Since recently relocating to the Fort Lauderdale area I have begun to get to know many wonderful people. A new friend, Scott Bowker, invited me the April 29th, Fort Lauderdale premier of the new documentary titled “Where Justice Ends: Where punishment for gender identity is cruel but not unusual.” Shown at the historic Classic Gateway Theater.
Produced by George Zuber, President of Buddha Dog Productions also based in Fort Lauderdale. The documentary was simply captivating and alarming as 6 transgender women share their stories of being incarcerated. Their stories are a collective of mental and physical abuse, torture, blatant denial of safety, and medical care. Some live quietly and others have the amazing perseverance to be instruments of change. Some struggling with how to move on at so many levels from dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trying to find and/or build a solid steady legal income.
- Ashley Diamond – Rome, GA in process of relocating to the Fort Lauderdale area.
- CeCe McDonald – Minneapolis, MN
- Miss Major Griffin-Gracy – Little Rock, AR
- Dee Deidre Farmer – Butner, NC – Farmer v. Brennan. Referenced here: LGBT People in US Prison
- Michelle Lael Norsworthy – Suisun City, CA – Referenced here: List of Transgender Firsts by Year.
- Janetta Johnson – San Francisco, CA
Human Rights Watch involvement
Attending the event was Carine Chehad, Miami Director, Human Rights Watch. Chehad stated that the Human Rights Watch has been around for quite some time but that once this administration started showing itself that the Human Rights Watch started to focus on the United States. She further stated that it is now one of the Human Rights Watch largest operation.
How I identified
Although I’m a cis-gender gay male, I could identify in several not pleasent ways. That comonality however helped me understand and empathize with these women. Although right now single in Wilton Manors, Florida, one of the gay capitals of the USA, my life has taken me all over the US and some of Europe. During those travels while just trying to not live in my hotel room due to business travels, I would go out for conversation.
On more than one occasion I’ve been raped by one and more than one guy. I was drunk and/or drugged. I was not completely coherent to give consent or purposely drugged to render me not capable of consent for fighting back.
I have a safety word and have for years due to this. If I say it, and it’s not honored prepare, if I am mentally able and physically able, to receive a stern punch in the nose with an upward motion or short hard chop to the throat.
I cannot imagine the additional issues of being incarcerated, trapped, completely aware, coherent of those actions.
After my divorce of a 17-year relationship almost 2 years ago I got into a bit of trouble. I was used to having a cocktail or 3 at home – not out. I got DUI’s. Yes. Two. Luckily my seconds was in Pinellas County with a Veterans Program. I was fortunate. I didn’t have those experiences in Pinellas or Polk County jails. But the potential was there. I was scared, frighted, came close to a knockdown twice. I cannot fathom the amount of fear, anguish and terror these women must have felt and gone through.
How Those Affected Move Forward
I’m not attempting to diminish by any stretch. Everyone has different ways of dealing with trauma. Most don’t get the mental or physical health treatment they need. It’s not what has been done to us that defines us. It’s what we do with it. It’s how much do we allow it to eat us up or surrender and focus on the positive in life and what you can do with it.
That’s one of the things that stuck with me is how difficult it is not only here in the United States but around the world to get good meaningful employment as a transgender. A few months ago I introduced you to Kinner – Empowering Lives and Dignity with Every Bottle of Water in India. Also how LGBT discrimination leads to limited healthcare for many. In the US workplace, men are penalized for not holding traditional masculine norms. Coupling that with often family abandonment, friends lost due to lack of understanding and lots of other complicated issues adding going to a local jail or prison adds additional burdens of trying to build a healthy, full and prosperous life of meaning and dignity.
For those finding it difficult to find employment maybe start your own business or organization. Have a purpose while doing other jobs if necessary until your passion becomes a fully financially supporting enterprise. Find some resources here on OutBüro.
Realize your value in your experiences. Value yourself and what you have to offer. Be true to yourself first, then others. Believe in yourself and take actions toward your vision. When you do; magic and miracle happen.
Wishing you all the best and if there’s anything I can do and have the ability to do via myself or with others let me know.