Prison visits

Occasionally, as part of the talks that i give, I get asked what we do as part of the Beaumont Trust Trans prisoners project that i run.

As you’ll probably expect, i can’t go into specifics of prisoner details, but i thought I’d share with you some general details about what a visit is like.

Using the Prisoner Voicemail system, prisoners will usually reach out to us regularly asking for help, information, or maybe just as someone to listen to their general routine and progress on classes or rehabilitation programmes they are working on. We can then listen to these messages and respond to them, keeping an exchange of info going between the prisoner and Trust, which on it’s own might not seem like much, but, when you’re inside and abandoned by your family and subject to abuse, can make a real powerful difference.

About once a month, prisoners will reach out for an arranged visit. Usually on a weekend, when there isn’t much going on, or when it’s mutually convenient. At this point I’ll ring the prison to let them know I’m coming (experience shows this is a good idea) and then arrange the specifics of any visits. Some of those I’ve done up until now have been

  • Makeovers
    Training
    Book reading
    Meditation class
    Pride and scene updates

Talking about each in turn briefly

Makeovers. In these sessions, (which require a lot of pre planning and willingness from the prison director) I’ll take in a range of samples and sponges and makeover a prisoner, while other transwomen look through the makeup and any books i bring in while they’re waiting. We’ll then chat about looks they may want to try the next time I come visit. It’s a pretty fraught hour and hard work !!!

Training. Sometimes the prisoner will want to arrange training for the staff of the prison as part of a coaching or mentoring activity. These visits tend to be a lot more straightforward than any sessions which require you to bring in physical items and usually take the form of a TED talk around a table with whatever officers are able to attend.

Book ReadingWhere we do book readings ill being in a number of copies of a book and, w we’ll take roles and sit around a table, acting out the story. These are great fun, as the inmates get to express themselves, practice their feminine voices and thespian skills.

It’s great fun and quite a scene. (I wholeheartedly apologise to some of the authors we might have offended !!)

Meditation
Meditation classes help with improving prisoners mental health. Something which is particularly important for trans prisoners who will often experience feelings of isolation and abuse while inside. Reactions to these conditions vary, but will usually include self harm, or violence against others and in the worst cases attempts of suicide.

On top of these activities, I also try to collect magazines to send in to prisoners, particularly trans magazines like Transliving, which help inform prisoners of the trans scene outside of their prison and help make them feel part of something. We’ve also historically sent in clothes, by special arrangement, but this is type of activity is reducing because many prisons are now actively preventing this.

Would you like to be involved in this ? Maybe you have an idea of somethig you would like to share that would help us improve the lives of transwomen in prison ? I’d love to hear from you ! Drop me a message with your details and I’ll be happy to get in touch.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015

November is a poignant month for the transgender community.  Each year, it see’s the holding of the Transgender der Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which is held internationally on 20th November.  But what is this event and why should we in the UK be concerned ?

TDOR was the brainchild of Gwendolyn Ann Smith to commemorate those victims who were killed simply for expressing the gender they knew themselves to be inside. For being honest and open about who they were, confronting transphobia and prejudice.  Initially, the event was held in honour of Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 led to a candle light vigil in San Francisco in 1999. (Rita Hester’s murder, like most transgender murder cases has yet to be solved.)  From this humble beginning, a web project called “Remembering Our Dead” was launched which grew in turn to the TDOR.

TDOR is now a significant worldwide event, in particular in Brazil, the USA and Honduras. Why these countries ?  The answer is frighteningly simple.  More than half of all transphobic murders worldwide occurred in Brazil.  In Honduras, trans people are routinely killed at the rate of one a week, all in a country with a population smaller than London.  Many people suggest that recorded figures from these countries are actually the tip of the iceberg, since many crimes of this nature aren’t actually recorded.  Further, even the published figures don’t record the stories of trans people who took their own lives as a result of transphobic bullying.

But why should we in the UK be concerned with what appears such a remote event ? Again, the answer is very simple.  Nearly 280 transphobic murders were painstakingly recorded last year by the Transrespect vs Transphobia project (TvT research project (2015) “Transrespect versus Transphobia worldwide” www.transrespect-transphobia.org) This project recorded and gave names to victims of transphobia across Europe.  Here in the UK, we should see TDOR as an opportunity not just to remember the names and lives of Kajal Mansuri, Layla Bursa,  but also to raise awareness of the wider issues of trans-discrimination and transphobia.

Fortunately, we are privileged to live in compassionate times, sensitive to hatred based violence. But even now the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored by the media. TDOR therefore serves several purposes.  It mourns and commemorates the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. It gives our community the opportunity to show the love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference. TDOR puts names and pictures to an otherwise anonymous section of society and reminds it that we are their brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. Lastly, it gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil.

Each year, there are a number of TDOR events held throughout the UK.  Not just in the traditional centres of LGBT population like Manchester, London and Brighton, but also places like Sheffield, Birmingham, Gloucester and Edinburgh.  Add you voice and show your support.  Show the 276 people murdered this year that they’re not forgotten.

The Beaumont Trust has produced a commemoration video, which you can find the full video by clicking on the link here.  If you would like a shorter version, (without the names list) then click here.