By Daniel Redman, The Nation
Posted on July 19, 2010, Printed on July 22, 2010
Over the phone, Krystal has a calm and lilting Southern accent. She identifies as a woman now, but when she entered Louisiana’s juvenile justice system at 12 years of age, she presented herself as a boy and used male pronouns. Today, she’s 18 and was just recently released from the system. Being closeted about her gender identity was never an option for her. “It’s very obvious with me because of how I walk, talk, the way I do things,” she says. And while her sentencing judge had told her that she wouldn’t be in prison for long, it was five years before a sympathetic counselor made a formal request for her release. In her letter to the judge, the counselor mentioned in passing that Krystal had confided in her that she was probably transgender, and that she was in a romantic relationship with another boy at the facility. On the voicemail he left in response to the counselor’s report, the judge openly laughed and called the recommendation a joke. He said that based on those facts, he would absolutely deny the request for a release hearing. “Many judges in rural Louisiana still conflate sex offenses with sexual orientation and gender identity,” says Wesley Ware of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. It was months before Krystal was finally set free.