On Monday, comedian Avery Edison was detained at Pearson Airport in Toronto. The U.K. citizen had overstayed a student visa last year, and left the country voluntarily in September, but tried, unsuccessfully, to return yesterday.
Edison planned to stay in Toronto for three weeks to visit her partner, Romy Sugden.
She was denied entry on landing due to her visa issues and...that's where things took a turn for the worse.
After seven hours in detention at Pearson — much of which she live tweeted to her 11,000 followers — she was transferred to Maplehurst Correctional Complex, a men's detention facility in Milton, Ontario. And here's the problem: Edison is transgender. She lives and identifies as a woman, and is listed as female on her British passport.
Despite the gender listed on official documents, Edison was effectively treated as male.
In Ontario, decisions about where to detain transgender people are made on a case-by-case basis, but often come down to anatomy. "The law is pretty clear in that it’s based purely on the anatomy, and particularly the genitals, of the person being housed,” Kyle Kirkup, a lawyer who specializes in LGBTQ issues, told Canada.com.
As Edison put it yesterday, during the whole ordeal:
Literally going to jail. Actual jail. Because they don't know what to do about my junk.— Avery Edison (@aedison) February 11, 2014
Please keep Toronto Airport customs/immigration officials in your thoughts, as this is apparently their first time meeting a trans person.— Avery Edison (@aedison) February 11, 2014
Though by Edison's own admission, the fact of her detention is not up for argument:
In case anybody is mistaken - I was NOT denied entry because I'm trans. I am not a credible visitor for reasons besides gender.— Avery Edison (@aedison) February 11, 2014
This morning, Sudgen updated the case on her own Twitter account, after getting in touch with someone at the correctional facility:
.@aedison But, was still informed that Ontario law requires everyone with male genitalia to be placed in a men's prison -that can't be true?— rahrah (@rahrahtempleton) February 11, 2014
.@aedison Was promised that she would not be put in a cell, "because she'll get beat up or worse." Yeah, thats only her nightmare, she knows— rahrah (@rahrahtempleton) February 11, 2014
Sugden has visited Maplehurst, and Edison is reportedly safe and in segregation in the men's facility.
.@aedison saw her and she's holding up like a fucking champ and making friends with the guards.— rahrah (@rahrahtempleton) February 11, 2014
.@aedison she thanks you and wants you to know she's scared, but ok. They refuse to gender her properly, but otherwise are treating her well— rahrah (@rahrahtempleton) February 11, 2014
Update: On Tuesday night, Edison was moved to the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton.