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37 Comments

news

Avery Edison Tells Her Own Story

Trans woman who wound up in a men's prison writes about her ordeal and why she still loves Toronto.

Photo by Pat Dryburgh

Photo by Pat Dryburgh via Flickr.

Three weeks ago, trans comedian Avery Edison was excited to travel to Toronto to visit her girlfriend and the city she called home for more than three years—but when she arrived, the situation quickly went from bad to worse. Edison had overstayed her visa when she was last in the city, a mistake for she which she takes full responsibility. And when it came time to process her through the system, officials referred to her as “him,” although her birth certificate and passport indicate she’s female, and proceeded to send her to a men’s prison because, as Edison tweeted at the time, “they don’t know what to do about my junk.”

After an online uproar, Edison was transferred to a women’s facility and then permitted to leave the country—and now she shares her side of the story on the popular site She Does the City. Edison’s story can be seen as a case study in how bureaucracy fails some individuals, and how institutions struggle to keep up with and understand the spirit of the laws they are meant to uphold—but Edison stresses that while she’ll “have to carry the weight of this incident for the rest of life,” she intends to “use it as ballast for some personal growth.” And despite her recent experiences, her attitude toward Toronto hasn’t changed: “The city didn’t give up on me,” she writes, “so I’m not giving up on it.”

Comments

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    It’s interesting she claims in one paragraph to have loved her life in Toronto so much she stayed as long as her conscience let her (which is 8 months more than the law let her), then a few paragraphs later mention she tried committing suicide while here.

    • http://shuabert.tumblr.com/ Josh

      How are those two things in any way related?

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        They appear to be completely at odds with each other, which is why I said it’s interesting.

    • Morgan Dambergs

      Holy oversimplification, Batman! So, being depressed while you are living in a city doesn’t mean that you were depressed because you were living in that city. I have been dealing with major depression since I was 15. I have considered — though, thankfully, never got past my fears enough to attempt — suicide while living in more than one city. Because, to quote Social Distortion: “But wherever I have gone/I was sure to find myself there/You can run all your life/But not go anywhere”.

      Moving has never solved my depression. Sometimes it’s made it better, sometimes it’s made it worse. Regardless of which, any change was always temporary, because until I finally got real help, it would inevitably run in cycles. My understanding is that that is the case for many people who suffer from depression.

      I don’t know what world you’re living in, where you think that moving to a different city would have been some kind of cure for Avery. Especially since you obviously don’t even know her. (Not that I do either — but I’m also not projecting judgmental subtext onto her blog post, which I feel is the big difference here.)

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        You’ve completely missed the point of my post. I didn’t say, imply, or intimate that living in Toronto made her want to kill herself.

        • Morgan Dambergs

          “It’s interesting she claims in one paragraph to have loved her life in Toronto so much she stayed as long as her conscience let her (which is 8 months more than the law let her), then a few paragraphs later mention she tried committing suicide while here.

          If you’re not trying to show some kind of correlation between those two things, your writing skills need some serious work, because I can’t see that phrasing implying anything else. What were you trying to say, then? Why is her saying she loved her life in Toronto just a “claim” if you’re not implying what it seems like you were?

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Where she was living at the time was not the point. Here, let me bold the parts that matter:

            “It’s interesting she claims in one paragraph to have loved her life in Toronto so much she stayed as long as her conscience let her (which is 8 months more than the law let her), then a few paragraphs later mention she tried committing suicide while here.”

            One moment she’s raving about her time here, then a casual mention of attempted suicide. As I said, interesting. People having a good time generally don’t try to kill themselves. I’m not saying she’s lying necessarily (“claim” doesn’t mean lie, by the way), but she’s definitely omitted something between those extremes.

          • vampchick21

            One doesn’t necessarily negate the other.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            And as I said they generally don’t coexist. Apparently I can’t find that interesting though, because “interesting” is an offensive word.

          • vampchick21

            When a person reaches the point of attempting suicide, it has nothing to do with what they love or don’t love. At that point, it’s a level of despair and pain that trumps all other feelings and logic.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Do people really think I’m unaware of what depression is or how someone comes to be suicidal?

            Holy fuck, all I said is it’s interesting she characterized her time here as wonderful even though something drove her to attempt suicide. There’s a disconnect there, like telling friends you had an excellent time on the cruise and then showing them pictures of everyone aboard suffering from Marburg.

          • Morgan Dambergs

            The disconnect was quite possibly gender dysphoria. Look it up sometimes. It’s driven many trans* people to suicide in the past.

          • dsmithhfx

            So there’s a disconnect, in your little world. Get over yourself.

          • Morgan Dambergs

            When trans* people are killing themselves because our society as a whole still prefers to frame them as freaks than as human beings? That’s not getting over myself. That’s caring about marginalized people, and I would care even if I didn’t happen to belong to this particular marginalized group. So, no, I’m not going to stop doing that.

          • Morgan Dambergs

            She said she loved her life in Toronto. She didn’t say she loved her life in general. She was being faced with returning to a situation in a country where, as she says herself in the linked article, she had not yet found herself before she left, and where she didn’t necessarily have a support system in place for her transition. As a trans* person myself, I can’t think of much that would be more terrifying. You haven’t stopped and thought that maybe her suicide attempt was related to her decision to stay longer — because she felt safer in Toronto that she thought she could back in England?

            Like vampchick21 says: “One doesn’t negate the other.” You can love where you are without loving who you are. You can definitely love where you are so much that the thought of being forced to leave fills you with fear and desperation.

            Besides, she’s already shared with us that she attempted suicide. We have no right to any more personal information than she chooses to share with us. Whatever the rest of the story is has nothing to do with her being sent to a men’s prison despite being a woman after she was detained. That is why she was in the news; that is what we should be talking about: the way that the rules of our society systemically marginalize trans* people. What her mental state was when she left Toronto for the first time has nothing to do with anything, and is frankly derailing the conversation.

            Also, this is the definition of “claim” from Merriam-Webster: “to say that (something) is true when some people may say it is not true.” You aren’t saying she lied, but you are implying that she is not telling the full truth either. There’s no other reason to use a qualifying word like that before stating something another person has asserted as a fact about their life. Please don’t play semantics.

          • Notcleverguy

            Well stated Morgan.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            “As a trans* person myself–”

            Ah, maybe that explains why you turned “interesting” into a slur. You’re looking for transphobia (or is it transmisogyny?) where there is none. Try Joe Clark, a few posts up, he’ll give you what you’re looking for.

            You are also using information from outside the article in question, perhaps even a personal connection to the writer, so don’t jump down my throat for responding to the content of a single article. I’m not responsible for what she said – or didn’t say – in the article, or how she said it. If you think it’s ‘derailing’ the conversation to talk about a particular detail of that article, maybe you shouldn’t have replied.

            (Here’s some semantics for you: (verb) “state or assert that something is the case, typically without providing evidence or proof”; (noun) “an assertion of the truth of something, typically one that is disputed or in doubt” – evidence of suicide is sufficient grounds to doubt prior statements of happiness and evidence of same. QED.)

          • Morgan Dambergs

            I never said you said anything transphobic — thought it is, if I may, interesting that you’ve read my criticism of you that way based solely on my being trans*. But up until now, I never assumed that about you. No, what I said is that her mental health some time ago has nothing at all to do with her mistreatment at the hands of our custom’s officials. That is why Avery was in the news in the first place, and what we should be discussing here. Talking about mental health issues she fought through in the past is derailing of the actual issue at hand. (Also, please note that I never took issue with your use of “interesting”, only with your use of “claims”. So I don’t know why you’re focussing on that word. I never used it in my posts, except where I quoted you verbatim and left that word unbolded because it didn’t seem important.)

            And no, I’m not pulling from a different article, and I don’t know Avery (or anyone who knows her, so far as I’m aware) in real life. I actually said that I didn’t know her in my first comment, so I have no idea why you’re assuming that now. Everything she said about not having found herself before she lived in Toronto, and being worried about returning to England, comes from the article that is linked. The rest is speculation based on my personal experiences and knowledge of how scary it feels to try to come out without any support or community backing you up. Her blog post was about what happened to her in Toronto, and she furnished us with the information that she had made a suicide attempt because it was relevant to how complicated her situation became. Here is her quote, so you can’t accuse me of pulling this from somewhere else:

            “I have a suicide attempt in my history, something they could see because Toronto police had helped me get to the hospital, and that made things even more complicated. I would need to be detained under suicide watch,
            but the co-ed immigration detention centre wasn’t set up for that. So they’d need to send me to a prison. But which one?”

            Outside of the context of what happened to her as a trans* person being held by Canadian customs officials, her past mental health is irrelevant to this discussion. I have trouble understanding why you can’t see that.

            Why does Avery need to prove that she was happy in Toronto just because she also sometimes struggled with major depression there? Hell, why does she need to prove anything about her mental health at all? Why are we even talking about that? Avery (and her girlfriend) spoke up to expose the systemic injustices that trans* people can face in the Canadian legal system. Why does it matter whether or not she was 100% head-in-the-clouds happy when she was a Toronto resident? We’re talking about what happened to her last month. Or rather, we should be.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            You seem intent on being offended by something, anything, I have to say, so I can only assume it’s for personal reasons.

            For someone so critical of ‘derailing’ the topic, you’ve written more than 10 times the amount I have on the subject.

          • Morgan Dambergs

            I’m not offended, I just can’t for the life of me understand why you think Avery’s mental health several years ago is at all relevant to what happened to her last month. It just makes no sense to me.

            And yes, since you’ve been defending your interest in aspects of Avery’s personal life that have nothing to do with the matter at hand, I’ve felt the need to keep asserting that that interest has, in fact, nothing to do with the matter at hand. Forgive me for attempting to be a voice of reason, I suppose?

          • rich1299

            This thread has been ridiculous for a dozen or so comments now. Re-read the original comment, it makes no connection whatsoever between her mental health and her time in a men’s prison while awaiting extradition.

          • Morgan Dambergs

            “Re-read the original comment, it makes no connection whatsoever between Avery’s mental health and her time in a men’s prison while awaiting extradition.”

            Yes, and that’s why the original comment is problematic. Because, as Avery says in her blog post, she was only sent to the men’s prison because they felt they had to put her on suicide watch, and weren’t set up for that at the co-ed facility. If she’d been sent to the women’s prison, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, because it wouldn’t be a news-worthy story. What we should be talking about is how Avery was treated last month, not complaining that she’s not telling us every tiny detail about her mental health while she was still a Toronto resident. That’s not what she’s speaking out about. It’s irrelevant.

          • rich1299

            I just got to add I totally understood what you were saying in your original post. I’ve been through many suicidal periods in my life, though no attempts since my teens, and during such times have never loved anything at all, incapable of feeling anything but pain. That seems to be the most common and usual experience. I’ve also known people who’ve become suicidal very quickly seemingly out of the blue but I’ve never known anyone who was both suicidal and loving their life.

            Something was definitely left out. I suspect she was trying to say positive things about living in Toronto to a largely Toronto audience leaving out how stressful and difficult it can be at times but I have no idea and don’t really care.

          • Morgan Dambergs

            She didn’t “love her life”. She loved the city she was living in.

            But the point is, it doesn’t matter. She was aksed to write about what happened to her when she was sent to a men’s prison despite being a woman. There is no reason anyone should be talking about her suicide attempt at all, except that it caused her to be kept out of a co-ed facility instead. That’s the only reason she mentioned it, and all that should matter when we’re talking about her recent experiences.

          • rich1299

            “Please don’t play semantics” says the person quoting the dictionary.

          • Morgan Dambergs

            Yes, to the person who was arguing that saying Avery “claimed” something, and then said they weren’t saying she wasn’t telling the truth. I was responding initially to the expression of doubt, which I felt was misguided, before I realized that the larger issue is how Avery’s mental state years ago has nothing to do with what she went through last month.

            Tyrannosaurus’s denial that they were trying to cast doubt on Avery’s enjoyment of Toronto was disingenuous (and more importantly, irrelevant to the systemic issues trans* people face in Canada). That’s playing semantics. I was just defining the word in case it had been chosen with a different intent in mind, and Tyrannosaurus didn’t realize how it came across. Forgive me for wanting clarity when I’m trying to give someone the benefit of the doubt and assume they simply misspoke?

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    And your evidence that I don’t have first-hand experience with any of those things is… what, exactly? Ass.

  • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

    When you say “understanding about mental health, depression, and suicide,” do you refer to the comorbidity of any or all of those with transsexualism?

    • vampchick21

      Mental health issues transcend sexuality and gender identification.

      • http://joeclark.org/weblogs/ Joe Clark

        “Mental[-]health issues” are comorbid with transgenderism.

  • Holy Neoliberal Batman

    Avery chose to go to the detention centre, even though she was free to leave.

    • Morgan Dambergs

      “You might have been outraged, as many were, that I was offered the option
      to go home, and that I refused, preferring to be detained. The real
      situation was, again, more complicated. I could have flown out that
      night, been back in the UK the next afternoon, relatively hassle-free,
      if I was able to buy a last-minute, $2000 flight on another airline,
      since the one I’d flown in on wouldn’t be making a return trip until
      days later. I didn’t have that kind of money, so I didn’t really have a
      choice.
      Besides, I thought, it’d be nice to be able to see my
      girlfriend, albeit in the visitors’ room of the detention centre.”

      Emphasis mine. Next time, read the linked article before you post, moron.

      • You’re Not Left Yet

        Who the fuck pissed in your cornflakes? There’s no mention of the portion you quoted in the article I’m seeing, either.

        • Morgan Dambergs

          Did you bother to follow the link to the blog post this article exists to link you to? No? Then your ignorance isn’t my problem.

          • You’re Not Left Yet

            Did you ever consider that it reeks of mental instability, calling people “morons” and “idiots” over something as potentially-benign as a hyperlink to somewhere else not displaying as clickable?

          • You’re Not Left Yet

            It could be that person didn’t know the article was published yet- it does read a bit as a sneak peek, short as it is, with a sprinkling of quotes.

            We coo?

          • Morgan Dambergs

            There are two links in this article, and it exists to tell us to go read Avery’s blog post so we can read “her side of the story”. (That sentence fragment being the linked portion in the article above.) The OP didn’t bother to read her that post, which explained specifically why she could not just fly home. Instead, they posted a selection of her tweets that make her look bad, without telling the full story even as it was related in those original tweets. That’s not benign. That’s intentionally trying to make Avery look bad by misquoting her and intentionally ignoring the actual context of what she said. How could I ever feel okay with someone doing that to another human being?

            So no, we’re not “coo”. BTW, did you ever consider that trying to imply I’m mentally unstable for being angry is a really rude, and deeply problematic, thing to do? Way to keep marginalizing people with actual mental illnesses, and to try to undermine my points by taking the low road. Think a little before you cast those kinds of aspersions from now on, please. It really does perpetuate some really nasty stuff.