The Carceral Production of Transgender Poverty: How Racialized Gender Policing Deprives Transgender Women of Housing and Safety

Based on interviews and ethnography, this article analyzes how racialized gender policing in public space and service organizations deprives transgender women of survival resources. Although transgender women are disproportionately the targets of enforcement, most studies of the criminalization of homelessness, drug use, sex work and migration exclude their experiences. Studies that do include transgender women often focus narrowly on anti-prostitution laws and enforcement, overlooking other laws and policies that contribute to criminalization and poverty. This article analyzes the confluence between policing of transgender women’s identities and survival strategies in public space and in agencies meant to serve poor people (including shelters, drug treatment facilities and transitional living programs). Laws regulating access to public space combine with rules regulating gender in service organizations to both criminalize and create transgender poverty. More broadly, the carceral production of transgender poverty demonstrates that criminalization is not only a consequence but also a cause of both poverty and inequality.

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Punishment & Society