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New prison mail: Being trans is a journey, but not a choice!

Making the leap to affirm our genders can be challenging for anyone in this predominantly heteronormative and cissexist society. Incarcerated trans woman Jakaelynn tells us why doing so behind bars is especially trying, and likens the experience of transition to Alice’s fabled journey down the rabbit hole.


Warning: The following letter mentions topics like verbal, emotional and possibly physical abuse.


“Alice in Wonderland – Living Beyond Gender,”
by Jakaelynn Rae Davenport.

Being different in our society is never easy, and often a tribulation in itself; it strikes fear into those around us to realize that life is complicated and less than perfect. Things become even worse when the very foundations of everything we are raised to believe is challenged; unfortunately many of us are completely unprepared to handle such animosity and adversity. All of that is magnified by a million times when you enter the Prison Industrial Complex and every aspect of your life is scrutinized and ripped apart by the “prison code” perpetuated by both inmates and guards.

Growing up, without a doubt, I saw personally how demoralizing homophobia could be, and the harsh discrimination we face… but nothing could have been able to prepare me for the hatred and homophobia that awaited me behind the bars, and even less for the transphobia and abuse I’d face as I began the difficult journey of coming out as a transgendered woman. We are pariahs in a world completely inhospitable to our needs and lives, “Alices in Wonderland!” There is no debating that being a transgendered individual, whether pre or post-op, in a population of inmates that meets their “biological” gender, is absolutely cruel and unusual punishment. Prison is filled with predators and sociopaths, men whom have no regard for the lives around them, and that encompasses both the staff/guards and the incarcerated… these are men whom take what they want no matter the consequence. Placing a transgendered amongst them is the equivalent of putting a puppy in the middle of a hyena pack, and thinking it could ever be “safe;” it’s not a matter of if but when that “puppy” will be ripped limb for limb. Every time we come out of our cells we face verbal, emotional and possibly physical abuse; we feel the stares and lust of the predatory eyes burning into our every body part, and feminine physique.

Don’t even dare say that “if you can’t handle the animosity, and pain, don’t transition,” or “then don’t ‘flaunt’ it and make it a target on your back!” We are not an optional “model,” we do not choose to put this glowing target on our backs, we can only choose between being whom our heart and soul demands, or commit emotional suicide by locking ourselves behind our genitalia.

Why do we as a society have such an obsession with “gender,” sex, and genitalia? Does a penis really make a “man” or a vagina a “woman?” Is a mother only a mother if she can bear her own children in the womb? If so, then is a “biological woman” whom fails to be able to procreate for any number of reasons any more a mother/woman than a transgendered woman?! Or, is a mother determined by how she treats and raises a child, whether hers or not; the nurturing, loving, and protective care-giver whom will do anything for those they love?

As a society we seem to have this O.C.D. compulsion to fit everything “neatly” into specific labels and categories, to organize and control what “is” and what “isn’t;” we refuse to accept that you can not shove the proverbial circle into a square hole. Life is messy and misshapen, there is no perfect mold and no appropriate standard; thus we can not place finite rules and stipulations on gender… we can not say that this is a man or that is a woman. So as I walk the halls beyond the bars I walk as an “oddity,” an “alien,” amongst the rest, but really reality is that we are no different than anyone else; my hope is one day, we will see “gender” abolished to give rise to the individual inside the body!

So while the “Red Queen” tells me that “men” must take the “blue pill that makes you larger,” I will rebel and take the “pink pill that makes you smaller” and sip tea with the “Mad Hatter” and the “White Rabbit!” Are you ready to throw “the ones that mother gives” aside and join me down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, where life may be difficult and confusing but where you’re free to be who you’re meant to be?! 🙂

Fight for Love and Life!

In Solidarity,

Jakaelynn Davenport


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