Woman applying lipstick in prison

Illustration by Jason Reed

California prisons move to legitimize the needs of trans inmates

A new regulation could give trans women access to bras, makeup, and other personal hygiene products.


Ana Valens


The California corrections department is filing proposed regulations that would allow transgender inmates to attain personal items that correspond with their gender identity.

Under the new regulations, transgender women in men’s prisons would be given access to lip gloss, mascara, bras, panties, and other feminine personal care items. Meanwhile, transgender men housed in women’s prisons would be given access to aftershave, boxers, and other masculine personal effects.

The proposed changes come after a June 2016 ruling, in which a federal judge said that California prisons must give transgender women access to some female personal items. The ruling came after trans woman Shiloh Quine alleged that prison officials were withholding personal care items from transgender inmates “based solely upon gender norms,” rather than any concern for inmates’ safety.

The Transgender Law Center has represented Quine in court, citing her case as crucial to transgender inmates’ civil rights. Thanks to the center’s actions, Quine was able to reach a settlement agreement that allowed her to be referred for genital sex reassignment surgery, making her the first inmate in the United States to receive such surgery through taxpayer funding. Since then, Quine has been moved to a facility for female inmates.

However, Quine alleges that her treatment inside the female facilities has been brutal too, with necessary items for her transitioning being denied, such as a razor for shaving facial hair. The state alleges that access to razors is denied to all inmates until after a 45-day review period, but Quine insists that the system is treating her like a new prisoner despite being in the California prison system since 1981. A new court hearing on April 27 will determine whether the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must supply Quine with items in relation to her gender dysphoria.

The case also raises larger questions about sex-based segregation in U.S. prisons. Traditionally, U.S. prisons force transgender inmates into facilities based on their gender assigned at birth. While transgender patients who have undergone sex reassignment surgery can be placed into facilities that align with their gender identity, many face harassment or violence when forced into a facility that does not reflect their gender. An L.A. Weekly article citing a 2007 study on California prisons revealed that 67 percent of gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates are victims of sexual assault.

H/T CBS San Francisco

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