It’s been nearly three months since Ky Peterson received his first injection of testosterone while incarcerated at Pulaski State Prison, a medium-security women’s prison in Hawkinsville, Ga.
Peterson reported to the prison’s medical center February 26, unsure whether he’d really be obtaining the first dose of the hormone therapy he’d been approved for a month earlier. He says the nurse told him she’d never administered a testosterone shot before but that she had “read up on it.” The nurse had Peterson stay in the clinic for an hour to watch for any adverse reaction, then sent him back to his room.
“Knowing that it is finally done makes me feel … a little more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin,” Peterson told The Advocate the day he received his first shot. “I feel good, but I hope this is not going to be a fleeting feeling. At the moment, I am just all smiles and somewhat carefree at this point.”
Now receiving weekly “T” injections, the 25-year-old black transgender man at the center of The Advocate’s groundbreaking investigative report spends most of his time studying for the college classes he’s taking. He has not been placed in solitary confinement again, and he could be eligible for parole as soon as October, according to his partner, Pinky Shear.
Today, Peterson’s partner and supporters around the country are launching a social media campaign that not only aims to raise awareness about Peterson’s story but also to petition Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to exonerate Peterson.
That petition, hosted at Change.org, was written by domestic violence survivor support group Survived and Punished, and asks the Republican governor to “remedy this gross miscarriage or justice and to pardon and release [Peterson] immediately.” It argues that evidence, first reported by The Advocate in April 2015, that Peterson was indeed raped by his assailant, should have triggered a legal self-defense claim under Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Advocates have organized a “Twitter Power Hour” at 2 p.m. Eastern, where they intend to amplify Peterson’s story and links to the petition.
“Ky was criminalized by the racism of his public defender, transphobic treatment from the hospital, the unlawful sentence, and countless negligent actions of Sumter County, including prosecutorial misconduct, selective prosecution and ineffective counsel,” the petition alleges.
The petition’s release is timed with Trans Liberation Tuesday, a weekly multimedia campaign aimed at celebrating the lives, resilience, and accomplishments of transgender women and femmes of color as well as incarcerated trans people of color. In addition to powerful, empowering illustrations sharing words of wisdom from its subjects, the #TransLiberationTuesday campaign aims to heed the advice of best-selling author and trans advocate Janet Mock, who challenges those in media covering transgender people to report on their lives, loves, and successes — not just on the disproportionate rate at which such individuals are victims of deadly anti-trans violence.
Multimedia artist Micah Bazant creates a new illustration each week to celebrate these individuals, then shares them across social media platforms, including Facebook and Tumblr. Bazant is a self-described queer artist who identifies as transgender, gender-nonconforming, and timtum (one of six traditional Jewish genders), who uses the gender-neutral pronouns they and them, and lives in Berkeley, Calif.
This week’s #TransLiberationTuesday illustration places the spotlight on Peterson, as his partner continues to advocate for his release and humane treatment for other incarcerated individuals. Over the weekend, Shear tabled at OutlantaCon, Atlanta’s annual LGBT convention, representing two public information campaigns that aim to reduce stigma and fear about and for transgender people.
The Transgender Encounter Project bills itself as “a worldwide safe and anonymous action movement” that creates small cards that transgender people can hand out to people they may encounter in their everyday life. The business-card-size paper bears the colors of the transgender pride flag and simply says “Hi! You have met, served, [or] helped a transgender person today. You’ve met one of us. Now you know.”
Shear, who identifies as a queer cisgender (nontrans) woman, was also promoting the “I’ll Go With You” campaign, developed as an ally’s response to transgender people reacting to so-called bathroom bills by tweeting #WeJustNeedtoPee. “#IllGoWithYou allies go into bathrooms and other spaces with transgender people who may be afraid or concerned about their safety,” the project’s website explains. “An #IllGoWithYou ally offers support, buffering, and nonviolent assistance when asked.”
Shear also participated in a panel at OutlantaCon with Ashley Diamond, a black trans woman from Georgia who spent three years jailed with men, where she says she was repeatedly raped and assaulted, and denied medically necessary transition-related health care. Diamond’s landmark lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections resulted in the federal Department of Justice declaring that transgender inmates have a right to transition-related care, and a historic settlement in Diamond’s favor was reached in February. Shear is insistent that Diamond’s litigation — in addition to Diamond’s explicit mentions of Peterson during her own meetings with Georgia DOC — helped Peterson obtain appropriate health care while incarcerated.
At press time, Shear and Peterson are still only able to communicate intermittently, through monitored emails and video visits when approved by the prison. But Shear tells The Advocate that when a loved one is in prison, “no news is good news.” That’s especially true for a black man incarcerated with women in rural Georgia, who has had to fight to obtain appropriate medical care and be seen as the man he is.
In recent weeks, however, Peterson has expressed frustration about the state of trans equality in the U.S., amid an onslaught of so-called bathroom bills and elected officials equating transgender people with sexual predators. Shear says Peterson is currently feeling hesitant about being released “into a world of legalized racism and bigotry.”
Ever solutions-focused, Shear says she has precise marching orders from Peterson for her and all those supporting Peterson from the outside: “Fix it, babe.”