Trans embodiment in carceral space: hypermasculinity and the US prison industrial complex

Rae Rosenberg, Natalie Oswin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Queer geographers have recently begun to examine the lives of transgender persons, a heretofore gap in the literature. This article examines the experiences of incarcerated trans persons in the USA, thus extending this nascent trans geography work by considering a new population in a new space. As some scholarly and activist research has shown over the last decade or so, US trans persons are incarcerated at a disproportionately high rate and face harsh conditions while imprisoned. First-hand accounts of trans prisoners' experiences are, however, limited due to the difficulty of accessing this population for research purposes. Working in cooperation with a Montreal-based organization that facilitates pen-pal communications between queer persons inside and outside penitentiaries in the USA, we conducted qualitative research with 23 trans feminine individuals confined in facilities in several states. Our findings unfortunately corroborate the findings laid out in the small existing literature on trans prisoner issues, demonstrating that they endure harsh conditions of confinement. We detail these conditions here, while also pointing to informant responses that offer insight into the ways in which trans incarcerated persons cope with the hypermasculine and heteronormative environment of the US prison. These results are offered in the spirit of advancing a queer abolitionist politics that centers the knowledge and experiences of trans incarcerated persons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1286
JournalGender, Place and Culture
Issue number9
Early online date22 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2015


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