Photojournalist Kristin Lyseggen profiles nine current and former inmates in “The Women of San Quentin: Soul Murder of Transgender Women in Male Prisons.” Surrounded by convicted murderers and rapists, she writes, they are often forced to fight for their lives on their way to womanhood inside some of the world’s most dangerous prisons for men. She and Daniella Tavake, one of those profiled in the book, share intimate parts of their stories with host Eric Jansen on Out in the Bay.
Lyseggen notes that California is home to one of the largest correctional systems in the Western world, and consequently one of the largest populations of incarcerated people with gender identity challenges. This has many implications that are detailed by the experiences of the women in the book. Many of these women have been forced to perform sexual acts on other inmates and guards, kept in solitary confinement when they complained, and been denied access to transition-related health care, even when prescribed by a doctor. (Live in-studio interview aired Dec. 17, 2015 on KALW, 91.7fm San Francisco.)
The Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project has more information on this topic, and helps prisoners in California with alternative sentencing, access to hormones, preparing their legal cases and finding attorneys. You can also find information at the Prison Activist Resource Center.
The Women of San Quentin: Soul Murder of Transgender Women in Male Prisons is available in many independent bookstores, including Book Passage in Corte Madera and Diesel in Oakland, Brentwood and Larkspur, and on Amazon.com.
Special thanks to Kyrie Whitsett, who produced this week’s Out in the Bay. Photo by Melanie Hofmann.