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      Tranny in a Man’s Jail

      June 1, 2010

      By Vito Fun



      My friend Kira is a 28-year-old transsexual who recently became a free woman after spending three years in New York’s worst men’s prison. Kira was born a man in Hialeah, Florida, a short drive from Miami. Her parents were Colombian immigrants who loved and spoiled her very much, partially because she was the youngest of five brothers and two sisters.

      Early on, Kira’s family knew that she was different. In kindergarten she timidly questioned her gender identity even though she didn’t yet fully understand the concept. She enjoyed feminine activities like hairdressing. Her brothers called her a faggot and told her she didn’t belong in the family. At the age of eight she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder, and a year later Kira’s mother was sent to prison for selling cocaine. The family disbanded and Kira was forced to move in with her father.

      By 13, Kira knew that she wanted a sex change, and a few years later, she came out to her parents. They accepted what she had to say, and they respected her for telling them the truth. She got a job bagging groceries, and by the time she was 20, Kira had saved enough money to move to New York, where she underwent various gender-reassignment surgeries. She had laser hair removal and her breasts grew to a 38DD overnight—for once it seemed things were looking up for her.

      Then, in 2006, her dad experienced a blood clot and grew ill. She had already planned to attend the Winter Music Conference in Florida, so she decided to spend some time down South to care for her sick father. She had been there for a few boring months when she received a phone call from a friend urging her to return to New York. Little did she know it would be the beginning of three years of incarceration, during which she would endure soul-crushing prison guards, life-threatening conditions, violent inmates, and a terrifying smorgasbord of base humanity. I sat down with Kira to put her story on paper and get the word out about the need for the prison system to protect LGBT inmates from the unique dangers they face behind bars.

      Vice: What sparked the vortex of unfortunate situations and horrible conditions that began for you about four years ago?
      Kira:
      After being in Florida for a few months taking care of my dad, I grew really, really bored. There’s nothing to do down there except go to the beach. I was dying to get out, and in early June I received a phone call from a friend who lived in Long Island. He said, “Kira, I know we had a falling out, but you’re my best friend and I need you. Can you come to New York?” Back then I was an escort, and I was like, “You know times are tough here. I have no money.” He offered to pay for my trip and asked when I wanted to come. I was on a flight the next day.

      How long did it take for you to get into some trouble?
      As soon as I met up with him, it was like a drug fest. He had a crystal pipe waiting for me in the car at the airport, and we started smoking then and there. After I got off the airplane, my mission was to party.

      So you just went out to a club immediately?
      I got a hit of that glass cig, baby, and I went out Friday night until Saturday night. Then we went to an after-hours place. Sunday night we went to Asseteria, and Monday morning we went to the Green Room. Then I went to my girlfriend’s house after that. Eventually she was like, “My kids are coming home. You’re going to have to go, girl.” When I finally got home I was in a delirious state.

      You still hadn’t slept?
      No, and I was really horny. I got on the computer and I started looking for sex. My ex-boyfriend instant-messaged me to ask if I was in New York, even though I thought I had him blocked. I told him I was in Miami. He kept asking if I had any drugs, and finally I caved and told him I was in New York and had an E pill, a 50 bag of crystal, and a little bit of K. I agreed to meet him. On the way out, I ran into another friend and he fronted me an eightball of meth and an eightball of coke. He offered me a ride to my ex’s place in Queens, but I forgot exactly where he lived. I called to ask for directions and he said for us to meet him at the Burger King close to his house.

      That sounds really fishy.
      Well, my friend drove me to Burger King and he went in to get some food for us. As he was coming back out, my ex pulled up in a Mercedes SUV. He got out of the car, and I ran up and jumped on top of him and we started making out. Almost immediately he asked about the drugs and I ran back to my friend’s car to grab my purse. Out of nowhere someone slammed me onto the car. I felt like my tits were going to explode. I looked over at my friend who drove us there and saw that he was also pressed up against the car. I mouthed to him, “What the fuck is going on here?”

      Did the police find your stuff right away?
      Yeah, and then a cop came up to me with a big wad of money and said, “What’s this?” I told him it wasn’t mine. He threw it on the ground next to me and said, “It is now.” I was wearing heels, a micro-miniskirt, and a tube top. The cop felt he had the right to grab what he thought was my pussy. When he felt a bulge, he freaked out. He screamed, “This is a fucking faggot!” Once he realized I was a transsexual he tightened the cuffs. He was going to be nice and let me keep my Burger King when he thought I was a girl, but after he realized I wasn’t, he just stomped on it. It was so mean. I had barely eaten anything in a week!

      What happened when you got to jail?
      The cops at the police station didn’t know what to do with me. They were like, “We have never seen one as passable as you. We don’t want to get in your business, but what do you have down there?” I was in shock. I told them, “Look, I’m a pre-op transsexual; I have breasts and a penis. Whatever the fuck you have to do, just make sure I’m safe.” A female officer strip-searched the top half of my body and a man searched my bottom half. Then I was interrogated. They claimed that they also found an ounce of cocaine in the car even though all I had was a bit of crystal and some coke. I thought they were just trying to bully me.

      You really didn’t know anything about the ounce of coke?
      No, they were either making it up or it belonged to the guy who drove me. Three days later I was finally sent to court. Before seeing the judge, a legal aide sat down with me and told me this bullshit story fabricated by the cops. I said, “The only thing that’s true is that I had an eightball of coke and an eightball of crystal. Everything else is a lie. I was not prostituting and I had no ad on the internet. This is ridiculous.” He told me to be quiet and sign some forms. I was signing all this paperwork, but I didn’t know what it all meant. The judge finally called me in and set my bail at $350,000. My mouth dropped.




      Were you sent to prison immediately? Where were you held?
      This place called “the boat.” It’s a holding area for Rikers Island. It’s a jail boat. When you get there, they give you a physical. The doctor asked me, “Do you want to go to homo housing?” He said it would be safer for me, so I signed the papers and thought I was going in with the girls. But when I walked into the room I saw something like 60 guys. It was general population—apparently homo housing had been closed a month ago and the doctor hadn’t heard. Thankfully, the cops gave me a triple-extra-large jumpsuit to hide my breasts. The inmates just thought I was a faggot and started screaming that I couldn’t sleep there.

      On top of all this, I imagine you were still coming down from all the meth.
      Oh yeah, I was freaking out. I was tweaking hardcore. It was horrible. But I finally found a place to fall asleep. The next few days were rough and I hadn’t bathed because I was terrified of being naked in front of the other prisoners. Another inmate came up to me and told me my body odor was offensive. I told him I was scared to take a shower and he gave me shit about it, so I pulled my jumpsuit open. He understood once he saw my tits and helped work out a time where I could shower while the other inmates were in the yard. And then, a little while later, they moved me from the boat to Rikers Island.

      Were things more intense there?
      The second day I was in the house, I was watching TV and this black guy walked up and said, “You’re in my seat.” I just ignored him. Then he was like, “You fucking faggot! Didn’t you hear me?” When he called me that something inside of me snapped. I picked up the chair next to me and slammed it into his head. I knocked him on the floor and started swinging on him. I found out later that I had made a big mistake because the kid was a Blood.

      What were the consequences? Did other Bloods come after you?
      They gave me a warning. They told me I had to pack up and leave or I would be stabbed or killed. I guess I was lucky, because they told me that if I wasn’t a transvestite I wouldn’t have received a warning. So I requested to be transferred to another section of the jail and moved out.

      Were there any more repercussions from that incident?
      They moved me to the most dangerous house in that part of Rikers Island. It’s called D-top. I could tell that no one in that house wanted me there. I was transferred late at night, and all these guys were screaming the meanest shit at me. I came out to eat for the first time and noticed that there was maybe one Hispanic guy in the house. Everybody else was black and either a Muslim or a Blood. Immediately people started threatening me and told me to get out of the house or I would be beaten or killed. I told the guards and they said I needed to provide the names of the people who threatened me before they’d move me out, but I knew my rights and told them they had to move me if I thought my life was at risk. They finally agreed and I was relocated to another area of the prison near the cafeteria.

      Was the new spot any safer?
      Well, something different happened this time. There was this older black guy in this section who was a tranny chaser—they called him a “booty bandit.”

      Does that mean he was a rapist?
      No, he just liked ass and would do whatever he could to get it. He was obsessed with me. He was responsible for making a rule that only I could shower at 7:30 in the morning so “nobody would bother me.” But the real reason he made that rule was so he could watch me shower while he jerked his dick into a urinal. The worst part was he was one of the Blood leaders in that house, and if anyone found out, they might think I was provoking him. Eventually I told some Hispanic guys what was going on, and they told one of the Bloods.

      That sounds pretty risky. What happened?
      One morning I got up and took a shower. Of course, the pervert comes over to the urinal and starts whacking it. He was concentrating so hard on jacking off that he didn’t even notice that a fellow Blood member snuck up behind him. All of a sudden the Blood slammed his fist on the tiles and the perv knew he was caught. He had disgraced the Bloods, so he immediately packed up his stuff and left.

      Did you stay in that section for the rest of your time at Rikers?
      No. There’s a rule at Rikers Island—you’re not allowed to live in the same area for more than one year, so eventually they moved me to what I thought was the most dangerous building in the entire prison. It’s called the Beacon.

      Why was it so dangerous?
      It’s where all the gangbangers and crazy-ass people are. There’s no “movement” in the entire place—you have to eat in your cell and you’re not really allowed out except to shower and get food. It’s basically where all the murderers go. I was livid and terrified because I was comfortable where I was and I’d felt pretty safe. But my officers promised they were moving me to a better place—they were taking me to a place with less jail politics. I came to realize that it was a Crip house, and the Crips can’t really fuck with anyone in that section because if they do they’ll be transferred to a Blood house and probably get killed.

      So the transfer turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
      At first I was mad, but then I realized I had my own cell with a view of Manhattan, the midtown skyline, and the river. I also had central air conditioning, and it was the middle of summer. It was like a luxury resort compared to where I was living before. I got a good night’s sleep and the next morning one of the guards told me that there was a girl like me in the house. When I was eating breakfast someone walked in front of my stall and said, “All right, Miss Honey! Finally a girl that looks real.” Her name was Venus and she was a black tranny from South Carolina. She had already done ten years, and it was good having her in the house because it made me feel like nothing bad was going to happen to me.

      Was she the only other tranny in the house?
      Unfortunately, no. There was this other girl, if I can even call her that. She just appeared out of nowhere one day while I was eating, and I almost gagged. She was this big old black gorilla—a fucking beast. Her name was Lisa. She wore one of those wigs old black ladies wear with the little braids and the bangs. She swore it was her real hair. Her eye was indented, like she had been in a lot of fights, and she had these huge tits that looked like saggy yams. She would piss with the door open, standing up. When she’d take a shit, she’d get up from the toilet seat and blood would just be coming out of her ass. It was gross.

      Ew, that’s disgusting.
      Yeah, the Crips hated her, but they kept their distance because you could tell she could kick some ass. She started to get really jealous because I would get attention from guys, which wasn’t even sexual—it was friendly attention.

      So you didn’t have much trouble in the Beacon?
      I was only there for a few months until I finally went to court on December 5th. My lawyer said I had a choice: I could go to trial or cop out to a plea of three years. If I went to trial I’d have to pay my lawyer more money and if the state wasn’t willing to separate our cases—the driver and I—we’d get tried together. If I lost the case, there was a risk that I would have to stay in jail even longer, so I just took the three-year sentence. I had already been in Rikers for 18 months and that time would count toward my sentence. I tried to get my classification dropped because I was at an A-2, which is one step below a murderer. I explained that I had never been to jail before, but they weren’t having it. They told me it would not be lowered and that I was going to be sent upstate. They sent me back to the Beacon for a few days and then transferred me.


      This is Kira at Rikers. She carries this Polaroid in her purse
      to remind her to not do anything wrong.

      Did you have any idea what to expect upstate? Were you worried?
      I was terrified because the correction officers at Rikers are so different from the guards upstate, where they can get away with anything. I heard that upstate officers sexually harass gays and trannies and beat them up. They sent me to a facility known as Downstate, which is confusing because it’s actually in upstate New York. Downstate is kind of like a reception area. It’s not a long-term facility. So I was only there for a little under two months before they moved me to the Auburn Correctional Facility. I was freaking out because it is a maximum-security prison.

      And Downstate isn’t?
      Downstate is maximum-security, but it didn’t look scary. Auburn looked scary. It was tall, dark, and rainy, and they moved me in the middle of the night. They always move people around when they first arrive, and eventually they moved me to D-block.

      That doesn’t sound like the most inviting place to be.
      Yeah, the guards were pretty bad. They’d show me off to other inmates and say stuff like, “Doesn’t this one look female?” It was so embarrassing. Other inmates would put their mirrors out into the hall so they could see who was coming, and whenever I came down they’d scream, “Look at the chump!” I was worried someone would throw hot water or boiling oil at me. I’d just go to my cell and cry. I felt like I was losing my mind. I was in D-block from February to April, and eventually they moved me to C-block, where I underwent a drug-treatment program. It was less dangerous, but out of nowhere my teeth started to hurt. Turns out I had to get my wisdom teeth removed, and in order to do that I had to be temporarily transferred to Attica, where they had the facility to perform the surgery. Attica is legendary for being the worst prison in New York.

      Did that turn out to be true?
      I’ll put it this way: As soon as I arrived they strip-searched me. The officer who was going to search me told me not to move, but while he was searching me I got this really bad urge to sneeze. I tried to fight it, but eventually I just had to let it out. As soon as I did, he slammed my face into the wall and said, “I thought I fucking told you not to move, you fucking faggot! You see what you made me do?” After that he took me to the medical ward and the officer on duty there took one look at my nails and said, “If you don’t cut your fucking nails I’m going to break your fingers. I don’t care if you have to bite them off, chew them off, or swallow them. They better be off the next time I make my rounds.”

      So what did you do? Chew your nails off?
      Yeah! And after that he said, “Since you’re a fucking faggot, I’m not going to put you in the cell with other men because you’re going to be too busy sucking dicks all day long.”

      Attica sounds like hell. How long did you have to stay there?
      About a week. My surgery was supposed to happen the day after I arrived and then I was due to head back to Auburn. In the morning they woke us up and said, “Y’all are going to get x-rayed and the doctor is going to see what he can do for you.” The doctor x-rayed me and said, “You have two on the top that aren’t completely out, but they’re pushing out—they’re impacted. The bottom ones need surgery and we can’t do it today, but I can just yank the top ones out.” So I got the top two removed, and I stayed another night because the dentist was supposed to be back the next day to take care of my bottom teeth. But he didn’t come, and they just kept holding me there longer and longer. Eventually I talked to some other inmates and they told me to just go back to Auburn. They said that I was going to end up in a very bad situation if I just kept waiting for the dentist or reported him. So I just sucked it up and was done with it. When I got back to Auburn I thought they were going to put me back in the same cell I was in, but they moved me to the most dangerous block in the prison—A-block—where the officers are very fresh.

      What do you mean by fresh?
      Verbally fresh. They would just scream at me, holler at me, and make noises. They would walk by my cell and tell me to suck their dicks through the bars, to show them my titties, and to bend down and open my ass. It was some really uncalled-for stuff. And the cops heard about some personal photos I had and wanted to see them. I wouldn’t let them see my pictures because they were assholes, so one day while I was in the yard they flipped my cell and took all of my photos. All of them!

      Jesus. Did things ever get any better?
      From A-block I went back to C-block, and everything was always fine in C-block, the officers were cool with me. But then they moved me to E-block. The E-block itself wasn’t that bad, but in order to get to it you had to walk through A-block. That meant I had to deal with all of the same asshole officers who were harassing me in the first place just to get to my cell! There was a point where I didn’t even go to lunch or dinner because I was so scared to deal with the nasty comments.

      How did you finally get out of jail?
      I had a record of good behavior and I had been in a state-run drug-rehab program. When I completed it they released me on my own merit. I was locked up for just under three years.

      Can you summarize your feelings about how the LGBT community is treated in the American prison system?
      What’s going on with the jail system is that they think gays, transgenders, and transsexuals are worthless people—especially if you’re black or Hispanic. They put these types of people away for the stupidest things and give them the maximum amount of time they can, because they figure no one cares about you—there are already two strikes against you because you’re black or Hispanic and gay or transsexual. They feel like they can do whatever they want to you, and many times they can.
       

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      Topics: LGBT, prison stories

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