Transgender Inmate Called 'Tay Tay' Sues for Transfer to Women's Prison
A transgender inmate serving a prison sentence with the Illinois Department of Corrections has filed a lawsuit against the state that demands a transfer to a women’s prison.
The Associated Press reported that the anonymous inmate serving time for an armed robbery conviction — a male who self-identifies as a female — was known only by the moniker “Tay Tay.” That inmate has accused the state prison system of failing to protect against abuse from other inmates for more than 15 years.
The lawsuit was filed against the IDOC by attorneys for the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center on behalf of the inmate.
The 24-page lawsuit alleged that Tay Tay has consistently faced assaults and taunts with regard to gender identity, and was allegedly even raped on at least one occasion by a cellmate.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Tay Tay is currently being held at the medium-security men’s prison known as the Danville Correctional Center. The lawsuit demands that the inmate be transferred to a women’s prison known as the Logan Correctional Center.
One of the inmate’s attorneys, Sheila Bedi of the MacArthur Justice Center, asserted in a statement, “As a result of the IDOC’s systemic failure to keep trans women in custody safe from sexual violence, Tay Tay has survived attacks, threats and constant harassment.”
The lawsuit alleged that the prison staff ignored the report of prison rape by a cellmate, and further alleged that officials with the IDOC’s Internal Affairs had threatened Tay Tay with solitary confinement as punishment if any further complaints were filed.
In a statement from the Uptown People’s Law Center, attorneys noted that Tay Tay had initially requested a transfer to a women’s prison in 2012. However, the IDOC has instead transferred the inmate to four different men’s prisons over the past seven years.
It was duly noted by both the Sun-Times and AP that a similar year-long legal battle was recently fought and won on behalf of a transgender inmate named Strawberry Hampton, who succeeded in getting a transfer to a women’s prison in 2018.
In a perfect world, and if it could be certain that the requested transfer of Tay Tay from a men’s to women’s prison could be done without any impact on female inmates, this most likely would not be an issue worth waging a legal battle over.
Unfortunately, Tay Tay’s transfer would undoubtedly have some sort of impact on the biologically female inmates at the women’s prison, and odds are great that the impact would be more negative than positive.
That is something both the courts and the state must take into careful consideration when weighing the merits of the case.
Looking at the case more broadly, this appears to be an instance where one individual representing a tiny fraction of the greater population is, in effect, holding the larger population and society in general hostage to a demand for a significant disruption to long-standing societal norms — namely imprisoning men and women inmates in separate facilities.
That is decidedly unfair to the larger population that abides by the societal standards, who have essentially been told they must bow to the whims of the aggrieved minority and comply with their demands, no matter how out of the ordinary those demands may be and with no consideration of how such compliance may adversely impact society as a whole.
Furthermore, this is a clear-cut case of the infamous “slippery slope” that everyone constantly worries about.
Should this request be granted and become the norm — transferring inmates to the gender-specific prison facility of their choice, not the one that matches their biological sex — what is to stop such a precedent from being expanded to accommodate other, even more outrageous demands, such as an adult prisoner identifying as a juvenile with a demand to be incarcerated with adolescents and children?
It remains to be seen how the courts in Illinois will rule on this matter, but hopefully common sense will prevail and inmates will continue to be housed with other inmates who share the same biological sex.
Adequate precautions and protective measures could also be put in place to accommodate individuals with particular needs, such as keeping transgender inmates separate from the general population or fully investigating complaints of abuse in good faith.
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