Elton John, Michael Stipe Call for Protection of Transgender Inmate Rights

Sir Elton John and REM singer Michael Stipe issued a joint statement Tuesday calling for the protection of transgender inmates in the Georgia prison system.

“Transgender women in male prisons have an equal right to protection from violence and abuse in prison, yet they continue to face horrific injustices,” the duo wrote in a statement.

The musicians’ statement refers to two recent cases of alleged abuse of transgender women in the Georgia prison system. In February, inmate Ashley Diamond, 36, filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections claiming the prison in which she was held stopped giving her necessary hormone treatment therapy and failed to prevent her from being sexually assaulted. The Justice Department put its weight behind the case last week, claiming in court documents that it is unconstitutional for prisons to withhold hormone treatment from transgender inmates, according to the New York Times.

Another transgender inmate, Zahara Green, said that after requesting protection from prison guards at her facility in Georgia, they moved her to a cell with the man she claimed was attacking her, according to Buzzfeed.

“The experiences of Ashley Diamond and Zahara Green cast a harsh light on the brutality, torture and horrible conditions inside Georgia prisons today,” John and Stipe said in their statement. “They are emblematic of the continued discrimination experience by transgender inmates – who are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated.”

“More often than not, assaults in part go unreported because the perpetrators are prison guards, wardens and staff,” the duo continued. “This is outrageous, and the message it sends is horrific: that violence against and discrimination of trans people is not only allowed, but sanctioned.”

In a statement to the Daily Mail, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center–which filed the original lawsuit on behalf of Diamond–said the Justice Department’s decision has a major impact on the pending legislation.

“Transgender inmates like Ashley have a right to proper medical care,” SPLC attorney Chinyere Ezie told the Mail. “They have a right to protection from violence and abuse and these rights are secured by the U.S. Constitution.”

Elton John’s AIDS Foundation has long advocated on behalf of LGBT rights, and Stipe has frequently supported John’s organization.

Last week, a San Francisco judge ordered California’s corrections department to cover gender reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate. The order marked the first time the state’s corrections system was compelled to pay for an inmate’s gender reassignment operation.


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