Failures in the management of transgender prison policy in Ireland

If you haven’t muted or blocked me on Twitter, you’ll be aware of my more than passing interest in the interaction of women’s rights and the rights of transgender people in various contexts. In an atmosphere of continued unjust vilification of women seeking to have responsible discussions on the reconciliation of rights, I make no apology for this. Occasionally, threads come tumbling that are more suited to a long form format, so I’m hoping to gather up some of those here in a bid to give them some semblance of coherence and file them away before I finally flounce out of twitter for good with or without the proverbial petticoat. I’m more of a smoking jacket person anyway. Or dressing gown, as it’s less glamorously known.

Below is a response to the management of prison policy in the context of two prisoners recently transferred to the women’s section in Limerick Prison. Public discussion is scarce and there is an intensifying reluctance on the part of the media to highlight concerns in relation to failures regarding the rights and dignity of all concerned. More on that later.

Here, I respond to a statement from Limerick Feminist Network who responded to The Limerick Leader who responded to an article by Gript, a conservative leaning publication and one of few outlets that has addressed an issue mainstream and Left leaning press has all but abandoned save for directives to Be Kind and warnings on usage of incorrect pronouns. The statement from Limerick Feminist Network is as follows:

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The vulnerability and immense trauma suffered by the young person concerned is established and not in doubt. No-one is disputing the need for appropriate protection, treatment and rehabilitation. Where the conflict lies is the interaction of certain mental health diagnoses with a crude and unrefined gender-based policy, how that policy is subsequently balanced with equality legislation exemptions for females on the basis of sex, rather than gender, and managed.

These conflicts have been raised by the Chair of the Law Society Criminal Law Committee who has publicly stated the Gender Recognition Act has “placed the state in an impossible position with regard to transgender prisoners”. Necessary checks and balances to ensure these balancing of rights were not undertaken prior to implementing the Gender Recognition Act in 2015.

I shared the anger over the leak from the Garda data base (Pulse) system giving details about this individual and believe it was a breach of confidentiality, however there is enough information available in the public domain through the court report that falls within the bounds of reasonable reporting guidelines.

We know there are currently two male-bodied individuals housed in the women’s prison. Neither has undergone hormonal treatment or gender reassignment surgery.

The first individual obtained a Gender Recognition Cert whilst in custody. It is an administrative formality that requires no supporting evidence or period of notice for changing ‘gender’, which is currently used interchangeably with ‘sex’. This individual is serving a prison sentence for a series of sexual assaults and child cruelty. Due to the clear and present risk posed to females, the person is accompanied 24/7.

The second individual continues to make explicit threats to rape and murder women. The Tavistock Gender Clinic made a determination based on a clinical assessment that the individual was not exhibiting symptoms of gender dysphoria but is suffering a mental health trauma. Despite this, the individual is housed in the female prison. Due to the clear and present risk posed to females, the person is accompanied 24/7.

The request to be housed in the women’s facility was made by both individuals and granted solely on having a Gender Recognition Certificate. This simple administrative action carries considerable power and continues to override all other concerns. These include the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of females.

It is generally understood and accepted that female prisoners are among the most vulnerable women in society. Many are survivors of physical and sexual violence. This is borne out in multiple and reliable evidence and studies.

A number of dismissive responses have been forthcoming:

“There is already violence in female prisons anyway

This is a fact but drawing a false equivalence between internal female violence and male sexual violence against women is disingenuous and a form of gas-lighting.

“They are always locked up & accompanied

Whatever about the inhumanity of solitary confinement, it is contemptuous of women to dismiss the impact of the presence of male bodies in a female only facility, particularly when they are acutely aware of the nature of the crimes committed and threats posed by these individuals. The interaction of this with their pre-existing trauma from sexual and physical violence is clinically catastrophic, re-victimising, cruel and an indignity forced on them in the name of dignifying the perpetrators only.

“There were no concerns before the Brit TERFs got wind of it

TERF is an acronym for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists and has its roots in radical feminist discourse with overlaps into lesbian feminist clashes concerning gender and inclusion of trans women. It is generally recognised as a slur in contemporary discussion and deliberately deployed as such against a diverse group of women with competing feminist views who share broad and legitimate concerns about gender self-ID policy ranging from definitions of sex, gender, woman and lesbianism, parity in sport, legally protected single-sex spaces, data collection, and child safe-guarding. (I’ll return to the preposterous suggestion Irish women are no less diverse and ‘in service’ to British women another time.)

A number of women and men have been forthright in raising concerns about these policies for over three years. Women in particular have been vilified and ridiculed despite addressing the issues dispassionately on an evidence basis. Mounting evidence on the impact of the mental health of females from male-bodies in prison is emerging, particularly from Canada and the UK where multiple assaults have occurred. The need to challenge media that exploits these rising incidences to sensationalise, stigmatise and negatively stereotype a minority community remains, but is not incompatible with the responsibility to interrogate the implication of policy and how policy is exploited by those presenting as members of that vulnerable community.

“No-one should be in prison anyway whoever they are

That’s a very laudable objective shared by many but it is independent of appraising the impact of current prison policy on both women and trans people.

Our feminism is inclusive and free from the fatal grip of Catholicism” etc.

That from the same people who also claim…

“It should be left to the authorities on a case by case basis

It is the context of historical and contemporary contempt shown to women by the state through various public policies from health, pregnancy and reproduction, the justice system and sexual violence, and state incarceration, that demands all policies are interrogated and scrutinised in a way that appraises how the needs, consent, and protection of women are met.

Clearly the state is not to be trusted to be ‘left’ with managing these policies. As evidenced by the concern from legal quarters, prison reform bodies, victims groups, and swathes of women across Ireland who are asserting their right to speak up and challenge it.

Screams of TERF and trojan horse are sounding increasingly outlandish. Concerns do not undermine the rights of trans people. They raise the flaws of policy and how it is ultimately failing everyone involved here including trans people.

Feminism is not an Irish movement. It is a global movement concerned with the liberation of women from patriarchal systems including overt rejection of physical and sexual violence in all its manifestations. Like Irishness, it transcends national boundaries & permission for participation.

The feminism and humanity in the urgency to address these issues responsibly speaks for itself and requires no further explanation or defence. It is not at odds with the humanity and compassion for any vulnerable individuals involved. That means everyone involved.

Things Women’s Cis Privilege is not responsible for

  1. The term ‘cis privilege’
  2. The imposition of narrow gender roles derived from regressive stereotypes based on either sex
  3. The social construction of gender
  4. The material reality of biology
  5. The consequences of conflating both and allowing gender to trump sex
  6. The sex-based violence against women including: femicide, global poverty, rape, sexual violence, FGM, period poverty
  7. The biological basis of global female oppression as opposed to the cause of ita claim no-one is making
  8. The deliberate misconstrued meaning and application of biological essentialism 
  9. The sex-based gender roles imposed on males and females from birth
  10. The appropriation and exploitation of intersex people in the gender debate against the express will of the minority of people with intersex conditions (who are all male or female)
  11. The systemic and institutional discrimination of trans women in areas of employment, education, health, welfare, and safety
  12. The systemic and institutional response to that discrimination in the form of thought-terminating slogans and self-serving moral marketing that fails to address any of it
  13. The subordination of the needs and voices of trans men in all public discourse to those of trans women
  14. The limitless and all-encompassing ‘definition’ of transphobia
  15. Distress experienced by males due to gender dysphoria (as opposed to sympathy)
  16. Ditto autogynephilia
  17. The continued ignoring of this condition and failure to adequately factor it in the mix
  18. Male perpetrated violence including transphobic violence towards trans people
  19. Comparatively lower rates of homicide among the trans population than females in the UK and globally
  20. The murder of Black Trans Women by males predominately in the US & Latin America
  21. The internal and external factors that condemn many Black gay men to sex work in the States
  22. The blanket acceptance of sex work as career choice
  23. The lack of evidence supporting safe use of puberty blockers on children
  24. The long-term effects of puberty blocker use: infertility, medical dependency, osteoporosis, loss of sexual function. All irreversible
  25. The rates of destransitioning
  26. The unprecedented acceleration of transitioning among young females
  27. The walk-out of 40 clinical staff from Tavistock Clinic due to safe-guarding concerns
  28. The BBC documentary reporting on same
  29. Necessary child safeguarding and protection protocols in all spheres of public life in response to male-perpetrated sexual violence and need
  30. Ditto single sex space and the multiple reasons for their evolution including safety, privacy, dignity of everyone including the need to enable women, men and children participate in public life
  31. The trauma from violence and sexual abuse on women that requires them to have access to single-sex therapeutic single-sex spaces and programme for them and their children
  32. The objective clinical evidence this is based on
  33. The housing of males with sexual assault offenders with the most vulnerable women in society: female prisoners
  34. The ensuing incidences of sexual assault and violence towards female prisoners by trans identifying males
  35. The mandatory recording of male-perpetrated sexual violence in the offender’s preferred gender
  36. The mandatory rule that female victims of male-perpetrated sexual violence must refer to the perpetrator in their preferred gender in court
  37. The biological basis of same-sex attraction that is inherently and uncompromisingly discriminatory based on – biology and legitimate genitalia preference. Ask a Left straight male who he can and can’t have sex with
  38. The imposition of gender-based sexual attraction that undermines this in the name of inclusion that renders lesbians ‘bigoted’
  39. The erosion of sexual boundaries
  40. The implications on necessary precise data required to plan resources, services, and measure discrimination through deliberate conflation of sex and a nebulous idea of gender
  41. The significantly increased upper body muscular strength, lung and heart capacity males retain compared to females following puberty irrespective of hormone intervention
  42. The implications of this on maintaining level-playing field for women’s sports, for which resources and opportunities are already in short supply
  43. Ditto women’s positions in spheres of public politics, culture, decision-making, and representation
  44. The introduction of education on gender to young children based on regressive sex-based stereotypes
  45. The introduction of protocols that inhibit parental knowledge of young children ‘socially’ transitioning in schools with no recourse to intervention
  46. The unprecedented infiltration of every public sector department, private sector ‘diversity’ awareness, and 3rd sector institutions by trans political lobbying groups including Stonewall & Mermaids
  47. The threat of job loss & actual loss of employment if staff do not fully submit to these political beliefs
  48. The 2004 Gender Recognition Act
  49. The Equality Act that includes sex as a protected category alongside those who have undergone gender reassignment surgery
  50. The single sex exemptions the law permits
  51. The limitations of the GRA and the rationale for these
  52. The right to condemn organising politically exclusively as a female sex-class as abhorrent and something to be approved of by males. Female is a distinct meaningful political category that depends on political organisation for the safeguarding of rights and protections
  53. The anger of Left males brutally administered among women highlighting the above under the guise of solidarity with trans people
  54. The silence from these same men to all the above issues regardless of platform size, celebrity status, or occupation
  55. The failure of these men to challenge themselves and their own sex class  on the ongoing perpetration of violence against women and transphobic violence
  56. The assumed right of these men to direct the terms of feminism under the guise of solidarity and inclusion
  57. The continued framing of international bounds and concerns that transcend feminism, nationality, left/right axis of politics as a uniquely British right-wing phenomenon
  58. The ‘right’ of twitter to ban users (many women) for stating biology is immutable while allowing on-going abuse and threats towards women (from mainly men) for stating that their sex matters to their life experiences
  59. The wilful determination to interpret this as respectable corporate responsibility than the political lobbying it is and the implications of same on democractic engagement and discourse
  60. Glinner
  61. Bono

Tower of Babble

Finger-tips standing to attention
Left buttock lifted to fire
A starting shot of sulphur
He’s off
Left, right, left, right
Fingers sashay up and down
The Queen’s keyboard
In exclamation-marked outrage
At charges of gutter culture
Left, right, left, right
Re-routed and stopped
From entering the Republic of Logic
By those blockading reconciliation
One’s iconography being set alight by
Placing an inferno under that of another
Left, right, left, right
Jenga’ing his way around detractors
He slides one pallet out from under another
Reconstructing his argument
Capital-lettering one back on top of the next
Left, right, left, right 
Until they fill the entire screen-line
On which he stands aloft
Squinting over at dissenting dandruff down below
The click-clacking of
Bullets from his behind
Left, right, left, right
In concert with the silent but deadly
Desertion of his leaders

Rewired

The first problem with pulling the plug on the blog was wondering what to do with all the posts. What worth had they, if any, in the annals of internal monologues, and for whom. The desertion by question marks from that sentence consistent with the indifference everyone reading it feels.

As a compendium of places my monologues visited during a specific time and place, was there any point in letting them gather dust for future surface-blowing. Having spent most of my independence as a fugitive from carrying much baggage other than psychological, I had come to regret the periodic replenishing of recycling boxes with letters and diaries and scrapbooks and Red Bulled essays. Some origamied into qualifying for forensic lab assembly requiring tweezers and expert witness hands. Others discarded whole with a cavalier flick beloved of anyone adept at undervaluing exchanges between 20 somethings with no money, no direction, and no surrender to the game being up.

The second problem with pulling the plug on the blog was wondering who could blow the dust off. Laundering them through Twitter as re-usable currency for communication was all very well but their shelf-life eventually expired along with representations of everyone and everything in them. If they were dating site profile pics, the hair-lines would now be dots on the horizon of their owners foreheads hovering above thinned top lips hanging like interval curtains over teeth gone for another costume change.

A few teeth are missing. The two front teeth just this weekend. She is above my fluctuating waistline now and firmly under his wing. I thought of asking him to store these posts under lock and key for her to peruse at a legal drinking date should fate intervene and dispossess me of an opportunity to hand them over myself. Hand over myself. My other selves. The half-distracted self. The middle-distance thinking self. The one she senses is somewhere else.

She mightn’t be interested in where I went anyway.

The third problem with pulling the plug on the blog was being caught short of a place to be and ending up in Twitter. Again. And again. And again. Twitter is other hells of other selves and an elusive sense of self. The HD self. The short distance sprinting thinking self. No roaming in the gloaming through the byroads of the subconscious for a long-form to and fro. Just interrogation lighting with torchlights drawn at 20 paces along the keyboard.

The fourth problem with pulling the plug on the blog is wanting to plug it back in. Sometimes.

 

January 7th, 2018

She unfastens grave-stoned tinsel tracing frames.
Silver: Like the anniversary celebrated within.
Green: What she was on her wedding day in hindsight.
Green: What she feels if she thinks about it long enough.
Red: The colour of two delicate unlit candles
held in by a girdle of tape slowly limbo dancing
the air on the mantlepiece; Having swaggered in upright
in 19 and 61 when presented as a gift for their first Christmas
from her Mother who, for the last two weeks has been adorned
with plastic holly in the hallway without her consent.
It doesn’t match the pillbox tilted in the same direction
as the eyes made at her new husband sitting comfortably below her.

Cherry-picking the tree, off with glittered globes from Sainsburys.
2 for £1.50 in the January sale of 2014.
Sainsburys being the one shop that do those bulbs for the lights
hanging over paintings in the only gallery she has ever curated.
The harbour at Port-na-Blagh from the main road, on the bend,
pre-planning blight, pre-life insight.

A concentration of boxes lining the valley of Glenties;
recognisable only to the discerning eye. And at that,
incapable of revealing his true origins to her
no matter how intense her gaze lingering on it.

An elegant woman, overdressed to be wandering a meadow alone,
before ending up in the living room on account of the flowers
she sniffs matching the carpet perfectly.

Upwards towards preserved artifacts of her children’s childhood:
Chain-gangs of looped paper rings, misshapen stars,
the clear glass bear from Dublin. Or was it Derry?
Tiers of nearly tears until she reaches the inscrutable angel
presiding somewhat judgmentally over her domestic domain.
Refusing to look down over unabashed nakedness at eyes
coming up for her in the hope they’ll both see the next.

20191228_152432.jpg

Aye

She stood losing a staring contest with the new coffee machine before stepping aside for a Cop. He overtook her on autopilot to resume the universal challenge of early morning indifference. Both of them united by separation anxiety from its predecessor. One that might’ve gurgled back in protest but didn’t tease regulars with fancy moves like this one. Like dispensing hot water then pausing for a round of applause before introducing the headline act to the cup.

That’s when I invaded her peripheral vision with the offer of a lid they thought hip to hide from view, startling her in a manner usually reserved for catching my own reflection.

Ah. It’s yourself. I was away in another world there.

A world of under-eye shadows from Intensive Care Unit hours she’d been keeping; under eyes no bigger than curled up confetti from going through her revolving car-door leaving no time for her usually flawless make-up.

How are things?

Aye. OK. He’ll spend another week in ICU, then home. But recovery will be slow. It’s hard on Mum but there’s hardly a family we know that’s not affected by it. Is there, like?

Aye. True.

Everything else is much the same. The boys are fine. Still fighting over Power Rangers cards. And football football football. You know yourself. Is your wee one not into them things yet? They’re a bloody torture.

Aye. She’s a big Celtic fan though, I conceded, finally settling my end of the subtle transaction of child inspired exasperation. Like her Da. So, you know yourself.

[In unison] Aye!

And with that we awkwardly strung out our goodbyes until she reached the till and the poppy on the lapel of her padded coat faded to something vaguely resembling a blood donor badge on a shrunken duvet. One she could cheerfully disappear under.

I skulked back over to the flashy coffee machine wondering what would she think if she knew I pulled my wee one from Remembrance Assembly last week. The one her two boys skipped into along with every other wee one from what I could gather on Facebook, where all the best rights are violated. Shouldn’t I have sent in her in there? Isn’t this what integrated education is all about?

Aye. According to the stock imaged posters, and those misty-eyed promos featuring Liam Neeson selling us the benefits of holding hands across the playground in a non-threatening voice. There he is. All whispery, beatifically laying his hand on a shoulder as the camera pulls away to reveal me gnawing my fist. For f*ck’s sake, Liam. Too many people already think integrated education is for pretentious w*nkers and toffs. Ham up the local brogue there like a good man.

Aye. OK. I made that last bit up.

Of course it’s for bloody toffs you stupid eejit, pointed out my friend diplomatically. You have to drive to get to it!

Aye. Right enough.

And where does your wee one go, the integrated?, inquired a colleague condemned to my front passenger seat longer than should ever be necessary.

Aye.

Aye?

Aye.

Fair play til ya. Friends of our Mary goes there.

Aye?

Oh aye.

Wait a second. So there’s no Irish at all?, another mate re-checked, ramping up the incredulity.

Aye.

Lucky f*ckers.

Aye.

 

blood

Join the army today! 

 

Supposing

Supposing when my words step backwards down into the page, they capsize and stubbornly attach themselves to the expanse in ways that duck my reach before drifting ashore in my hair from where I’ll embarrassingly pick them out days later, frayed and indecipherable to the untrained squinter.

“Is that something in your hair?” “Ah yes”, I’ll squint, dislodging it from its hiding place behind my ear before studying in mock fashion, “why it appears to be a question mark”.

Supposing there will come a time when she won’t let me square why? with the why not? Of Remembrance Assembly attendance.  Of not wearing that hooped jersey on sports day. Of being the Other of Three categorically divided by Two.

Supposing I was to go one tip-toe further with a pre-emptive why not? at the why? Of the hidden fadas. Of invisible hurleys. Of being the Other of Three unquestioningly divided by One.

Supposing we were keep-the-head-downers, mixed-marrieds centrists, holders of wringed hands clasped in prayer, would-be gleaming side-stepfording governors.

Would we all be Other than who We are then?

 

Body of evidence

The deck of cards is not needed now.
Slap it sideways on the kitchen table
Until it has break-danced itself
into sanctuary behind the Joker
Howling in our faces all along.
A jester holding appeals over the courtship
of righteousness and misdirection;
Chaperoned by those salt-of-the-moon types
Saucer-eyed out stationed destination’ed trains.
Incandescent with dullness and clapping
with all the force of a sigh of Iarnrod Eireann passengers
arriving within the hour of the hour.
The jury of the unamused should not fooled by.. by…
Objections, Your Honour.
Overruled
Over rules?
Sustained. The defence may call its sole witness.
Witness flings itself through the door
Rolling inanimately atop four-legged determination.
The defendant is ordered to place the needle delicately
on its infinite radial of plaintive cries,
underlain with pedal-raising feats of piano notes
subdued just enough to spark her synapses back into being.
Igniting her body along the flammable strip of her sashay
Before a creep-up of drumbeats begs her
to lose her footing causing her to trip
Headfirst onto a confetti of harmonica.
Zig-zigging to and fro in an eight-shaped
Skate-figured skim over what doesn’t matter now
Held up by the reverb from what mattered then.
Gripping her hips with the fellowship of disparition that
Compresses her track-by-track into an artist’s impression of
foetal desperation that when turned up
reveals her brandishing a mic mid-air
in defiant electrification.
The jury of the infused finds her gilded.

Shot through the heart!

And you’re to blame *cups ear*  ….you give… that’s it…..a bad…

Beautiful singing, dot comrades. Like an Enya album speeded up to 45. Irresistable that tune, init?  A bit like the keyboard.

I hope you’re all doing grand and the sunlight isn’t causing too much of a nasty glare on your screen. As if internet enthusiasts haven’t enough to contend with. Sleep. Other people. Driving. Eating. The barriers are many but we battle through. Some of us towards other forms.

I’ve carried out the threat of tinkering beyond the long-form rambling into a more disciplined method with a new location for same. It may be short-lived. It may not. Shrugs. All visitors, snoopers, lurkers, and Enya/Chris deBurgh very welcome.

http://www.fourleggedwords.com

🙂

Full Stop

The screen that first looked back in blank defiance

The defiant North typing up the drama queen’s highway

The crowning of her and him with words they’ll never see

The sight of the first of a million abortion stories already told

The last shelter of cherished anonymity giving it away for free

The feeling of standing beneath a downpour of thoughts unblocked

The poring over of puddles of muddles without a reigncoat on

The top fives, the Bono-bashing, the back-tracking, the track-listing

The listlessness, the taking the pissness, the carelessness

The fall into a deep comma, the semi-colonoscopies and

The

Final…

.