Transgender Isolation

Stories from incarcerated transgender youth

I usually get along with the boys but they can have issues, usually of hypermasculinity. It’s easier with the girls, they accept me. My Mom is sober now. She came to the hospital when I tried to kill myself. I wasn’t happy—personal stuff. At XXXX there were seven other transgender kids. I’m the youngest at home and my mom is supportive of me now. My grandparents are dead. My mom’s the only one. I have six sisters and one brother from my mom. They are scattered in places I don’t know. I don’t really hear from them. On my dad’s side there are two brothers and one sister. They are older; both brothers are real pothead partyers. The sister is in the Navy. I don’t hear from them. I think I am dual because I ran away and some other stuff. Little stuff. I never touched anyone or hurt anyone. I would live on the streets for a day or two, then stay at a homegirl’s. I trust nobody. I have very few friends. They have to earn my friendship and trust. Most of my friends are gay. There is a pretty big transgender population in the valley. Was I abused? I don’t want to say what.
— L.T. Age 16


I live in a girls dorm isolation bedroom, made to protect against suicide. I have been here for 7 months and have 2 more months before I turn 18 and can go home. I live with my mom, dad and younger brother and sister. I have hardly been at home, spending most of my time on the streets wanting to be with older friends. They are part of “that life.” They are “positive” people who got involved with drugs (more than weed), prostitution and burglary. The girls are welcoming, staff are a bit ambivalent, but accommodating. I am kept in a separate sleeping unit, which I enjoy as the girls are so noisy they keep me up. I’m a light sleeper. I enjoy the quiet. Sometimes I miss the social interaction in the evening. It might be an issue of discrimination by separating me, but they say safety issues are paramount. The director stated ‘If I keep her with the girls she will get hurt; If I keep her with the boys she will be killed. I know it is against federal codes to keep her in isolation, but I am not going to have her hurt or killed on my watch, no matter what.’
— A.I. Age 17