Self-defense: Why are we going to jail?

Just days after news broke about the April 29th shooting death of Brandy Martell, a 37 year-old trans woman of colour in Oakland, California… [details here]

Reports emerged that Cece McDonald, a trans woman of colour from Mineapolis, may be serving up to 3 1/2 years in a men’s prison, after accepting manslaughter charges as penalty for violence she committed in self-defense during a racist, transphobic, hate-motivated assault on her life.

The website, “Support Cece McDonald:   Solidarity with Trans People Targeted by the Prison Industrial Complex” makes these crucial points about this case:

“The plea agreement comes nearly a year after McDonald was arrested, interrogated, denied adequate medical care for a laceration she suffered during the attack and held in solitary confinement for a month for being a transgender person. During the pre-trial proceedings, supporters raised world-wide support for the charges against McDonald to be dropped. Last month, supporters delivered to Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman a petition for dropping the charges with over 15,000 signatures and dozens of letters of support for McDonald from organizations and prominent individuals from around the globe.

Freeman consistently failed to exercise his professional discretion and take a stand against racism and transphobia by dropping the charges.

“Freeman’s aggressive prosecution of CeCe was a continuation of the racist, transphobic assault that led to her being charged and resulted in the tragic death of one of the assailants,” said Kris Gebhard of the CeCe McDonald Support Committee. “We’ve been proud to stand with CeCe as she fought this unjust prosecution and will continue to stand with her as she fights for justice as a trans woman of color within the prison system.”

It is important to note that in addition to being obvious targets for violence from their fellow inmates; the prison system itself alienates trans people from basic administrative processes that deal with resources for health, well-being and survival, partly because their names and identities do not always match their official identification cards.

For some futher reading, has a page of resources on transgendered people in the Canadian prison system here.

More analysis of the Cece McDonald case by Dean Spade, lawyer, civil rights activist, writer and professor, who has dealt extensively with issues pertaining to trans people in the prison industrial complex, can be found at

And a list of transpeople unlawfully murdered is being built on wikipedia here… However, this list is nothing if not truncated… it is estimated that a transgendered person is murdered somewhere in the world every three days.

Trans people of colour are the most targeted community for violence at the hands of hate-minded private citizens and at the hands of the state. Venus Radio asks: WHY ARE WE SENDING TRANS PEOPLE OF COLOUR TO PRISON OVER SELF DEFENSE?


Meanwhile… here in Montreal, a small victory was made today when Concordia University ruled that students will now be able to use their chosen name on all correspondence with the school including, university IDs, class lists, exams, lists of grades, the university’s interactive registration site, everything except their permanent transcript.

Check out for more details.

In the meantime, to inspire us to toughen up and fight harder, BIG FREEDIA, please and thank you.



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