Commentary: You Are Not Alone

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by Aaron Zendejas

We are told that “the biggest obstacle in life is discovering who you are”? We are at a point in our lives where we are supposed to embrace life and enjoy what’s to come and be our true selves, but that isn’t true. Being an inmate in s California prison already has a stigma but being an inmate and transgender brings about negative behavior, not just from other inmates but from correction officers and free staff.

Dealing with transphobia and homophobia is an everyday struggle, not just for myself but others in the community. And yet having to not just encounter but to have to deal with the physical or mental violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, bullying, and manipulation is just sickening, and, yes, these types of incidents do happen and get swept away.

People truly DO NOT understand the everyday struggles that we in the transgender and homosexual community have gone through, go through, and are still dealing with to this day on accepting ourselves and discovering Who We Are. It’s painful to see others in the community be disgracefully treated and abused not just physically but emotionally and verbally and at a lot of times retaliated against for filing paperwork, reporting incidences or having to remind CO’s to treat you accordingly to what you identify with. Being degraded while being searched or pat down, having your identity being ridiculed, having other inmates have control over one’s life and correction officers allowing such behavior to go with disregard how we feel. Just to allow something as a simple as a bed move to reporting an incident and being made to feel like you are telling and the consequences that come with it is a mission in itself, that isn’t right nor fair at all. We of the community get brushed off or disregarded just because of who we are. All this hate and phobias that we have encountered and endured for years has finally been brought to light, and finally will be dealt with.

It’s called Senate Bill 132. There is finally a bill that not just protects us from discrimination and mistreatment but protects our RIGHTS! Being housed at a transgender facility isn’t enough anymore. Because being housed there doesn’t necessarily mean we get treated with respect or are safe. But even with such  powerful protection we still have to deal with retaliation and consequences and at a lot of times violence against us for filing this bill. Something that is made to protect us gets used against us, not just from other inmates but correction officers as well.  In the Title 15 under Article 1. Section 3022 “equality of inmates ” it states:

“No inmate or group of inmates will be given or permitted to assume control over other inmates,” but that is contradicted. Because all it takes is for an inmate to say no to something as a bed move or asking someone to move and the move gets denied. Asking to be treated with respect even when its coming from ANY type of staff or inmates is challenging.

Inmates that are not part of the community, that being from the transgender or homosexual, make the deciding factor for how WE live. And this is allowed by the officers. Wanting to live with someone or people that you are comfortable with gets denied because individuals DON’T  agree with who we are or how we like to be. We call them “homophobes” and “Haters.” These are the types of issues that we deal with on an everyday basis. “Can we just live”? Is that too much to ask for? To those who are reading this just know you are not alone, and we can get through this because we have endured too much in our lives to deal with this type of behavior anymore. At the end of the day you are strong and have the power to make change. You just got to be brave and take that first step. You’ve experienced too much in life to let individuals rob you. This is in remembrance for those who rose up and paved the way.

You know your rights! And know when you make that decision stand up and be strong and know that you have the protection and it’s the LAW!. Take a stand and be united and let’s make a change. You may not like US but you WILL respect us!

Aaron Zendejas is a trans female living in a men’s institution at Mule Creek Correctional Center in Ione, California

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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