Ex-prisoner in Queensland seeks compensation over transphobia
A former prisoner has accused a Queensland prison of transphobic discrimination.
Leilani Tafao was held in three male prisons in Queensland, where she was referred to as a man and punished for “overtly feminised” behaviour, according to Cairns Post.
Tafao, whose birth certificate and passport reflect her female gender, was released from prison in 2015 and deported to New Zealand last year.
Her prison documents recorded her gender as male.
She has lodged a discrimination claim, seeking compensation, an apology, and policy changes for trans prisoners.
Tafao said she was constantly referred to as “him” or “mister” while serving a sentence for break and enter.
“I felt shame because I was being told that I was not a woman,” she said.
Tafao’s claim includes complaints that while she was in the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre in Gatton, west of Brisbane, she was criticised for skipping, wearing flowers in her hair, and other “feminised” behaviour.
She said she was put on a discriminatory “management plan” to reduce her “overtly feminised and sexually laden behaviour”.
A risk mitigation strategy written during Tafao’s sentence said she was to develop a “neutral asexual and appropriately friendly attitude”.
Queensland Corrective Services said that trans prisoners are sent to men’s or women’s prisons depending on whether they have had genital surgery.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that Queensland Corrective Services has since 2016 instructed staff to refer to prisoners by their preferred name and pronoun at all times.
A decision on Tafao’s claim is still pending, with Queensland Corrective Services having denied discrimination.
There are reportedly fewer than ten trans prisoners currently in Queensland facilities.
Trans women who are sentenced to prison in Australia are often sent to male facilities.
In another recent case, Perth woman CJ Palmer was sentenced to six years in a male prison, where she may not have access to necessary hormone treatment.