Thoughts from the Gender Barred Colloquium

These week I had the honor to meet Erica Meiners, Eric Stanley, and Chris Vargas who absolutely blew my mind at the Gender Barred Colloquium that tied together gender, sexuality, race, and mass incarceration. With thoughts twirling and whirling, here are some of my newly added vocabulary, points to ponder, new books to read, projects to look into, and the trailer for “Criminal Queers.”

Exploring Rhetoric:

  • civic death – punishment for crimes continues after “re-entry”,  for example: cannot acquire a job, housing, child custody, or vote; therefore, therefor re-entry is a myth and does not provide a civic life
  • previously incarcerated / person behind bars vs. ex-con / prisoner – compare use of language in regards to violence to humans and communities; if we use rhetoric that is dehumanizing we can more easily treat those who are incarcerated without full human rights (like ex-con, prisoner); there is an argument that words like prisoner show the inhumane nature of incarceration
  • Restorative Justice – an alternative to criminal justice where harm is addressed when it happens; for example: peer juries, peace circles, family members in school hallways instead of police
  • Transformative Justice – an alternative to criminal justice where change takes place in the structures and systems that cause crime; for example: shifting funding that is dedicated to surveillance in schools to education; this type of justice comes from coalition work
  • Carceral State – the U. S. is so invested into incarceration that it as become a carceral state which is punishment-orientated; white supremacy = Prison Industrial Complex = carceral state

Points to Ponder:

  • Do gender responsive prisons to meet the needs of women prisoners? The question should be WHY are more women in prison and being arrested for crimes of poverty instead of building more prisons, because more room will be made for more people to become imprisoned. Over crowding in prisons calls not for more prisons, but for how we can provide alternatives to being imprisoned or critique/reform/abolish the criminal system. An other alternative is to ask people behind bars what they want, for example perhaps offering Queer/Trans pods in prisons.
  • Public barriers to decarceration – 1. public’s view of people behind bars is that they are dangerous (the public had to be sold on fear and stranger danger to support incarceration, now if feels like there is no turning back) and we need to reclaim what public safety means to us; 2. communities desire to keep prisons for their economy although expensive to the state
  • Does harm have to equal isolation and punishment?
  • Immigration detention centers are almost all private. People behind bars in these center lack rights (in comparison to those in jails and state and federal prisons) due to their status as non-citizens.
  • The Department of Justice does not collect statistics on trans or non-gender conforming peoples’ interactions with the Prison Industrial Complex, therefor statistics come from the community. In 2008, the TGI Justice Project states that 1 in 3 non-gender conforming people have had experiences with the PIC.
  • We often think about people who are in prison (2+ million), but we also must consider those who are on parole and still part of the PIC (7+ million).
  • When you are behind bars, some must buy into the law and order rhetoric to get parole and to be seen as transformed.
  • Who do we, as a society, have empathy for? Consider the cycle of innocence in the public’s eyes. For example: 1.) We currently think that a young black man being murdered is wrong, but does his innocence as a young person have to do with it? Would we as a society the same reaction be held if he was five years older and murdered? 2.) Who do we elongate childhood for? For what is called emerging adults , health care benefits are available until they are 26. This is done for those who are in school and have not hit white adult markers: marriage, kids, home-ownership, job. Why should childhood be elongated and benefits given to only this group who already has privilege?
  • Media – From the Hays Code to today, the visual media’s role has been to tell viewers who is bad and good; for example, cop shows.

To Read:



  • Below is a trailer for “Criminal Queers” (sequel to Homotopia) by Chris Vargas with Eric Stanley.