Advocate June Issue
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Laverne Cox, Planned Parenthood Stand With Black Trans Man Ky Peterson

Laverne Cox

It’s been more than a year since The Advocate first broke the story of Ky Peterson, a black transgender man currently serving a 20-year sentence in a Georgia women’s prison because he killed the stranger who was raping him in 2011. 

Since the initial publication of the groundbreaking investigative report, Peterson has survived alleged harassment, multiple stints in solitary confinement, and even a suicide attempt. In February, Peterson received his first dose of testosterone, after nearly five years of being incarcerated with women. Peterson’s access to gender-affirming care came on the heels of the U.S. Department of Justice ordering the Georgia Department of Corrections to provide the medically necessary care to transgender prisoners, as part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed by Ashley Diamond, a black transgender woman who spent more than three years jailed with men. Although the DOJ would not confirm or deny The Advocate’s inquiries, Peterson tells this publication that he had a lengthy conversation with an official at the federal cabinet department, who called to make sure that he was being treated fairly while he serves out his time. Peterson could be eligible for parole as early as October. 

While Peterson’s allies on the outside have been pressing for his release — or at the very least, to have his identity respected by prison officials — national advocates have picked up on Peterson’s story, too. 

At the world premiere for Free CeCe, producer Laverne Cox shared with The Advocate a special message for Peterson, linking his struggle for freedom with the subject of the powerful documentary that catalogues black trans woman CeCe McDonald’s 19-month incarceration with men after she defended herself against a racist, transphobic attack in Minneapolis in 2011. 

See what the Orange Is the New Black star and fierce trans advocate had to say to Ky at the Free CeCe premiere in Los Angeles earlier this month:

 

Shortly after the Free CeCe premiere, The Advocate learned that our coverage of “The Ky Peterson Saga” had been honored with an award for media excellence from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Noting that “Planned Parenthood is proud to lift up the incredible work of these journalists … [and] their commitment to social justice,” the advocacy group praised The Advocate’s “critical and moving series on Ky Peterson [which] breaks the silence on the violence that trans men of color experience, and the neglect and mistreatment they face in prison.”

At the request of Planned Parenthood organizers, Advocate managing editor Sunnivie Brydum, who continues to report Peterson’s story after launching the investigation in 2014 with coauthor Mitch Kellaway, filmed a video message thanking Planned Parenthood for the award, and sharing a message from Peterson himself. See that video below: 

 

The award was presented June 9 at PPFA’s annual gala in Washington, D.C., marking 100 years of the reproductive rights organization’s advocacy. The emotional evening was hosted by out comedian Cameron Esposito and included a show-stopping performance of the Beatles' “Imagine,” sung a capella by Kesha. As journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! accepted the night’s highest honor for excellence in media, she spoke powerfully of the importance of taking a stand for what is right and just. She read a significant section of the Stanford rape victim’s letter to her rapist, Brock Turner, in a speech that not only earned a standing ovation, but had many attendees in tears. 

Other recipients of the Media Excellence Awards included Zuri and Staceyann Chin of Living Room Protest, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow of Call Your Girlfriend, Imani Gandi of Rewire, Dani McClain of The Nation, Alex Morris of Rolling Stone magazine, Caitlin Moscatello of Cosmopolitan, Raquel Reichard of Latina magazine, and Kayla Webley of Marie Claire. A portion of The Advocate’s video was included in the official video recognizing the Excellence in Media Award winners. Learn more about the range of stories honored by the advocacy organization here: 

 

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