Tomas Green, 35, is a transgender man at the Central California Women’s Facility. Green references the case of Richard/Sherri Masbruch, who identified as a transgender woman. Masbruch, who had a conviction for violent rape, castrated herself while in men’s prison, and in 2008 was transferred to CCWF. (Masbruch’s placement was not successful). He agrees with many trans women prisoners that staff at the prison poisoned their entry by telling prisoners they were going to harm the women there and take over the prison.
Tomas Green, 35, transgender man at CCWF. Green references the case of Richard/Sherri Masbruch, who identified as a transgender woman. Masbruch, who had a conviction for violent rape, castrated herself while in men’s prison, and in 2008 was transferred to CCWF. The placement was not successful.
I’ve been in prison since 2007 and hopefully by the grace of God, I’ll be paroling at the end of this year. As a trans man, I feel that we get a lot of disrespect from staff. They abuse us, mistreat us. We’ve grown up our whole lives with the wrong body parts. We don’t look how we feel. So that’s why we go through transition. Officers will throw us around when we’re cuffed and say things like, ‘You think you’re a man, I’ll treat you like a man.” And when we get stripped down, they make a mockery of us. I tell them that my preference is to be searched by a man because I am. A man, but I get embarrassed because my full transition isn’t done due to lack of bottom surgery. I should not have to feel embarrassed. The search should be professional. I don’t feel like they should make any comments, like ‘Why would you want to be searched by a man if you look like that?’ The search should not consist of anybody insulting me. The strip search consists of me removing my clothes, you searching me, making sure I don’t have anything I’m not allowed to have. We’re not supposed to discuss anything further than that. And I feel like every time we get stripped out, it’s degrading.
We should be able to go into an institution and do our time. When we got sentenced, nowhere did it say, you’re being sentenced to this prison to be antagonized, harassed, retaliated against and abused, belittled, degraded. Nowhere did it say that in my sentencing. So, I feel like the officers, they abuse their authority and their power. Even with the security cameras and body-cams that they have now, they still do it. They turn ‘em off when they want and they’re supposed to be on 24/7. Or they say, ‘oh the cameras weren’t working that day we weren’t able to capture that.’
When we do report staff assaults or retaliation, we’re later punished for that. So, we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. If we report any kind of incident of an officer attacking us it comes with some type of backlash. Even if you have a lawsuit against this place, retaliation is going to come with it because you’re going against the institution. It’s not right. At the end of the day they took an oath to protect us, whether it’s from their staff or their inmates. That’s their job. There are some good staff who have spoken up on our behalf, and a lot of them are scared, like oh I’m gonna lose my job. It’s not only inmates who fear retaliation.
The treatment isn’t equal when it comes to relationships either. We’re in prison. Just because we’re transgender or cisgender, whatever we may be, at the end of the day we’re human. We want human contact. We can’t help but adapt to other people and love them, or be in a relationship with them. I’m not saying every relationship in here is just peachy perfect. No. You have a lot of relationships in here that are toxic, fight, argue. But that’s life in the free world. No relationship is perfect. But for some of us, CDCR makes it seem like it’s such a bad thing. Intimacy is not a bad thing.
Let’s say there’s two cis women. They’re in a full-blown relationship. They’re hugging, walking around the yard kissing, whatever that might be. Most officers won’t say nothing to them. Let it be a trans male with a cis-woman or anything that looks the opposite of the other gender, it’s an automatic issue. Or if you’re lying next to each other in the dorm watching TV. If they see facial hair, immediately, bam, going down. A bald head, or even short hair – there are some girls that have short hair and it’s two cis women but because she has some type of manly look, so guess what we’re writing them up for behavior that could lead to sexual activity. It is against the rules so we have to fight it, but the rules are applied very loosely. It’s bias at the end of the day. How is it that this is a rule for this set of inmates, but for these ciswomen it isn’t a rule. Treat us the same way, no matter what I look like on the outside.
When we heard about SB 132, a lot of cisgender women here were afraid. Richard Masbruch was the first male-to-female to come to this prison. Long story short, the women did not get along with [her]. There was an altercation that occurred, and Masbruch got moved out. A lot of the cis women here remember that. They were scared that people would be coming in pretending to be trans women. It became a big thing. We already had a trans male population here, so we started thinking about how we could show the cisgender women that not all trans people are like that. Lately we’ve been creating a lot of groups. We sit there every weekend, and we talk from 1 to 4 p.m. and explain it all, what it means to be transgender. We try to express and help each other the best we can because we don’t get a lot of support from the system.
It’s been hard for the trans women. They’ve been punished a lot for relationships. Some officers started telling the cisgender partners to say that they were forced, that they were raped, that the trans woman is a predator. I’ve heard it and seen it, officers telling them, “She’s trans. They’re not supposed to be in this prison anyway, so call PREA and I’ll send you back out. You’ll go back to your building, and the trans woman’s going to AdSeg.” The seed that some of these officers have planted in the ciswomen’s heads is that maybe they’ll be able to say they were raped and then sue, and get some money out of it. Some of them have been trying to ruin people’s lives in hopes of getting a little cash.
On the other side of things, there’s a lot of cisgender women who are sexually interested in the trans women. I’ve seen ciswomen asking trans women, ‘Can I see your penis?’ If they say no, the ciswoman’s gonna feel some type of way. She didn’t show it to me and now she’s over there talking to someone else. There’s rejection, jealousy, envy. So sometimes the cis woman who was rejected will call PREA.
The sad thing with the trans women is before they even got here, staff were already calling them rapists, child molesters, saying they had AIDS and HIV. That’s what I’ve tried to explain to the cisgenders. I don’t feel that CDCR properly introduced the trans women to this facility. They just got thrown here, like you guys deal with it, figure it out on your own. You’ve got women here who’ve been molested and raped, don’t care for males, period. They’re already seeing us transitioning into males, and then you got trans women coming from a men’s prison. Some of them are mid-transition, some are not transitioned at all, others are fully transitioned. So it was complicating. It was confusing for a lot of the cis women, like is this a co-ed prison now? A lot of questions were raised and I don’t think they were properly answered. There should have been more communication – just to be more sensitive of the needs of the cisgender women. To tell them, maybe there will be one or two who may manipulate the system, but do not take that out on every single transgender woman.