Out pop superstars Elton John and Michael Stipe are taking a stand for their incarcerated transgender sisters after hearing about the atrocious treatment of Ashley Diamond and Zahara Green, two transgender women placed in Georgia prisons for men.
In a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Diamond claims she's been denied access to the hormone medication she's been taking for 17 years, harassed, and raped multiple times. Green's story is just as harrowing: She requested protection from sexual harassment and was then placed in a cell with the man she claimed had raped her.
A joint statement John and Stipe released Tuesday reads, "Transgender women in male prisons have an equal right to protection from violence and abuse in prison, yet they continue to face horrific injustices." The two go on to say assaults are not reported in large part because they are perpetrated by prison guards, wardens, and other staff. "This is outrageous, and the message it sends is horrific: that violence against and discrimination of trans people is not only allowed, but sanctioned."
Last week the U.S. Department of Justice intervened in Diamond's case, calling the state's denial of her hormone therapy cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment. It's believed to be the first time the Justice Department has weighed in on the issue of hormone therapy as necessary medical care for trans prisoners, and while the department did not expressly say that states are obligated to provide such therapies, it did deem Georgia's treatment policy unconstitutional.
John and Stipe applaud the move in their statement.
"But we must do more to end the culture of violence and discrimination surrounding gender identity and expression," they write. "We urge the state of Georgia to embrace desperately needed changes to their correctional system."