Ky Peterson Is Fighting for His Life in the Shadows of the Prison Industrial Complex and Mainstream “Social Justice” Organizations
As public awareness increases about transgender persons and the injustices they face, there’s still more focus on issues like bathroom right than on the hate crimes and violence that people of trans experience often survive.
There is an unusually high population of Trans men and women being held with the U.S prison system. One of them is Ky Peterson, who is unlawfully incarcerated after an act of self-defense against his rapist. Upon arriving in prison, Ky has suffered continuous dehumanizing treatment from Pulaski State Prison’s staff and officers. Like many people caught unaware in the Georgia legal system, Ky was bullied into signing a plea “deal” in 2011 despite clear evidence of the brutal attack he survived. This and many other negligent actions of Sumter County leads us to believe that Ky has suffered tremendous injustices because of racial, gender, and sexual biases.
We are asking the press to continue to share his story. Why? Ky Peterson is the literal personification of nearly every civil rights injustice we have seen in the media in last 2 years; transgender rights, police brutality, rape culture, criminalizing victims, courtroom misogyny, systematic racism.
Ky’s case draws into sharp relief the ways that racial and gender discrimination make acute the routine lapses in due process, medical negligence, and dehumanization that characterize the U.S criminal justice system and the U.S. prison system.
Gendered and racial stereotypes about rape victims make it difficult to impossible for gender non-conforming and trans people like Ky to avail the streams of sympathy, resources, and legal support available to survivors of rape.
- The nurse who performed the examination confirmed that Ky had been brutally raped and sodomized, yet she felt the need to point out that Ky “did not act like a woman who had been raped.”
- Despite collecting physical evidence from the rape kit, Ky’s public defender, David Grindle, still refused to use a self-defense legal strategy specifically because he didn’t believe that Ky was a convincing survivor of sexual assault.
Ky’s due process rights were violated repeatedly throughout the trial and were upheld by institutionalized racism and transphobia.
Ky was sentenced unlawfully: the crime he was convicted of, “involuntary manslaughter” carries maximum of sentence of 10 years; Ky was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Ky was bullied into verbally accepting a plea deal of for voluntary manslaughter, although the charged filed against him listed in the final disposition is listed as, involuntary manslaughter which according to Georgia State Code O.C.G.A. § 16-5-3 (a) … “A person who commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years.”
The gender binary upholds particular kinds of vulnerabilities and punishments for Ky and other transgender and gender non-conforming people in prisons and jails in the United States.
- At Pulaski State Prison, where Ky has been incarcerated for 6 years, 10% of the population identifies as LGBT or gender non-conforming. The Administration at Pulaski has taken a hard-line stance against gender non-conformity, instructing guards to only use female pronouns, creating ad-hoc rules, for example, about hair length. Disciplinary Reports are given to people for expressing preferred gender presentation, including hair shorter than 2 inches. In one case an inmate at Pulaski was charged with assault for giving a friend a haircut.
- Ky and other gender non-conforming people at Pulaski have been placed in solitary confinement for “their own protection,” despite evidence of the psychological and physical violence of long-term solitary confinement.
- The Georgia State Prison system has recently come under scrutiny for medical mismanagement, including hiring unlicensed physicians. One of these un-credentialed doctors, Dr. Nazaire, denied Ky an asthma pump for seven months. Until recently, Ky has also been denied hormone treatments.
With the help of our friends in the media, including an investigative series about Ky’s incarceration by The Advocate, as well as organizations like Get Equal, Survived And Punished, Black & Pink, we are thankful to have gained supporters across the globe. If he is pardoned and released, Ky hopes to build a future in trans advocacy by continuing to share his story and fighting for victims’ rights, as he is actively doing now from prison.
Ky Peterson, however, is still unlawfully behind bars and needs your support.
Ky’s Support Sites
In the short amount of time that we have been advocating for Ky, we have managed to make huge steps in progressing the treatment of Gender Non-Conforming inmates in Georgia.
- Ky is the 1st trans man, in Georgia to request AND RECEIVE gender therapy and HRT; paving the way for others to pursue the care they desperately need.
- Ky is the 1st to receive approval for gender-affirming clothing, such as binders and boxer shorts.
- Our efforts to share Ky’s story have led to multiple investigations by the Department of Justice, into the inhumane treatment of LGBT inmates in Georgia facilities. This resulted in the firing of Dr. Nazaire, who was found linked to the deaths of more than 15 women.
- The investigative series about Ky’s incarceration by The Advocate, received 2 nominations in the 2016 GLAAD Media Awards for Outstanding Digital Journalism.
- The same investigative series by The Advocate also won a 2016 Planned Parenthood Maggie Media Award for Excellence in Online Reporting.
- Ky and his support team have founded Freedom Overground. Freedom Overground is a fledgling grassroots organization whose mission is to provide support for trans survivors of assault and incarceration. We are building an organization which will guide Trans/ GNC post-incarcerated to build a life above the underground economy.
Pinky Shear – Ky’s partner – 678-628-7044 email@example.com
Contact Pinky for images, video, and to arrange communication or interviews with Ky.
*Dom Chatterjee & Lucia Leandro Gimeno Press Room Contributors