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Overcoming a life of hardship – One PAC Member’s story

The hardships faced by Samantha – a currently incarcerated transgender woman – began long before she was accused of any crimes. Her story demonstrates how much she has overcome to blossom as the woman we know today.

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Warning: The following letter conveys a personal account of physical and verbal abuse, and has not been edited in any way. Proceed with caution if you may be triggered by these topics.


“To: The Sylvia Rivera Law Project,”
by Ms. Samantha Sassy Horning.

Please take note that this is Ms. Samantha Sassy Horning. I am writing to share my story and speak my voice to the public.

Now I am from Utica, NY. I am a white transsexual, 39 years old. Now growing up, my father and mother both sent me to live with my aunt and uncle due to the fact they both had a drug and drinking problem and could not take care of me. Out of 13 kids, my mother and father only gave me and my little brother up.

Now while living with my aunt and uncle, things were going great until one day both of them became evil and started victimizing and abusing the both of us sexually, physically and mentally. My aunt would sell us to an old man for money and he would keep us for two to three days and assault us sexually. If we did not obey, he would tell my aunt and uncle and the both of them would not feed us. Hang us in there both by our hands or dig a hole in the ground and put us in there and cover us up with dirt to our neck. And made us walk to school with no shoes on in the winter time.

This thing went on for 5 years until one day I told my school teacher and she called the police. The town this happened in was a town called Bridge Water, New York.

Now as we spoke to the police, they removed us and placed us both in foster homes until we were old enough to go out on our own. At the age of 20 years old, I started getting into drugs and drinking and the life of crime and doing prostitution to support my drugs and drinking. And that brought me to prison in 1996 to 2009 for a crime I never did.

I took the rap for my father and got charged with arson. Then went home from prison in July of 2009 and came back in 2010 with a total of 6 to 18 years for robbery. While here in prison I told myself I am going to change my life and become a transsexual due to the fact of what I went through every day being behind these walls. Being an LGBT prisoner is hard, with the assaults by the officers and them making us prime targets for other prisoners to sexually abuse us or for them to abuse us physically and mentally.

But being an LGBT I am going to fight to the end on the violence between the discrimination and harassment on our brothers and sisters of the transgender race.

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The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.

This blog, which features letters from our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) members, is just one way we overcome the enormous state-created barriers to communication and political participation for the people who are most affected by the prison system.

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