“Doing Time Put My Life in Danger”
I have been through the California penal system, and I have experienced firsthand the injustices that transgender prisoners often face. When I was in prison, my life was constantly endangered, and I was constantly harassed by other inmates for being who I am. I was even a victim of sexual assault. Other prisoners didn’t understand me or what it means to be a transgender person. You get harassed by everybody: the nurses, the police, the inmates… You’re constantly dealing with ignorance.
Correctional employees are not aware of the needs of LGBT prisoners and often house them in situations that are uncomfortable or even dangerous. LGBT prisoners often feel helpless, and they cannot stand up for themselves without putting themselves in even greater danger. You’d be a snitch or a rat if you reported sexual harassment or violence. A lot of people would rather not tell anyone about what they’re going through.
I was not in a position of power to stand up for myself while I was in jail, and I was incarcerated for doing the only work that was available to me, because there are often few work opportunities that are truly open to transgender people. You pay your sentence, get out and then you have to do the same work again in order to survive. We have to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals are protected while incarcerated, and we must work to break this vicious cycle.
Bamby Salcedo is the Project Coordinator for HIV Prevention Services at Childrens’ Hospital Los Angeles and the Founder and President of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition. She has devoted her life to fighting for equality and equal protections for the transgender community.