Writing from Death Row: On Being Transgender in Prison

In December 2016, I received an email from an attorney asking me if I would be interested in writing to one of his clients on death row. He said the client was working on several writing projects, mainly fantasy books, and wanted to connect with more people. Taci Vixen and I have been in touch ever since.

Taci writes clear, detailed, thoughtful messages about their days, their sewing, their case, their writing. In one of their first messages, they wrote, “I’m not sure how many novels I read growing up. I’m gonna say it was six. The first novel I wanted to read was Paradox Alley by John DeChance because I really liked the cover.” They earned a GED in county jail awaiting trial and started reading seriously in 2000.

Confined in a men’s prison and without any educational programming, Taci has cultivated a disciplined writing practice. They have written three books and six screenplays on a typewriter. They then retype their stories onto the prison’s messaging system and send them to a friend they met through Black and Pink. The friend copies and pastes each message into a Word document. To send out one story, Taci sent over 45 emails.

In an essay about being transgender in prison, Taci wrote about fighting for the right to live their life as their true self:

Having the courage to come out as transgender takes time. Regardless of negative, arrogant, and uneducated comments, I do not allow others to dictate who I am or who I want to be. To do so would mean I was living my life for someone else and not being true to myself. I won’t do that. I know what that’s like, and I’ll never allow that to happen to me again.

Taci wrote their novel High Heels and Horsepower because they “wanted to write a gearhead girl story that would be inspiring to girls and women because so many jobs that are auto-related are done by men.”

Taci continues to fight for their life and their dignity. On April 6, 2020, Taci wrote, “I very much hope that what I’m doing, the words I write, will be a source of inspiration to others in the future. I’ll continue to do that for as long as I’m alive, to help as many others as I’m able to, in what ways I’m able to do so.”

Taci is from Ohio and has been incarcerated since November 1993. They started writing in the summer of 2003, and it took them three years to write their first novel. Taci is currently writing another screenplay and working on a new novel. Read Taci’s full essay, I Know That to Be True: Being Transgender in Prison.

By Katy Ryan

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