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A transgender woman housed in a Texas men's prison was recently denied parole in a case that highlights a number of structural issues trans women face in correctional facilities.

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Passion Star is a 32-year-old black trans woman who has served 13 years of a 20-year sentence in six different men's prisons. Last week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to parole her for offense: aggravated kidnapping. And yet, The New York Times reports that Star's co-defendant, who is white and reportedly cisgender, was paroled more than two years ago.

According to Lambda Legal, Star has been raped and victimized by other forms of violence behind bars. She is currently suing corrections officers for allegedly failing, if not outright refusing, to ensure her safety.

A self-portrait of Passion Star, courtesy of Lambda Legal

"Somebody, somehow, needs to shed light on what is taking place here in Texas prisons," Star said in a written statement on Lambda Legal's website. "[Texas Department of Criminal Justice] officials get away with so much and disregard so many legitimate threats to people's safety, and it needs to stop somewhere. I fight for my life every day in here. Safety from rape and assault is not a privilege. It's a right, and I hope that this lawsuit will help make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else."

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Back in May, the Times reported that 24.1% of trans inmates said they had been sexually victimized by another inmate, and 16.7% said they had been sexually victimized by prison facility staff.

Transgender people—especially trans women and individuals who are black and trans—are incarcerated at disproportional rates when compared to the general population. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 16% of trans people, 21% of trans women, and 47% of black trans people have been incarcerated at some point in their lives.

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