Masculinity as Prison: Sexual Identity, Race, and Incarceration

05 Oct 2011 04:55pm Russell K. Robinson 

The Los Angeles County Men's Jail segregates gay and transgender inmates and says that it does so to protect them from sexual assault. But not all gay and transgender inmates qualify for admission to the K6G unit. Transgender inmates must appear transgender to staff that inspect them. Gay men must identify as gay in a public space and then satisfactorily answer a series of cultural questions designed to determine whether they really are gay. This policy creates harms for those who are excluded, including vulnerable heterosexual and bisexual men, men who have sex with men but do not embrace gay identity, and gay-identified men who do not mimic white, affluent gay culture. Further, the policy harms those who are included in that it stereotypes them as inherent victims, exposes them to a heightened risk of HIV transmission, and disrupts relationships that cut across gender identity and sexual orientation. Thus, this Article casts doubt on the claim that the policy is intended to and actually protects gay and transgender inmates. Moreover, it interrogates the Jail's failure to protect many other categories of inmates who have been shown to be vulnerable to sexual assault in jails, including those who are young, first-time offenders and those with disabilities. The Jail's policy ultimately reflects and reinforces problematic social assumptions about masculinity, including the notion that gay men are not "real men."

Read Professor Emen's response in the Circuit here and Professor Boucai's response in the Circuit here.

 

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