Diamonds in the mud

The UK edition of The Guardian and its Sunday sister The Observer is openly transphobic and effectively the house magazine of the “gender critical” mob; as Trans Writes reports, during its recent diversity and inclusion events a group of senior writers and editors discussed their plans to push anti-trans narratives “fearlessly” in front of an audience of around 120 employees. But despite their best efforts, sometimes The Guardian still manages to publish good journalism about trans people.

Most of that journalism happens in the US edition, whose writers once wrote an open letter condemning the UK Guardian’s transphobia. Here are some examples:

Republican attacks on trans people smack of fascism – Robert Reich

Conservative attacks on US abortion and trans healthcare come from the same place– Moira Donegan

But sometimes a lone voice manages to get something sensible published in the UK edition, and that lone voice is usually Zoe Williams. I’ve long admired Williams’ writing, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be a lone voice of sanity in an increasingly deranged organisation.

Her latest article, why are trans rights in prison so rarely defended?, is very good.

I also thought the furore was in such obvious bad faith that it would fizzle out: anyone with a sincere interest in the welfare of women in prison would also be interested in a host of other things, from staffing levels to self-harm and suicide, from mental health to the fallout post-Covid. The same year that White committed some of her offences, 2016, saw the highest number of female deaths in custody on record. If your only documented interest in the female prison estate is in transgender prisoners, surely it would be obvious that your real beef was trans rights, and your campaign would gain no momentum? That turned out not to be true.

One of the points that Williams makes in her piece is that the danger of trans prisoners has been massively and constantly exaggerated: of the 97 sexual assaults in women’s prisons between 2016 and 2020, just seven were perpetrated by trans prisoners. What her article also said, but didn’t make it into print, is that five of those assaults were perpetrated by the same person. So this entire panic, which is being used to suggest that all trans women are dangerous to all women, focuses on just three people and ignores the much wider problem of women’s safety in prisons. Not only that, but since those three attacks, the rules have been changed.

Since the prison regulation on trans prisoners was reformed in 2019, (which made it more difficult for those convicted of any violent crime to switch between estates) there have been no assaults by trans prisoners on women in prison. It seems pretty obvious that if the majority of sexual assaults in the women’s estate are committed by prisoners who are not trans, then a relentless focus on trans prisoners is not going to keep women safe.

But as with the rest of the anti-trans panic, none of this is about facts; it’s about scaremongering and othering trans people.

it just didn’t occur to me that the behaviour of trans prisoners would be used to tarnish the characters of all trans people and call into question their legitimacy in any single-sex space. You simply can’t infer anything broader from the behaviour of inmates: they are an outlier population. That’s why they’re in prison.



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