TW: Mentions of sexual abuse and violence against Trans Women.
Nicoll Hernandez-Polanco is a twenty-four year old woman who has spent the last six months in an all-male detention center. She has reported incessant sexual assault and abuse while being there. How could something so despicable happen to a young woman? Sadly, atrocities like this happen all the time because gender is still socially attributed to genitalia. Nicoll was locked away in an all-male nightmare because she has “balls”, which the guards often commented on while feeling her up, groping her breasts and butt and pulling her hair 6-8 times a day via ‘pat-down searches’. The only place that Nicoll found refuge was in solitary confinement. It’s been an unimaginable tragedy. Where has the big feminist backlash been? You know, that same backlash over the London “Beach Body” ads? Why weren’t we screaming for Nicoll’s justice the way we screamed about Veet’s “Don’t Risk Dudeness” Campaign?
This is intersectionality.
The stories above catch the main narrative: The cisgender straight women who society acknowledges. But the women-ofcolor who live outside of these social constructs (i.e. the cookie-cutter gender binary) face daily oppression so far beyond most people’s experience that it’s hard to fully grasp what’s going on.
That’s no excuse. Take interest. Break it down. Fight for Change. Solidarity.
That is intersecionality.
As a feminist that won’t ever face this problem, this story could have just fallen by my personal wayside. What does someone who the media has deemed an “illegal immigrant” somewhere across the country have to do with me? Nicholl wouldn’t be there if there was immigration justice, something I deal with in Germany as well! The oppression of one is the oppression of all. It has everything to do with me. And everything to do with you.
Injustice is injustice.
If we believe in gender equality, then transgender issues must also be a top priority for all of the feminist community. What makes me a woman is not the hole(s) between my legs, but the conditions under which I was raised that I happen to (mostly) be okay with now as an adult. Not everyone agrees with those conditions, and therefore, we cannot dismiss their needs and concerns if they choose to live beyond our limited ideas of gender. We all should still have the right to express ourselves openly and honestly without fear of violence. The fact that Trans Women and Trans men commonly face harassment, violence, and sexual assault without any protection from the law – from locking people up in unsafe places with no regard for that person’s gender, to countless murder cases of trans victims lost to the “Trans Panic Defense” – is shameful!
Nicoll was a victim of the immigration system. Current policies in place locked her up like a criminal for coming to America in search of shelter from the oppression she faced in her home country simply for existing. Yet she was welcomed to America by the same harsh conditions. This exposes violent transmisogyny in what’s supposed to be “The United States of America(!)” (*queue patriotic music*). So many of US social policies are shamefully cruel. The average first world feminist cannot stop all atrocities, but we can stop the ones happening on our soil, can’t we?
Oh, we can – and we did.
Because of grassroots organizations like Mariposas Sin Fronteras, Nicoll’s story got the public’s attention and we mobilized to fight for her. But now that our attention is here, we need to continue looking. This story is not finished because Nicoll is free. This is a systemic problem for all transgender people inside the prison industrial complex, especially those with migrational backgrounds. The work is not over.
Another woman should not ever have to experience the terror Nicoll has faced her entire life. Let’s start by fighting to change the atrocity she called life for 6 whole months. Regardless of gender or genitalia, we all need to make sure that women are respected, even in the (in)justice system. Women should not be locked away with men. People should not be locked away at all. That’s for another post.
We need immediate reform.