Supporters of a transgender woman are angrily questioning why she was sent to a men’s jail after being detained on an immigration matter.
Avery Edison, a 25-year-old comedian and writer from Britain, said she was denied entry to Canada upon arriving at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Monday for a three-week visit because she had previously overstayed her student visa.
Ms. Edison, who identifies as a woman and says she is preoperative male-to-female transgender, was detained for hours and used Twitter to share her ordeal before she was eventually transferred to Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont., a provincial men’s jail.
“In addition to being merely inconvenient, this is a humiliating experience that makes me feel like a criminal. Very dark thoughts,” she tweeted.
Ms. Edison is being housed in a solitary cell for her own safety, said her partner, Romy Sugden, who visited her on Tuesday.
“I think it’s absolutely outrageous,” said Ms. Sugden, a 27-year-old Toronto writer. “It really feels like from her perspective that they just did not know what to do with her and so decided to just put her in the worst position possible.”
Later Tuesday, Ms. Sugden said Ms. Edison’s hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday morning and she was expected be transferred to a women’s facility either late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said it is “currently reviewing the situation and having discussions with the Canadian Border Services Agency,” spokesman Greg Flood said by e-mail. He declined to confirm specifics about Ms. Edison’s case for reasons of privacy, but said “classification recommendations and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.”
The case has attracted outrage from supporters, who have launched a #FreeAvery campaign on Twitter and say her case underscores the systemic discrimination faced by transgender people. According to Ontario’s Human Rights Commission, preoperative transsexuals are typically assigned to jails according to their “birth-assigned gender” and housed in segregated areas for their own protection.
“I think it’s horrible and it’s scary and it’s a nightmare and she is so brilliantly funny and so sweet that it’s just so unfortunate that it’s happening to her,” said Tim Gilbert, a Toronto comedian and friend.
Ms. Edison is gratified by the support she has received, Ms. Sugden said.
“She really, really hopes that it helps her in resolving the situation as soon as possible,” she said. “She’s also very happy that she finally reached 10,000 Twitter followers. She’s been trying to hit that mark for a while. So she’s in good spirits and making jokes, so that’s really good.”
Ms. Edison came to Canada on a student visa in 2010 and attended Humber College’s comedy program, Ms. Sugden said, adding that she let her visa lapse and returned to Britain in September. Ms. Edison legally changed her gender and name in 2009, Ms. Sugden said.