Head, meet desk. Repeat until you fall off your chair.

May 27, 2009

Via the Psychology Today blog, here’s all the trans-misogyny, cissexism, transphobia and downright stupidity you can eat; free of charge courtesy the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and an alleged clinical psychologist who works for said Department. Take it away, Marisa Mauro, Psy.D:

Transgendered in Prison

During my first week of work at the prison I spotted a beautiful inmate with dark flowing hair, impeccably arched eyebrows, and a trim figure sitting on the bench amongst muscled and tattooed men with her legs primly crossed.

Confused I’d turned to a nearby colleague for answers, “I didn’t know we accepted female inmates,” I half stated and half asked.

“We don’t,” she replied matter-of-factly and then paused to look up at me questioningly. Her furrowed brow showed bewilderment but her eyes gave away her amusement.

Because us trans women, we’re a laugh, aren’t we, with our pretending to be Real Women™ and everything?

“What about her?” I countered, motioning to the inmate.

Her eyes followed my gaze. She spotted the inmate and chuckled to herself. “That’s not a woman,” she managed, shaking her head with disapproval, “that’s a he-she. To be here, he must be a man from the waist down.”

“He-she”. Could you not think of a more offensive term, then? “A man from the waist down”? Because obviously if you have male genitalia, well, how can you possibly call yourself a woman?

She scanned my face for understanding. Finding only confusion she continued, “They go to the men’s prison if they have male genitalia and the women’s prison if they have women’s. It doesn’t matter what’s going on from the waist up or what gender they think they are.”

Correction: “it doesn’t matter” – to employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – “what’s going on from the waist up or what gender they think they are”.

I finally understood what she was telling me. I began to berate myself in my mind: He is transgendered!

Who’s transgendered? She. She’s transgendered.

I can’t believe you didn’t immediately identify that – how ignorant.

Funny that – I was just thinking the same thing.

And embarrassed by my own lack of understanding, I silently vowed not to be so unperceptive in the future.

Why waste any more time? Why not start being more perceptive right now?

As a psychologist, I had considered myself to be relatively well informed about individual differences […]

And as a trans woman, I’d have hoped that a psychologist would be relatively well-informed, too. So what happened to you, then?

but I must admit that until this particular moment, I had always harbored a certain image of an inmate – male, muscular, tattooed, weathered and tough.

Because everyone knows that all men universally conform to that particular set of stereotypes, don’t they?

The shattering of this stereotype made me realize two things: One, how much more I still had to learn about working with this population and two, that the clinical application of theory is more difficult than reading about it.

1. You got that right.

2. Is it? So how about you take your theories off trans women’s bodies until you’ve got a grip on your subject?

Perhaps most challenging for me is that most transgendered inmates prefer to be addressed by their ‘female’ names and referred to using the feminine pronouns, ‘she’ and ‘her’. Fellow inmates tend to respect these requests, but the issue is rather complicated for staff – it is most respectful to address all inmates in a male institution by their last name, i.e. Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith and may be disrespectful to refer to them as women.

“Challenging”? “May be disrespectful to refer to them as women”? Can you really not see the problem here?

All in all, I continue to be impressed with the showing of tolerance towards these individuals in prison. Some institutions even provide support groups for transgendered inmates. If I were to have guessed, without the benefit of my experience, I would have been confident that the system would somehow not allow for transgendered inmates. I would have been wrong.

“Tolerance”? How can you just sit there, with your cis privilege hanging out all over the place, claiming that the system you work for is “tolerant”? Did you not even bother to read your own article (much less think about it)? Words fail.

Oh, and that noise? That would be me, banging my head against the desk.


6 Responses to “Head, meet desk. Repeat until you fall off your chair.”

  1. Jess Says:

    It would be ‘interesting’ to hear what she would call intolerant, really!

  2. Elly Says:

    “If I were to have guessed, without the benefit of my experience, I would have been confident that the system would somehow not allow for transgendered inmates”

    WTF ? Does she even realizes that prison isn’t exactly a place where you come because you knock at the door and ask “oh, ‘scuse me, I’d like to enter, do you allow me?”

  3. GallingGalla Says:

    psychology today is a cesspool of sexism and misogyny. they regularly publish “articles” pushing evo-psych bullshit justifying rape as “that’s how men are wired, evolution, y’no!”.

  4. jemimaaslana Says:

    Ouch. That hurt to read. I don’t think tolerance is her issue. Ignorance seems to be it.


  5. psychstudent Says:

    As a psychology student, I have had the privilege of learning about working with transgendered clients. I will admit that initially I lacked knowledge in that area, but like anything, isn’t it better that Dr. Mauro is accepting and aware that she needs to increase her knowledge in working with transgendered inmates? I also worked in a prison in mental health services and can relate to her experience, to some extent, upon encountering my first transgendered inmate. I don’t think that makes me a bad person, just someone who needed to broaden her horizons, and has.

  6. Helen G Says:

    psychstudent: And as a trans woman, I’m interested to know why a highly-qualified clinical psychologist was apparently unaware of the existence of trans people – and then proceeded to let her own personal prejudices dictate her professional reactions and approach to those of my trans sisters in her care.

    ETA: “Accepting”? The woman talks of “tolerance”. Did she “tolerate” the cis inmates? Tolerance is a long way removed from acceptance. Why should trans people merely be “tolerated”, simply because we’re trans?

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