Transgender woman sentenced to men’s prison in Minnesota killing

Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, 24, and some friends, all of whom were black, were walking outside a Minneapolis bar last June when four white people began calling to them using racial and other types of epithets.

McDonald, who was born a man and is transitioning to a woman, later testified that she and her friends tried to walk away. But, authorities say, one of the bar patrons, Molly Flaherty, smashed a glass of alcohol against McDonald’s face, cutting her.

A fight broke out. At one point, Flaherty’s ex-boyfriend, Dean Schmitz, said: “Look at that boy dressed like a girl,” according to McDonald’s testimony.

He subsequently pulled McDonald out of the melee. Then he put a hand to his shirt and said, “You stabbed me,” according to a witness. To which McDonald replied, according to the witness, “Yes I did.”

With a pair of scissors, in the chest.

Schmitz, a father of three, died on the scene.

The aftermath of the June 5, 2011, killing has been a controversial one in Minnesota, with the transgender community rallying to support McDonald.

McDonald eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in exchange for 41 months of prison time — which, according to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune report on Monday, will be served in a men’s facility, not a women’s.

McDonald is taking hormone treatment as part of the transition to becoming a woman, but officials decided to classify her as a man. She has requested to continue receiving hormone treatments in prison.

Outrage over McDonald’s anticipated placement in a men’s prison had been strong around the Web, but Colorlines reported Friday that some of McDonald’s closer supporters are taking a quieter approach for now.

“People tend to think about how CeCe identifies as a woman and say she should be able to go to a women’s facility,” Katie Burgess, the executive director of the Minneapolis-based Trans Youth Support Network and a McDonald supporter, told the news website Colorlines.

“But there’s really no history of transgender people being placed according to their gender identity. So once CeCe is placed in a permanent facility, she’ll look around and decide if she feels safe there. If she doesn’t, she’ll move forward with a civil suit against the Department of Corrections to be relocated to a safer place. That may or may not be a women’s prison.”

A legal primer from the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders released in November 2011 said that, “Generally, when prisoners have had sex reassignment surgery, prison authorities have confined them according to their post-surgical sex designation; prisoners who have not had surgery have been imprisoned with inmates of the sex ascribed to them at birth.”

According to the Star-Tribune, as of late January, Minnesota had 10 inmates it deemed as having “a gender identity disorder.” That’s a clinical term accepted by the American Psychiatric Assn.’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-V, the modern bible of mental health classifications.

But for Burgess of the Trans Youth Support Network, the idea of the state determining someone’s sexuality is dangerous.

“In my experience, the committee process is remarkably abusive and just disgusting,” Burgess told Colorlines. “Generally, they’re made up of all non-transgender people with absolutely no cultural sensitivity. They look at three things: physiology — meaning your genitals — sex orientation and prior placement. Rather than protecting transgender people, who are easily the most vulnerable group when it comes to sexual violence in prison, the underlying idea is that transgender people are sexual predators.”

The woman accused of attacking McDonald, Molly Flaherty, has been charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and third-degree assault causing substantial bodily harm, according to City Pages, a local weekly.


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