Marie Dean

The “cross-dressing Burnley burglar” is serving an indeterminate sentence for public protection, after breaking into houses and stealing underwear and being charged with burglary and voyeurism. S/he videoed herself on her phone, in the underwear in the victims’ bedrooms, and the quote picked by the Lancashire Telegraph to give its readers an entertaining feeling of disgust, loathing and derision was “I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your underwear. They smell nice.” Possibly the sentence would not have been so great but for the videos. The story is the worst kind for the trans community- predatory trans in your daughter’s bedroom, getting sexually aroused- but these are upsetting things to do, and ordinary decent readers of newspapers will want to read about them.

Then she was back in the news because she is on hunger strike. This got a sympathetic write-up in The Observer (the Guardian’s Sunday paper). She claims that the prison authorities “deny her chosen gender”, and it is not clear what that means. She has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, she is in a men’s prison, and she claims prison officials “refused to give hair straighteners, epilator or any makeup”. Hair straighteners get hot, and could conceivably be used to assault someone, but if a friend outside is willing to give her makeup, or she can buy it herself, I don’t see why she should be denied it. A letter from friends outside said she should be “given back her clothes”. Convicted prisoners wear prison uniform, but she should be entitled to wear women’s uniform.

In the same prison run by incompetent profiteers Serco, Jenny Swift killed herself. She complained of “bullying”, though Serco claimed the prison officer was being “robust”. She was angry at officers calling her “fella”. Prisons are understaffed and underfunded, with little or no attempt at rehabilitation and increasing suicide, self-harm and violence.

The indeterminate sentence indicates Marie Dean was seen as a danger to the public, and that is not just from burglary. The judge must have believed her behaviour could lead to physical harm. She has no right to be in a woman’s prison, as the Ministry of Justice has to take care of her safety and that of other inmates. She has the right to be treated with dignity, and that means being able to express herself as female and be free from violence. “Assessments will be made on a case by case basis” says the government.

The story is a gift to the TERFs, and in the Murdoch press Janice Turner took advantage. Corbyn must decide if he’ll sacrifice allies who aren’t prepared to see women’s safety compromised for the sake of dogma. This conflates two completely different issues, whether trans women should be allowed on all woman shortlists for appointing candidates for election, and whether a trans woman should be placed in a women’s prison. Gender identity does not erase biological reality, she argued. Well, so what? Jeremy Corbyn has decreed that gender self-identity is official policy. That means that transitioned women can get on all women shortlists, and that Marie Dean should be allowed to express herself as a woman and not be misgendered. It does not mean that she should be placed in a women’s prison. Marie Dean, and the disgust many will feel reading of her crimes, is irrelevant to how trans women should be treated, but trotted out by Janice Turner to oppose any trans rights at all.

Notour TERF Sarah Ditum played the same game in the New Statesman. If being denied hair straighteners can be presented as a cruel and unusual punishment, one might imagine that housing female prisoners with a voyeur would rate somewhere even higher. But in prison, as everywhere else, the expectation appears to be that women’s safety comes last. Belittle the difficulties the trans woman faces, and conflate the threat she poses with issues pertaining to trans women generally:  it’s so dispiriting to hear Jeremy Corbyn on Marr this weekend, saying things like “we should respect people however they identify” or “where you’ve self-identified as a woman, then you are treated as a woman.”

Also in the Murdoch press was the story that Women’s Aid was considering whether to employ trans women. That is, an organisation run from top to bottom by women, committed to the needs of their service users and women in general, with a great deal of expertise on those needs and with knowledge of the relevant law, would make a decision in the interests of their organisation. They may decide to continue refusing to employ trans women. However, that is boring, so to make the news entertaining we had a load of TERFs wheeled out to make “Help, help the sky is falling!” quotes, to make readers feel pleasurable disgust and fear.

Lancashire telegraph.
The Observer on Marie Dean, and the Guardian on the death of Jenny Swift.
The New Statesman.

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