Trans women and sex offending

Are trans women more likely to be sex offenders than cis women?

The first item on the menu of anti-trans campaigning site “fair play for women” is Prisons, and it starts by saying male prisoners can ask to transfer to a woman’s prison. “All they need to do is self-identify as a woman”- without a gender recognition certificate or a psychiatric diagnosis. This is true. They can ask. But their request will not usually be granted. There are rules. The anti-trans site says, breathlessly, many are housed in sex offender institutions. “These are the prisoners who could become eligible for transfer to women’s prisons under a regime of sex self-ID.”

“Fair play for women” seeks to conflate self-ID, which is allowed under British law already, with the human right of prisoners to be housed according to our gender identity, which is constrained. They try to create a myth that self-ID is a new proposal, and a threat. This is untrue.

Trans woman prisoners may be housed in women’s prisons if they produce evidence of transition before charge. In March 2019, there were 163 transgender prisoners. 81 had been convicted of one or more sexual offences. There were no details of whether those prisoners were currently serving sentences for sexual offences. 129 were in men’s prisons, of whom 74 had been convicted of a sexual offence. There were just 34 trans women in women’s prisons.

So it is clear that though they are perfectly entitled to ask to be housed in women’s prisons, offenders will usually be refused.

Anti-trans campaigning site Women are Human produced “research” comparing the number of trans sex offenders in prison with the number of female sex offenders. 81 trans offenders, 126 female offenders, though there are far more cis women than trans people. They then argued that this showed a greater propensity to offend by trans women than cis women, so trans women are dangerous and should not be in women’s prisons.

Very few sexual offences are prosecuted. Most victims do not report crimes. In 2017 there were around a million sexual offences in England and Wales, but only 6960 offenders were found guilty of sexual offences.

Trans women may be more likely to be prosecuted for a sexual offence. A 17 year old trans woman fellates a 15 year old boy. His mates tell him she’s trans, and suddenly he’s angry. His parents go to the police. A cis woman in the same circumstances would be most unlikely to be prosecuted.

The site says trans women are 35-90 times more likely to commit sexual offences than cis women, based on the proportion of the population in prison convicted of sexual offences. However, this does not mention that most of these sex offenders are in men’s prisons.

In freedom, sexual predators do not pretend to be trans to access women’s spaces. That is a myth. They just push the door open. However in prison prisoners may have motivation to claim to be trans, and particularly sex offenders, already the lowest of the low in the prisoner hierarchy. They get to wear their own clothes. They might even make the claim to cause disruption.

So the site’s conclusion does not follow. They argue that trans women are more likely to be sexual offenders, therefore trans women should not be housed in women’s prisons. But they ignore the fact that most of these sex offenders may not be trans women at all.

And, I am not a sex offender. If I were imprisoned for environmental campaigning (so far I have barely risked arrest) I should be imprisoned as a woman, because that is what I am. And the law agrees.

Because sex offenders might lie that they are trans women, trans women in prison might not be believed. Trans women die in men’s prison.

Trans women in men’s prisons

Can you learn anything about trans women in general from trans women in prison? Can you even learn how trans women in prison should be treated, from statistics about trans women in prison?

Prisoners are among the most deprived people in society. They have far higher rates of mental illness than the general population. They are more likely to have been in care as children, to be poor, or uneducated. And, they are a tiny proportion of the population. You can’t learn much about, say, Glaswegians from Glaswegians in prison. Many prisoners were convicted of crimes arising from poverty and desperation- “crimes of survival”- especially trans women. Trans women are often criminalised.

Trans women with a GRC are imprisoned as women, in the female estate. There are no statistics on how many such prisoners they are. A GRC is expensive, and requires diagnosis from a specialist psychiatrist, so such trans women are likely to have had far less chaotic lives than most prisoners, with a higher level of ability to trust society shown by their participation before imprisonment.

Trans women without a GRC may be imprisoned in the female estate or the male estate. Here, people arguing for trans rights are in a double bind. It is possible that someone might lie, that they are trans, in order to subvert the prison system or for some perceived benefit. And, it is possible that someone might live in their assigned sex, too terrified to transition and never giving any sign of being trans, but faced with the catastrophe of imprisonment they decide to live as their true self. I won’t judge any prisoner who says they are trans, and claim they are not. I have no basis for that.

So, some of the worst prisoners in men’s prisons claiming to be trans may not be. This is more of a problem for the anti-trans campaigners than for trans people. They can make no argument monstering trans women in men’s prisons, because those prisoners may be liars rather than trans women. The trans women should not be judged by the actions of the liars. This distinction is hard to grasp for anti-trans campaigners, who find it hard to believe anyone could assert that they are a trans woman truthfully, or even with a good faith belief.

Trans women in women’s prisons, by contrast, have shown clear evidence that they are trans- perhaps they have transitioned on the out, perhaps they had relevant documents in their female names, perhaps they were on the years-long waiting lists to see a gender psychiatrist. The panels set up to judge where to send them would send them to men’s prisons otherwise.

With any human characteristic- left-handedness, for example- there are some very bad people with that characteristic. Lauren Jeska and Karen White are trans women. They should be punished as the criminals they are, but not more because they are trans; and no conclusion can be drawn about trans women in general from these women’s crimes, any more than you can draw conclusions about cis women from Myra Hindley.

In March/April 2019, there were 34 self-declared trans prisoners in women’s prisons in England and Wales. Seven of them had been convicted of one or more sexual offence, though the data does not indicate whether their current sentences were for sexual offences. There were no records of the number with a GRC, but it was thought to be less than ten. There were 129 self-declared trans prisoners in men’s prisons.

That 129 may include liars pretending to be trans. There is no incentive to the prison system to deny the claims. Anti-trans campaigners cannot have it both ways: when they claim that there are sex offenders pretending to be trans, they cannot then claim that trans women are likely to be sex offenders.

Between 2016 and 2019, 97 sexual assaults were recorded in women’s prisons, seven committed by transgender prisoners: at least four by one prisoner, Karen White. In 2019, in men’s prisons, eleven trans women were recorded as the victims of sexual assaults. Source: FDJ v Secretary of State for Justice.

However Shon Faye’s book “The Transgender Issue,” published this month, reports that at the time of writing there were only eleven trans women without a GRC in women’s prisons in England, and seven in Scotland. The relentless hate campaign has made Transgender Case Boards reluctant to place trans women in women’s prisons.

I started this post after being referred to this hateful rubbish, which is being used to back up the unsubstantiated claim that trans women have high rates of sex offending and are a danger in women’s prisons. The rubbish says trans allies claim Dhejne’s study has been discredited, but we don’t: we only claim that the study is not evidence that trans women’s rates of offending are higher than cis women’s. The conclusion in the rubbish is surprisingly weak, only that the study is the best available study on conviction rates of trans people. That is more because it is the only such study on a large scale. Anyone referred to the rubbish as evidence for a conclusion about trans women’s offender rates could quote that.

The rubbish quotes Dr James Barrett, the president of the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists, as saying some recorded trans people are liars. If so, no conclusion can be drawn about trans women.

Trans women suffer assault including sexual assault in men’s prisons. Most press attention is on an alleged threat from some of the most vulnerable prisoners.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP and transgender crime statistics

Tonia Antoniazzi MP is a transphobe, who uses her voice in parliament to attack trans rights and attempt to make trans people look bad.

On 17 May 2021, in a debate on the Queens Speech on violent crime, where Labour MPs should have been pointing out the many failures of the Tory government, Antoniazzi chose to make a misleading case against trans people, in order to smear us as sex offenders.

How does recording sex by gender identity affect the profile of sex offenders? Does it matter?

Most victims of sexual offences do not report them, so the number of crimes in crime surveys is far higher than the number of charges or arrests. About 3% of women were estimated as having been sexually assaulted in 2017, from a survey of a representative sample, and 1% of men. In 2016 there were 53m UK adults, so that is around 800,000 women sexually assaulted, and around 200,000 men.

However only 6960 offenders were found guilty of sexual offences in all courts in England and Wales in 2017. The conviction rate was 62%, but there is a time lag between charge and conviction or acquittal. So say 11,000 people were charged in court.

Women make up 2% of prosecutions for sexual offences, says Antoniazzi. You can download a spreadsheet. In 2017/18, 28,589 males were arrested for sexual offences, and 628 females.

Say 0.1% of women are trans women who have taken some step towards transition. So, say 25,000. Say they have “male patterns of offending” as anti-trans campaigners claim, though this is not backed up by evidence. If the proportion of trans women was 46 times the proportion of cis women who were arrested for sex crimes, 26 might be arrested for sexual offences, and six convicted. If they are counted as women, then the number of women arrested has gone up by 4%.

But if there were 26 trans women who were counted, or not, as women, the proportion of arrestees who were women would go up from 2.15% to 2.24%. That is, a tiny percentage of arrestees are women, whether trans women are included as women or not.

That statistic, that 0.1% of women are trans women, is my best estimate, but it is not clear how many people identify as trans, ever express themselves in public as their true gender, or take steps towards transition. The census, which starts to be published next year, may start to give us a better idea.

A tiny proportion of those arrested for sexual offences are female, and that proportion is not changed beyond a rounding error whether trans women are included as women or not.

Antoniazzi says, “We need to count sex”. She objects to police forces counting suspects’ sex on the basis of gender identity. She wants trans women counted as men.

Even if trans women offend 45 times as much as other women, the increase from 2.15% to 2.24% of offenders is tiny. There would be no change in conclusions drawn about the need to protect women and girls from male violence, or the relative threat from women or men. Trans women need protection just as cis women do.

Whether we need as a society to take violence against women, or men, more seriously is shown by the proportion of offences resulting in arrests. Of about a million sexual offences, there are 6960 convictions. Most victims do not report the offence.

Recording trans women as men does not make any change to the lessons we learn. Women are vulnerable and need more protection than we have. Such protection might be improved by greater resources for police, and greater cultural condemnation of male sexual violence. The culture still makes excuses for men, and even glorifies male sexual aggression. Complaining that trans women criminals should be called “men” actually reduces the effort to protect women, because it diverts campaigning energy from a real threat to a harmless minority.

And, it would make life harder for vulnerable trans women in the justice system. If we are recorded as men, we have yet more evidence that the system is against us for who we are, rather than what we have done.

It would probably backfire on the anti-trans campaigners, showing trans people do not have a high rate of sex offending. They want to say, Look, look, there were six trans women convicted of sexual offences!! Trans is Bad!! They’re all like that!! Of course we are not all like that, and I am not a sex offender, but the extremists use such stories to radicalise each other.

An MP should consider the 800,000 women who suffer sexual assault in a year, and speak up for them, not speak against trans people, a tiny, vilified minority.

The records of “biological sex” of offenders she demands would tell us nothing except that some trans women are criminal. We know that already. If it is ridiculous to say Rosemary West is a murderer therefore cis women cannot be trusted, it is equally ridiculous to say Karen White is a rapist therefore trans women cannot be trusted. Antoniazzi would stir up fear against us.

“We must respect the privacy of transgender people,” she says, but would make an exception when we are arrested.

Then she cites an increase of 84% in reported child sex abuse by female perpetrators between 2015 and 2019. It could mean 2015 had particularly low figures and 2019 particularly high. We can’t establish a trend without more years. We don’t know if this is because of increased reporting, and one expert the BBC quoted thought that explained the whole increase. But the MP called recording trans women as women “data corruption”, and suggested the increase was due to “those identifying as women”. In 2019 there were 1048 more offences reported than in 2015, and to suggest that a significant proportion of those were by trans women is monstrous as well as ridiculous. It is clear hatred.

Antoniazzi then refers to Lauren Jeska. Her attempt to murder was a monstrous crime, but to use it to argue that the justice system must count trans women offenders as men is also monstrous. The number of convictions of women for attempted murder is so small- six in 2017, from Antoniazzi’s figures- that even were it to double it would tell us nothing about female violence. She fulminates that calling Lauren a woman “falsely elevates the number of females convicted”. It does not, because trans women are women.

Antoniazzi has demonstrated a level of prejudice against trans women that should result in withdrawing the whip. Statistical arguments by other transphobes and haters are no more robust than hers. She met with anti-trans hate groups as long ago as 2018, and asked questions about trans women sex offenders in prison in July 2021. It is a good job she left the Women and Equalities Committee in November 2019.

Trans women in English prisons

Dark money is funding court actions against government bodies, human rights organisations and women’s rights organisations, seeking to make trans lives harder. These cases are often terribly weak, but each win only reverts back to the status quo, and may contain a tiny thing the trans-excluders can use, in their desperate attempts to harm trans people.

There was a case seeking to exclude trans women prisoners from women’s prisons, which failed. The judge took time to compliment the QC for the trans-excluders, who presented the case with her “customary skill”. He did that because he needed to comment that “the weakness of the arguments is the failure to give sufficient weight to the way in which the policies permit, and indeed require, the necessary balancing of competing rights.” (Judgment, paragraph 91.)

The trans-excluders lose, because they cannot see the need to consider the needs or rights of vulnerable trans people. They may continue fomenting anger and fear against trans people, and raising large sums of cash, but apparently are not good at assessing whether a case is worth pleading. It appears money is no object for them. One witness they led gave irrelevant and inadmissible evidence (72)- I imagine them railing against the human rights of trans people, ineffectually.

What do we learn from the case? The court accepts a distinction between the words “sex” and “gender”, and quoted another case claiming sex relates to “physical characteristics, including chromosomal, gonadal and genital features” while gender “is used to refer to the individual’s self-perception.” In reality, I am just as much a “real woman” as a cis woman is, and gender refers to a wide range of cultural norms and expressions including the norm that trans women are women. However the claimant conceded that the Equality Act uses the words interchangeably. Perhaps all the trans women on GIC waiting lists should start calling themselves “transsexual women”.

47% of women prisoners are serving indeterminate sentences or sentences of four years or more. That is, they are dangerous women serving sentences for serious crime. They included the claimant in this case, who has recently been released back into the community on licence. The claimant argued that seeing a trans woman in a woman’s prison amounted to “torture” under the Human Rights Act, despite the seriousness of the crimes committed by cis women, and the fear they might raise in others. The prison system is full of violent offenders.

The average length of a custodial sentence for women is 11.3 months. That is, most women sent to prison are sent there for less serious offences. However most women actually in prison are there for serious offences.

With that context, the offences of trans women actually in prison seem to fit the profile of cis women. There are no central statistics of how many women prisoners have a gender recognition certificate, but it is thought to be fewer than ten (para 13).

In March 2019, there were 163 transgender prisoners, of whom 81 had been convicted of one or more sexual offences. There were no details of whether those prisoners were currently imprisoned for sexual offences. 129 were in men’s prisons, of whom 74 had been convicted of a sexual offence, so there were seven trans women in women’s prisons then who had been convicted of a sexual offence at some time in the past.

Between 2016 and 2019 there were 97 sexual assaults recorded in women’s prisons. Seven of these were committed by trans women without a GRC, four by one prisoner. In 2019, eleven trans women were recorded as sexually assaulted in men’s prisons. No trans woman was recorded as having committed a sexual assault in a women’s prison (14). In March 2019, there were 34 trans women without a GRC in women’s prisons.

Mr Justice Swift gave the opinion that the prison service should keep a record of how many trans women with a GRC are in women’s prisons (103). The problem is that this may result in their being outed, which could be a criminal offence.

Both judges said that there could be a “significant psychological impact” on a cis woman seeing a trans woman in a women’s prison (76-77; 100). This should not be overstated. They have made a decision on the relevant facts for the purpose of this case, so it should be read as even if there is a significant psychological impact on cis prisoners, the rules are still fair. However it is still horrible to read that I am scaring cis women as I go about my daily life, when they see me in women’s services. If that were the case, trans women would have been ejected from women’s services before now: I have been in women’s spaces for twenty years.

Trans women in prison are not allowed to shower with cis women (38).

The prison service has a rule (9) that “Women prisoners shall normally be kept separate from male prisoners.” However this is not the same as invoking the Equality Act single-sex exemptions, as the claimant demanded (44). No person in charge of a service, including the prisons minister, had any obligation to apply those exemptions (88). This will make it considerably harder for the trans excluders to win cases against any women’s service that admits trans women, though I doubt it will stop them trying. I worried that this court action would blur the distinction between the Equality Act rules allowing men to be excluded, and the rule allowing trans women to be excluded. Fortunately it did not, because it was so misconceived.

The trans excluders tried to argue that statistically, a trans woman was five times more likely than a cis prisoner to sexually assault a cis prisoner. The judge called this “a misuse of the statistics” (75). They tried to argue that there was indirect discrimination, as cis women were more affected by trans women than cis men were by trans men, and failed: perhaps they are, but the prisons service has to look after the needs of trans women.

Effectively, the trans excluders lost because putting trans women in women’s prisons follows the legitimate aim of ensuring the safety and welfare of all prisoners, including the trans women (87). The prisons service demonstrated that the means adopted are reasonable, at least from the point of view of any challenge by non-trans prisoners.

Trans women will continue to be in men’s prisons, and continue to live in fear there, and be assaulted, often sexually. But the excluders have failed in their attempt to make more trans women live in such fear and threat.

Dr Sarah Lamble of the Bent Bars Collective intervened in the interests of trans prisoners. She is a reader in Criminology and Queer Theory. She argued that the lack of reliable data prevented assessing the risk of trans prisoners as a group. Because there are more trans prisoners than are recorded, the proportion who had committed sexual offences is likely to be lower than the claimant had asserted. There is no reliable basis for claims by trans excluders that trans women have “male patterns of criminality”.

When a trans woman without a GRC asks to be placed in a women’s prison, the prison service will continue to be assessed by a Local Transgender Case Board and/or a Transgender Complex Case Board (24). It seems that such boards err on the side of placing trans women in men’s prisons, placing those trans women at risk. This court case could never lessen the risk to vulnerable trans women, but at least it has not made it worse.

The Guardian misled with these figures. It did not mention the assaults on trans women in men’s prisons. It did not show that the number of trans women convicted of a sexual offence in women’s prisons was only seven.

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.