Katherine Anne Johnson (1949-2014) was a trans prisoner who struggled to have the rights of all trans prisoners recognized by the Correctional Service of Canada.
Beginning in 1972, Katherine spent the vast majority of her adult life as a woman living in men’s prisons. During this time, she was denied the right to gender affirming surgery and made several attempts to perform these surgeries on herself. Her requests to be transferred to a women’s prison were denied. She spent decades in men’s prisons where she was repeatedly ridiculed, raped and abused by men. Her fear and desperation led her to attempt suicide on a number of occasions.
Despite the adversity that Katherine faced in her life, she never lost sight of her desire to help others to avoid the pain that she experienced. In 1997, she co-authored a book entitled Prisoner of Gender, published by Perceptions Press. In 2008, she filed a human rights complaint regarding her surgery and placement in men’s prison. In 2010, her surgery was completed and she was moved to the Fraser Valley Institution for Women. At this point in her life, Katherine was frail and elderly beyond her years. It had been her wish to be transferred to women’s prison so that she could die happy in a safer environment among other women.
On April 27, 2014, Katherine died at the age of 66 at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women. At her memorial service, many women prisoners spoke of their love and respect for Katherine.