Sophia Burset is persecuted for being trans
Sophia Burset is a trans female imprisoned at Litchfield, and Laverne Cox might be the first major trans actress on television. So when Burset starts being bullied by her fellow inmates for once being male, the show opens up a dialogue on a whole new set of issues involving gender neutrality in prison culture.
In season 1 we learn that Burset is a loving but stern mother even from prison. She works with her wife (whom she married when she was still male) to do right by their son, in spite of being physically removed from his day-to-day life. Burset is sentenced to prison for the non-violent crime of credit card fraud, which was incurred to help pay for her sex-reassignment surgeries. Around season 3 she is approximately less than halfway through her sentence, and as familial tensions flare, so do they inside Litchfield.
Because of some misunderstandings gone terribly awry with Gloria Mendoza (Selenis Leyva), Burset finds herself sustaining harassment at the hands of Aleida Diaz (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and in turn many other inmates connected to those two. It culminates in a violent attack on Burset in her salon. After that, Burset threatens to sue MCC, the company running Litchfield, for a lack of correctional officer security. This opens up a whole new can of worms for Burset and the prison administration alike when they decide to throw her into solitary confinement for that threat.
We’ve seen and heard about these sort of incidents in the news, but it’s not information that’s readily available. This storyline feels like an homage to unspoken cruelties that happen daily within the confines of prisons nationwide. In season 4 OITNB digs into a lot of social injustice, and this is one compelling facet of that.