The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 8th

Volunteers address transgender prisoners through letters

You can learn more about the initiative and other events at The Internationalist Books and Community Center at their website.

UNC students and local volunteers gathered in solidarity on Wednesday evening to accomplish one goal — demonstrate unwavering support for incarcerated LGBT prisoners.

The Internationalist Books & Community Center, a volunteer-operated bookstore and nonprofit collective in Carrboro, hosted a group letter writing session, addressing the letters to queer and transgender prisoners. The event, originally scheduled for Jan. 22 on the International Day of Trans Prisoner Solidarity, was one of several events that took place in and around Chapel Hill and internationally.

Behind the grassroots project is Marius Mason, a trans prisoner who is serving time in Texas for eco-terrorism — or violence carried out to further environmentalist ends. This specific event was a part of a larger initiative led by trans prisoners and their supporters from around the world.

According to transprisoners.net, the day is a chance for those on the outside to remember those who are or have been imprisoned and to provide solidarity and support to raise awareness about issues facing trans prisoners.

“It is an opportunity for community members to raise visibility about the experiences that trans-identified people have in the prisons and correctional institutions,” said Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC. 

While not directly associated with this event, Phoenix said the LGBTQ Center coordinates many events with The Internationalist Books & Community Center.

Katie Yow, manager of Internationalist Books and Community Center, said the event is one of many that take place regularly.

“We have been coordinating and hosting events with the Harm Reduction Coalition of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for around nine years now,” Yow said.

“They meet here twice a month, had a their own letter writing night the Wednesday before the snow storm.”

Over the course of the evening, more and more people started to trickle in to start writing and connecting with people incarcerated in prisons across the country.

“We have been doing different types of prisoner support and letter writing for the last ten years, and political prisoner support has been one of the primary focuses," Yow said. "We typically see 15 to 20 people, but events that include issues as broad and far reaching as LGBT, we see more of a turnout."

UNC student Andrew McGee said as a transgender person there is a history of incarceration being used against trans and queer people.

"It is important for me to keep in communication with and send support to people who are incarcerated in prisons, and it has become more important to me as I learn more about this issue," McGee said. 

@benalbano

city@dailytarheel.com

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