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WINTER 2013-2014!



In Solidarity


Dear Friends, I am thrilled to introduce the newest issue of In Solidarity! For new readers the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) publishes In Solidarity in collaboration with SRLP’s Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC). Everyone works really hard on it and we are consistently proud of the finished product. For months and months many of you have been writing your submissions: art, poetry, interviews, and essays. These have been filling our offices, proving yet again that the people most directly affected by oppression are powerful and capable of transforming the world and should be in the leadership of our movements! Since the last issue came out, many of us have also had to navigate increasingly hard moments, whether the daily realities of living within the Prison Industrial Complex or harassment and discrimination on the street. This issue of In Solidarity contains reflections on those many violences, which may be incredibly hard to hold. We also are publishing some brilliant health and wellness tips from a PAC member to support our ability to move through violence and hard times. While receiving your brilliant submissions, we have witnessed and participated in a number of important moments in the movement for gender self determination and trans liberation.

We have had a number of victories, including creating a policy to change our gender Honoring PAC & SRLP’s Prisoner Justice work marker with the Social Security Administration that no longer requires surgery. The building housing the Sylvia Rivera Law Project at 147 W. 24th Street, and five of the city’s longest standing LGBTQ people of color and low income people-led organizations including the Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, Queers for Economic Justice & Streetwise and Safe, was officially named the Miss Major-Jay Toole Building for Social Justice. The building was named in honor of Miss Major GriffinGracy and Jay Toole, two veterans of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. Here at SRLP we have had our spirits bolstered through working with you, the Prisoner Advisory Committee, to continue to grow the movement for gender self determination. -Reina Gossett, SRLP Director of Membership


Legal Updates

Poetry & Art

SRLP Happenings

Inside this issue of IN SOLIDARITY in New York. Members of PAC work together with members of our collective to develop strategies & goals for our work. IN SOLIDARITY is a collaborative newsletter created by PAC members, who are involuntarily locked away, SRLP staff & volunteers. Together our words & collective PRISONER ADVISORY efforts work against injustice for COMMITTEE low-income and/or people of The Sylvia Rivera Law Project strongly believes that the people color who are trans, intersex & most affected by the systems of gender non-conforming both inside and out of the prison violence and oppression we fight against are the best people industrial complex and towards gender self determination for to lead that fight. We also all. Additionally, this newsletter believe that social justice organizations must find ways to has always been a critical way directly involve the members of for SRLP staff to connect with our community who have been & inform volunteer members of the Prisoner Advisory separated from us by the Committee. criminal injustice system. The Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) is one way to overcome the enormous state-created barriers to communication and political participation for the people who are most affected by the prison industrial complex. PAC currently has around 70 amazing members who are enthusiastic about sharing their time, passion, and expertise with SRLP. Our members are trans, intersex, gender nonconforming people and allies who are currently incarcerated DISCLAIMER Please note that the ideas and opinions expressed in In Solidarity are solely those of the authors and artists and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project makes no representations as to the accuracy of any statements made in In Solidarity. Authors and artists bear sole responsibility for their work.


About PAC


About SRLP


SRLP Collective, Structure & Staff


PAC Member Art Submissions


Word Search

7-8 All of Our Voices Matter Linking to Our Past

9-11 12

A Call for Justice for Marsha P. Johnson


PAC Member Art Submissions


Legal Updates

16 Introducing, the PAC Blog 17 18! 19-20

Health & Wellness Resources Coming Home.. It’s Almost Surreal


PAC Member Art Submissions


Prison Issues in the Media


Submission Guidelines



April Walker Chi-Chi Lopez Olivia Jones Alisha William s Robert Cepeda Elana Redfiel d Janet Mock Grace Detreva rah Jessica Ann Sa mantha Vello n S. Torma Sh aylanna B. Lu vm e Stephanie Jo Gilley Laura Nicole Campbell Dennis Nelso n Reina Gossett Synthia Chin a Blast GabrielFoster Veronica Jezabelle Moo re Dana Gibson aka GEE Thomas A. Ros s-Sobczak ak a, Syorpyo Raphael Valle lll

intertwined with racial, social

affirming social, health, and

and economic justice.

legal services for our

Therefore, we seek to increase

communities. We believe that

the political voice and visibility

in order to create meaningful

of low-income people and

political participation and

people of color who are

leadership, we must have access

transgender, intersex, or gender

to basic means of survival and


non-conforming. SRLP works

safety from violence.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project


(SRLP) works to guarantee that

to improve access to respectful


all people are free to selfdetermine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender selfdetermination is inextricably

SYLVIA RIVERA STORY This project is named for civil rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera. A veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, Sylvia was a tireless advocate for all those who have been marginalized as the "gay rights" movement has mainstreamed. Sylvia fought hard against the exclusion of transgender people from the Sexual Orientation Non-

"I was a radical, a revolutionist. I am still a Discrimination Act in New York, and was a loud and persistent voice revolutionist. I was proud to make the

for the rights of people of color and low-income queer and trans

road and help change laws and what-not. I was very proud of doing that and proud

people. This project works to continue Sylvia's work by centralizing

of what I’m still doing, no matter

issues of systemic poverty and racism, and prioritizing the struggles

what it takes." -Sylvia Rivera, speaking to author and trans activist, Leslie Feinberg

of queer and trans people who face the most severe and multifaceted discrimination.

SRLP COLLECTIVE STRUCTURE SRLP functions as a multi-racial, intergenerational collective of people committed to a broad understanding of gender selfdetermination. As a collective, we recognize that it is essential to create structures that model our vision of a more just society. We believe that in the struggle for social justice too often change is perceived as a product and not a process. We seek to use a non-hierarchical structure to support work that aims to redistribute power and wealth for a more just society. We also strongly believe that our community-based structure, which maximizes community involvement, will support the sustainability of our work and the accountability of SRLP to its constituencies. We have developed an organizational structure with five equally important teams and a Board working together on a shared vision and mission. The Direct Services Team provides direct legal services, runs our legal clinics, makes determinations about how to take and handle cases, advocates for policy reform within institutions that impact our community, and sustains relationships with allied service providers. The Public Education Team creates and implements our trainings for other groups


Core Collective Member

Alysandra (or Alysan for short) is a queer, transgender and multiracial theatre artist, who moved to Brooklyn, NY three years ago. After working with SRLP to (successfully!) get a name change, Alysan stuck around to be a part of the amazing work being done there. When not managing SRLP's front desk - or helping out with anything else - Alysan can be found performing in, creating and producing queer-centric theatre and films throughout the city.

AVI Staff, Grassroots Fundraiser Before joining SRLP, Avi spent several years organizing for racial justice and white anti-racist education, prison abolition, economic justice and wealth redistribution, and queer and trans liberation from Western Massachusetts to Madison, Wisconsin, and now in NYC. Avi learned the ropes of grassroots fundraising strategies that align with racial and economic justice as an intern at SRLP. Avi loves climbing and reading tarot, and dreams about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

OLIVIA Intern, Movement Building Team is currently a senior at Mount Holyoke College studying politics and sociology. She is also chair of Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI), which works to create awareness for & action against the increasing number of black & brown identities in the prison. Olivia is inspired to be a better human being every day by her wonderful partner, her sister & the folks at SRLP. She’s never loved being an intern so much.

RAGE Equal Justice/Rapoport Fellow Rage is a queer, muslim, South Asian immigrant and former legal intern with the Prisoner Justice Program. Outside of SRLP, their work has included representing survivors of interpersonal violence on their welfare cases, family defense work for parents facing allegations of neglect due to their poverty and immigration advocacy for LGBTQI folks. When not imagining a world without cops and courts, they are most likely watching cute animal videos or doing secret bedroom karaoke.

LUCAS Core Collective Member Lucas is a transgender queer bi-racial latino man, originally from Maine, who now goes to CUNY School of Law in Long Island City, Queens. Lucas got involved in the work of SRLP as a legal intern during the summer of 2012, a personal dream of his since 2001. He is excited to now be on the SRLP board and continue his involvement with SRLP. When not doing law school work, Lucas plays guitar, ukelele and piano (if he can find one), spends as much time as possible outside, and reads mystery stories.


Intern, Direct Service Team Johanna is a queer Latina law student at CUNY School of Law. She has been interning with SRLP since June and is excited to continue on into the Fall.  Before law school, Johanna organized for worker and immigrants' rights with the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops.  In her down time, Johanna likes watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with her cat, Monster.  

and organizations, creates and distributes our public education materials, develops and maintains our website, and creates and implements SRLP's media advocacy work. The Fundraising and Finance Team is responsible for raising money for our operations, coordinating our budget-planning process, maintaining relationships with our donor base, creating fundraising events, and administering our financial systems. The Collective Development Team is responsible for recruiting staff and collective members, for making policies and programs regarding SRLP's diversity, and developing policies and procedures for SRLP staff and collective members. The Movement Building Team supports the community-based leadership development and organizing of SRLP’s low-income trans communities & trans communities of color. The Board is charged with oversight of the legal, ethical, and moral responsibilities of the organization and its financial health. SRLP is developing a structure where people committed to gender self-determination, and trans, intersex, and gender variant people can take powerful leadership roles in transforming their own lives as well as their communities.


I am writing this brief letter to all of the LGBT community and all of the transgender people. I am Jessica Ann Samantha aka John Chilson and I am incarcerated in a New York State male correctional facility and I have been since March 30, 1999. When I first came into the prisons I tried to get onto hormone treatment but I was told that I would not receive any treatment because I was not diagnosed with Gender ("S. Tor-o') J. Tocma Identity DisorderS{eplte" before entering 0n: 07Bt7g3 Fire Poir,fs prison. But then after a C.F. recent 6Hl|U New York district court case Brooks v. Berg 270 F. supp 2d 302 they have me evaluated on 10-2-12 then on my 51st birthday which was 12-06-12 I started taking Estradiol then also on 12-27-12 I was issued 2 sport

bras. Now I am fighting to have the following done: liposuction, electrolysis, facial reconstructive surgery to create a more feminine appearance, genital reconstructive surgery to create a clitoris, labia, vagina, voice training. So never give up on who you are, just keep writing. Smile and stay strong and keep being you. By Jessica Ann Samantha S. Torma






Reflection by Dana Gibson aka GEE

As self-change starts from within, we reflect on our past experience and actions of hurt, pain, disappointment, emotional, physical and mental abuse, intoxification and self-destruction as a road map of our past in our quest for a future filled with self-worth, self-pride, self-respect, selfappreciation, understanding, emotional, physical, spiritual stability and sobriety. While I doubt of such quest will always loom within the subconscious mind based upon the pain of the past. It’s your strong will from within that will serve as the guiding light to guide you to truly understand and appreciate the path of self-change to become who you are by learning who you are.


by Raphael Valle lll


















SRLP members, supports and staff lead a direct action at New York’s Population Health Summit, demanding safe and affordable healthcare for trans people. Winter 2013

All of Our Voices Matter Janet Mock shares her Trans 100 speech In Solidarity along with a special note to members of SRLP’s Prisoner Advisory Committee I was cognizant of the fact that my voice was only as loud as your voices. We can only be heard if we are all heard. It's an honor for me to share this speech with you because it was written with you in mind. By Janet Mock, Janet Mock is a writer, the founder of the online #girlslikeus project, author of Redefining Realness and an SRLP 10th Anniversary Honoree •••

I was honored as a poor-raised trans woman of color to deliver the keynote address at the inaugural Trans 100 event in Chicago on March 31, 2013, a list that focused on the positive work being accomplished by trans people nationwide. It was humbling to be given the space to address the crowd of honorees, supporters, loved ones and folks live-streaming the event around the world. I was even more blessed to hear the names of people I love and admire, like SRLP grassroots fundraiser Ola Osaze and my SRLP sisters Reina Gossett and Katherine Cross. When I was preparing my remarks I was also thinking of my siblings - you who are involuntarily locked and unable to be at the event.

In solidarity and struggle, Janet •••

Thank you all so much for having me. I am just in awe tonight, standing here, listening

femininity. Unapologetically. I stand here tonight with brown skin, with wild curly hair, with a lacquered lip, with my body and my womanhood in my possession. I stand here tonight with privileges and experiences of oppression that have enabled me to survive and thrive to make it to this stage.

to all these names: some I've never heard before, some that I'm very familiar with. Makes me feel like I'm kind of at a family reunion, meeting new cousins

I stand here tonight in awe because tonight was created by us and for us. We are all standing witness to a legendary feat, a feat

evening: KOKUMO, Namoli

are on their way.

that has allowed us to celebrate you've never met before but are our living, those who are doing very happy they're in your family. work to enact gender, social, class, and racial justice I am so happy to stand witness nationwide. to the greatness of our trans community, to the fruition of We are actively writing the chapters of our revolution, yet as Toni D'Orsay's dream, to this we write, we must pen the names night that Jen Richards refuses to take credit for, to the talents I of those who came before, those who have arrived, and those who get to share this stage with this Bennett, Joe Stevens and Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler - I am in awe of you. I stand here tonight at the intersections of race, class, and gender, sexuality, love and

I am here because of grassroot collectives who have never forgotten that our youth are still homeless, our siblings are still fighting HIV/AIDS, our sisters are banished to the darkness of

street corners and backpages and our people are still being locked away. I am here tonight because of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, because these two fierce queens worked the streets to feed, to house and to care after their sisters who had no place in this movement but at S.T.A.R. House in Alphabet City in Manhattan. I am here tonight because our forebears, from Sylvia Rivera to Audre Lorde, from James Baldwin to Bayard Rustin, pointed out our community's blindspots fearlessly and fiercely to ensure that equality went beyond rainbows and marriage and the gaystream. I am here tonight because my parents tried their best with what they were given, encouraging me to go further than they ever could and embracing me when I told them I could no longer be their son. I am here tonight because of my best friend Wendi who was the first person in my life to mirror and affirm me as the girl I dreamt myself of becoming. I am here tonight because of my endocrinologist, who broke the law by giving me the medicine I needed at 15. I know in his lifetime, he did the same for hundreds of others. I am here tonight because of the trans women on the streets of Honolulu, who shared their advice and their experiences,

letting me know that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to travel on our scary yet glorious road towards womanhood. I am here tonight because my teachers believed in me and saw greatness in me before I ever could, giving a 17-year-old trans girl with limited resources our school's only scholarship to college. I am here tonight because despite the hero's journey that we hear in the media - I did not do any of this alone.

forced to believe that theirs do not matter. The privileges that have granted us access to this space mean nothing as long as those same privileges shut the door behind us. We must wield the power and turn up the volume of our voices to fight for inclusion, equality and justice. As an honoree of the first-ever Trans 100, I am humbled. Finding my people and finding my voice has honestly been reward enough for me.

I am here tonight because of a vast network of people who believed in me, cheered me on, and told me in big and small ways that I am a dream realized.

I reluctantly accept this honor under the recognition that garnering this distinction does not make me more valuable than those who are not I am here tonight because Toni on this list. Each and everyone D'Orsay dreamt of creating a of them and you are deserving, space of recognition for us. Toni valuable and worthy. I ask that is a dream realized. you accept this honor with me so together we can do the work I am here tonight because Jen and live up to the collective Richards dreamt a bigger dream power of the Trans 100. in six short weeks. Jen's tireless work and her inability to do I thank you for this evening, for anything without an this moment intersectional lens is the dream and for realized. listening. I am here tonight because of the 99 other names on the inaugural Trans 100 list and the Janet (right) pictured with unrecognized thousands who are SRLP staff, Reina Gossett not on this list whose quiet acts are actively changing lives. They The 2013 Trans 100 is an inaugural overview of the breadth and diversity of are the dream realized. Our voices are amplified in this room but many are being silenced elsewhere. Our voices are only as loud as the voices of those who are being exiled and

work being done in, by, and for the transgender community across the United States. The first effort of its kind, the list intends to shift the coverage of trans issues by focusing on the positive work being accomplished, and providing visibility to those typically underrepresented.

Linking to Our Past By Reina Gossett Laverne Cox’s breakout role as a transgender person in prison in Orange Is the New Black has helped put a spotlight on trans people navigating incarceration. But low income and people of color who are trans and gender non conforming have a long and rich history of fighting back against imprisonment and policing. Even before the Stonewall and Compton Cafeteria riots, where our community fought back against the police, groups such as the Mattachine Society, which was founded in 1950 in Los Angeles and later expanded with chapters in the East Coast, were heavily active around issues of police harassment. Printing “What to Do in Case of Arrest” cards.

knew that it was vital to connect with other organizations. In order to Free Our Siblings & Free Ourselves, Sylvia knew she had to help build a mass movement connected to people currently incarcerated. She often spent time visiting her friends and loved ones in prison and, on more than one occasion, published interviews with incarcerated trans people like the one below. ISSUE SEVEN **A BULLETIN OF THE HOMOFIRE MOVEMENT** Nov, 14, 1970 CHRIS: GAY PRISONER IN BELLEVUE (GAY FLAMES: Chris Thompson is a black male transvestite who went to Bellevue Hospital for treatment of his asthma. Because he was gay and a transvestite, he was transferred to the psychiatric wing, where he could be “kept under control.” Chris has found brutality and ridicule at Bellevue, not medical attention and is now threatened with transfer to a state mental hospital, from which he might never return.  STAR’s Sylvia Rivera and GAA’s Arthur Bell conducted an interview, a part of which is printed here.) Q: Do you feel that you’re being held prisoner here?

After Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera helped to organize the first annual Christopher Street Liberation march (now known as corporate Gay Pride), which ended on purpose at the Women’s House of Detention in order to connect against the mass incarceration of people of color, queer people, trans people with organizing done by other revolutionary organizations like the Black Panthers. It was no coincidence

A: I feel that I am a prisoner and have been mistreated. They claim they are trying to help me but I don’t think they are.  I think they are just bull…just playing with me, just because of my homosexuality, wondering whether I want to have an operation, and asking me all these questions which doesn’t concern them. They claim they’re treating me because of my asthma. They said they thought I may have tuberculosis, so they did a biopsy and they found it was congestion of the chest. Then they told me they was going to send me home. I asked the doctor three weeks ago if I could have  a pass that I could take care of finding housing , and she Joan Bird and Afeni Shakur, members said “No.” And I asked of the Black Panther 21, were currently why and she said held in the Women’s House of “Because we can’t let you Detention when the Christopher Street out by yourself.” She said Liberation March arrived there she was going to ask for chanting “Free Our Sisters, Free an attendant, but then Ourselves!” she said she couldn’t find no attendant that Like many of us, Sylvia Rivera knew could go with me. that the police and prisons were fundamentally racist and transphobic institutions designed to control our Sylvia Rivera, protesting at lives and deliver our deaths. She also NYU’s Weinstein Hall, 1970

Linking To Our Past, ctd Q: Do you think they’re going to keep you in here perhaps forever? A: Well, she told me if I can’t find a place to stay they would have to transfer me straight to state hospital. But everyone tells me that here you can file for a lawyer; they can’t send you to the state hospital…they have to give me some welfare assistance. Q: Would you want us to support you if they continue holding you here?

to be a woman so much, he asked me did I ever have a fear of cutting my penis off. I didn’t tell him one way or the other, but on my record they have it down that I have a fear of cutting my penis off, to become a woman.  I want to become a woman that bad, so they asked me these questions — do I still have a fear of taking a razor and cutting my penis off and I told them no, and if I did decide to have a sex change I would go through the legal procedures and go to the proper physicians and have it done.

A: They haven’t been really trying to change me, but they make me feel bad by ridiculing me. Q: Not the doctors, the other patients, right? A: No, I have no problems with the patients. The patients accept me quite highly. It’s the staff that really bugs me. Q: Is there anything else that you can tell us about your stay here that might be interesting?

A: Well, as I told my doctor, I Q: Do you feel that you’re being wasn’t here to tempt any A: Yes, I would want full treated worse than the other patients, I was only here to get support. patients? medical help. She says that they can’t transfer me. One reason is Q: One of the things we’d like A: Yes I feel that I’m treated ‘cause I’m homosexual, and to know is how are the people much worse because of my another is that they don’t around here — the doctors and femme tendencies and I’m transfer psychiatric patients. the nurses and attendants? always criticized about my hair Also, they made me sleep in the or I’m always criticized about hall because they were afraid A: Well, I only get funny cracks.  my face or something like that.  that the males may get They say you’re still a man and MY doctor told me as long as interested in me. they still are always low-rating my make-up wasn’t too me and saying funny little noticeable that I could wear it Q: Chris, just looking at you cracks and putting me down but then the attendants said now, it doesn’t look as if you’re and making me feel bad all the that the doctor said I couldn’t wearing any make-up at all, and time.  I had a nurse get very wear it…so it’s just like they you certainly can pass for nasty with me.  She said, bull..they’re saying this and straight. What I don’t “we’ve had faggots here before” saying that. understand is why they’re so and she treats me very nasty down on you. The only thing I and snotty and she says, “DOn’t Q: What do you do in your notice is that you have your hair mess with the hand that feeds spare time? a little longer than average. you.” She’s told me that I would never look as good as she looks, A: I don’t do anything. I have A: It’s just the fact that if I look “so don’t get your high horses usually been sick so I just stay any kind of way effeminate, up.” I felt that she felt some in the bed and they get very they get up tight about it.  I jealousy, something against angry.  I go to all the group had some jeweled eyelashes homosexuality and she got very therapy they have here, drama which were given to me by a evil with me.  When I came therapy, and all that. patient here, and they took into admitting office, I told the them from me. They took my doctor I had congestion and Q: Are they trying to make you hair rollers away, they locked up asthma. Because of me wanting straight? Did they get into that?

“And they say when I blow my top and tell them off that I am crazy, but I am only standing up for my rights… because I am human like anyone else” all my female attire, they said I can’t have it until I leave the hospital. I wanted to set my hair for an Afro; they wouldn’t let me set it because it attracts the male attention, the males would get uptight.


The Writer Be hind the Prison Wir e Today as I’m fl ying inside this small cage , I don’t see any other bird s being let out to fly free.

A: I’m interested in anything that has anything to do with the gay activities. I’m all for it all, and I Q: They’re afraid of having want to fight for it. I willing to anybody go to bed with you while go all the way as far as I can go — you’re here. if it means even my life I’ll do it. A: I think they fear that I will have a homosexual affair here if I look too effeminate.

I guess the so

called owner believes that al l of us are full of poison. I’m a small and beautiful bird, with a very strong m ind.

Q: What do you feel about the sort of thing that Sylvia is into now. (Sylvia is an officer or STAR. —ed)

Q: And that’s worse to them than the rats in the hallways? A: I think its beautiful. I think that if we can help our people — I don’t carry a virus but I do A: Well, I think there’s rats on when I say our people I mean gay carry a great testimony. the staff! And they say when I people — I think I’m all for it. One day, I will be able to fly blow my top and tell them off ba ck in to the real wor that I am crazy, but I am only Q: Have you had any thoughts ld. This is the ques standing up for my rights… about how you can help gay tion, Will the because I am human like anyone people, what you might be able to world welco me me back, else. do once you’re out of here? once Q: Do you have any plans for when you get out of here? A: Yes, I would like to go back to school and finish college and become a dance therapist, an activity therapist. That’s what I want to be. Q: Were you a dancer before? A: Yes, I was. Q: Are you interested in the


I’m let out of th


uman zoo? A: If I obtain a job and work, if it’s for any gay person, I don’t care who it is, I would give fully. I believe they wil l, due to I’m all for gay people that’s my the fact that w hat is sent by feelings, this coming straight Krishna (God), man from my heart. And I mean it. CANNOT destr oy.

I’m the writer

prison wire!!!

behind the

by Shaylanna

B. Luvme

A Call for Justice for Marsha P. Johnson

forgotten by a police force that maybe cares less of a black transsexual who nobody will really ever remember.

By Synthia China Blast

I Remember!

July marks the month when Ms. Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River in New York City.

You should Remember!

Although the history of her legacy is recorded in the hearts of those she left behind, the ones that loved her, the laughter in her voice as she faced a world filled with hate just because she was content with her ability to tell you “Pay It No Mind” we need to come together to demand that justice for her is never forgotten. The NYPD’s cold case unit has since dismissed her death. Ms. Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson was murdered. Her death to this day is unsolved, probably closed, and yes, a sh Who Was Mar

a P. Johnson?

iend Sylvia me partner and fr [Alongside long ti R: Street helped form STA a sh ar M ] a, er iv R Marsha Revolutionaries. n io ct A te ti es sv with Tran ey and organized on m r fo x se ed also trad York e sex trade in New other people in th She re & West Village. ua Sq es im T y’s it C d prisons, om inside jails an fr le op pe ed iz an galv the form home for them in as well as created er East w in Manhattan’s Lo of STAR House mer, touring incredible perfor an as w e Sh . de Si hes. As ce group Hot Peac an m or rf pe e th h IDS wit , she organized A on rs pe ve ti si po an HIV was a ental illness, and vigils, navigated m d gender ration of trans an mother to a gene ity. le in New York C op pe g in rm fo on people nonc many Black trans e th e on so al as She w e Hudson , in her case, in th to be found dead ide in 1992. River after Gay Pr estpost “Happy m Reina Gossett’s gu fro pt cer ex d ite ed An son, on The Crunk ay it No Mind ” John Birthday Marsha “P Blog. Feminist Collective

If you feel as I do write to: Cold Case Bureau New York Police Department One Police Plaza New York, New York 10007


tell them “we need justice for Ms. Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson who was found murdered in 1992 in the Hudson River in NYC. We demand that her case is not forgotten. We need her story to air so that anyone who knows something, maybe even someone out there today who feels regret can come to terms with their crime and have the heart to turn themselves in.

REST IN PEACE GIRL WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU June 27, 1944 – July 6, 1992 Ms. Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson deserves the same justice that any victim suffers due to senseless violence. We owe that much to her. Open her case. Review her case. We’ve seen miracles happen with less evidence. Ms. Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson’s death would never end in vain.

PAC MEMBER SELF-INTERVIEW What name do you want people to know you by? My best friend from junior high used to call me Blaize Diamond Hathaway Buchanann, and over 20 years later he still does. What gender pronoun do you want people to use for you? To be honest I really don’t care what people call me. Where did you grow up? Long Island, NY Why did you decide to join PAC? Because I want to make a difference and help someone like it was done for me so long ago. What other sorts of activism, advocacy, or organizing work have you done? In high school I was on the debating team, I loved doing volunteer work for the ACT-UP, Gay & Lesbian Community Center in Manhattan, & the Hetrick Martin Institute, etc. What have you found challenging about this work? I learned despite everyone sayin one person can’t make a difference, that one person can make a difference. I am living proof! What have you liked about it? Just knowing I can help someone makes me very happy. What is your favorite book/song/movie/artist? My favorite book is by Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, favorite song Born This Way by Lady Gaga, favorite movie Brokeback Mountain, favorite artist Madonna! And Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Cher, Barbara Streisand, among others. What else do you want people to know about you? I just want people to know I truly care, and I just want to help in whatever capacity. I want to give a big shout out to everybody at SRLP. You’re all doing amazing work, I’m honored to be a part of that and to one of my best friends Shaylanna, I <3 you more than you’ll ever know. PEACE-OUT.

by Shaylanna B. Luvme


By Thomas A. Ross-Sobczak aka, Skorpyo Dedicated to C. Rodriguez Here upon the cliff, above the sea of sorrow I stand in all guilt engulfed. As I look down upon the pain I’ve made And now it seems that I’m falling down Into the anguish of my heart falling apart! I’m drowning in the screams of my pain And feel the misery of my soul. Through I cannot bare this anymore so please make it stop. But it’s as if I’m falling deeper Into the darkness of my hear falling apart! And now, here I lay upon the ocean’s floor Deeper than the earth’s core So pitch black and whispering to my heart As it burns with the sense of falling evermore Into the depths of my heart still falling apart!

LEGAL UPDATES The Direct Services Team (DST) at SRLP is composed of our three staff attorneys, Elana Redfield, Alisha Williams and Pooja Gehi. We represent transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex individuals who are low-income or identify as people of color. Our legal services include name changes, immigration applications, public benefits, and challenges to conditions of incarceration. We want to share some updates on the legal front and remind you of some ongoing programs

Security Administration finally changed the gender marker policy from one that requires a form of surgery that is permanently sterilizing to one that only requires a doctor’s letter that affirms their patient’s self determined gender. We want to thank our colleagues at the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for their hard work on this important change!

PREA, 10 YEARS LATER In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was SSA VICTORY passed and created a special For the past ten years SRLP has commission to develop national worked tirelessly to urge local, standards for addressing the state and federal government high rates of sexual abuse in agencies to change their custodial settings. Through the conservative policies that years, SRLP PAC members and require surgery before changing collective members submitted a transgender or intersex several comments on the person’s gender marker. SRLP proposed standards and fought prioritizes access to gender to ensure that the experiences affirming identity documents of incarcerated trans and queer for trans people who are low people were a part of the income, immigrants, disabled, discussion shaping these people of color and in prison. standards. Because of the We do this because the inability contributions of PAC members to possess gender affirming and other activists, the PREA identity documents worsens standards that took effect in already high levels of danger and August of 2012, have some vulnerability when dealing with protections specifically for police, negatively impacts transgender, intersex, bisexual, ability to get healthcare, lesbian and gay people. housing and education and Some of these protections increases the likelihood of include housing and placement experiencing transphobic provisions. Sections 115.42(c) – violence. (e) mandate that before assigning a transgender or We are excited to share that, in intersex person to a facility June of this year, the Social designated for males or females,

the agency should assess on a case-by-case basis which placement would ensure the person’s health and safety. The person’s own views with respect to safety should be given “serious consideration.” This consideration is weighed against management or security concerns raised by the agency. This is just one set of protections that are particularly relevant to our community members, but many have asked us, “what happens next?”. PREA AUDITS Correctional agencies, like DOCCS, will be audited (evaluated) annually by auditors certified by the Department of Justice and states must certify compliance with PREA or lose money from the federal government. Audits will occur in cycles and the first round of audits started on August 20, 2013. In order to be compliant, each jurisdiction need only have one-third of its facilities audited between now and August 20, 2014. If you hear one nearby facility has been audited, it does not mean that your facility’s audit is next but ALL facilities must be audited by August 2016. If your facility is being audited, they will be required to post a notice six weeks prior to the audit, along with the address where the auditor can receive confidential correspondence. Keep documentation of any PREA-related abuses in your facility (i.e. copies of grievances, photos, witness reports or your own personal notes) and be sure

LEGAL UPDATES, ctd to send them to any auditor that is assigned to your facility. If you send materials to the PREA auditor at your NY state facility, please send copies to SRLP.

SRLP lawyer, Elana Redfield (on the right) trains New York judges

GAINING ACCESS TO COURTS Shaw v. District of Columbia, Dist. Court, Dist. of Columbia 2013 Patti Hammond Shaw, a transgender woman in Washington D.C., was arrested three times between 2009 and 2012 and, on each occasion, she was housed with men who verbally and physically harassed her, as did one police officer. Men asked her to expose her genitals and breasts, threatening to harm her if she did not comply. The men exposed themselves to her and masturbated in front of her. Male officers searched Patti, even when female officers were available to conduct the search, and they intimately and inappropriately touched her while verbally harassing her. In September of 2012, Patti filed a complaint against the District of Columbia, the United States Marshals Service, individual USMS marshals and several Metropolitan Police Department officers for violations of her 4th and 5th Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and to be given due process. Her 5th Amendment claims are similar to the 8th Amendment deliberate indifference claims in the post-conviction prison context. In addition, she alleged that the MPD failed to train and supervise officers generally, and under their own 2007 policy for “Handling Interactions with Transgender Individuals”. In May of 2013, the Court did dismiss one U.S.

marshal and the MPD Chief of Police, but claims against other officers and marshals are moving forward. This means Patti is one step closer to having her day in court! PHOENIX HOUSE MENTIONS SRLP In the fall of 2013, SRLP lawyers Pooja Gehi and Elana Redfield worked with a small group of judges to put on three trainings on transgender issues in the court system. The trainings were targeted to judges who practice in civil court, family court, and criminal court. Using stories and examples from our community, we educated judges on transgender terminology, health care, and the realities of discrimination, violence, and police profiling. The trainings definitely made a positive impact – for example, the judge in the Phoenix House case (challenging transphobia in a drug treatment facility) actually referred to the SRLP trainings in her decision!  We are hoping to continue and expand our trainings for judges and court personnel in the future. PRISON HEALTHCARE CASES BEFORE THE COURTS Appellate Win! On Friday, January 17th 2014, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling granting Michelle Kosilek access to genital surgery while incarcerated by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Two of the three judges on the panel agreed that the DOC violated Michelle’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by denying her medically necessary treatment she sought out over a decade ago. The Governor has not yet stated whether he will continue to waste tax-payer money appealing this decision. SRLP wishes Michelle safe and speedy access to the healthcare she needs!

, Introducing, the Prisoner Advisory Committee Blog! In November 2013, the SRLP website debuted it’s first ever Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) Blog! For those who don’t know, what a blog is, it’s sometimes referred to as an online personal journal. It is a site (or a space on a website) designated for an individual to write about their experiences, share thinking, educate and illicit thoughts.

effects of our prison system. We hope readers of the blog might ask themselves, “What can I do to work in solidarity with our incarcerated community members?” Here are a few suggestions we give them:

Go beyond the mainstream! Reach out to other grassroots organizations doing amazing work.

LEARN about our prison system:

• Become a Pen Pal!

The PAC blog came out of a • Start with reading blog entries growing need to provide a from people who are platform where SRLP can share incarcerated! stories from our incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Read SRLP’s reports and articles: community members. • It’s War In Here: A Report On SRLP volunteers have been Transgender People In Men’s working hard to sort through all Prisons of the letters and transcribe stories as they come in. We do • Safety and Solidarity Across not censor the letters, other than Gender Lines: Rethinking altering names of people who segregation of transgender should not be identified. We post people in detention this content so it can be shared with prisoners’ rights advocates, • Correcting Race and Gender: family members, students, Prison Regulation of Social colleagues, conference attendees, Hierarchy Through Dress and whoever else cares to hear the real stories about our atrocious system of incarceration. • Prisons As a Tool for Reproductive Oppression: Cross Movement Strategies for It is our hope that after reading Gender Justice these stories, the general audience will be inspired to join the fight against the isolating

CONNECT with people who are incarcerated:

• Consider visiting places of incarceration (SRLP’s “Solidarity in Action: A Guide to Visiting Incarcerated Community Members” is coming soon!) SPEAK OUT: • Share the stories found on the blog! • Become an advocate and write letters of support, make phone calls and join applicable campaigns. So members of PAC, please feel free to continue contributing to the blog as little or as much as you like. You can direct the mail to: PAC Blog c/o SRLP, 147 W 24th Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10011

Because prisons and detention facilities often break down people’s spirits, in the last edition of In Solidarity, we asked PAC members to share tips for de-stressing, healing & relaxation.

HEALTH & WELLNESS •if you are able to, close your


eyes! (this alone can be such a useful relaxation tool)

•focus on a single word or object to clear your mind or listen solely to your breathing

By Laura Nicole Campbell •••

Well me personally, I have a lot of things that I use to stay stress free.

•it is normal for other thoughts to pop into your mind; try repeating a word or phrase over and over to yourself (sing, speak, hum, whisper, or think it) and see if that helps to clear your mind

I have studied psychology a little bit, not at a college or anything, just things I’ve studied on my own. Coping skills are very good to have. They help us cope with day to day life. A coping skill can be anything. Crying, dancing, reading, even

It has more than 17,000 movie reviews that I read and if I like it I

overnight (it took me a year) but keep trying different things and you

twiddling your thumbs. There is a

underline the movie so when I get

will find a positive coping skill that

vast universe of coping skills. Me for instance, I like anything

home I can find the movie and watch it. Another thing I do to keep

will keep you happy and stress free.I encourage everyone to stay stress

entertainment. Movies, Books, Music. It makes me happy, so I

stress free is think about the future when I will leave from behind these

free and happy and to make the best out of your situation. I wish

focus on it. Of course (you all

bars and walls. I plan on making

luck, love and solidarity to all my

probably know this already) it’s hard in prison to watch what you want to

movies. I want to go to college for film and make movies.

brothers and sisters out there and I really hope what I’ve said helps at

watch on T.V. unless you are in a T.V. jail and have your own T.V. I don’t

There are many good coping skills out there, we just have to find the

least one of you live your life a little happier, and I hope you all find your

let this bother me anymore. I got a

positive ones that work for us. I’m

coping skill. I love you ALL!!!

Leonard Maltin 2007 Movie Guide.

not going to say you will find it

SOMETHING JUST FOR YOU •give yourself a hug; wrap yourself up in…you! squeeze, rub, pat, massage your entire body from your face to your feet

Breathe Show Yourself Affection •if you are able to, give yourself a hand massage (rub hands together, fronts and backs, etc.)

Deep Breathing Exercises • General breathing o if you are able to, lay on your back and bend your knees to relax your stomach o apply a small amount of pressure to your stomach, just below your rib cage o slowly breathe in; you should feel your stomach rise o exhale slowly, emptying your lungs and letting your

stomach fall completely; repeat and you should soon feel calmer and more relaxed

RESOURCES PEN PAL PROJECTS Black and Pink LGBT free prisoner pen pal program & monthly newsletter 614 Dorchester, MA 02125 617.942.0217 Hearts on a Wire Ending policing & imprisoning in trans communities. PA only. P.O. Box 36831 Philadelphia, PA 19107 Reaching Beyond the Walls Inmate pen pal website P.O. Box 6905 Rutland, VT 05702-6905 802.773.4029 TIG Pen Pal Project For transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming prisoners P.O. Box 1122 Portland, OR 97211 Write to Win For IL prisoners only 2040 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60647 Queers Against Prisons Philly Grassroots prison abolitionist organizing LGBTQ prisoners only 210 S. 49th St. Philadelphia, PA 19139 Human Rights Coalition Fedup! Prisoner resource and support 4134 Lancaster Ave Philadelphia, PA 19104 267.293.9169

TGI Justice Project 1201 46th Avenue Oakland, CA 94601 510.533.3144 Gender Mutiny Collective PO Box 0494 Chapel Hill, NC 27514 Prisoner Correspondence Project A support project for gay, queer, and trans prisoners. (open to people in the United States) QPIRG Concordia C/O Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve O, Montreal, QC H3G 1M8

NEWSLETTERS & MAGAZINES T.I.P. Journal Free Trans In Prison newsletter Attn: Teeg P.O. Box 404 Kittredge, CO 80457 Hotline: 303.586.1452 Justice Denied Magazine for the wrongly convicted P.O. Box 68911 Seattle, WA 98168 Prison Health News Quarterly newsletter c/o Philly FIGHT 1233 Locust Street, 5th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19107 215.985.4448 Pro Se Prisonersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; rights legal updatesNY State only 114 Prospect St. (Ithaca offices) Ithaca, NY 14850

Southland Prison News Monthly Newsletter East Coast Regional PMB 339 955 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139

OTHER PROGRAMS Critical Resistance Prison abolition organization 1904 Franklin St., Suite 504 Oakland, CA 94612 510.444.0484 The Fortune Society Community reentry program 26-76 Northern Blvd Long Island City, NY 11101 212.691.755 Prison Book Program Books Through Bars 4722 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143 Locked Out Resource list for LGBT prisoners c/o Prison Book Project PO Box 396 Amherst, MA 01004 Prison Book Program Free books for prisoners c/o Lucy Parsons Bookstore 1306 Hancock St., Suite 100 Quincy, MA 02169 617.423.3298

COMING HOME… IT’S ALMOST SURREAL!! By Grace Detrevarah •••

This Fall PAC member, Grace walked through the doors of SRLP & dove right in! She’s become an eager and dedicated volunteer we happily welcome her home. Hey Family… My name is Grace. I have been home for a short while. I was incarcerated in Wallkill, Fishkill and other facilities of Medium status. Being a black transgender woman in a male facility with a feminine and womanly appearance was problematic from intake at Downstate until I was released from Fishkill. However, I have fought for humane treatment throughout “all” my prison terms (3 terms) due to the information that was provided by SRLP. When I contacted SRLP I was being held in SHU for disciplinary. While being held in SHU at Oneida Correctional Facility (which is now closed). I was being denied access to “Basic” needs i.e. showers, recreation and legal assistance. Then I began to be harassed and assaulted by the SHU officers. The administration of Oneida at the time did not recognize my complaints. I was scared! But I didn’t allow my fear to stall my need for humane treatment and to be

heard. Ultimately, I began to advocate for myself. It was a difficult time for me.

inmates access to these areas. Making an hostile environment for me by other inmates due to the The one important aspect of monitoring. All this was advocating for one’s self discouraging at moments comes with knowing the but, I didn’t allow this to NYS inmate Rule Book deter me to seek out “fair (regardless of the facility) and just” treatment. My the directives and policies of advocacy brought a lot of the facility one is housed. It surprise and resentment took a lot of reading and from inmates and the memorizing these Administration alike. documents. But, I took this However, I was able to as small stuff…. because I achieve some form of was being treated unfairly. acknowledgement from Not only because I was an inmates who were legally inmate but, primarily “verse.” Or what those say because I was in prison “The Legal Heads.” transgender…..and solely that! There were instances In my advocacy, I have become aware that there is when the basic needs like a “need” for Transgender using i.e. bathrooms, inmates to become showers, recreation and advocates for “survival” program area’s came with while incarcerated. (NYC & receiving harassment for NYS) I can acknowledge the mere fact of me just “showing up.” Now what do that NYC/NYS do acknowledge that the soI mean ? There would be called “Gay” inmates do times I would be denied exist. However, when it access for these programs comes to the transgender and area’s because the inmate Corrections are “in Officers would inform me the dark” and have not been that they didn’t “want to willing or informed of the have to watch me” and “needs” that a transgender other inexcusable bias inmate may have. In the reasons. When it came to recent past Corrections using the Bathrooms or have segregated “Trannies” showers there were times to refrain from dealing with where officers would i.e. appearance issues, monitor my usage with medical issues and actually coming into those programs. areas. There were times when I was locked in Continued... showers to refrain other

Welcome Home, ctd I would like to be able advocate for my transgender peers who are incarcerated. I do believe that the needs of transgender inmates are quite different from those of the lesbian, bi and gay inmates. Due to i.e. appearance, medical and political issues. What do I mean ? Being transgender with an appearance issues and medical and political transitions that are recognizable bring out unfortunately the worse with officers and administrations. In my time being an inmate. Gay males I’m sure have issues and problems as well. However, the difficulties that I had while being in NYC/NYS Corrections were plentiful. I know that I’m no island or special when it comes to “surviving” while being in Corrections. I just believe that my journey was

GRACE -------------> “bittersweet” because I was willing to study the mistreatment, harassment and inhumane behavior and become “verse” in my advocacy. I believe that more transgender inmates can and should advocate for themselves when problems arise. I refused to believe that because I was incarcerated that being treated unfairly and inhumane was part of my sentence. In the coming months I will begin to write in my journal that I keep. I would like to participate in programs that SRLP and any other organization that advocates for the LGBT community. Especially those that advocate for the transgender inmate.

These past few weeks of being home, I

have been rejuvenated in my goals of wanting to advocate and to be of service. The open arms and support that SRLP has given me has been something that I’m appreciative of. I just hope to bring something positive and productive to their agenda.

Look at you, with your pretty eyes and silky hair. Look at you with your quick to smile lovely soft mouth. When you speak, a song I hear. When you pass by, so sweet you smell. Submission by Dennis Nelson

I love you for your truthful ways and as you turn your head the way your hair follow’s your turn make me catch my breath. My breath! Breathe! you make me struggle for... breath.

by Vellon



Favorite Song: Born This Way by the one and only, Lady Gaga Favorite Movie: The Wizard of Oz

by Robert Cepeda

Where I Grew Up: Born and raised in Gloversville New York, “Upstate”

Who We Are by Robert Cepeda

We are more than the names they call us.

MORE FROM STEPHANIE... How long have you been a PAC member?

Sissy, Fag, Queer, Homo. We have hopes and dreams

I’ve been a PAC member for almost 3 years now and love every

Goals and aspirations.

part of it. I joined PAC after being abused by prison staff and

We’ve had heartaches and letdowns

wanting to help others who were in need of the same help I was

turned away by so-called friends

the years to do more and I’m happy to say that in 13 months

family society-at-large. Yet we remain strong with heads held high We fight for our right to be

getting. I have done a lot of dreaming, hoping and wishing over when I am out of prison, the wait will be over. In my area there is no kind of project to help the LGBT in the community and growing up male wanting to be a female was no easy task. Abuse from others daily due to the way I spoke and dressed was too much for me to deal with. I started to


hide who I really was but

respected applauded

Not Anymore!

appreciated For our strength We are human We are LGBT Transgenders Transexuals We are the gay community and we are here to stay.

ica eron oore by V lle M e b a Jez

of fear.

PRISON ISSUES IN THE MEDIA Last year public attention shifted toward our issues more than ever before. We saw the actress, Laverne Cox (a trans women of color) play the role of a trans woman of color in prison in the new TV show “Orange is the New Black.” We also saw the mainstream media cover the arrest and sentencing of Chelsea Manning, a white trans woman. With greater visibility, we have been able to use this opportunity as a platform to demand an end to policing and incarceration. From an interview with Laverne Cox in, The Nation: What are some nonprofits that you support in terms of the transgender community?

“I’ve been lucky to be affiliated with a few

organizations over the years. I’ve worked with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund— they worked with Coy Mathis in Colorado and that’s a huge issue for them. I’ve been working with the Anti-Violence Project. Violence against transgender people is a huge, huge issue and the Anti-Violence Project is doing intersectional work looking at the reasons why violence happens. I’m also a supporter of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which has done a lot of advocacy work for trans people in prisons with their Prisoner Advisory Committee. They’re doing a lot of fantastic work as well.” Additionally, trans artists (like many PAC members) are making important contributions to conversations and shifting culture. Here are two examples from SRLP supporters Micah Bazant (above) & Tyrone Boucher (on the right).

With You, Not Without You

WHAT YOU HAVE TO SHARE IS IMPORTANT In Solidarity accepts submissions on an ongoing basis. While we may not always be able to get your work published

in the following issue, we will work hard to publish it in future newsletters. We happily accept essays, articles, poems, drawings, short stories, art work, messages of hope & inspiration and letters from transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming people and our allies who are or were incarcerated. Please be sure mark your name clearly, on each page you submit. PLEASE SEND YOUR WORK TO: The Sylvia Rivera Law Project In Solidarity Submissions 147 W 24th Street, 5th Floor New York, NY 10011

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU. Let us know what you would like to see in the next issue of IN SOLIDARITY... WRITE US!

147 W. 24th St., 5th Floor New York, NY 10011


n Adviso & dedicated Priso us lo bu fa e Th • Committee ices & who support the vo • Those of you munity r incarcerated com experiences of ou members

In Solidarity 2014  
In Solidarity 2014  

In Solidarity is a collaborative newsletter created by members of SRLP’s Prisoner Advisory Committee, who are involuntarily locked away, SRL...