I am writing concerning a commentary which appeared in the March '92 issue, "Peoples' War in Peru."
As a Native American I do not recognize the U.S. government or its authority. I consider myself neither legally nor morally bound to obey its laws. Though I do not recognize its validity or authority over me, it is practical to oppose it, under the circumstances, by any and all means necessary, including, but not limited to, within the arena of its judicial apparatus.
Accordingly, as a transsexual in prison I have been very active in the legal struggle for medical treatment of transsexualism in prison, which sprouts from an animosity based on ignorance and makes us common prey in penal environs.
Naturally my concern also extends to our social plight, both here and in other lands. I have spoken to transsexuals from Central American countries, South America, and Cuba, who came here because in their countries they were officially persecuted on the basis of their gender orientation. They were disliked, imprisoned and killed, not only by government elements and right-wing death squads, but by the revolutionaries as well. Peru is an example. There, both Shining Path and Tupac Araru kill transsexuals, transvestites, and homosexuals--who have nothing to do with the civil war--merely because they are that way. This is no secret. People from these persecuted groups attempt to educate against these atrocities, but they continue. In Cuba, a transsexually inclined person would be arrested for dying her hair, for wearing makeup, for wearing female clothes, for being herself. The government, death squads, and revolutionaries maltreat and kill them in El Salvador. So they come here, where they are still oppressed but not so extremely. They are survivors.
There is a large transsexual population in the California prisons, city and county jails, numbering into the hundreds, Many come from these countries as immigrants and refugees without formal documentation, so-called "illegal aliens."
The correlating factor offered in the commentary for bringing up the civil war in Peru in PLN was the class struggle against the oppression of the many by the few, that it is the duty of all progressive elements to support the revolutionaries who are implementing that struggle, and because the U.S. government supports the Peruvian regime. There are many alternative news sources which focus on those types of socio-political issues and which are free to prisoners who seek them, as we are well aware.
As a prisoner, recipient, and utilizer of PLN I feel that we who are struggling day to day in the prisons and courts are better served by being provided with legal news in legal newsletters. Some readers have expressed their ideas that PLN should add more pages and deepen its reporting of legal developments relevant to our plight. To this PLN responded that it would like to do so but due to lack of funding it cannot. The Peru article took up 1 <$E2/3> pages, which I feel could have been better used to report legal news.
As a transsexual, I feel that if PLN feels it must advocate moral support for socio-political struggles in other lands it should look closer at what those struggles support and what they oppose, and the ideas and feelings of its constituency at home. I know of at least one more transsexual jailhouse lawyer, in federal prison, who receives PLN . We are few, but we exist.
My criticism is constructive, not adversarial. I continue to be very impressed by PLN and have used some of its reported cases in my legal briefs. Next to lawyer-produced legal journals it's the best I've seen in my 12 years of incarceration and legal activism. Perhaps an article for PLN regarding the legal plight of transsexuals in prison may spark some awareness in this much neglected and misunderstood field.
I would like to thank the PLN staff very much for your concern and hard work. May we continue to progress towards the horizon, and beyond.
L.C., Crescent City, CA
[Editor's Note : Homophobia does exist within supposedly revolutionary movements and nations, although probably not to the extent you suggest. We too are in disagreement by the homophobia exhibited by supposedly socialist comrades. But we also understand the role of reactionary institutions such as the Catholic Church in places like Latin America, and the negative impact these have had on the regional culture.
With regards to the PCP's (Communist Party of Peru-Sendero Luminoso) policy toward homosexuals, at this point it is not clear whether or not hey persecute gays in the liberated areas of Peru under their control. I have translated a large number of PCP materials and read virtually all PCP materials available outside of Peru, and I have yet to see any anti-gay remarks or positions in their party platform or other materials. I too have been concerned about reports in the bourgeois media that the PCP has persecuted gays and I have tried to confirm this by asking Carol Andrea, a professor at the University of Colorado who has written several books on Peru, traveled extensively in Peru and who publishes a newsletter on events in Peru. Ms. Andrea states that she has been unable to confirm any reports that the PCP persecutes gays in the areas it controls, however, she did say that the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement does persecute gays as a matter of policy. The mainstream media has been vicious in its attacks on the PCP and it may well be that these allegations fall into this category. Based on your letter, we have passed your concerns on to PCP representatives and asked for a clarification of PCP policy/practice with regards to gays and lesbians.
The reason PLN has covered the struggle of PCP prisoners is because virtually no one else in the English language does. PCP prisoners have been subjected to vicious repression that left over 300 dead in 1986. Recently, in April of 1992, government troops stormed Canto Grande prison in Lima, killing an estimated 40 PCP prisoners, including nearly all leading cadre.
We extend our solidarity to fellow prisoners struggling for progressive change, whether it is in Attica, Long Kesh, Robben Island, Ansar 3 or Canto Grande. The high levels of discipline and organization, and the advanced level of revolutionary consciousness shown by PCP prisoners is an example we can all learn from. In times like these, when there is not a lot being done in the way of prison struggle here in the U.S. it is important to know that such struggles are happening elsewhere.
As for limiting our political coverage in order to reserve space for more material on law, Paul and I think we have reached a reasonable balance. Were we to eliminate articles such as those on Peru, where else would most prisoners read about such struggles? More to the point, what would distinguish us from being just another reformist rag full of bourgeois legal clap-trap?]
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