The most progressive policy on the treatment of trans inmates in North America
Transgender inmates in Ontario, Canada will now be dealt with according to their own gender identity, not their physical sexual characteristics. Ontario’s corrections minister is calling this method the most progressive of its kind in North America.
Up until now, transgender inmates were housed based on a person’s “primary sexual characteristics.” Now, they will not only be housed according to their self-identified gender, they will be referred to by their chosen name and their preferred pronoun rather than their legal name and pronoun.
“This is the most progressive policy on the treatment of trans inmates in North America,” said Yasir Naqv, the Ontario Correctional Services Minister. “No other jurisdiction in Canada has such policy. In fact one of the things that I’ll be doing is sending a copy of our policy to all other my colleagues across the country.”
According to the Canadian Press, the case of Avery Edison, a trans woman from England who was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency last February pushed the issue to the forefront as she tweeted her experiences before being detained in a men’s facility, despite travelling on a passport identifying her as female.
Edison was eventually transferred to a women’s facility, but filed a human rights complaint about her treatment. She said Monday she couldn’t comment on Ontario’s new policy because her human rights case is ongoing. I personally would assume she’s at least pleased that the government is taking this positive step.
Not only are transgender inmates usually housed according to their physical sexual characteristics, but they are often segregated from the rest of the prison population for their own protection. Trans inmates often become victims of assault, particularly in male prisons. Now in Ontario, they will be integrated into the general population whenever possible.
“Today is about human rights,” said Naqv. “It is about ensuring that trans inmates are given the same protections, the same dignity and the same treatment. It is about respect and dignity for gender identity and gender expression.”
Here is hoping that the other nine provinces and fifty states follow Ontario’s lead. It is incredibly dehumanizing for trans people to be treated as anything other than their self-identified gender.