Inclusive Exclusions, or Exclusive Inclusions? Ambivalent Trans Depathologization in the Canadian Prison
Historically, prison authorities have cited security concerns to justify policies relying on trans prisoners’ genitalia alone – meaning, on their pre- or post-surgical status – to decide on which side of sex-segregation to place them. In Canada, recent legislative changes have partially shifted the norms of trans recognition from a reliance on bio-essentialist trans ‘pathologization’ to an increasing affirmation of gender ‘self-determination’. In turn, human rights complaint cases and mounting pressure from trans and other advocates have gradually forced prison authorities to rethink and reform their management of gendered difference. Informed by two years of multi-sited fieldwork conducted across Canada, I describe the emergence of a new, ostensibly depathologized trans policy regime. However, this talk reveals that if new policies promised to affirm gender self-determination, they have also remained in a chronic and ambivalent tension with prisons’ risk-management mandate.