Stuart Waiton: We need to have a debate about trans inmates

As the year ended there was more controversy about the transgender question in Scotland. This time, it followed a tweet by J.K. Rowling about a future Police Scotland plan to call trans rapists by their preferred pronouns.

This change, in part, relates to the SNP and Green proposed policy to allow men to identify as women (and vice versa) without the need for a medical check. But in general, it is part of the existing trend for the authorities to accept the idea that gender, or sex, is something that is simply based on what people identify as.

This will mean, as Rowling was pointing out, that a man who rapes a woman could demand to be called a woman in court simply by stating that they identify as female.

Some people have called Rowling transphobic for her past tweets, and before simply dismissing these claims it is worth noting that the point being made is that she constantly portrays trans people as being a danger to women, whether in court, in prison, or in women-only spaces.

As it happens, while disagreeing with much of the trans lobby on these questions, I do think that it is worth challenging the idea that biological men who identify as women are necessarily a threat to women.

That said, we do need to question the modern elites’ obsession with diversity and identity, something that academic Kathleen Stock has described as a “mindless mania”.

Rather than recognising the reality and importance of biological differences and social conventions regarding women-only spaces, the current trend is to portray and accept gender self-identification as an unquestionable good.

The result for the criminal justice system is that across the UK biological men who identify as women have been housed in female-only prisons without any apparent consideration of how this might impact on female prisoners.

Already, in 2018, two women prisoners were sexually assaulted by trans woman Karen White, a convicted paedophile on remand in a women’s prison for GBH and rape. Here we find the moral high ground of “inclusion” is blind to the potential dangers this policy creates.

Now, we find that some men who change their gender to female in prison switch back to being men once released. A study by Dundee University’s Dr Matthew Maycock reports that some women prisoners feel intimidated and felt that “transitioning” had occurred for sexual reasons and to get an easier time while inside.

Twelve trans prisoners convicted of violent or sexual offences have been housed in female prisons in Scotland thus far. Is this reasonable, would the public support this, would even trans people themselves say this is a good idea? I think the vast majority of Scots would say that this approach is naive, at best.

We need to have a debate about this and about the idea of self-identification and women-only spaces.

A rational starting point must be to accept that biology has a reality and just because you say you are something doesn’t mean that it is true, or that society has to change its customs and practices to this subjective interpretation.

After all, the reason we call it the trans debate is because being a trans woman is different from being a woman. Logically, if we are to provide services for trans people they should be specific to their reality, which would mean, as a starting point, that trans women do not go to women’s prisons. Nor should courts be forced to call someone who has raped someone a woman.

Everyone should be treated with respect and decency but that should not mean that we lose all sense of reality or get lost in a virtuous sense of goodness by shouting “inclusion” without a more mature and worldly sense of what this might actually look like behind bars.

If we are going to sort this out and live and let live, we must at least start with the recognition that trans women are not women, they are trans women.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

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