Trans women in prison

When will trans women be placed in women’s prisons in the UK? Having a gender recognition certificate does not mean we will be put in a women’s prison, but it helps.

Before sentencing, you might disclose transgender status so that a proper pre-sentencing report can be prepared and sentencing take account of it.

The prison authorities should attempt to determine the legal gender of a prisoner at the first point of contact. They don’t trust prisoners, oddly enough, so asking the prisoner is not the only way of deciding. If a prisoner shows a GRC that is proof; the authorities may ask the prisoner to produce a birth certificate, but not a GRC. Like cis women, trans women with a GRC can be placed in men’s prisons where the risk posed to other offenders and/or staff prevents location in the female estate. That is, the rules for trans women with a GRC, and cis women, being placed in men’s prisons are the same. Women, cis or trans, in the male estate must be held separately “according to a female prisoner regime”- under the rules in the Prison Service Order on women prisoners, PSO 4800. I can’t find specific rules on assessing risk, or what risk is sufficient for such a decision. There may be claims under human rights law.

Trans men who do not have a GRC should stay in women’s prisons if they ask to. The guidance does not say trans men with a GRC can ask to stay in women’s prisons, for example if they fear the men’s estate.

Trans women without a GRC must be allowed to present according to their gender identity, and the prison authorities must ensure the opportunity. They are allowed to change their name on the system if they have not gone through any formal name change procedure before, but may be kept in men’s prison.

Female prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes, and the guidance allows trans women (even in the male estate) to do so too, explaining it’s necessary to ensure they can live in their true gender. They are not allowed suits, which might imitate the management team. They are allowed breast forms and wigs, and Make up that is vital to presenting in the gender identified with, such as foundation to cover facial hair, may not be restricted.

To get into women’s prison they must wish to live consistently in the gender with which they identify, and there are two choices, male and female. The word now is “transgender”, referring to “mannerisms, appearance, pronouns etc.” “Transsexual” is no longer used because it refers to sex and anatomy. So someone who wants surgery is included, but no desire for surgery or hormones is necessary.

They are asked for evidence of living in the gender role outside. Strong evidence includes a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, hormones or surgery, but that is not full evidence. Consistent gender expression is strong evidence, shown by ID or bank cards. The document suggests “counter evidence”- that the decision to transition is precipitated by the sentence, any evidence that the prisoner seeks to buck the system, or diagnosis of personality disorder or narcissistic traits. Trans women are not immune to personality disorder, so this may be unfair. It even says “transitioning decision may be linked to gaining access to future victims”. And that at someone’s lowest point, being imprisoned, they decide to transition, taking control of this vital aspect of our lives, makes complete sense to me.

A Transgender Case Board must be convened within three days of reception in prison. It decides where to put the prisoner, based on evidence of living in the gender identity and on risk factors. A local Transgender Review Board can review new information or evidence. There is also a centrally managed Complex Case Board for offenders who present a significant risk of harm, to themselves or others.

So, on paper the system seems reasonable. However trans women commit crimes and suicide in prison, and are victims of violence from male and female prisoners, even from staff. Prisons are dangerous and unfit for human habitation. They are underfunded, privatised and poorly staffed. The danger to prisoners comes from these facts and not from anyone’s trans status. Trans women and all other prisoners should be safe in prison because the regime protects them, and that is not the case.

Karen White

Karen White is a rapist who was placed in a women’s prison, New Hall, where she sexually assaulted two prisoners and allegedly also sexually assaulted two others. She is now in a men’s prison. She pleaded guilty to a rape which took place in 2003, though she insisted she was not attracted to women and suffered from erectile dysfunction. She had previously pleaded guilty to a rape in 2016. Further counts of rape against the 2016 victim will lie on file, as will the two sexual assault charges in prison.

These are the facts, available from the Daily Mirror. Two rapes, two sexual assaults while in a women’s prison. She awaits sentencing while reports are made on whether she is a danger. “Danger” must be relative, she sounds dangerous to me. But the thing I have in common with her- having adopted a female name and female expression- should not be used to judge me.

That’s obvious, you would think. Not to Times readers. “A rapist and paedophile who was transferred to a women’s prison and assaulted four inmates there” it begins. No, assaulted two, allegedly assaulted two. One sexual assault of a vulnerable woman is appalling, but the Times wants to make the trans woman look worse than the law says she is.

This is irrelevant to the consultation on gender recognition. I am not a danger to women. But The Times, a propaganda sheet owned by Rupert Murdoch, wants to create a connection in readers’ minds: its third paragraph reads, “The Government is holding consultations on proposals to allow people to ‘self-declare’ their legal gender. Campaigners fear that opportunists will exploit the changes to gain access to protected female spaces.”

It quotes neighbours saying White was not trans, did not attend gender identity clinic appointments, wore a wig but did not seek hormone treatment. That’s all right, then. Trans women should not be judged by comparison to criminals pretending to be trans. But the Times did not accept that obvious distinction, and published an article headlined Trans rapists are a danger in women’s jails. It says, “It never happens,” women were told when they worried that losing sex-segregated private spaces might allow attacks by predatory men… it happens.. no fox has a right to live in the henhouse, even if he identifies as a hen.

The Daily Mail article is prurient and vile, but its attack is on prison policy: Sickening proof our prisons have finally lost the plot, screamed the headline. Politically correct and incompetent, rather than privatised, underfunded, violent and unfit for human habitation, as you would learn if your news intake included reports about official inspections of prisons. It quotes a Prison Service Instruction: Transgender offenders must be asked their view of the part of the prison estate (male or female) that reflects the gender with which they identify. That’s the fourth sentence of the article, as if the prisoner’s desire were the only criterion. It goes on to explain that a transgender case board of prison managers and psychologists decides where to place the prisoner, and considers risk factors- but that is a long scroll down through a long article, in which we learn White claimed disability benefits, another bugbear of the Mail.

The Sun, another Murdoch rag, gave White’s former name and said White was sent to a women’s prison “despite not having gender reassignment surgery”. Penises are so fascinating to that kind of journalist. The Telegraph also comments she had not had GRS, and says she “told the authorities she identified as a woman and was remanded into [a woman’s prison]” as if it were that simple. “But within days White made sexual advances to another inmate”. The Telegraph considers the details of the sexual assaults and alleged assaults newsworthy.

And finally, The Spectator. Yes, it’s James Kirkup again. “Politics has failed,” he exclaimed, melodramatically. David Top Cat Davies MP put down an urgent question for a minister about the assaults, but the Speaker rejected his request. The Question would call a minister to parliament, disrupting the minister’s day, so should not be granted willy nilly. There is clearly room for judgment. Only about thirty are granted a year, far more than by previous Speakers. The story of transgender policy is a story of political failure, where many people fail to do their job and speak openly about matters of clear public interest, Kirkup emoted. Repulsive, a disgusting abdication of responsibility that brings shame on [The Speaker] and his office… There is at least one male born rapist in a women’s prison today. Presumably that prisoner is safe, or there would be more publicity about it.

I find rape abominable. Most trans women would. Karen White sounds a revolting individual. But her crimes have almost no relevance to the human rights of trans people. These hard-right publications emphasise them to reduce my rights.

Added 11 October: she was sentenced to 8½ years’ imprisonment. The prosecutor described her as an “alleged transgender female”, but the “court was told” that she had begun gender reassignment treatment. She is in HMP Leeds, a male prison, and as a child molester will be segregated. She regularly uses a wheelchair.

The most transphobic article I have seen was in the Daily Express on 13 October. Headlined “This transgender madness is now a danger to women”, it started with an account of Karen White, using her male name, which it says [offensive, so whited out: highlight to read] highlights the danger of allowing men to use gender self-identification as a means to pursue their perverted acts.

… It makes you wonder what it takes for a monster like this to be treated as a very dangerous person… but of course he has “rights”… the problem is that while accepting that society should be more tolerant to transgender people, the pendulum has swung too far in their favour.

We should not allow the bullying of a vociferous minority to drown out the legitimate concerns of women who fear that safe spaces reserved for them will be invaded by men posing as women for sinister motives. Some women protesters have been physically attacked by transgender campaigners.
It should not just be a case of donning a wig and giving yourself a female name. We all deserve more respect than that.

The trans debate

“Male bodied” people in women’s loos Shock! People with no diagnosis of gender dysphoria! Could they be a threat to women? I commented on the Guardian that I had gone, dressed female, into women’s loos and changing rooms before I committed to transition, before I had a diagnosis. Yet I have a diagnosis now, I am clearly a true trans woman. And someone asked, When you entered women’s spaces in the past, how confident are you that your presence didn’t cause distress or concern to those women who were also present?

I’m not, actually. I can’t be certain. I did get read. I still do. Somebody might be distressed or concerned any time I go into a loo. So, there, is the zero-sum game: do you support my right to be myself, or the right of women, oppressed by patriarchy or being transphobic, to avoid the distress of my presence in women’s space. We have been transitioning and treated as women for decades- should that now just stop? If there are around 20,000 trans women, what harm are we really doing?

There’s an endless harping on about prisons, because some of the trans women in prison have done horrible things. Yet if one allegedly hurts women prisoners, that is not a mark against trans women without a prison record, but against the unfunded, dystopian, drug-riddled prison system. In 2015 there were 89 suicides and eight homicides in prison, as well as a death of a prisoner restrained by officers. In 2016, there were 120 suicides. Trans women, showing fantastic bravery being transitioned in men’s prisons, kill themselves.

The government took nearly a year between announcing gender recognition reform- not any change to the Equality Act, which allows trans women to be excluded from women’s space- and starting the consultation, and in that year the Murdoch Press and others started a sustained campaign of vilification against trans women. Any story, however unimportant, showing a trans woman in a bad light might make The Times or Sunday Times. The Spectator magazine, increasingly the British Breitbart, chimes in.

Yet traditional transition may be dying out. In the Government’s LGBT survey, more people answering identified as non-binary than as trans. If we cannot gain acceptance by transition then living in stealth, as stealth is too difficult, other modes of self-expression become more attractive. The reform necessary is to outlaw discrimination on the ground of gender expression.

Most feminists against trans women, who are being amplified by The Times, would consider themselves on the Left. They are “gender critical”, they say, finding gender norms confused and Patriarchal. Some might admit to being “gender non-conforming”, but often they claim that is trite. No woman really conforms, they say. Yet some do. Feminists make progress, explaining women’s oppression so it changes from just what is, as imperceptible as the air, to things holding women back, a wind blowing against women and behind men. And some women are feminine.

So there are two groups of women, the gender non-conforming feminists and the non-binary AFAB, each transcending conventional femininity, in much the same way, often, but having very different ways of describing it or conceptions to understand it. Rupert Murdoch, upholding the Patriarchy, has set them at each others’ throats. A few of us try to find a way ahead, common cause for people alike oppressed by gender, and we are trampled. The possibility that I might upset a woman in a loo is proclaimed to be far more important. I find the debate utterly wearing and depressing. Rather than finding a way forward, a way to work together to challenge gender norms and make people more free, more caring, more collaborative, the GNC feminists are reduced to crying “No! Not That!”

Transphobia V

Transphobes, opposing self-ID of trans people, harp on about prisoners. This is in a deliberate attempt to incite hatred and fear of trans people. The number of trans people in prison is vanishingly small. The intention is to associate the issue of self-ID with the issue of trans prisoners and an alleged risk to female prisoners.

A transphobe site called “Fair Play for Women” is typical. If self-declaration of gender becomes law, any trans-identifying male prisoner will be able to obtain a GRC and will automatically become eligible for transfer to a women’s prison. That is a falsehood: currently, women can be held in the men’s estate if there is a need because of safety or security. Also, just because someone on the out can obtain a GRC by swearing an oath before a JP, does not mean that a prisoner will have access to a JP to swear an oath, or could not be subject to additional requirements, such as a psychiatrist’s diagnosis.

It continues, Forty-six trans-identifying males are located in eight male prisons known to almost exclusively house sex offenders. A further 10 trans-identifying males are held in maximum-security category A prisons. It was therefore concluded that approximately half of the known transgender population in prison are either sex offenders and/or highly dangerous prisoners. Again, this is inaccurate. The particular prisons segregate prisoners for their own safety. Sex offenders are notoriously at risk from other prisoners, but so are alleged informers, and trans women must be at risk too. Just because they are in a segregated unit does not mean they are sex offenders.

They make false claims, in an attempt to stoke fear and hatred against trans women. The whole case against us is based on fear: what might we do?

Another false claim is that crime statistics may be skewed by recording the crimes of trans women as crimes committed by women rather than by men. This is ridiculous. A tiny number of people have GRCs, compared to the general population, quite within statistical margins for error. Again, the claim associates trans people with crime, to stoke suspicion, fear and hatred against us. The whole argument against gender recognition reform is based on fear of trans women- in prisons, refuges, toilets, statistics- not borne out by the experience of Ireland and other countries. Those making the arguments talk of possibilities, with no evidence for likelihood.

Most trans people are peaceful and law-abiding. Referring to prisoners in the same breath as talking of self-ID associates us with criminals, to our detriment. Meanwhile trans people in prison die.

How can I act towards people who fear and resent me, and seek out justification for their fear? In women’s spaces you shouldn’t be here, they say. You could be violent or creepy. The very fact that you pretend to be a woman is creepy and indicates you are likely to be creepy in other ways. They collect stories of how trans women have been dangerous, not always with references to show the truth of the story. They feel self-righteous, and seek out other women feeling the same way. They have a framework of belief in which I am not entitled to be there, and must go somewhere else. If I approach them that simply activates their fear and resentment. Others must try to persuade them. I can do nothing.

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.

Pretending to be trans

The British Association of Gender Identity Specialists states they are aware of prisoners, especially sex offenders, pretending to be trans:

“There is an ever-increasing tide of referrals of patients in prison serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious sexual offences. These vastly outnumber the number of prisoners incarcerated for more ordinary, non-sexual, offences. It has been rather naïvely suggested that nobody would seek to pretend transsexual status in prison if this were not actually the case. There are, to those of us who actually interview the prisoners, in fact very many reasons why people might pretend this. These vary from the opportunity to have trips out of prison through to a desire for a transfer to the female estate (to the same prison as a co-defendant) through to the idea that a parole board will perceive somebody who is female as being less dangerous through to a [false] belief that hormone treatment will actually render one less dangerous through to wanting a special or protected status within the prison system and even (in one very well evidenced case that a highly concerned Prison Governor brought particularly to my attention) a plethora of prison intelligence information suggesting that the driving force was a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier, females being generally perceived as low risk in this regard.”

The British Psychological Society confirms this:

“Psychologists working with forensic patients are aware of a number of cases where men convicted of sex crimes have falsely claimed to be transgender females for a number of reasons:

  • As a means of demonstrating reduced risk and so gaining parole;
  • As a means of explaining their sex offending aside from sexual gratification (e.g. wanting to ‘examine’ young females);
  • Or as a means of separating their sex offending self (male) from their future self (female).
  • In rare cases it has been thought that the person is seeking better access to females and young children through presenting in an apparently female way.

“Such strategies in no way affect risk an indeed may increase it. Some people falsely believe that taking oestrogen and blocking androgen in males will reduce risk of offending, however this is not necessarily the case.

“Consequently the Society recommends that the Government give appropriate assistance to transgender people within the criminal justice system; while being extremely cautious of setting law and policy such that some of the most dangerous people in society have greater latitude to offend.”

Some of these people might want to be trans, especially to separate a past self from a future self. I wonder if any of them have been misdiagnosed, as I was by one specialist.

It is not a problem of trans people, but of criminals, who may try anything for rational or cock-eyed motives. It is not a ground for treating trans people with suspicion. So if a prisoner has transitioned before the charge, and especially before the crime, they should be placed in the correct gender prison. Trans women may find cis women there violent towards them, though: I feel the trans woman is at least as likely to be a victim as cis prisoners. And prisoners who announce they are trans should receive a diagnosis quickly. It needs to be as clear as possible which prison they should be in.

BAGIS also notes trans people may be charged with offences where cis people would not:

“Many of us can remember patients who were charged with crimes, convicted and who ended up on the sex offenders register when we thought that the same thing wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t a trans person. A good example would be the transwoman charged with sexual assault after some brief fellatio with two males who were two and three years younger than her own age at the time (she was eighteen). They were visitors to the area and boasted to their cousin of their recent sexual encounter. The cousin, enlightening them as to the nature of the person they had had a sexual encounter with, caused them to feel embarrassed. One thing led to another and the patient was charged with sexual assault. Given that she was in a kneeling position at the time and that it would have been perfectly possible for either one of the males concerned to run away this seemed a bit implausible. In the end, she was convicted of being reckless as regard to age. This does place her on the sex offenders register, though. One suspects that she would never have been charged at all if she had been a born female.”

BAGIS pdf.
BPS pdf.
Source.

Jade Eatough

Jade Eatough was living as a woman in a men’s prison when she hanged herself. In 2005, he sexually assaulted a 19 year old woman. He had his arms around her but she shouted and swung her arms, and he ran off. Two hours later he held a knife to the throat of a fifteen year old girl, marched her to waste ground and raped her. In mitigation, his barrister said he had been damaged as a child by physical and sexual abuse. The offence was so ordinary that it was reported in the local paper, the Accrington Observer, but not more widely. Her suicide on 19 August was reported in the Sun and the Mirror.

She had started hormone therapy, but not had surgery. She was in a men’s prison as she had no gender recognition certificate. She was not on suicide watch.

I also found the UKStar, which seems bizarrely autotranslated: “She was vital as a lady” rather than “she was living as a woman”. “A prison service orator” rather than “spokesperson”. “She was detected passed during a slight dungeon check”. UK prisons are unpleasant, but we don’t use dungeons any more.

Jessica Winfield, also a trans woman in prison for rape, was moved into segregation, and the Sun reported that this was for making sexual advances to female prisoners. The Independent reported that she was segregated for some other reason, quoting “a source close to the situation”. Prisoners are segregated for their own protection. Prisoners may be tried for offences committed while in prison, and the prison governor can impose additional days which extend the date of release. The governor can also impose cautions, solitary confinement, loss of earnings and loss of access to the canteen. Segregation is not a punishment.

Winfield had had genital surgery, and a Gender Recognition Certificate, but when I read about her first she was referred to by her former name, Martin Ponting. I repeat the name in case you come across it elsewhere: she is Jessica. She changed her name ten years ago, but was only transferred to a women’s prison in March.

Female inmates might reasonably object to a rapist in their general population. Winfield needed protection, and the Sun reported that she was punished for wrongdoing. How civilised a country is can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable people. The crimes are monstrous, but the punishment should be the loss of liberty, not violence and the fear of violence in gaol. Jade Eatough did not deserve to die.

Their transitions show how desperate a trans woman can be. They transition in a male prison, as only at the end of the process can they be sent to a women’s prison. They might hope to be unobtrusive in male role, but they have the courage or single-mindedness to transition. They do it for the same reason we all do, that it will make their lives better: that life marked out as a weirdo and victim in prison is preferable to life as a man.

There are about eighty trans folk in prison in England and Wales. Their punishment should be no more painful or onerous than any other person in prison. There were five trans deaths in prison between 2008 and 2016. That is a higher risk of death than anyone else faces.

Lauren Jeska

Lauren Jeska, British champion fell-runner in 2015, had gender reassignment surgery in 2000. She had not provided relevant samples to demonstrate her testosterone levels to the sport’s governing body, so her race results were declared void in September 2015. On 22 March 2016, she drove for two hours to the offices of UK Athletics, and asked to see Ralph Knibbs, head of human resources and welfare. She stabbed him repeatedly, causing a 2cm wound to his neck. Prompt first aid saved his life, but he has permanent partial sight loss.

Amid the unanswered questions- how could her testosterone exceed female levels without testicles? Was she dosing, or just upset at the demand to provide samples?- I fear how the haters will respond. This is trans violence. Jeska is a threat to women in prison and should be in a men’s prison.

She has been jailed for 18 years. Previously, she was in a secure mental hospital. She will be on Restricted status, with the most violent women- the only non-violent offences considered for that status are supply of class A drugs, or offences under the Official Secrets Act. She has been extremely physically fit, but so long after castration does not have the physical strength advantages of testosterone.

The heart of prejudice is judging people by a characteristic we happen to share with an offender. What she did is monstrous- and I am not dangerous, and no other trans woman should be judged for what Lauren Jeska did.

All that said-

I remember a trans woman I represented at the Employment Tribunal. She had had a hyper-manly job, then transitioned, and got a job in a cliché feminine role. She was sacked from that job, and convinced me that the wrong she was accused of could not have happened as the manager found it to happen. So she had not done it. I argued that were she cis, the manager would not have found something impossible to be true. The tribunal did not address that point, but found after three days’ oral evidence, my longest hearing, that a cis woman would have been sacked for the same offence, so there was no discrimination.

She had come in to my office, traumatised. She had prepared a very detailed statement of claim to the tribunal, and I took a long statement, but she would ask to see me then go over and over, with monotonously resentful affect, how badly she had been treated. Once I sat, not writing, not looking at her, as she ruminated in this way; I timed her on the phone, and she spoke without pause for ten minutes.

We suffer huge pressure pretending to be male, and we can suffer trauma after transition.

I am glad Lauren Jeska’s parents appear to be standing by their daughter. In a statement they said the stress and confusion of the dispute with UK Athletics had triggered a mental health crisis. I cannot excuse her, but I have sympathy for her.

Report in The Guardian.

Bill

Why do violent men want to tell me their life stories? He started talking to me at the cycle stands, so I said good morning to him. His name is – he reeled off at least eight names, including “Ulysses”- What’s your name? “I’m Abigail,” I said. “You are named after the love of my life, who lives in Southampton,” he said. He asked if I would like to go to his girlfriend’s birthday party, on 5 May in the ——– pub by the ——— centre. Come between 8 and 9 and he will give me an invite. He then told me he had read me as transgendered, because of my voice.

“But I don’t care about that,” he said. “I don’t mind if you want to be transgendered.”

No, I did not say, “Gosh! Thanks! That’s really kind of you, permitting a stranger to do this harmless thing.” Rather, I said that I don’t care either, and I don’t mind people knowing. That’s why I do this- I took off my helmet, and put on my wig. “My friend said I should go to the toilet over there and change in private, but I don’t care,” I said.

He can do anything, because he is going to prison. He’s just been cycling in the Arndale Centre, which is against the law. He kicked the soft tyre of the bicycle lying on the ground- “I’ve got those inner-tubeless tyres”.

-It’s great to be transgendered. You can be a man and have sex with a woman, have sex with a man and get pregnant
-We don’t have womb transplants.
-You could adopt…

Someone has dropped a letter from the Council. An award of benefit, a demand for payment, something more personal- he picks it up, reads it, says “Interesting” and stuffs it in his pocket. A woman on walking sticks picks her way, slowly, resentfully, past the bicycle lying across the usual path round the corner.

He showed me his T-shirt, and explained it. It is black, with pink Gothic writing. “Real men wear pink!” I said. “Yes, because we’re not afraid to show our heterosexuality. ‘Gay’ used to mean happy,” he said. On the front, it reads,

United
Patriots
that
Hammers
Excite.

It’s an acrostic. Up the Hammers. On the back, it says FTW then ADGD then there’s a pink silhouette of a seated cat. What do I think FTW stands for?

“Fxxk the World,” I said. He did not demur. It could be Floreat the Wombles, I suppose. GD is Gail Dawson his girlfriend, and AD is their daughter, the most wonderful thing he has ever created. The cat is he himself.

Anyway, he’s been charged with disobeying a policeman who told him to stop and put his hands behind his back, and breaking the wrist of that policeman. The policeman put him on the ground and caused this- he points to a graze on his forehead. He’s been in prison twice, but only [slang term].

-What?
-On remand.

He has studied Jujitsu, a bit of Karate, a bit of Akido. Jujitsu is soft power, go in soft then hit hard. “Use the energy of the opponent against him,” I say. “No, that’s Judo,” he says. He could have really hurt that policeman and he didn’t. He shows his stances. You bend the front knee, or your opponent could break your leg, he says. Yes, kick the knee. If his front leg is bent he can’t be pushed over. Go on, push me as hard as you can. I push him, and he indeed does not fall. But if the front leg is straight and the rear bent he can be pushed over. He rolls on the ground. “It’s always OK to fall, because you can roll into a break-fall,” he says, “Just always keep a guard and be ready for a scissor-kick”. He mimes it once or twice, then takes my arm gently and shows how he could break my wrist.

He is a soldier of fortune, but the British Army rejected him. He used to live next door to some Provos, and they were friends with a real IRA man who taught him all he knows about soldiering. Like, how to make a Molotov cocktail, with whisky or other alcohol, a light-bulb bomb- drill a hole in the metal base, fill it with paraffin, fill the hole with wax, they switch it on, the wax heats up and melts and boom. He showed him how to make a fertiliser bomb, a matchbox would be enough. Bleach bomb-

-Yes, bleach in the toilet, something else in the cistern. [I want to keep up with him.]

No, a bleach bomb. Someone blew up his garage in Southampton with a bleach bomb. He came home and there was this hole blown through the back wall. The other garages did not blow up, because there was thick ice and snow on top of the garage.

-Absorbed all the energy.
-Exactly. Anyway, they had rigged up the garage so a brick swung down and hit him on the head. He rigs up his garage with booby-traps.

-Fishing line with hooks?
-No, you don’t need hooks, just twine at neck, waist and ankle level as a trip wire, a brick to swing down and hit the head, then you’re in the dark tied in the twine. You have to let policemen postmen and bailiffs onto the curtilege of your property but not over the threshold. He sets up his booby traps when he goes out- when he is in, he is the protection.

-I can’t remember your name.
-Just call me Bill. Do you like to be ‘Abi’ or ‘Gail’?
-I like the whole thing. I am Abigail.
-All right then. Come to the party. Bring £10 to pay me so I can pay for the drinks, because charity begins at home. And bring me a present, something Hammers related, maybe a keyring with a hammer on it, I’ll get lots of those, not that Lionel Messi thing because it’s £350, you don’t have to spend that much. He’s been a Hammers fan since his aunt took him to a game, she had a spare ticket, she asked him if he wanted to go, he said who’s paying? she said You are.

I thought the party was for his girlfriend.

I have to go, as I am late for tea with my friend. I wonder if he has tried stand-up. He is highly intelligent with wonderful felicity with words. He may be going to prison. See also Ben.

Intimate spaces

Why not, when trans women are sent to prison, just put them together in a house somewhere with one guard and an ankle monitor? Yes, he said, and if they break any rule you send them back to the general population. His use of that term for the mass of prisoners marked him as one who knows something of prisons. I recognise it but would not use it.

The thought experiment shows that the punishment of prison is not just deprivation of liberty, but the threat of violence inside. It would not work because while trans women are intensely vulnerable they are not the only vulnerable prisoners. But segregating vulnerable people should not mean putting them with sex offenders.

At Britain Yearly Meeting, after the QLGF AGM, I wanted to talk to L, who spent time in prisons in her youth. She wants women safe in “intimate spaces”, another term revealing a group. A trans woman can go in women’s space, so they change the term. I enjoyed the conversation. We stayed in the basement after everyone else had left until the janitor had to lock up, then we went for tea. She feels that Quakers with our peacebuilding skills could work on this conflict, and I do too. She was taken aback when I asked, “What is your position?” She does not have one, absolutely; yet made her points strongly for exclusion.

Women in prison tend not to be violent, yet to come from violent backgrounds. Physically scared of people larger and stronger than they, they have learned to put the interests and desires of others before theirs. They would be particularly vulnerable to pre-op trans women.

In hostels and shelters, she is concerned for such women who might have to share a room with a trans woman. The woman might not go to the hostel, rather than do that. Particularly, she does not want the woman who objects to be the wrong one, who must be corrected. There should be more hostels and shelters, she says- well, yes, but will that happen?

In toilets, she posits the case of the male-presenting AMAB person who says “I identify as a woman” and therefore enters a woman’s toilet. I agree that is wrong: we should show concern for those about us. Then she pointed out that there is only one door in a woman’s loo, and a woman might be frightened with a trans woman between her and the door. I told her of the sign on the disabled loo in Friends House, asking able-bodied people to leave them for people who needed them (not in these words) and stating there were gender-neutral loos in the basement.

I don’t want a gender-neutral loo. I found women’s loos much pleasanter, when transitioning. L said that they smell nicer, so I told her that a trans man had said he felt men’s loos were preferable, and I could only understand that by inverting my own position.

Intimate spaces, with vulnerable women frightened of men, and frightened by us. We would just be locked out. The very thought makes me feel less safe, less willing to go out and engage.

I mentioned this to two women, who thought L’s position ridiculous. I am glad. Yet I still felt uncomfortable in the large, crowded women’s loo west of the Large Meeting House. I was staring fixedly at the wall above the hand-dryer, not looking about me, and someone waved her hand in my field of vision- just to say hi, and it perplexed and distressed me.

I met Caroline, who said I was looking very well. “This hair makes me feel beautiful for the first time” I said. She said something about “after all you have been through” which angered me, possibly unfairly: I don’t know that she meant otherwise, but I wanted to shout

There is nothing wrong with being Trans!!!

only with people’s attitudes to it.

Lucas Cranach the elder, The Last Judgment, detail