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06 November 2009

Synthia Kavanagh (1962 - ) sex worker, inmate.

Richard Chaperon was born in British Columbia. From ages 2 to 9 he was in the care of the Children's Aid Society; from age 11 to a week before his 16th birthday, he was in a juvenile detention centre, and first started dressing as female.

Synthia legally changed her name at age 19. As an adult she calculated that she had spent only six years of her life not in some kind of institution.

She says that she always felt that she was female. She has twice been assessed by the Gender Identity Clinics in British Columbia and Ontario, for approval for a sex-change, and has twice been refused.

In 1985, she was working as a prostitute when she murdered a fellow transsexual, her roommate Lisa Black, with a hammer and a knife.

The judge suggested 'simple humanity' requires that Synthia serve her sentence in a woman's prison, however the correctional services rejected this and put her in Millhaven Penitentiary, the maximum-security prison for men in Bath, Ontario. The correctional services would not put her in a women's prison because she still had male genitals, and substantially reduced her dosage of estrogens despite the fact that she has been taking them for many years.

The Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Ontario's Gender Identity Clinic, refused to approve her for a sex-change because she was unable to complete a two-year Real-Life Test. She filed a human rights complaint and the Human Rights Tribunal agreed that the policy of Corrections Canada placing trans women among the male population was discriminatory and that the absolute ban on sex changes was unwarranted. This decision was upheld in Federal Court.

Kavanagh had the operation in 2000, and in 2001 was transferred to Joliette, a medium-security women’s prison north of Montréal.

In 2005 she trashed a room at Edmonton’s women’s prison and fought off guards. She was then transferred to the maximum-security Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario.

The 2005 trashing incident provoked some ‘she is still a man’ newspaper articles.

Synthia Kavanagh was not the first Canadian inmate to have gender surgery, although she is the best known.   She was preceded by Shelley Ball in 1980.


  1. So that really kills the idea that we are nice kind above averagely intelligent people it would be a joy to get to know!

    Caroline xx

  2. I don't know where you got the idea of "nice kind above averagely intelligent people". The people featured in this blog are both cursed and blessed to be human. Previously the sub-title to this blog was: "all human life is here". That still applies.

  3. In every type of group, culture, community there are people who might be responsible for harming another. That does not spoil a whole group because of the actions of one, else every culture, group, community would be considered not nice to get to know.

  4. I'd love to know what would possess her/him to kill another human being with a hammer and a knife. That poor victim was my childhood friend. We were inseparable when we were kids.

  5. I absolutely love synthia she is amazing caring kind sincere and honest dont judge what u dont know or dont understand

  6. synthia is a great person I visit once a month and jave had PFV with her and we have had sex nine time since 2002


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