Avery Edison: the changing world of transgender rights


Recently in the world of transgender rights, we’ve seen two instances of supposed professionals blatantly disrespecting trans women of color: Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera were subjected to invasive questions in an “interview” by Katie Couric, and Janet Mock was referred to as “a man” by CNN host Piers Morgan. And this past week, the disrespect for trans women has continued as British comedian Avery Edison was detained at the Canadian border—and then put in a men’s jail,

25-year-old comedian was attempting to fly from London to Toronto. Edison had left Toronto in September on a slightly-overstayed student visa and on February 10 was attempting to enter for a three week visit to collect some things she had left behind, visit friends, and see her girlfriend, Romy Sugden. As Edison has never been ordered by the Canada Border Services Industry to leave Canada, she should have been allowed to enter legally as long as the CBSI could verify that she did not intend to stay; to that end, she had purchased a non-refundable return ticket to the U.K. dated for three weeks after her arrival and brought the lease for her apartment in London.

Trouble started at 2:30p.m. when Edison landed in Toronto and was held at customs. Later that night, she was moved to an immigration detention center and informed that as she is a pre-operative male-to-female trans woman, she would be kept in solitary confinement, supposedly for her own safety. Edison was frequently subjected to misgendering by security personnel and customs officers. “Initial interviewing officer is telling another about my depression, keeps switching he/she. MY PASSPORT IS FEMALE”, she tweeted that night.

Though Edison was then informed that she would be taken to a women’s correctional facility, she was told barely an hour later that she would instead be moved to the Maplehurst Correctional Facility—a male-only jail.

The next day, Edison was taken to solitary confinement and her girlfriend took over her Twitter account to keep her followers updated. The Sun News Network interviewed Sugden about Edison on Feb. 12, shortly after Sugden released the news that Edison was to be moved to a women’s facility. Edison was released and allowed to fly back to the U.K. on Feb.14.

However, the battle isn’t over.

“It feels ridiculous to be traumatised by such little time in jail, but here I am, unable to sleep because the memories keep playing. […] I hear a banging and think it’s the slot on my cell door being opened; I close my eyes and feel the room grow smaller,” Edison tweeted the next day. She also acknowledged in an earlier tweet that her experience would be much worse had she not been white and English speaking, adding that she had seen ESL people “humiliated”.

This is all coming from Canada, a country with more legal rights for trans people than the U.S. This should be seen as a call to action: trans people are being refused basic rights every day, and the only way to stop it is to raise awareness and treat trans identities as real. No more jokes about girls who “used to be a man”, no more equating genitals and gender, and no more telling trans and genderqueer people that their identities are invalid.

And maybe after that, we’ll eventually find our way to no more women being told that they have to stay in a facility that could lead to them being sexually assaulted if they don’t go to solitary confinement. Maybe after that, we’ll find our way to trans people being treated as, well, people.