by Laura Reyna

The American legal system is corrupt. Every day, fascist cops, predatory prosecutors, and corrupt judges force thousands of innocents to accept plea deals that label them guilty – all for the sake of maintaining institutional oppression. Who are the most common victims? The economically disadvantaged, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

One of the institutions used to oppress is the Sex Offender Registry. While claiming to be protecting communities, it is used as an anti-trans, anti-queer weapon. Red state anti-trans bathroom bills criminalize trans women for using any public restroom. If they enter the correct one, they are labeled a “predator.” If they enter the men’s room, they are labeled a “prostitute.” Both routes lead to being turned into a sex offender.

This use of the registry as an anti-queer weapon is not accidental. When Maxine St. James bravely protested the fascist legislation of Texas, the Department of Public Safety threatened to arrest her as a “pervert” if she continued to exercise her rights. Meanwhile, the DPS officers who molested and assaulted her, the true sexual aggressors, faced no repercussions for their actions.

Online, hate group leaders called for her to be put in prison. The registry, far from being a safety line, is instead a noose that bigots want to string around our necks at any opportunity. It’s what underscores every accusation that “queer people are coming for your children.”

Maxine was fortunate to escape being fully captured by a system of injustice. Sadly, many are not so fortunate. In Travis County alone, there are thousands of queer and BIPOC people who are in the system for no reason other than systemic discrimination. People’s lives were destroyed by those looking for any excuse to punish “the other.”

Thankfully, there are those with the compassion to fight back against this injustice. They work with these people to become their chaperones. Chaperones accompany those who are registered, making it easier for them to travel. Chaperones are typically someone’s family, but as many queer and trans people know, family is often unreliable. These volunteers have stepped up to help many abandoned individuals regain access to what they should have never lost.

Through one of these organizers I have come to know several people who are trapped. In this series of articles, I will relay their intersectional stories, stories of LGBTQ+ Texans of color who are reviled by so many in society.

Each demonstrates a failure of the American system to deliver anything resembling justice. They are tales of the desperate need for reforms and abolition of prisons and registries. The fascists who plague us will use any excuse, any lie, to justify their hatred. Children are never in danger from our community, so they have to invent via legal fiction the boogiemen they can use in their propaganda. 

Names are changed to protect their identities. Certain identifying facts are also omitted from the stories to protect identities. This is due to the overwhelming danger so many of these people face regularly from vigilante groups.

Those I have met have been given a label that is not part of their identity, is not a real aspect of who they are or their lived experiences. What they seek is freedom and, hopefully, to reclaim their true selves. But they are owed so much more. 

Telling their stories is the beginning of a healing process. It is our collective duty to make sure these stories are read, studied, and spread as widely as possible. It is our duty to hold accountable those who attacked these people and to break this cycle of harm. We must educate the next generation, so they do not repeat the persecutions this society has committed.

an illustrated portrait of Laura Reyna, the author. They have long, light brown/blond hair and are wearing thick-rimmed black glasses.

Laura Reyna (They/She) is a queer neurodivergent Latinx finding their authentic self. They are sex positive, kink positive, and sex worker inclusive, and they long for the day when every aspect of colonialism, patriarchy, and fascism are dismantled.