From the beginning of Captive Genders, Nat and I talked about how we wanted to find an image for the cover of the book that was not the predictable prison bars or other literal representations of the prison. Similarly, we did not want to use photos of people for various political and aesthetic reasons. Primarily we did not want to prescribe or foreclose the limits of what a trans and/or queer prisoner might look like.
I found the photo we eventually decided to use in the archive at the GLBT Historical Society, which is a great resource worth checking out (if you are lucky enough for them to answer your emails). The photo was taken by Marie Ueda on May 21, 1979, the night of the White Night riots in San Francisco. Earlier that day, Dan White, an ex-cop who assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the lightest possible conviction.
As abolitionists it is not that we believe justice would have been served had White been convicted of murder. However, his conviction is a way of reading the structural homophobia (and racism, classism, ableism, transphobia) of the criminal (in)justice system. Indeed, during the riots, there was no clear or singular message, it was a moment of queer rage. That night, City Hall was torn to pieces and twelve police cars were set aflame. Ueda’s photo captures a bit of the moment’s glory.