This is a guest blog post by Reiyn Keohane, ACLU of Florida client. Reiyn is a transgender woman currently being denied hormone therapy and other treatment for gender dysphoria in a Florida prison. We have filed a lawsuit on her behalf to restore her medically necessary treatment. She wrote the below letter to let the world know about her experiences as a transgender woman being denied care in a Florida prison.
In the years I have been incarcerated, I have been made to endure more cruelty by the State of Florida than I ever imagined the government could commit. I am a transgender woman—but to the classification officers there is no such thing. If they say you’re male, you go to men’s prison, where you will be forced to “act like a man” under threat of being locked up in solitary, beaten, and humiliated. I have suffered through it all.
I have been forced to strip with men, and been slapped and hit for telling the officers in charge of the search that the rules say I must be searched separately. I have been handcuffed, thrown to the ground, and held down so officers could shave my head. I have been called a punk, a sissy, and a faggot; I have been beaten while handcuffed for asking to see mental health professionals.
I have had property “disappear,” shoes and books and grievances I have filed to address these issues. I have been pepper sprayed in the face because I refused to hand over the “contraband” bra and panties I had bought from the canteen and still had the receipt for, and forced to go days without any underwear at all after having mine confiscated.
I have been denied at every level, told by doctors that I’m not transgender, refused hormone therapy even though I had taken it on the streets, and had to go weeks without being able to shave after being put in confinement for wearing women’s clothing or standing up for my rights.
I have been made into something less than a man or woman, because in this world I am weak no matter how strong I may be, and I have no voice no matter how hard I scream.
But I have endured. I will because I believe this is my purpose—to suffer through and fight, write up everything I can, and take this unjust system to court. I know that I am not alone, that other women have been in my situation before, and had it better or worse. This is my rock bottom, the lowest point in my life, but I will survive, and I will never surrender who I am.
I will fight this prejudice every step of the way so that there will be a better future for all other people who are thrown in prison, so that we may all have the treatment, dignity, and respect that every human being deserves, even if they have done wrong.
I look forward to the day when transgender women will not be sent to prison for drug charges or prostitution, and I have gladly suffered all these things and more so that those who come after me will never have to.