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Trans prisoners: a ‘conflict of rights’?

“Between 2016 and 2019, a shaven-headed thug by the name of Adam Graham carried out two violent rapes,” said Julie Bindel in the Daily Mail. He first appeared in court in 2019, but by the time he was convicted last week, “a dramatic transformation had taken place”.

The jury at Glasgow High Court was told that the defendant was now a woman who went by the name of Isla Bryson – and who was duly despatched to a women’s prison, Cornton Vale in Stirling, pending assessment.

‘Sacrifice at the altar of trans rights’

The case caused an uproar, and the Scottish government soon intervened: it ordered Bryson to be sent to a male prison, and the Scottish prison service rules that allow male-born transgender offenders to be housed in women’s prisons are now under “urgent review”. But to many, the case was proof of what they already suspected: that the Scottish legal system is “happy to sacrifice the welfare and safety” of vulnerable female prisoners on “the altar of trans rights”, said the Mail’s Bindel.

The case was shocking, said Alex Massie in The Times. But it wasn’t a one-off. Until last week, Tiffany Scott, previously Andrew Burns, was also due to be transferred to women’s prison, despite being considered one of Scotland’s “most dangerous prisoners”. And none of this was surprising, since exactly the same logic underpins the SNP’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill – which, if passed, would allow anyone over 16 to self-identify as the opposite sex, without needing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. If you accept the mantra that “trans women are women”, and should be no different, legally, to any others, then this is where you end up. And if not everyone claiming to be a woman can be treated as one, then the self-ID policy “collapses in a heap of its own contradictions”.

‘A conflict of rights’

Clearly, there cannot be “an absolute right to self-ID”, said The Scotsman. It must be a “qualified” one, to take into account cases such as this where a trans woman cannot be treated exactly as a cis woman “because of a conflict of rights”. The Scottish government should have conceded this point, and outlined such qualifications. Instead, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon further inflamed an already fevered debate, describing critics of her self-ID policies as “transphobic… deeply misogynistic… possibly some of them racist as well”. This was a “disgraceful” slur on “feminists and others who have raised potential problems with self-ID”. 

A “lessons learnt” review is under way over the Bryson case, said Shona Craven in The National. But here’s a simple general lesson: “don’t dismiss women who raise logical concerns” about trans policy.

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