Bryansk, Russia – According to Novaya Gazeta, a local doctor, Michelle, was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of “distributing pornography depicting minors,”. Experts are of the opinion that the 53-year-old transgender woman will likely die in prison.
Michelle was fired from her job as an endocrinologist at a Children’s hospital after being charged with distributing child pornography. She posted several manga illustrations ” featuring nude characters from Japanese cartoons. The examination found that the pictures depict “male faces under 14 years of age. “
At first, Michelle did not think the case would go very far as nobody, including the investigators seemed to be taking it seriously. Thus she did not seek legal representation. She was also afraid that her situation would become public if she did try to get help and before this case, her colleagues as well as her wife had been unaware of her identity.
A friend of Michelle’s, Lada Preobrazhenskaya, says she followed the advice of her court-appointed attorney and took a plea deal, hoping that would lead to a suspended sentence, even though this type of conviction can carry a term of six years in prison in Russia.
Now that she has been sentenced, her transgender status could put her life at risk if she is assigned to a men’s prison. This could happen because she has not yet undergone gender reassignment surgery or changed her name and identity in her passport.
Tatiana Vinnichenko, Director of the Moscow Community Center for LGBT Initiatives (MCC), fears that if Michelle’s transgender status is not brought into consideration, she may well die in prison. If she doesn’t have a medical report to state her gender transition, she will not have access to hormonal treatment during her incarceration. As she has bladder cancer that is in remission, inadequate hormones could lead to the cancer becoming active again. She is also at immense risk of being injured or killed by fellow inmates, should she be remanded in a men’s prison.
Michelle is not the only person who will be negatively affected by her prison term. She is also the carer for her parents, both over the age of 60, who would suffer as a result of her being incarcerated because they rely on her.