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Trans woman Nikita Dragun was placed in a men’s prison

Despite identifying as a woman since her transition in 2015, Dragun’s arrest highlights continued transphobia and human-rights violations within the US prison system.

On Monday, YouTube star Nikita Dragun was arrested and charged with felony assault of a police officer.

The influencer was taken to a men’s prison in Miami and held until Wednesday when she was released without bail.

Dragun has publicly identified as a woman since her transition in 2015. She uses ‘she/her’ pronouns, and visibly presents as female.

After the influencer claimed she had been held at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional facility – a men’s prison – Dragun’s fans shared concern on social media.

Those in the trans community, along with LGBTQ+ and human rights activists, also expressed outrage, while Dragun’s representative called the incident ‘extremely disturbing and dangerous’.

Following rumours of her detainment, a video surfaced online of Dragun’s hearing. ‘Do I have to stay here in the men’s unit still?’ a tearful Dragun asks the judge over video call.

Judge Mindy Glazer remains stern, replying that she ‘didn’t make the rules’ but that Dragun could take her concerns up with another department.

Comments beneath the video have highlighted public disbelief that such incidents are still occurring in the US judicial system.

One Twitter user responded to the video by calling out a lack of media coverage. ‘This is so fucking inhumane and the face that the news isn’t covering it is just even worse. I’m not a fan of Nikita but this is a violation of human rights and her safety, they’ve even misgendered her in the report’.

The tweet refers to police repeatedly referring to Dragun as ‘he/him’ both during the arrest, and in the subsequent paperwork.

Dragun rose to fame on YouTube in 2013 with her makeup tutorials and lifestyle videos. After coming out as transgender in 2015, she shared her transition journey online. As of 2021, Dragun had over 3.5 million YouTube followers and 9 million Instagram followers.

Despite her popularity, Dragun has remained a polarising personality. Not only has she faced transphobia throughout her career, but a slew of controversies have also followed Dragun as her fame and wealth have grown.

She is known for her outspoken personality, which has landed her in various dramas with other internet celebrities. In July 2020, Dragun was involved in a house party for Youtuber Larri Merritt, which took place during COVID-19 lockdowns. She has also been accused of Blackfishing and cultural appropriation.

But regardless of her past behaviour, thousands have come out in support of Dragun following her recent arrest.

‘I’m not a fan of Nikita Dragun nor am I defending her actions in any shape or form but when she was put into jail and forced to stay in a men’s unit, that’s heart-breaking and dangerous. Trans women are women’ one Twitter user shared.

Representatives for the influencer told Rolling Stone this week that ‘the situation with Nikita, who is legally female, being placed in a men’s unit of a Florida jail is extremely disturbing.’

‘This decision made by the Miami-Dade County Corrections Department directly violates their protocol, which mandates that transgender inmates are classified and housed based on safety needs and gender identity’.

The behaviour of Florida police proves that despite strides in trans legislation and protection, trans people are still extremely vulnerable when placed in the judicial system.

According to the US National Centre for Transgender Equality, trans people are often disproportionately targeted for violence and abuse, whether or not they are detained in a facility that reflects their gender identity.

Police also frequently harass and profile trans people, especially if they are not white. This mistreatment has meant that the majority (57%) of trans people surveyed in 2015 said they were too afraid to go to the police if they needed help.

Responding to public concern for Dragun, a Miami-Dade Corrections representative told TMZ that the facility is ‘committed to protecting the rights of the transgender community and of all LGBTQ people’.

The representative went on to dispute Dragun’s claims of mistreatment, stating that she ‘never made it beyond the booking process prior to release; therefore, she was never placed in a men’s unit.’

‘Additionally, inmate Dragun was placed in a holding cell by herself due to her high profile status before being released, and she was escorted by an LGBTQ officer during her time in the corrections facility’.

Whether or not the Miami-Dade Corrections Facility is being honest about Dragun’s arrest, the affidavit lists the influencer as male.

According to the paperwork, Dragun ‘appears as a female but would like to be recognised as male’. Given Dragun’s visible discomfort and audible sobbing during her court hearing, along with her longstanding identification as a woman, this statement is hard to believe.

Dragun has since been released from prison. Her team have expressed their concerns for her wellbeing but confirm Dragun has returned home safely. ‘Nikita has been released and is now safe’ they shared earlier this week. ‘Thank you for respecting her privacy during this time’.


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