Beyond bars

I received this letter from a trans woman incarcerated in the US prison system.

I share this letter in the spirit of amplifying the voices of people in the prison system. I don’t know the author personally and her words are her own.



[image shows: a copy of Margins and Murmurations next to lush spider plant]
[content note: incarceration, transmisogyny, spoilers from the novel]
Letter republished here with consent.

Dear Ms. Lieffe,

I am Talia Jade, a trans-woman incarcerated in a mens prison in Maryland for a crime I was innocent of   I am pre-op and have been on HRT since August 2016.  Being a trans-woman is hard (as you know) but being a trans-woman in prison is even harder!  I am constantly subjected to bigotry and misconceptions or attempts to “holla at me”and I am hyper aware of the constant danger from the men around me.  Largely, staff here are respectful and even kind/accommodating.  I get a shower alone every day, only women search or pat me down.  I’m even referred to as Ms. Belcher by many staff members.  Of course, I am lucky though cuz some of my trans-sisters in other Maryland prisons are treated poorly and when I was in my first prison I had the personal “hell” experiences.  I am currently in the position to help a precedent to be set for the treatment of gender dysphoria in Maryland prisons and have recently tendered a letter to the psychiatric and medical providers who oversee “trans-people”.  Requesting hair removal and a minimum of the referral for SRS while also outright requesting orchiectomy and SRS be provided.  I was issued my bra’s and given permission to purchase panties and I hope to help tender a sort of precedent for how trans-people should be treated while incarcerated in Maryland.

At any rate, that is not my reason for contacting you.  I am contacting you (through a friend) because I just finished your novel “Margins and Mormurations” and I must say I ADORED IT!!!  It made me laugh at parts and cry in others.  I was able to relate to Ash and Pinar and Kit and many of the “resistance” in a way that I have NEVER before been able to connect with in story’s characters.

It has officially won my “favorite novel” title.  The concept was unique and refreshing and scarily possible!  Your characters came to life for me anyway, in a way that made them “real” and I found myself unwilling to put the book down while simultaneously trying to read slower so it wouldn’t end!  *LOL*  I cried happy tears when everyone stood up for and with Kit; I was crying when I read Mama Sylvia’s speech at the Christopher Street liberation day rally.  I sobbed softly as Elias died where he wanted to instead of going back to the city.  The list goes on and on.

Of course your dedication was what first moved me to tears because it was like you were saying “this is for you….”  Directly to me!  It was an intense, incredible, beautiful story and I love you for writing it!!!  Thank you so much!  

As you can imagine being the only trans-woman in a facility is lonely and sometimes disheartening and so when LGBT books to prisoners sent me your book and I read the back cover, I was overjoyed to have a book with a character who I could relate to and it was a joyous cathartic experience to take that journey with you!

Thank you so so so much for sharing this story with us all!  It has helped bring some light to me in this place of darkness and I applaud you!  Of course I understand if you can’t/don’t write me as I am certain you must have a busy life.  Either way, thank you! and Thank You for your time!

With Love and Light

Ms. Talia Jade Belcher

* Last summer I ran a crowdfunding campaign with LGBT Books to Prisoners to print and send copies of my novel to trans women incarcerated in the USA. The response was amazing and we were able to send over 80 copies to date. Talia sent me her contact details: if you’d like to write her a letter, I can pass it on to her.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been involved in establishing a similar group to get books to LGBTQIA folks in prison in the UK. If you’d like to help out, there’s a fundraiser happening right now!


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