Support to Queer and Trans People – Inside and Outside of Prisons

Here is a short list of organizations providing services related to the policing, surveillance, and incarceration of queer and trans people, as highlighted in Dunham’s (2017) contribution to Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility.  Links to organizations and their own descriptions of their efforts are included in this list.

  • Audre Lorde Project: The Audre Lorde Project is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming People of Color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.
  • Black and Pink: Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing.
  • BreakOUT!: BreakOUT! seeks to end the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to build a safer and more just New Orleans.We build on the rich cultural tradition of resistance in the South to build the power of LGBTQ youth ages 13-25 and directly impacted by the criminal justice system through youth organizing, healing justice, and leadership development programs.
  • FIERCE: FIERCE is a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City.  We develop politically conscious leaders who are invested in improving ourselves and our communities through youth-led campaigns, leadership development programs, and cultural expression through arts and media. FIERCE is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of social justice movement leaders who are dedicated to ending all forms of oppression.
  • Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP): The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice. Therefore, we seek to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities. We believe that in order to create meaningful political participation and leadership, we must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence.
  • Streetwise and Safe (SAS): Streetwise & Safe (SAS) —also known as SAS—is a project in New York City that shares the ins & outs, do’s & don’ts and street politics of encounters between LGBTQQ youth of color and the police. We also stand for and with LGBTQQ and youth with experience trading sex for survival needs. We feel knowing your rights makes you more confident in protecting yourself during and after interactions with the police. We also know that the reality is that the police don’t always respect our rights but knowing what they are is important so that we can fight for them later. We also create a space to share strategies to stay safe from all forms of violence experienced by LGBTQQ youth and advocate for policies that will change the ways police interact with us. (note: SAS’ website is down and their twitter is quiet.)
  • TGI Justice Project: TGI Justice Project is a group of transgender, gender variant and intersex people—inside and outside of prisons, jails and detention centers—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom.
    We work in collaboration with others to forge a culture of resistance and resilience to strengthen us for the fight against human rights abuses, imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures. We seek to create a world rooted in self- determination, freedom of expression, and gender justice.

 

Looking for more groups?  Check out the #GetYrRights member network, a group of organizations that created resources specifically for queer and trans young people.

Know of any others?  Contact me and I’ll add them to this list!

Dunham, G. (2017) Out of obscurity: Trans resistance, 1969-2016.  In R. Gossett, E. A. Stanley, and J. Burton (Eds.) Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (pp. 91-119).

American Prison Writing Archive

The American Prison Writing Archive contains materials created and submitted by prisoners and prison staff.  Materials are then transcribed (and users of the site can volunteer to subscribe them) to create a searchable database of submissions. Materials can be sorted by author, state, or name of prison, and appear to skew heavily toward submissions by people who are incarcerated.

The archive aims to

replace speculation on and misrepresentation of prisons, imprisoned people, and prison workers with first-person witness by those who live and work on the receiving end of American criminal justice. No single essay can tell us all that we need to know. But a mass-scale, national archive of writing by incarcerated people and prison staff can begin to strip away widely circulated myths and replace them with some sense of the true human costs of the current legal order. By soliciting, preserving, digitizing and disseminating the work of prison workers and imprisoned people, we hope to ground national debate on mass incarceration in the lived experience of those who know jails and prisons best.

 

The archive can be accessed at http://apw.dhinitiative.org/.

#ImmigrationSyllabus

The state-enforced detention of immigrant youth (and adults) has been one of the most difficult to numerically track.  Ranging from black-site prisons, such as Homan Square in Chicago, to indefinite immigration detention around the world, and peppered through-out by tails of three-strike laws forcing individuals to be placed in countries they have never personally known, imprisonment is the tool the state utilizes to shape experiences of immigration, belonging, and power.  For those looking to be better informed about standing with immigrants in the face of U.S. state violence the University of  Minnesota has created an Immigration Syllabus.

The syllabus covers migration, colonization, and more up to the present United States enactments of deportations, islamophobia, and analyses of walled separatism.

Archiving Prisons

I was recently asked about resources around archives, images, and prisons.  Here are three resources that address these topics.

Indiana University Women’s Prison History

A college-course for incarcerated women led to an unveiling of the history of an Indiana prison.  Women read historical texts through their own experience as a way of growing the archive and disturbing the history on the prison.  More on the course is available at Prison history assignment yields surprise, passion for research and a student publication is available at Women’s Prison History: The Undiscovered Country.

Prison Public Memory Project

The Prison Public Memory Project works to unearth histories and relate them to contemporary issues around incarceration and penal systems.  It includes archival photographs and records alongside new media and oral histories.

Prison Photography

Prison Photography is a collaborative effort to include recent and archival images of prisoners (I believe it is primarily focused on the United States).  Here is a highlighted project that disrupts the boundaries of time by including the notes of present-day prisoners on historical images – Vast Archive of 10,000 Negatives Unearthed at San Quentin

Access and Making Meaning

John Oliver, on Last Week Tonight, recently highlighted an often unaddressed aspect of library services to incarcerated people.  In an example that pales many mentions of what access to materials can mean for people who are imprisoned or maintained, Oliver highlights an individual formerly detained in Guantánamo discussing his experiences there.

Oliver is correct in mentioning that libraries in prison and detainment centers are considered ‘luxuries’ by many people (hinting that they are often used as a gesture toward reform), the words of this former detainee reflect the true value of library services to incarcerated and detained people.  He describes Guantánamo as equivalent to Azkaban, the prison in Harry Potter – a place where there is no possibility of feeling.

Watching this clip, I was struck by how access to materials can potentially assist people in understanding the worlds they inhabit (or have been forced to inhabit).  The full clip is available on-line at