yesterday, she was released from prison altogether.

A week ago, British Columbia announced it would start housing transgender prisoners according to their stated gender identities. This change in policy emerged largely from the mobilization of Bianca Sawyer, a transgender woman who has been in and out of the system for ten years, always placed in men’s prisons. After ten years, she had had enough and began petitioning and organizing. The last straw for Bianca Sawyer was the staff: “A group of, like, eight or nine officers were joking about how it would feel to get oral sex from me, and running their hands through my short hair [and making] jokes about me growing breasts. I was really upset. That night, I was like, ‘I don’t belong here.’”

When the State, in the form of staff members, began treating Bianca Sawyer with the misogyny and indignity it visits on women, she decided it was time to move. This is not irony, but rather the everyday of gender identity in the nation-State of mass incarceration.

Bianca Sawyer won her removal and managed to move the province to change its policies. British Columbia follows Ontario in recognizing prisoners’ gender identity based on the prisoners’ testimony, rather than the `science’ of experts, bureaucratically dispensed. For once, autonomy subsumes anatomy. What happens to transgender women in prison in your jurisdiction? Find out, and write to us. Remember Tara Hudson and Bianca Sawyer, and remember this, Vikki Thompson did not kill herself. The State killed Vikki Thompson, and will kill others.

(Photo Credit: The Globe and Mail)