Despite numerous requests, North Carolina refuses to move a transgender woman from a men’s prison to a women’s.
According to the News & Observer, Kanautica Zayre-Brown went to prison in 2017 as a habitual felon. She was convicted of insurance fraud and obtaining property by false pretenses.
‘I understand I’m in prison,’ Zayre-Brown, 37, said. She faces a sentence of up to nearly 10 years. While she admits and regrets her wrongdoing, she says all she wants now is ‘fairness’.
The same year Zayre-Brown went to prison, she completed her gender confirmation surgery. Medical professionals removed her male genitalia and she also received breast augmentation.
Despite living as a woman, Zayre-Brown continues to sleep in a bunk with 38 men at Harnett Correctional, a men’s prison in Lillington. She also has to change and shower in front of male inmates.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Jerry Higgins said her case is under review.
North Carolina’s new policy
In 2018, the state passed a new policy providing requests and resources for transgender inmates.
This allows requests for behavior health or medical services if their gender identity causes dysphoria, or distress. It also permits these inmates to receive hormone therapy ‘if it was prescribed before prison time’, gender-appropriate undergarments and housing.
Zayre-Brown has not only requested a transfer to a women’s prison, but also things like women’s underwear.
‘Underwear, bras, hygiene, shoes,’ she said. ‘Anything the policy allows me to have, they don’t do it.’
Her husband, Dionne Brown, visits and calls regularly. He told News & Observer he is not comfortable with where she is.
‘I don’t feel comfortable with her being with a bunch of men like that under that type of pressure,’ he said. ‘I married her and she’s considered herself a female the entire time.’
He continued: ‘I don’t feel safe for her. She doesn’t feel safe.’
Zayre-Brown said being transferred to the women’s prison would allow her to wake up as she’s meant to — as a ‘beautiful girl’.
Problems faced by trans inmates
Transgender inmates face a litany of problems, not only in the US but across the world.
In Turkey, one inmate recently started another hunger strike as pleas for gender confirmation surgery fall on deaf ears.
Across the English Channel in the UK, authorities recently moved trans women to men’s prisons. They also announced they’re scrapping their trans-inclusive policy and releasing new guidelines soon.
Rarely, these cases end in victory.
Deon ‘Strawberry’ Hampton, a trans female inmate in Illinois, won her request to be transferred to a women’s prison late last year. Following the movie, she spoke about her relief and how she now feels safe.
Author: Anya Crittenton
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