Avery Edison Twitter Terror: Transgender Advocates Incensed Over Comedian’s ‘Terrifying’ Customs Ordeal

 @christopherzarac.zara@ibtimes.com
on February 11 2014 2:49 PM

Avery After being detained by Canadian border officials, British transgender comedian Avery Edison tweeted that she was being sent to an all-male facility.  Facebook.com

Updated Wednesday, 9:52 a.m.:

Canada’s National Post reported that Edison was transferred Tuesday evening to Vanier Centre for Women in Milton.

Updated 8:10 p.m.:

Anna Pape, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency, responded with the following statement:

“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is aware of this case but cannot offer specific comments due to privacy. We are committed to ensuring the fair treatment of all travellers and that the criteria and indicators used by our officers do not discriminate on grounds protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act. The CBSA employees are professionals who are trained to carry out their responsibilities with respect towards all persons seeking entry to Canada. When an individual is detained in a provincial corrections facility, the CBSA asks its provincial service providers, where possible, to avoid comingling those detained for immigration purposes with those who are in custody for criminal reasons. Ultimately, it is the decision of the provincial service provider that determines in which facility the individual will be detained.”

Updated 5:35 p.m.:

Edison’s partner, who has been tweeting from Edison’s account, posted the following update:

 

Updated 3:40 p.m.:

Twitter user @rahrahtempleton tweeted that Edison is “holding up like a f--king champ” at Maplehurst but that the correction facility still refuses to “gender her properly.”

That same Twitter user, who apparently visited Edison at the facility, fielded numerous requests from journalists and another user offering to put Edison in contact with legal counsel.

Original Post:

Transgender-rights advocates are furious with Canadian border officials after a British comedian live-tweeted her experience of being detained at Pearson International Airport and sent to a men’s prison near Toronto.

Avery Edison, a transgender comedian who lives in London, was planning to visit friends in Canada. She began tweeting her ordeal from the Toronto airport late Monday afternoon. Staying light-hearted at first, Edison wrote that she was stuck in “customs limbo” and later revealed that she was deemed inadmissible due to a lapsed student visa. She even joked about asking the Canadian prime minister to “pull some strings.”

But the tweets soon turned darker and more disturbing. After reporting that she had “just been read rights,” Edison tweeted that she would be placed in solitary confinement because she is “pre-operative MTF," meaning she is transitioning from male to female. Soon after, it became apparent that border officials did not know where to put Edison once they discovered that she is transgender.

 

Later, Edison tweeted that she was being taken to Maplehurst Correctional Complex, an all-male facility in Milton, Ontario.

 

Throughout the ordeal, Edison tried to maintain a sense of humor.

 

As word of Edison’s ordeal spread on Twitter, countless transgender-rights supporters began tweeting in her defense, with many calling the experience a blatant human-rights violation. Using the hashtag #FreeAvery, many tweeted their anger at the Twitter account for the Canadian Border Services Agency, with some asking why Edison wasn’t simply permitted to leave the country and return to the U.K. Others said the incident points to the need for better education and training for border officials.

 

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has written about the need to develop better operational procedures in regards to transgender issues. On its website, the commission says that, under current procedures, sex-segregated institutions pose special challenges for transgender individuals:

“The standing practice appears to be to allow post-operative male to female transsexuals to stay in women’s correctional facilities, and in all other situations, to deal with transgendered individuals on a case by case basis. However, unless full sex reassignment surgery has been undertaken, the individual will be placed in a facility according to his or her birth-assigned gender in a segregated area.”

Tweets supporting Edison continued throughout the day on Tuesday as her Twitter account gained hundreds of new followers.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Edison was reportedly in segregation at Maplehurst, away from the male prison population, according to tweets from friends. Numerous Twitter users reported that they are going to visit her at the facility.

This story is still developing. Updates will be posted here. The Canadian Border Services Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Storify user Jason Sweeney captured Edison’s entire eight-hour series of tweets here.

Got a news tip? Email me. Follow me on Twitter @christopherzara.

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