In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Resources on Transsexual/Transgender People in Prison

Below are several links to related reports, position papers and other online resources.

Synthia Kavanagh Human Rights Complaint

Synthia Kavanagh filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) based on the treatment she received as a transsexual women in the prison system. She was placed in a men's prison where she received only restricted hormone therapy and was refused her repeated requests for sex reassignment surgery. She served several years in segregation after being taunted, harassed, and sexually assaulted while in the general population. Synthia won her case at the CHRC in 2001. She received sex reassignment surgery and was moved to a women's prison. CSC appealed the case but lost the appeal in 2003.

The CHRC ruling stated:
  • Not placing pre-operative transgendered people in prisons for their targeted sex was reasonable given the circumstances of prison life. However, the Tribunal also observed that this did not in any way diminish the need to do everything possible to accommodate transgendered people in prison, such as protecting them from sexual attacks and harassment.
  • Transsexuals and their housing needs should be assessed individually in consultation with a physician expert in the treatment of gender dysphoria.
  • Policy should permit incarcerated individuals who had completed the qualifying period for sex reassignment surgery before going to jail to have the necessary surgery while in prison, if surgery was recommended by their physicians.
  • CSC is expected to cover the costs of surgery for transsexual inmates who meet the above criteria.
Full CHRC Decision:
The Correctional Service of Canada's current policy:
National Post Article: CSC Loses Appeal in Transsexual Human Rights Case

Transsexuals in Canadian prisons: An Equality Analysis
June 1999
barbara findlay

This paper is written for two audiences: a panel on transsexuals in prison for lesbian gay bisexual and transgender lawyers at the Lavender Law 1999 conference in Seattle Wa in October 1999, and a panel on transgendered people and the law at the Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) conference in Vancouver, B.C., Canada in November 1999. barbara findlay was the lawyer for Synthia Kavanagh with respect to her individual complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. This paper has details of the case, but was written before the CHRC case was finished.

Full Paper:

HIV/AIDS In The Male-To-Female Transsexual And Transgendered Prison Population: A Comprehensive Strategy
A Brief From The Prisoners' HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN)
May 1999

The Prisoners' HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN) is a community-based network of prisoners, ex-prisoners, organizations, activists and individuals working together to provide advocacy, education and support to prisoners on HIV/AIDS and related issues. Since 1993, PASAN has worked with over 200 HIV positive prisoners from across Canada. Approximately 10% of PASAN's HIV positive clients identify as transsexual or transgendered (TS/TG). This experience has led us to document many specific barriers faced by TS/TG prisoners living with HIV/AIDS in accessing proper HIV/AIDS care and other support services. This brief has been produced in an attempt to identify these specific and significant issues, and recommend solutions.

Full Brief:

Trans People in the Criminal Justice System
A Guide For Criminal Justice Personnel
Joshua Mira Goldberg
for the Women/Trans Dialogue Planning Committee, the Justice Institute of BC, and the Trans Alliance Society

The purpose of this information package is to provide criminal justice personnel and those who work with them in policing, court services, and corrections with the information necessary to respond appropriately to trans individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Complete Guide & 2004 Update:

Trans Health Project
A position paper and resolution adopted by the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA)
2003 Executive Summary: Background & Rationale

The Trans Health Project is sponsored by a workgroup of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA): The Public Health Alliance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Two-Spirit, Queer and Questioning Equity. In June 2000, the OPHA workgroup wrote a position paper: Improving the access to and quality of public health services for lesbians and gay men. This paper identified a need to investigate the specific needs, unique barriers and existing gaps in service for transpeople in Ontario, in terms of access and equity around health care. A call for researchers went out in August 2002 and two investigators from the trans community were subsequently hired in October 2002 for the 14-month Trans Health Project.

It is evident that issues of diversely situated transpeople and their communities are complex. Despite the increasing visibility of transpeople and their health concerns in research literature, there is a gap in transpositive care for transpeople. This paper is a call for action for the Ontario Public Health Association to disseminate this paper and advocate on behalf of trans communities for the education of health providers and communities, more inviting services and multi-level action across sectors which will support the health and well-being of transpeople.

Full Paper:

Other Resources:

On Other Resources:
  • Prisoner of Gender Johnson, Katherine & Stephanie Castle 1997. Vancouver: Perceptions Press
    This books is an account of one transsexual's prison experiences speaks for all transsexuals caught in the system. It tells of a heartless, authoritarian prison bureaucracy, a state within a state, unmindful of either human rights or dignity and stupified by its own ineptness
    More Details on the book
  • Trans/Gender Variant in Prison Committee (A California Prison Focus Committee)

  • Cruel And Unusual - A film looking at the experience of transgender women in men's prisons in the US.

  • The Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project's mission is to challenge and end the human rights abuses committed against transgender, gender variant/genderqueer and intersex (TGI) people in California prisons and beyond.

  • This episode of the online trans radio program, GenderTalk, features and interview with Cole Thaler, Lambda Legal's national transgender rights attorney, on a pending lawsuit by two trans prisoners in Wisconsin to obtain appropriate medical care.