Scots trans law is threat to women, says ex-head of prison The Times 19.01.20

The original article is here.

A former Scottish prison governor has spoken out against gender reforms that she argues will expose female inmates to higher risk of physical or sexual assault from transgender women.

Rhona Hotchkiss said there were 22 individuals who were born men but identified as the opposite sex in Scottish jails when she stepped down last year as the head of Cornton Vale, Scotland’s women’s prison.

In an address to a new campaign group formed to fight the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, Hotchkiss warned that proposals to make it easier for individuals to switch gender would allow many more men “who may want to hurt women” to gain transgender status and be housed among female prisoners.

“When I left last year, there were 22 trans women across the prison estate,” said Hotchkiss. “They were not all in the women’s estate but identifying as trans and looking to [transfer].”

Hotchkiss said the figure represented about 6% of Scotland’s 380 female inmates but the proportion appeared to have fallen since her departure in February 2019.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said there were 10 transgender women behind bars as of last week. At least three are understood to have been denied transfer to the female estate amid concern they pose a risk to themselves and women.

Reforms under consultation would allow trans people as young as 16 to request a gender recognition certificate — which changes their birth certificate and their “legal sex” — without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. It would reduce the time they have to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months.

Hotchkiss was among more than 150 activists who gathered in Glasgow yesterday to launch LGB Alliance Scotland,which aims to build public support to force a U-turn by ministers. It has been co-founded by Bev Jackson, a gay rights activist who helped set up the Gay Liberation Front in 1970.

At a meeting in Oran Mor, a venue in the city’s West End, they were addressed by a Scottish woman who went through the process of transitioning from a girl to a boy, including surgery, in her early twenties. The woman — who wished to remain anonymous — said she deeply regrets her decision and described how she was fast-tracked through the Scottish system and given minimal medical or psychiatric help.

“If I wasn’t ready then and was given no meaningful counselling about the dangers under the present process, then why on earth would the Scottish government contemplate lowering the age of gender recognition to 16? This change alone will lead to hundreds of kids making profound mistakes that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

Jackson described the proposed gender reforms as “deeply homophobic” and the most “dangerous piece of legislation” to be tabled in the UK in recent decades. “I never thought I’d live to see the day when the Scottish government was trying to destroy everything that lesbian and gay people have achieved. This bill undermines the definition of being lesbian or gay.”

A spokeswoman for the SPS said decisions regarding the most appropriate location to accommodate transgender prisoners are made on an individual basis “after careful consideration of all relevant factors, including risk”.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Trans men and women have had the right to change their gender for 15 years — the proposed reforms are about the process of how they achieve that change. The proposals do not change the rights of women. Their rights and protections will be as strong under this bill as they are today.”

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