Amidst celebrations over the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, we cannot overlook enduring injustices for members of the queer community. But, hopefully, the United States has taken one more small step in the right direction.
According to Fusion, trans women who have been detained by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will, finally, be granted their right to housing in “detention facilities that match their gender identity.”
Treatment of LGBTQ detainees has recently garnered widespread attention, not to mention calls for reform. Thirty-five members of the House of Representatives penned a letter to Jeh Johnon, Secretary of Homeland Security, emphasizing the need to release “LGBT undocumented immigrants.” And trans woman Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted President Obama during a pride event at the White House, demanding that he “release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention.”
But the ICE maintains that these changes came from within, rather than as the result of public pressure. Apparently plans for the safety of transgender detainees were put into motion as early as 2009. And, they say, new initiatives will include “training that will help officers better understand how to respectfully ask an inmate about their gender identity and their unique needs during processing.”
These reforms sound peachy, but will they actually be implemented? In 2011 the ICE issued a set of policies drawn up for the purpose of protecting transgender inmates. Currently, only 62 percent of detainees are impacted by these standards.
And the stakes are high, the dangers harrowing. Although transgender inmates comprise less than 1 percent of those held in ICE’s detention facilities, they are involved in 1 out of every 5 instances of sexual assault.
Besides, prison is still prison. Barbara Perez, a transgender woman who was held in an all-male detention center last year, sees little cause for celebration: “It would be an improvement, certainly, to not be housed with men anymore, but it’s still not ideal. It’s still detention.”
Perez, who reports being ceaselessly harassed during her detention, moreover regards these reforms as a glittery performance. “I’m coming from a place of pessimism because I lived through it,” she says. “It looks pretty on paper I’m sure, but I have doubts that it will actually happen.”
May the ICE remove our reasons to doubt.
Video via YouTube.