This is a debate? Credit, public domain

It won’t have escaped notice that we’re in a period of flux here. Definitions of gender are moving rather further away from simple biological checking of the meat and veg arrangements. This is not, in the vast majority of life, a problem. Simple politeness covers most of it in fact. Someone wishes to be known and acknowledged as Bobbi instead of Bobby, or vice versa, and why not? It’s of no more difficulty than agreeing that Mr. Cash MP is Bill not William. So, we all just get on with it.

There are areas where it isn’t so simple. Those first cases of prostate cancer in a non-chop declared woman are going to be interesting, cervical in men will be a bit of a turn up for the books. But then we can deal with that easily enough too. Medicine has been distinguishing upon similar grounds for a long time now. We check a great deal more for Tay Sachs among Ashkenazis, concern ourselves with sickle cell among those of West African descent.

That is, our insistence that all are equal, even all are the same as a general presumption is just that, a general presumption and not a detailed rule for each and every circumstance. And that’s where our problem is.

Those societal rules are in flux, obviously enough. There’s nowt wrong with our moving to a new general presumption – gender, sex, however you wish to describe it, is something self-declared and that’s that. Fine. Except, and here’s the problem, when isn’t it fine?

We have seen some fairly odd insistences already. I seem to recall one that male to female transgender people should be booked in for the regular cervical checks. Umm, well, no, not really. Just as it would be more than faintly ridiculous for non-surgically altered such to be refused PSA testing.

At which point:

A rapist and paedophile who was transferred to a women’s prison after claiming to be female and assaulted four inmates there made no more effort to be a woman than wearing wigs and dresses, former neighbours say.

Karen White, 52, a former drag artist from Manchester previously known as Stephen Wood, then David Thompson, claimed to be transgender to the authorities. Despite knowing that White had undergone no physical changes and was a paedophile on remand for multiple rapes with a long record of sexual and violent offences against women, the authorities permitted a transfer to HMP New Hall, a prison near Wakefield with a mother-and-baby unit. White committed the assaults within days of the move and was transferred back to a men’s prison.

Which is back to our basic problem, isn’t it? Those new societal rules, self-declaration is the definition and that’s it. OK, that’s fine as that general presumption. And when isn’t it, when do we need to have a more specific and detailed definition?

Do, please, note what the question is here. It’s not a claim that there’s anything wrong with such a general presumption. Nor with the idea that these definitions are changing. It is though to insist that there are times when that general isn’t good enough. Which leads to the interesting question around this subject, our problem. When isn’t that general presumption good enough?

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Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp

The problem is that these personal sadnesses became politicized. We merely have to wait for political fashion to move on and hope it does not leave a lot of inappropriate unhelpful legislation behind. Hope against hope, that is.


That implies that stuff gets repealed. Over here, it does not; not even when you give the pro-repeal party the legislature + executive after it runs on a manifesto of repeal.

Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat

The Grauniad article on this has an interesting bit towards the end:

“A government survey has counted 125 transgender prisoners in England and Wales, which is likely to be an underestimate. According to MoJ figures released in response to a freedom of information request by the BBC, 60 of them have been convicted of one or more sexual offences.”

That’s something we need more information about before making any decisions about self-identification in problem areas like prisons.


Faced with a man pretending he is a woman, if we are obliged to help him pretend, then how can we oppose it when he pretends his victims gave their consent? And who told him it was insufficient evidence of his pretend game that he merely wore a dress and a wig?

Perhaps the “correctional system,” claiming to correct his pattern of misbehavior, should insist that he stop playing pretend entirely?

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp

I hope ‘we’, the prison service, get sued by the ladies who were victims. Or that a group of them takes responsibility to achieve redress on a more physical level.

John Galt

There is, perhaps, another aspect of this. If you are a weedy bloke then you are undoubtedly going to have a difficult time in prison, especially if you’ve been found guilty of sexual offences. Thus, it might be in your long-term best interests to turn up to court in a dress / wig combo and insist on being called “Deirdre” instead of “Derek”. Far better to face the public indignity of being an unconvincing male-to-female pre-op transvestite in a woman’s prison than being a weedy bloke being raped twice a day by Bubba in a male prison. Not having had… Read more »