In a shocking development, the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a lower court’s ruling that the state of Massachusetts doesn’t have to provide a transgender inmate with gender reassignment surgery. If you walk into prison with a penis, you’re going to have to walk out of prison with a penis — unless Tobias Beecher bites it off, of course.
Now, before some of y’all get pissed off at me for my cisgender bigotry, let’s take a deep breath and step back just a bit. This is America, where we’ve turned incarceration into something of a competitive depravity sport. We lock up more people than anyone, both in total numbers and in terms of percentages of our population.
Hurray! We’re No. 1!
We also do as little as we can when it comes to making that incarceration bearable. We’re talking about a world where prisons in Louisiana only have air conditioning in the infirmary — and inmates will try to injure themselves simply to escape the heat.
In what universe can you imagine gender reassignment surgery being provided with that sort of a philosophy toward those we choose to lock up? Prisoners are probably lucky they get treated for physically life-threatening conditions — and I bet there are plenty of Americans who would argue against even doing that much.
As a transgendered woman, you may feel like you’re a prisoner in your own body — but you also happen to be a prisoner in a cement cell.
It may make me an awful person, but I’m on board with the Supreme Court on this one. Being locked up deprives you of plenty of things that make life bearable — surgical gender reassignment can simply be added to the list.
As a transgendered woman, you may feel like you’re a prisoner in your own body — but you also happen to be a prisoner in a cement cell. Being a prisoner is kind of your “thang” at the moment. Sucks, but I’ll bet lots of things about prison suck.
More importantly, I think we’ve got other baby steps we should take first. Like switching from the philosophy of prisoners being subhumans we can simply lock up and ignore. Prisoners are people, same as the rest of us.
Some of those locked up are innocent to one degree or another. Similarly, some of us walking around free are guilty — again, to one degree or another.
Empathy is supposed to be one of those baseline requirements for human decency. It’s a shame we seem to exercise so little of it when it comes to the incarcerated.
Prison should be about the loss of your freedom. Possibly, even rehabilitation. But in a nation that likes to talk about how it’s all about “law and order,” our attitudes give us away for what it is we’re really into: vengeance.
And when you go to great lengths to make prison not simply a prison but a hell, you’re not doing so to reform anyone. You’re doing so because you want to extract your pound of flesh.
Just as long as that pound of flesh isn’t dangling unwanted between someone’s legs, of course.