© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Healthcare coverage from WYPR is made possible by support from GBMC HealthCare.

Advocates say Maryland lawmakers missed a chance to protect trans inmates

Supporters of trans health bills speak in front of MD Statehouse on Feb. 14.
Matt Bush
Supporters of trans health bills speak in front of MD Statehouse on Feb. 14.

After a transgender woman recently alleged sexual assault in the Baltimore prison system, advocates are pushing harder for transgender, nonbinary and intersex people to become a protected class in Maryland’s penal system.

Chelsea Gilliam is suing the Baltimore City Correction Center because it allegedly did not respond to her report of sexual assault by another inmate. Gilliam says the center also failed to provide her the hormones she needed, harassed her and kept her in confinement.

Currently, Maryland prison facilities place transgender people according to their biological sex, leaving them with a higher risk for abuse, rape and other dangers, according to the American Journal of Public Health.

Gilliam has identified as a woman since 2003.

Trans-rights advocates say the Maryland legislature missed its chance this year to better protect people like Gilliam.

The Transgender, Respect, Agency and Dignity Act would have prohibited any employee of a correctional facility from discriminating against a transgender, nonbinary or intersex person and required facilities to come up with a set policy for gender identity of inmates.

The bill would have allowed those people the ability to be housed in the gender they identified with as well.

“I do think that it would make a measurable difference to allow trans people the agency to decide where they're being housed and allow trans people's gender identities to be honored,” said Jamie Grace Alexander, with the Trans Rights Advocacy Coalition. “LGBTQ members of our community who are incarcerated experienced much more drastic rates of violence as compared to the general population.”

The Maryland legislature held a hearing on the bill, but it never made it to the floor.

Grace Alexander said the bill was a significant upgrade from last year’s bill. It allows the prison system to use various factors to ensure only trans, nonbinary and intersex people would be eligible for the protections, addressing concerns that people could be placed in the wrong housing population.

Trans advocates and lawmakers say they will introduce the bill again next year.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
Related Content