On July 27, a transgender woman named Linda Thompson robbed a bank in Cheyenne, Wyoming, hurled the bills into the air, and then sat outside, waiting for police. At her court hearing, she asked the judge for “as much time as possible” because she does not believe she can survive life on the outside.
Thompson, who had previously served a six-year sentence for robbery, told The Washington Post that although prison can be dangerous for transgender prisoners, incarceration has become a “means of survival.” Thompson said she has had a hard time finding work since she transitioned in the 1990s, and she now faces an even tougher job search because she has a criminal record. Homeless shelters are often full, or uninviting. A few days before she robbed the bank in Cheyenne, Thompson was beaten by a group of men in a public park.
“I choose to have society support me and go to prison, which is kind of a cowardly way of dealing with my problems,” she said.
Though Thompson considers herself to be “somewhat of a failure,” research indicates that transgender people do indeed face disproportionate obstacles to employment. A survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that trans men and women are four times more likely to earn less than $10,000 per year than other groups. Unemployment rates for trans people are double that of the general population.
Thompson is currently awaiting sentencing in Nebraska. She faces up to 20 years in prison.
Watch an excerpt from the 2007 documentary Cruel & Unusual, in which Thompson explains why she turned to theft as a way to survive.
[protected-iframe id=”63853c31913456ebbffb3de3ca793344-83869857-82339811″ info=”//www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/d7baf98a-76d5-11e6-9781-49e591781754″ width=”480″ height=”290″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” webkitallowfullscreen=”” mozallowfullscreen=”” allowfullscreen=””]
Read the full story at The Washington Post.