Captive Genders

Looking Back: The Bathhouse Raids in Toronto, 1981

This essay analyzes the 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids from four angles. First, it examines the historical climate preceding and contextualizing the event itself. The four years leading up the raids were punctuated with events that stoked homophobia and motivated the erasure of the presence of a queer community in Toronto. Second, it explores the role of policing and the brutal strategies police employed in maintaining the social order that queerness was perceived as disrupting. Thirdly, it describes the resistance movement that the raids generated. The repression and erasure that the police intended to enact was instead channeled into vocal, visible coalition mobilization – bringing together large swaths of the queer community as well as other groups repressed by police brutality. Fourthly, it addresses the divisions that yet existed within the queer community despite the widespread rallying, in particular highlighting the role of class in differentiating the reaction to this raid, in comparison to events targeting more “fringe sexualities.”

This essay uses one event, the 1981 Toronto raids, to display the role of policing and state-sanctioned violence in repressing threats to a hetero-patriarchal social order. As the violence of the raids demonstrates, homophobia did not just manifest as disapproval towards perceived “deviance,” but was weaponized as a tool of physical repression and violence against those who did not conform to norms of sexuality and gender. In this context, non-normative ways of being are considered a threat to social order and thus fall under the purview of policing; ways of being are criminalized. This process of criminalization legitimizes and normalizes violent homophobia as enacted in the 1981 Raids as normal functions of policing.

What differentiated the 1981 Raids from previous events, however, was how they ultimately failed in their aim of erasing the queer community. They instead produced an immediate “counter-attack” against police violence in which thousands of LGBTQ* folks made themselves visible on the streets of Toronto. Not only did this demonstration show that the violence enacted upon the community would not erase them, they stepped out of the “more enclosed spaces” that the queer community usually cultivated into the public eye. Not only did the violence not suppress them, it generated a wave of visibility. This essay clearly shows not just the ways in which structural and state violence was enacted upon queer communities but how those communities pushed back despite it, refusing to be erased or silenced.

 

From a Native Trans Daughter: Carceral Refusal, Settler Colonialism, Re-routing the Roots of an Indigenous Abolitionist Imaginary

The title of this essay is a reference to a 1993 book by Haunani-Kay Trask entitled “From a Native Daughter,” which addresses the oppression of the Hawaiian people alongside racism and gender discrimination. In this essay, Young uses the interlocking facets of her lived experience informed by her identities to illustrate and discuss how settler colonialism shapes and underpins the prison industrial complex. She further argues that the process of dismantling such a system must necessarily take the realities of those with multiple oppressed identities and experiences into account, especially those of native peoples.

In the spirit of transparency, the argument(s) of this essay were not the easiest for me to follow. Young draws on several threads to shape her arguments; I grasped the meaning of them individually but they weren’t woven together throughout the essay in a way that my brain was able to follow! I needed to read another summary to fully grasp the central point. This is the summary that made it click for me, if it would be useful to anyone else:

From “Asian American Feminisms and Women of Color Politics” by Lynn Fujiwara and Shireen Roshanravan: “Sharing her own experience of incarceration and diaspora, Young powerfully addresses the specificities of how heteropatriarchy, transphobia, and settler colonialism intersect for transgender and/or māhū Native Hawaiians in the prison industrial complex, highlighting why prison abolition is essential to decolonization” (130).

Young describes her own experience in the criminal justice system, shaped by the cultural dynamics of her native Hawaiian family, her status as Hawaiian, her socioeconomic status, her gender identity. These identities both informed the experience she had throughout the criminal justice system and her experiences after, in conjunction with her identity as a felon, as subject to and surveilled by the “moral suspicion” of a “settler state legal system… premised on the oppression and elimination” of the marginalized (87). She argues that due to the fact that the settler colonialism relies on the marginalization and elimination of native people to “make room” for the settler state, the legal/criminal justice system is a central tool wielded by the state to do so (88), thus requiring a deeply intersectional perspective when understanding its impact that centers the voices and experiences of the most marginalized. Moreover, other systems have been used to marginalize and erase native people, including the missionary system and the economic system, furthering highlighting the need for this approach and perspective when calling for systemic abolition.

She closes with a section which echoes Guidotto above, explaining how “racialized and gendered bodies” are alienated, flagged as disruptive and threatening (93). As such, these bodies are heavily surveilled and marked by the state as “in need of control, discipline, and paternalism” (93). In response, Young calls for story sharing, truth telling, and making visible “the interconnected articulations between our struggles” in order to create space for the breadth of experience within marginalized communities.

18 thoughts on “Captive Genders

  • March 19, 2020 at 2:30 pm
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    While this particular essay, “The Bathhouse Raids in Toronto, 1981,” was very difficult and heartbreaking to read, I thought Nadia Guidotto did an amazing job delineating the state violence used to police queer bodies labeled as “deviant.” The four-tiered analysis that the author provides gives readers all angles needed to understand the intense event itself as well as the surrounding climate of “sexual repression and violence” (76). As we have seen with other books and films throughout this course, state-sanctioned and police brutality against “undesirable” bodies is, unfortunately, not a new concept, so I was not surprised to see this same pattern manifest itself in this essay. I was extremely disturbed by the testimonials from the men at the raids, but these graphic details provide insight into how gay men were attacked by the police. This violence was, as Guidotto says, “to track all the deviants,” and regulate queer bodies from going about their lives. As Kate describes above, this violence and attempt at erasing the LGBTQ+ community through the 1981 raids as a means of maintaining a hetero-patriarchal social order in Toronto. We see these patterns in history in other cities and countries, and the fight continues today in the prison industrial complex.

  • March 20, 2020 at 10:18 pm
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    “Captive Genders,” Regulatory Sites: Management, Confinement and HIV/AIDS

    This chapter opens by recounting the heartbreaking death of Victoria Arellano, an undocumented immigrant and transgender woman who died in ICE custody after being denied proper medical treatment despite her HIV positive status. She was 23 and died within 8 weeks of being taken to a processing center. Velasquez-Potts explains that Arellano’s death is illustrative “as a testament to the ways that transgendered immigrants have a particularly violent relationship with the prison industrial complex.” Both articles about her death and reports on HIV positive inmate treatment fail to account for the additional challenge transgender people face while incarcerated.

    Velasquez-Potts then turns to the story of a man named Daniel Allen who was prosecuted for a felony after a physical altercation with a neighbor during which the neighbor alleged Allen bit him. Allen, who is black, gay and HIV positive, was charged under bioterrorism laws for biting the man with the intent to infect him. These laws construe Allen’s body as a weapon and perpetuate the way trans and queer bodies with HIV/AIDS are seen as threat to western society.

    Can we relate this correlation of pathology and racism to anything in the sphere of current events? (We definitely can). Does Trump’s misnomer of the novel Coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” make a similar statement about race and disease as threats to western society? Why are we so apt to look for an “other” to blame for disease (whether it be gay people, people from China, etc) when European colonial settlers introduced dozens of fatal diseases to the lands which they imperalized?

    Alabama and South Carolina prisons have segregated facilities for inmates who are HIV positive. The author argues that this policy serves to police, stigmatize and regulate gender and sexuality expression rather than prevent the spread of disease. HIV positive prisoners are forbidden from handling food at the facility because administration believe general prison population would not want “openly gay” inmates serving meals. This conflation of sexuality and disease of reminiscent of a time when the disease causing AIDS was referred to as GRID: gay-related immune deficiency.

    Blood and the often racist narratives surrounding it have legitimized state violence from chattel slavery to solitary confinement. Confinement creates more violence and surveils bodies that don’t identify with the sexual and gender norms society has set forth for itself, forfeiting their personhood through contracting a disease that is supposedly the physical manifestation of an internal affliction. As of the article’s writing, more than 107 people have died in ICE custody since 2003. What do the ideas of territorial integrity, borders, and “illegal aliens” have to do with colonialism, white power structures and our larger conversations about incarceration (and who is most affected by it)?

    • March 22, 2020 at 8:51 am
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      As I read for today, I initially wanted to respond to the first chapter and the police raids. I found the brutality they used and the utter discrimination at play particularly disturbing.
      However, as I continued to read, the essay “Regulatory Sites: Management, Confinement and HIV/AIDS” caught my attention, as did Sara’s relation to Trump and the coronavirus. In the reading, Daniel Allen’s conviction drew my attention because I am interested in criminal defense and possibly becoming a defense attorney. I know, in many cases, people consider the prosecutor’s job to seek the harshest sentence possible, and they cite this to be why prosecutors tried to tack on the bioterrorism charge to Allen’s sentence. Yet, I do not think this is the role of a prosecutor. A prosecutor is meant to serve justice, and make sure those who are guilty are charged. But, this does not mean they should be charged above and beyond what they are guilty of. It should be just and fair. As the constitution says, “no cruel or unusual punishment.” I think attempting to charge Allen with bioterrorism IS cruel AND unusual punishment. It does not fit his “crime” and the excessive desire for a harsh sentence is fueled by homophobia and discrimination, not propelled by the aspiration to secure justice.
      Although different, it is similar to how Alabama prisoners did not want to be served their food by HIV positive inmates. Not only this, but those who identified as gay were not able to work in the kitchen, HIV positive or not. This is extremely discriminatory, homophobic, and concerning that a majority of people hold these misinformed and homophobically fueled beliefs.

      Now to address Trump, I loved how Sara related this to his discriminatory and racist language. Trump constantly attempts to find the scapegoat or the “outsider” to blame, whether it is the Chinese, Mexican people, the LGBT community, or others. It is abominable. Yet, Trump is one representative of a concerning population who holds these beliefs and tries to ostracize groups and blame them for things they are not responsible for. What is there to do about this? How do we either change this population or reduce the number?

    • March 23, 2020 at 3:40 pm
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      While reading the chapters from Captive Genders, I found it interesting how the Introduction “Fugitive Flesh: Gender Self-Determination, Queer Abolition and Trans Resistance” and the chapter “Looking Back: The Bathhouse Raids in Toronto, 1981” seemingly talked to each other. They both outline how government regulation of sex, gender and sexuality elicited strong response from the LGBT* community. In the introduction, there is a focus on how the police presence and violence in LBGT* clubs and how that led to the Stonewall riots. Similarly, the bathhouse raids in Toronto showed how the LGBT* community resisted police presence and police disruption of their lives. Both of these examples not only outline the harsh lives LGBT* people have lived due to the abuse/violence of policy and government regulation of bodies, but also shows how the LGBT* community rallies together in order to fight off the police and the government.

      Interestingly, though, the Bathhouse raids were different than the events that led up to the Stonewall Riots because the police specifically targeted gay men. However, the LGBT* community as a whole fought back against the police brutality and criminalization of being gay. The repercussions of these raids show a sense of solidarity between all groups of the LGBT* community in order to fight back against the police-like state that they lived in.

      I find this interesting, but these articles also elicited a couple of questions from me: Why is it so difficult for the LGBT community to rally together for the same reasons? As we see in Toronto, the community gathered together, but for a lot of their own, different, reasons. Also, why don’t we see similar movements today? Is it due to less police violence? More “rights” have been given? Why?

    • March 23, 2020 at 5:00 pm
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      I really got excited reading Sara’s post and how it related to current days news some great comparisons. “Regulatory Sites: Management, Confinement and HIV/AIDS” shares the heartbreaking story of Victoria Arellano, an undocument transwomen who died solely because the government did not care and was denying AIDS related treatment. In the majority of the United States, this AIDS crisis was highly publicized in the 1980s, but to think prisons did not address the issue in the early 2000s is disgraceful.

      The section on this article titled Walking Bioweapons related to closely to Trump’s terminology surrounding COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus”. In answering Sara’s question, “why are we so apt to look for an “other” to blame for disease”, I believe that is because that’s the American way of thinking. It is in the same way why we look at fake news, we do not care where it is coming from as long as it’s a entity we can cling to and self-identify with. This can also be assoicated with the Trump adminstration’s language towards immigration describing Mexicans as “rapists”. A question to leave us with: what parallels are there between our current stances on immigration and the management of HIV/AIDS?

  • March 20, 2020 at 11:53 pm
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    “Captive Genders,” From a Native Trans Daughter

    The chapter “from a Native Trans Daughter” artfully weaves together the author’s personal experiences with incarceration and scholarship on the prison industrial complex and settler colonialism. Young grew up in Hawaii as an indigenous, transgender woman from a working class family. Her relationship to the carceral system began at age 7 when her mother was arrested. As is so tragically often the story for low-income families of color, Young fell victim to the same carceral state her mother did when she was arrested in Washington for burglary following a dispute with her cousin. Her public defender was unhelpful and did not present the mitigating circumstances that surrounded the event, as a result Young was convicted of a felony.
    After recounting this narrative, she turns to Angela Davis’ scholarship to understand her own conviction. Davis links the disproportionate incarceration of POC and working class people to increased prosecutorial power, diminished public defender functions and the imposition of mandatory minimums that reduce judicial discretion. Because the Prison Industrial Complex impacts marginalised communities disproportionately, the PIC invokes settler colonialism and gendered racial violence. Young was forced to trade sexual favors for physical safety and observed how incarceration affected not only the physical realities of the inmates but their minds as well, writing: “Taking on the failures of a system without critically examining the limits of personal choice often led a number of cellmates to conflate their sense of responsibility with issues beyond their control.”
    How does this observation relate to Breaking Women and the ideas about self, blame and “renting out your head” that are introduced in the book?
    Young then recounts how Hawaii and its native people have been affected by imperialist, white settler mentalities. Hawaiians have been surveilled, incarcerated and dispossessed of resources, power and land by white Americans since the 1840s. The author tells the story of Queen Liliuokalani, forcibly deposed by colonial settlers because her reign posed a threat to white supremacy and patriarchy. Young argues in this chapter that narratives about incarceration, race and gender must expand to include indigenous peoples and transgender or genderqueer individuals. This perspective highlights the importance of intersectionality to understanding the experience of these individuals within the PIC, which Young believes should be abolished.

    • March 22, 2020 at 8:58 pm
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      After reading the chapter “from a Native Trans Daughter” I also thought the perspective of this chapter highlights the importance of intersectionality. The chapter “Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement with Everything We’ve Got” also highlights the importance of intersectionality. This chapter includes the struggles of people of color, LGBTQ, and immigrants. These specific groups experience severe discrimination in America’s Criminal Justice system. They also do not have the rights as basic humans. This chapter gives examples of discrimination that is faced if an individual is poor, black, and queer all at once. This is important because now they do not only face discrimination when trying to receive healthcare or discrimination in the carceral system or discrimination to rights of inheritance and marriage they undergo discrimination under every circumstance altogether. Several chapters in “Captive Genders” highlights how intersectionality must be understood when discussing and trying to fight the problem if discrimination against people who do not fit into gender norms and people of color and minorities.

      Another reading that came to mind when thinking of intersectionality was “Incarcerated Women”
      In the text, we saw how gender identity, class, race, and ability shaped the experience of individuals in America’s Criminal Justice System. I think it is important to see the consistent patterns we see in different text because it continues to expose the major problems of America’s carceral system and large institutions through different scholarly perspectives and authors. The problem is continuous and it happens throughout the day to day life experiences and interactions.

  • March 23, 2020 at 4:44 pm
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    In the chapter Regulatory Sites, by Michelle C. Velasquez-Potts, I was unfortunately unsurprised by the way that care is deliberately denied to the most vulnerable members of society. Victoria Alleno was a 23 year old undocumented transgender woman who died within 8 weeks of being detained by ICE. For weeks her health was neglected despite her repeated vomiting, diarrhea, loss of blood, etc. Her fellow prison mates staged protests for her care until she was finally seen by a doctor, only after she was taunted for hours by prison staff. As her condition deteriorated, her mother was contacted by one of her friends. She was lied to and told that her daughter was safe. Victoria, who had once been a productive member of society, well liked by her peers and voted “Community Hero” for her volunteer efforts with addicts, died just moments after being unchained from her bed. Despite every sign that she needed help, because of who she was and the stigma against HIV/AIDS, she was left to die by a broken detainment system.
    This chapter was particularly striking to me because of the ways that it echoed important themes in other readings. Because of race-based fear mongering, undocumented people are often placed in ICE detention centers that provide inadequate care with no repercussions. The spirit of the protesters from Stonewall to Toronto in defense of those targeted by law enforcement shined a light on the better nature of people and the hope for progress. The dangers of scapegoating and fear mongering propagated by politicians are ever-present and tangible by the ways we treat racial minorities and the lgbtq+ community. The American ideal of “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” discourages helpful treatments to uplift others. The so-called “radical” approaches to integrate the disenfranchised members of society ensure that we humanize people and that we do not view those that are different as “bad” or worthy of the inhumane penance they have historically received. If we were to employ the tactics denoted by the authors, perhaps we could have provided proper care for the victims of HIV/AIDS prior to its extensive spread.

  • March 24, 2020 at 1:20 pm
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    Like several of my classmates, I was particularly drawn to/horrified by the story of Daniel Allen, who was charged with bioterrorism for biting a neighbor while HIV positive, which frankly I find insane. That the relatively minor actions of one man against one other are labeled “terrorism” and the actions of white supremacists in places like Charolettesville and even in more extreme cases like mass shootings are not is one of the clearest examples of the racist and hetero-sexist systems in place in our criminal “justice” system. Allen’s account of the day is also different than the official one. He reported that he was attacked and defended himself rather than the other way around, and that it was a hate crime. Although the bioterrorism-specific charges were dropped by a circuit appeal, similar charges and claims have made against others. Minor actions taken by black and queer people are considered “intent to infect.” While I don’t think that in an ideal world anyone should be biting, spitting on, or otherwise attacking eachother, the fact remains that it happens, and marginalized groups are the ones most punished for it by assuming criminal intent, which I relate to the good girls/hardened criminals dichotomy presented in Breaking Women, where criminal intent and lack of morality are assumed for black women, but white women are merely misguided and don’t need to be punished as harshly. Given the history of AIDS politics in this country, I doubt that a straight, white man who did the same would be charged with bioterrorism. It wouldn’t cross anyone’s minds. After all, it took white, presumably straight children for the government of this country to care about AIDS at all after a decade of suffering, violence, and criminalization of queer and black people impacted by the disease.

    (I would also like to apologize for my late post. I misunderstood and thought that only the summaries of the presenters were due yesterday/today and ours were due with question answers later. Luckily I already had notes!)

  • March 27, 2020 at 8:02 pm
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    How to Make Prisons Disappear:
    Queer Immigrants, the Shackles of Love, and the Invisibility of the Prison
    Industrial Complex

    This chapter begins with the story of Shirley Tan, a lesbian and undocumented immigrant whose life was torn apart by the US immigration system. It compares her story to that of Rigoberto Padilla, a straight man who was brought to the US from Mexico when he was just six years old and also ended up facing deportation. However, the author focuses on why for Tan, the addition of an ankle bracelet to her life was a shock whereas for Padilla, it seemed like an inevitability.

    Tan first came to the US in the mid 1980s on vacation when she fell in love with Jay Mercado. After returning to the Philippines, she found out that the man who had murdered her sister and mother ten years ago had been released. She subsequently sought refuge with Jay in the US and applied for asylum. As this application and her later appeal were processed, she and Jay established roots. In her case, Tan placed notable emphasis on the all-American nature of her family. She and her children were model citizens, active in her church, and they presented heteronormative family dynamics as best they could to defend their right to stay. In this way she presents herself as the “right kind” of immigrant. She goes on to depict her immigration status as a mere bump in her otherwise perfect life, whereas for thousands of undocumented people like Padilla, it is a source of constant fear and pain.

    At 21, Padilla was charged with a DUI and not having a valid driver’s license. In his search for clemency, he was often turned away as attorneys reportedly only wanted to work with “good” immigrants. Herein lies the foundational issues with immigration law based in family dynamics. While certain members of the queer community like Tan are able to conform to traditional American family culture, the majority of others have much more complex familial ties. The author cites the cases of Juan, Lai, and Arellano to highlight the ways that lack of conformity to traditional roles creates unnecessary points of anxiety and suffering for immigrants. Juan struggled with financial means to pay for release from jail and ICE agents mocked him for his queer identity. Lai had to retract her story of abuse from her father because of the fear instilled upon her that her father would be deported. Arellano was a 23-year old, transgender Mexican immigrant that died from medical neglect for her HIV diagnosis. In each of these cases, whether it was because of one’s body, gender expression, or family dynamics, the desire to follow official solutions to matters of queer immigration excluded equally valid victims of the immigration system. How can we fundamentally change the discourse on immigration to accept differences rather than expect complete conformity and reward heteronormative structures?

    Out of Compliance:
    Masculine-Identified People in Women’s Prisons

    In this chapter, the author Lori Girshick uses the term transgender to describe all individuals whose gender identity is outside the traditional binary or poses a challenge to their gender expectations. Similar to the description of gendered prisons that we analyzed in Breaking Women, the author states that female prisoners are expected to be “passive, emotional, weak, submissive and dependent”. All non-feminine behaviors are criminalized and tied to one’s unlawful transgressions.

    Twenty-two masculine identified people at the Central California Women’s Facility and at the Valley State Prison for Women filled out surveys to illustrate the experience of transgender people in prison. Every member was either exclusively attracted to women or attracted to men and women. In this case, those surveyed were therefore both targeted because of their gender identity as well as their sexual orientation. Within the confines of incarceration, both were often equated and viewed with disdain by the prison staff.

    The most commonly shared aspect of the lives of those surveyed was that they were considered tomboys growing up. People like Kool, Joy, and Insane all describe having felt uncomfortable behaving in traditionally feminine ways and having a longstanding preference for more masculine activities and dress. Others, like Richard, identify as transgender males, born into the wrong body. Once incarcerated, femininity standards aimed to erase these aspects of their identities. Gendered dress was a common complaint. The words of those affected really paints a picture of the profound level of discomfort felt by many of them when forced to dress in feminine clothing. Despite the penalties and threats on behalf of the staff, the classification of masculine dress as contraband, and the constant purposeful shaming, many persisted in fighting for who they are on this basic front.

    Unsurprisingly, male staff were primarily the culprits of much of this abuse and harassment. Whether it was flirting with the femme prisoners or taunting the masculine ones, male prison staff were said to be constantly aggressive even when unprovoked. Masculine prisoners were penalized harshly and often without the presence of a real crime or wrongdoing other than existing as a gender-transgressor.

    Towards the end of the chapter, the author denotes the solutions suggested by some existing prisons and juvenile detention centers and the challenges specific to men and women’s prisons that have yet to be resolved. The solutions thus far appear commendable, but superficial, like expanding the choice of undergarments for transgender youth. Other legislative solutions call for the separation of members of the LGBTQ+ community from the general population of prisons, but this may yield gendered violence and unforeseen emotional abuse. I would like to ask the class if they have any solutions and what they feel are the first steps towards progress.

    • March 30, 2020 at 12:29 am
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      To answer Freddy’s first question on what we can do to change the discourse on immigration in order to accept differences, I believe everyone has to always ask and answer the question: is this immigrant individual a person, a human being? The issue rooted in prejudice against people’s differences is that the “normal” beings are the ones who strip “others” of their humanity and personhood. People are prone to see a person’s queerness before their humanity. Once we are able to recognize each other as living, breathing human beings, not objects or things, we will also be able to empathize with the genuine complexity of humanity. It is also necessary for people to learn and to know when to relinquish power, especially when it is hurting someone else. When you understand that another person is human, you are likely to feel what that person feels, so the oppression, persecution, and pain over differences have to be cut. Not everyone identifies with a singular narrative, especially when it comes to family, family values, sexuality, and background— not even immigrant people.

      To answer the second question: The long-term solution would be to change the narrative on queerness and trans identity in the U.S. abroad. Overall in the class, we have learned that prison culture primarily reflects broader, outside cultures whether local, regional, or within the entire United States. Those who are in charge, those who administer the prisons live in the outside world and bring their influenced thoughts, actions, and behaviors into the isolated prison cultures. Their mindsets and beliefs would have to experience a shift for any permanent change to happen.
      The commendable yet superficial solutions will work for the short-term. Yet, they will remain superficial if there is no grand end goal in mind and in the works.

      • March 30, 2020 at 3:23 am
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        The Queer Immigrants chapter contained some really important critique on protecting LBGTQ+ lives. I enjoyed the critical analysis of defining people’s queerness solely through their relationship. This erases the reality of queer people without a current partner, ‘passing’ trans people, and bisexual people not currently in same-sex relationships. I found particularly aggregious the section that discussed the requirement that a US citizen married to an undocumented immigrant and seeking permant residence for their spouse must prove that they can financially support them on their own. This ridiculous law embodies queerness as both bourgeois and falling between patriarchal structures of relationships. Similarly, the overemphasis on appeals to “family” erase the reality of queer people rejected or having to leave their homes out of concern for their own safety. Similarly to the first chapter of the book, this chapter is criticism of the neoliberal turn of the ‘gay rights’ movement.

    • March 30, 2020 at 10:31 am
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      In regard to Freddy’s first question, I think we must change the whole system of immigration in general. I’ve studied some aspects of immigration law, which is inherently heteronormative. In fact, being a part of the LGBT* community used to be a reason to deny entry into the U.S. under the idea of “moral turpitude”, until the late 1990s/early 2000s. In this country, we have a history of criminalizing the LGBT* community, unless they assimilate. The example of the lesbian couple shows assimilation, which is why her case gained so much backing. On the other hand, Padilla, a gay man, did not exemplify these features. In fact, her was charged with a DUI; therefore, deemed a criminal and an “illegal” immigrant. These examples show how the American government, and, in turn, American citizens, view LGBT* immigrants. If they assimilate and conform, then they will become American citizens. If they are deviant, like Padilla, then their path to citizenship will be more difficult. To change this, we have to tear down existing structures and remake our immigration system to move away from not only homophobic standards, but also xenophobic and racist standards.

      I believe that the second discussion is extremely difficult to think about. The proposed solutions that Freddy mentioned all have their downsides, specifically in relation to gendered violence and other forms of abuse. The author of this article poses progress is by abolishing the prison industrial complex, and moving away from heteronormative institutions that criminalize and penalize outliers from that ‘norm’. However, this is not a step that can be taken easily, or quickly. In terms of quick change, I believe that separating LGBTQ* inmates from the general population will likely create a life of abuse for these inmates from prison staff. We need to change prison policy and move away from heteronormative standards and the standard of assimilation. Prison should not penalize people for expressing their gender identity. By doing this, we need to get rid of the rules deeming clothing, such as boxer shorts, as contraband within women’s prisons. We need to abolish regulations that force people to conform to heteronormative standards within prison and create environments that allow for difference.

    • March 30, 2020 at 10:44 pm
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      The “Shackles of Love” essay illuminated intersections of identity that manifest with privilege that I hadn’t previously considered, namely the intersections of class, relationship status, immigration status, and sexual orientation. It also highlighted how those intersections can work to minimize threats to social hierarchy, making them more palatable and permissible to those in power.
      While it is unsurprising that class opens doors to privilege in widespread ways, this article demonstrates how it can work to make less visible (and less threatening) other identities, such as that of being undocumented or being a lesbian of color, or both. Furthermore, it explicates the hegemonic power of heteronormativity – that those who live in non-normative ways can also be rendered less visible and threatening if they fit within heteronormative structures of coupling or family. Due to its power, this rendering is then sought out and embraced by those who can conform to it, as Shirley Tan was able to do.
      As I said, this made me think about immigration and privilege differently. It reminds us that heteropatriarchy and capitalism are baked into every institution and structure in our society. I really appreciated this essay, as it pushed me to think differently and challenge my assumptions.

  • March 30, 2020 at 10:54 am
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    While reading Captive Genders, I think I personally learned the most from “Out of Compliance: Masculine-Identified People in Women’s Prisons” by Lori Girshick. While of course a severe issue, we hear a lot about trans women being harassed and abused while incarcerated, but there does not seem to be as much awareness about trans men and masculine-identifying people in women’s prisons. As Girshick delineates, “prisons are highly gendered spaces in terms of masculinity and femininity, and also in terms of sexuality. Men’s prisons are set up to emasculate men, and women’s prisons are designed to reinforce dependence and passive roles for women,” (217). This study on Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) and Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) provides readers with insight on the experiences of 22 masculine-identifying prisoners. The experiences I read throughout this essay were appalling. I was so disturbed by the fact that prisoners could not opt to wear boxer shorts, forcing prisoners to wear a “muumuu” dress, verbal abuse, and sexual abuse/harassment. As Freddy says above, “male staff were primarily the culprits of much of this abuse and harassment,” which is sadly not surprising. The correctional officers in a women’s facility probably felt their heteronormative, hyper-masculine standard was being threatened.

    In terms of looking forward to solving an issue like this, Freddy describes above some policy actions we can take that Girshick suggests towards the end of the essay. To answer his question, I think solving an issue like this is actually quite complicated; to get policymakers to fully understand these issues– and care about them– is a daunting task. Especially when people in positions of authority to reform broken systems such as the prison industrial complex are overwhelmingly white, male, and straight, who don’t care about mending an issue that doesn’t apply to them. So, I think the first step is electing more politicians and officials with diverse sexual and gender identities so that we can bring issues like this to the table and actually enact change. I know that is not necessarily specific to the carceral system, but it is an essential first step. We also need more research with qualitative and quantitative data like this one to bring to policymakers and reveal the true inequity occurring in prisons.

    • March 31, 2020 at 1:14 pm
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      Anna–
      I like this idea, but I can tell you from my experience in social justice that sometimes it doesn’t matter if you have descriptive representation. It must be substantive, and I think it must start as early as college. I hope some of you think of ways you can disrupt this binary at UR.

  • March 30, 2020 at 12:53 pm
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    Like Anna, the chapter “Out of Compliance: Masculine-Identified People in Women’s Prisons,” really sparked my interest. The way that prison forces people into the traditional gender binary of masculine and feminine is an antithesis to all the progress that has been made in the LGBTQ+ movement and hinders the much further progress that needs to be made. I also found the quote on page 217 that Anna highlighted very interesting. The prison system is seeking to force people into prescribed “boxes” that they deem fit, yet that is inherently wrong and discriminatory. On page 217, Girshick also said that “Female prisoners are expected to be passive, emotional, weak, submissive and dependent.” The fact that prisoners are expected to be uniform people, with the same characteristics and forced to comply with gender norms (that are outdated) is a failing of the prison system.

    The quote after that sentence, “since non-feminine behavior landed them in prison, incarceration should ‘restore them to it'” was VERY reminiscent of the PHW and habilitation. It reminded me of how this program sought to break people down and build them into something that the system believed to be “correct” or “worthy.” But why should the prison system have any power to determine what is right and wrong about feminity and masculinity? It shouldn’t. The prison system has no business weighing on the importance of gender-conforming or how people express their gender and sexuality.

  • March 31, 2020 at 1:11 pm
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    Yes. This is a crucial connection, and I’m so pleased that you got it.

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