Female Keep Separate: Prisons, Gender, and the Violence of Inclusion

When finally the cell door closes, when the jangling keys recede, you’ve arrived as far as you’re going that day. Then you can exhale alone with your mattress and be in your own body again, your body no longer a problem to be solved or a question to be answered. Just your own familiar weight under the blanket, where you can just shake and shake and try to sleep and get ready for whatever happens next.

I’ve done time in both men and women’s prisons, and from this I’ve learned a lot of things about the world we live in. About gender and how the state perceives it, about how gender is a form of control. Here in the territory called Canada, the state changed its rules about how its institutions engage with gender a few years ago by listing “gender identity” as a charter-protected category, like race or sex, in Bill C-16i. This meant that all the arms of the state have been required to figure out what it means to respect self-identification around gender. Read More …