CeCe McDonald, the young black transgender woman who accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter last month will be incarcerated by the state of Minnesota as a male. McDonald was arrested after she stabbed a white male who was part of a group of that physically and verbally attacked her with transgender and racial slurs.
The plea agreement calls for a sentence of three years and five months in prison, according to the Star Tribune.
Upon sentencing, McDonald, 24, will be taken into custody by the state Department of Corrections and housed as a male “because he is being housed as a male with Hennepin County,” corrections spokeswoman Sarah Russell told the Star Tribune on Monday. “We will intake him as a male at St. Cloud prison.”
Russell went on to add the state will make its own determination of McDonald’s gender.
“We will assess him as any other offender would be assessed,” Russell said. “The assessments include, but are not limited to, screening for potential vulnerability to sexual assaults, tendencies to act out with sexually aggressive behavior and any disabilities” as defined by federal law.
The Transgender Law Center gathered testimonies from former prisoners, sheriffs, and others, about the risks that many prisoners face and found that sexual violence is an “ever present fact of life for far too many transgender prisoners.” [PDF]
Akiba Solomon will bring you more detailed reporting on McDonald’s story later this week.
It is true that McDonald was not out looking for a fight. On the night of June 5, 2011, McDonald walked past a bar with four other black friends in Minneapolis. She and her friends were attacked by two white women and a white man, first with words, “niggers,” “faggots,” and “chicks with dicks.”
But the words, while enough to incite a response, were not the end of it. McDonald was struck in the face with a cocktail glass by one of the women, slicing all the way through her cheek. A fight ensued as more people joined in to attack the group of black folks, and eventually Dean Schmitz, the white man who was among the first to start harassing them, was stabbed and died later in the hospital.
Even if there is not physical evidence in place to secure the conviction the prosecutor originally sought, it doesn’t really matter. A black person who fights with white people, even when self-defense is clear, is going to likely be arrested. This is often true also in transphobic and homophobic contexts, even when the violence is between people of the same race. The burden to prove one didn’t deserve to die or be brutalized often falls on black, queer and/or trans bodies. In fact, McDonald’s judge ruled that the swastika tattooed on Schmitz’s body was inadmissible by her defense as evidence of his racist assault.