The Feminization of Transgender Women in Prisons for Men: How An Alpha Male Total Institution Shapes Gender


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color photograph of Valerie Jenness
Valerie Jenness, Professor of Social Ecology, Criminology, Law and Society, and Sociology, University of California-Irvine; 2015 IRWG Senior Visiting Scholar
Event Date: 
December 10, 2015
Event Time: 
2239 Lane Hall
Event Accessibility : 
Ramp and elevator access at the E. Washington Street entrance (by the loading dock). There are accessible restrooms on the south end of Lane Hall, on each floor of the building. A gender neutral restroom is available on the first floor.
Event Tags: 
color photograph of Valerie Jenness

On April 5, 2015 the New York Times ran a front page article, above the fold, with the headline “Transgender Woman Cites Attacks and Abuse in Men’s Prisons” (Sontag 2015, 1). This high profile case puts front and center—and makes painfully vivid—“deliberate defeminizing.” Treating prisons as a total institution and as a stratifying organization organized around masculinity and heteronormativity, this research draws on a unique data set on hundreds of transgender women in prisons for men in California and advances a mixed methods analysis that speaks to both suppression and amplification of perceptions of femininity.

Valerie Jenness is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. For the Fall semester, she is a Senior Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. In addition to her work on prostitution and hate crime, she has conducted in prison research on sexual assault, transgender prisoners, and inmate grievances. Most recently, she published her fourth book: Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (with Kitty Calavita). Her research has served as a basis for her work with officials in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Cosponsored by the Department of Sociology