Trans protesters subjected to ‘dehumanising’ abuse and forced strip-searches, lawsuit claims

The prison where the trans protestors say the abuse happened

Three trans people who were taken into custody after attending Black Lives Matter vigils and protests are suing over the “discriminatory” and “dehumanising” abuse they endured from prison officers in Florida.

The lawsuit, which is against Miami Dade County and dozens of individual prison officers at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, claims that the three were misgendered, shamed, ridiculed, and forced to expose themselves for amusement.

The case alleges they were also singled out and subjected to unlawful strip searches.

Angel Torres-Bucci, one of the three, is a non-binary trans woman who was arrested after attending a Black Trans Lives Matter vigil and march in July 2020.

Torres-Bucci told local news that prison officials pulled at their hair, thinking that it was a wig.

“It just made life kind of feel like a joke. There was no need for them to be dehumanising… to be horrible people,” they said.

The lawsuit claims that Torres-Bucci refused to be booked as a man, telling officials they are trans – and at that time, identified as a trans woman. In response, the lawsuit claims, the corrections officers forced Torres-Bucci into an unlawful strip search for the purpose of looking at their genitals.

“And then I was asked to do a 360 so they could see everything,” Torres-Bucci said. Asked if they meant that officials purposed wanted to see their genitals, Torres-Bucci replied: “Oh, yeah 100 per cent that is exactly… That is the only thing that made sense.”

The other two defendants are a trans man who was arrested after attending a Black Lives Matter protest in May 2020, days after Black trans man Tony McDade was shot dead by cops in Florida, and a trans woman who was arrested at the Black Trans Lives Matter vigil in July 2020. They were also both strip searched.

All three were arrested on minor charges, such as breaking curfew and a traffic violation, and later released without charge. Commenting on their treatment, lawyer Gabriel Arkles said: “Under some circumstances, jail officials can do strip searches, but it has to be for a legitimate reason like trying to find contraband.

“Just wanting to see what is between a trans person’s legs is absolutely not a legitimate reason.”

Christian Pallidine, the trans man in the lawsuit, has penned an opinion piece about the abuse, writing: “Mocked. Denied medical treatment. Strip-searched. Placed in a solitary cell. All because I dared protest while trans.”

The three also claim that none of the cisgender protestors they were arrested alongside were strip searched.

Supported by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, the three have launched a campaign to stop the abuse of trans people in custody.