I was eighteen, and my dad burst into the kitchen screaming I had used his spanner and not put it back. But I had not touched his spanner, and a massive argument broke out - none of us like being accused of something we did not do.
So, in the ‘TERF War’ – also known as the ‘Gender War’ a toxic war of words and hate - made more explosive by gender-critical (alleged) feminists, binary thinkers and Christian extremists to counter UK Government proposals of making it easier for transgender folk to change our sex on our birth certificates – I as a trans woman, am deeply hurt when the gender-critical activists, start throwing transgender sex offender statistics at me.
'Oh, we're not accusing you personally' is their cry, but facts are facts. Fair Play for Women and Woman's Place UK (WPUK), and others, tell us you transgender women are just like men. And the gender-critical's takes this exceedingly seriously – one vile group even hold a database that shows an image and gives details of 'alleged trans' (often very masculine looking) offenders. Yes, they record abusers - but will go so far as even record driving offences!
A database of pure hate – that is how toxic this ‘war’ really is.
And somehow, I feel dirty and ashamed - I know I shouldn't, but I do. The veiled accusation is that all trans women are predators. Still, somehow, I have to write this article defending or explaining why a small minority of transgender people commit crime and more specifically, apparently commit sex offences.
No easy task - I am talking indecent images, assaults, rape, paedophilia. All wholly unacceptable, allegedly committed by people in 'my community.'
The organisation that seems to publish most of the statistics is Fair Play for Women - and their presentation of them certainly appears weaponised, to say the least. For it is undeniable that statistics can be 'twisted' to make all sorts of different cases. But statistics are a bit of a strong point for me. So, after months of research, talking to people on the "inside", if you excuse the pun, I can challenge the figures that Fair Play for Women and others publish. In fact, after extensive research, I think I can prove that transgender people can hold their heads up exceedingly high.
But let us look at the overall crime figures first before driving down into specific detail.
The critical issue is how many trans people there are in the country and until the 2021 census results are announced, we don’t know that for sure. Some argue the figure is 0.6% of the population, while others suggest the figure is much higher at 1.5% or even 2%. For the point of this article, I am using the model of 1% because I honestly believe this is reasonably accurate, and it is the figure used by most people these days.
As of June 2020, the cisgender population of England and Wales was 58,524,840, and 79,290 were in prison. The offending rate meriting a prison sentence is 0.1355%
By comparison, the number of trans people (men and women) in England and Wales was 591,160, and just 163 people are in prison. The imprisonment rate is 0.0276%
In a nutshell, this means cisgender people commit crime at nearly FIVE times the rate of transgender people - the exact figure is 4.9095%.
This statistic can even be 'double-checked.' There exists a policy document issued by the Ministry of Justice called 'The Care and Management of Individuals who are Transgender.’ This document is core to this article and was re-issued on the 27th of January 2020, just over a year ago. It states this:
"The numbers of transgender individuals held in the adult prison estate are low (approximately 1.6 transgender prisoners reported per 1000 prisoners in custody)".
Based on being 1% of the UK population, we should expect that figure to be 10. But it is not - it is 1.6 and 1.6 divided into ten comes out at 6.25.
Therefore, one immediate fact emerges in that cisgender people commit crime at a rate five to six times higher than transgender people.
Pretty damning evidence.
But the Fair Play for Women stats does not look at the above fact. They prefer to look at sexual offences. Here indeed, at first sight, the statistics look very different. Fair Play for Women says this:
" 81 out of the 163 transgender prisoners in England and Wales had at least one conviction for a sexual offence."
One quick note here. Transgender refers to both trans women AND trans men. I am sure Fair Play for Women and WPUK would much prefer people forgot about trans men, though – after all, they are not the centre of their debate. Indeed Fair Play for Women says as much - and no one can doubt that natal males are the main problem but to exclude them is incorrect; as the case of Jay Ferguson, a trans man who hit the headlines in March 2021, clearly proves.
The number of cisgender sex offenders (as of June 2019) was 13,278; the offending rate is 0.0227%, while the trans offending is 0.0137%.
Another way of presenting a statistic is to say that trans people represent just 0.61% of sex offenders in prison. Yes - 99.39% of sex offenders in UK prisons are cisgender!
But digging into the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) policy document, I found more very fascinating facts.
The journey of a convicted trans offender into prison starts after sentencing. Unless prior arrangements have been made (which are rare), the prisoner is automatically transferred to the estate as per their legal gender. In other words, a trans woman without a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) enters the male prison estate. Trans men are taken to the female estate. Prisoners with a GRC are treated in their legal gender. However, just one per cent of trans people have a GRC, and the MOJ policy is that trans women, even with a GRC, can be housed in ANY prison. In essence, this policy though, provides a sensible starting point. Prisoners should be housed in relation to the risk they pose to others and then other relevant factors considered. Section 4.67 of the policy document reads:
"It may be necessary to locate a transgender (male to female) woman with a GRC in the men's estate."
The fact that the Prison Service can and do house trans women offenders in the estate of the MOJ’s choice makes a mockery of gender-critical women’s groups' objections to Self-ID in relation to the Gender Recognition Act reform. In fact, the MOJ policy just reflects any service provider's legal right to discriminate against a trans person if they have reasonable grounds to do so as set out in the UK Equality Act 2010.
Within fourteen days of entry into the prison system, a 'Local Transgender Case Board' (LTCB) must convene to discuss the best way to care for the new trans prisoner. This board also considers in what estate the prisoner is to be kept. As a trans person, I would like to think these board members are experts in everything transgender. But they are not. The MOJ say in section 3.10 of their policy document in relation to safety, risks and risk assessment and those who make the decisions: -
"Decisions are free from bias, follow a clear, recorded process and are undertaken by staff who have a sound basic awareness of transgender identity".
So basic - that all is required to sit on an LTCB is a run-through of an online eLearning module!
The LTCB consists of a minimum of four people - a prison manager as Chair, together with a Safer Custody manager, Offender supervisor, and one other. It is possible to increase the number of people on the board, but it is not mandatory. The transgender prisoner gets to put their case to the board but may sit in for only part of the meeting. Bearing in mind, the trans woman prisoner may be forced to wear everyday male prison uniform when attending the meeting is concerning. Surely bonafide trans women would want and should be able to present to the board in female clothes of their choice? But more on this issue later.
The risk to other prisoners, staff, and the trans prisoner is by far the paramount consideration of those sitting in the LTCB. The written procedures in themselves are reasonably sound. The board will consider evidence such as advice from a GP, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, medication, pre-sentence presentation, personal documents etc. But the fact remains that the people sitting on the board make decisions with no real knowledge of trans people.
And more disturbing is the fact that a prisoner only has to say they are trans - and they are treated as trans. Not put in the female estate for sure - but certainly to be considered a "trans prisoner." And the MOJ policy allows this. In section 3.4 of the policy document, it states:
“Individuals managed by HMPPS are able to self-declare they are transgender."
While it is perfectly reasonable in general for trans people to Self-ID in general society – operating a Self-ID system in prisons, which can lead to all sorts of situations, seems irresponsible. The fact is a convicted prisoner can Self-ID in prison, but a law-abiding transgender citizen cannot even change their birth certificate without going through a huge administrative process!
Training in gender issues within the Prison Service is pathetic - not all prisons have a psychologist, and even if they do - they are not trained to Gender Identity Clinic standards.
If a trans woman is recommended to be housed in the female estate by the LTCB, it does not mean they will automatically transfer to it. Their case is then referred to the Complex Transgender Case Board (CTCB). The CTCB consists of a Chair (a Prison Group Director) and a Psychologist, Head of Women's Team, a member of the Prison Service Equalities Team, and attendees for a Local Case Board. Again, this sounds impressive, but again, none of these board members are gender identity specialists – including, of course, the Psychologist.
Still looking at the MOJ document, other statistics can be revealed, collected by the MOJ in April & May 2018.
I found this incredibly strange. 50 people not even giving an answer to a very straightforward of "how" they identify. Certainly, the 114 said they identified as female in an earlier question, but beyond that, they did not want to provide any details. Why?
So, then I reached out to people "in the know." People who work, have worked or have served time in prisons. I discovered there are eight prisons in England and Wales dedicated to holding sex offenders. In at least one LGBT+ prisoners occupy a completely separate wing. In this particular prison, I received excellent information. I was told by an insider, who has huge knowledge about transgender people that just one-third of trans prisoners actually identified as trans – the other two-thirds are cisgender but claim they are trans and have been given automatic trans status by the MOJ because of their self-declare policy. The info from my insider was then backed up by a trans man ex-prisoner who served time at New Hall a women's prison in Leeds at a similar time to one Stephen Terence Wood the sex offender Fair Play to Women et al - like to quote.
And I then started to look at different years statistics to double-check patterns.
I also wanted to begin to promote this article, so in a draft blog I wrote this:
Several things are becoming apparent, though. One is that sex offenders, who may or may not cross-dress from time to time are Self-ID’ing as trans. While it is true cross dressing does fall within the very wide Stonewall trans umbrella, Nancy Kelley (the CEO of Stonewall) herself confirmed when giving evidence to the Women & Equalities Committee that what Stonewall considered ‘trans’ and what the government should consider as ‘trans’ – can and should be different. Cross dressing is certainly one route many trans people discover their true self but at what point they become ‘trans’ is highly debatable. From my first wife’s experience of running a ‘Dressing Agency’ for cross dressers over many years – I know many have no intention at all to change their status and that only a small proportion is into autogynephilia.
Sex offenders are very different.
An example would be Stephen Wood aka the infamous Karen White, an individual who had a long history of being a sex predator. Wood, while identifying as a cisgender male committed various assaults and committed rape as early as 2003. He started wearing a wig whilst in HMP New Hall, after suddenly claiming he was transgender and being transferred from the male estate. Being on remand he had not been put before a Local Transgender Case Board and was free to wear what he wished.
Within days of being housed in New Hall, Wood exposed himself to a female inmate and made lewd comments about another female inmate grabbing her hand and put it on her breast saying: “Oh look, they’re not real ones.”
During his trial at Bradford Crown Court on the 17th of October 2018, Wood pleaded guilty to three counts of rape against two women and two counts of sexual assault against the female inmates in New Hall.
During the Wood’s trial, Prosecutor Mr. Christopher Dunn described Stephen Wood as: -
“Allegedly’ transgender. The prosecution says allegedly because there’s smatterings of evidence in this case that the defendant’s approach to transitioning has been less than committed."
Mr. Dunn then added.
“The prosecution suggests the reason for the lack of commitment towards transitioning is so the defendant can use a transgender persona to put herself in contact with vulnerable persons she can then abuse”.
Following Stephen Wood’s conviction, the Ministry of Justice said: “there were ‘strict safeguards' to prevent abuse of the way transgender prisoners are managed and attempts to undermine the system were rare.” Evidence, however, does not fully support this statement and whilst the MOJ did apologise for the Wood error and subsequently change procedures as outlined in the January 2020 policy document I am quoting from within this article - the MOJ still has significant shortcomings.
There are many advantages in prisons to why some cisgender sex offenders, who are known to be highly manipulative, allege they are trans. I do feel it important to state right here that the risk of male sexual predators pretending to be trans women is used as an argument by those ‘gender-critical’ in an attempt to ban trans women from women’s single-sex spaces. However, there is simply no evidence this happens outside of the prison’s environment – the evidence I discovered relates purely to the practice inside prisons where genuine benefits tempt apparent cis men to lie this way.
One such benefit is for their own safety - not being close to non-sex offending cisgender male prisoners is a bonus.
Let's face it; sex offenders like Stephen Wood are the lowest of the low. In prison who would want to declare "they are in for raping a woman?"
Saying you are trans can offer protection. Trans prisoners are meant to have extra protection - meaning they are not always mixing with everyday criminals. There is no such thing as 100% protection though.
Then, there are all the ‘extra privileges’ trans prisoners are allowed - makeup and the like - valid "currency" inside a prison. A currency that can buy sex from a genuine trans woman who has had complete sex assignment surgery.
And this is the main reason why the sex offender who knows all the ‘tricks of the prison system,’ Self -ID's as trans - he gets access to bonafide trans women as well as an 'insurance policy' for personal safety. They know they will not get access to cisgender women - but getting access to trans women is the next best option and is incredibly easy. And this practice puts bonafide trans women at a huge risk!
Highly manipulative sex offenders, like Stephen Wood often spend years infiltrating into positions of trust, wanting to get close to kids and women. Teachers, scout leaders, sports coaches, and yes, even those in the Church are the favoured careers for sex offenders. As stated; the one thing cisgender male sex offenders don’t appear to do is become a trans woman in society – purely because the amount of effort to “pass” is so incredibly high, and they are very unlikely to succeed.
Just to say “I am trans” to the MOJ though, is too easy and wrong.
The prison population averages at 79,500, and around 13,350 are sex offenders. I am told by my inside sources that around 70 sex offenders say they are trans women - in truth, about 20 are bonafide trans women – meaning 50 are cisgender. And note the tie-in - remember those 50 who refused to tell the MOJ how they self identify.
It was all beginning to make sense.
Twenty bonafide trans women sex offenders as a percentage of 13,359 sex offenders equate to 0.15% within 0.01% of the number of trans folk in the prison system, which you will recall, according to the MOJ figures is 0.16%.
So here is a suggestion to the Ministry of Justice and Prison Service: How can you tell a genuine trans woman and what estate they should be housed. Because the current methodology and identification issues lead to difficulty in establishing 100% accurate statistics.
(a) If a trans woman prisoner has a medical history of gender dysphoria and lives as a woman before the offence date for which they are convicted, then yes, that is fine - they are trans and yes, record them as such. If they cannot prove they lived as a trans woman, they are cisgender. They should be housed in relation to all appropriate safety checks.
(b) And if they "come out in prison", then help them - but do not consider putting a trans woman in a female estate for some years. Nor for the sake of statistics should they be recorded as transgender, as this gives 'ammunition' to anti-trans organisations. These people said they were trans after committing an offence.
(c) And if they are not a sex or violent offender, pose no risk to women, had bottom surgery or are on hormone therapy, and present as "female," - then, yes, they should almost certainly be in the female estate.
Because what is happening just now is occasional cross-dressers and many who refuse to identify are automatically placed in the prison estate as per their legal gender but being counted as "trans."
And the sex offenders that know how the system works are "working their ticket" to access genuine trans women just by saying they are "trans."
And in consequence, statistics are being grossly distorted by the MOJ – leaving anti-trans rights, gender-critical organisations able to produce statistics as they do.
But what of the trans folk in prison.
One transgender woman sent to a male prison was Tara Hudson. She headbutted a man in an argument and was initially sent to male jail even though she had lived as a woman all her adult life. On release, Tara said: -
“I felt like I was being persecuted by the state… I felt I had no rights. I felt like an animal in a zoo.”
And I can fully understand her point. Whilst women’s’ prisons normally allow convicted prisoners to wear their own clothes – this not the norm in men’s prisons, where on arrival your personal clothes are taken from you and you are given a male prison uniform. The potential psychological damage to a trans woman in a male prison robbed of her clothes and put in men’s clothes is truly immense. I tried to put myself in Tara’s position and I am positive I could not have coped.
Another person who transitioned but this time in prison is Sarah Jane Baker. In total, she was in jail for some thirty years. She told Inews:
"I have lost count of the things that happened to me inside.
You can see my scars. I was in a male prison for the entirety of my sentence, and that is a dangerous place to be as a trans woman. I’ve lost count of the things that happened to me inside. I’ve been cut with razor blades; I was stripped and pinned down. I had boiling hot water, and sugar poured all over me. I got stabbed.
In Wakefield, I was raped.
In Feltham, I was gang-raped. The group stuck a pool cue in me.
The staff would not take responsibility for my safety. They said: “Well, what did you think was going to happen?”
The MOJ said it would create a transgender wing, but it ended up being a prison segregation and punishment bloc. But when calls were made to move a trans sex offender, there was such a backlash, the handful of us already in the complex were robbed of the chance to move.
My struggles with my gender came to a head when I was inside. Although I was allowed access to makeup and hair products, I was not permitted oestrogen. To access it under the terms of the Gender Recognition Act, I needed to prove I had lived two years as a woman. But for me, serving a life sentence, that was impossible. I decided enough was enough and resorted to drastic measures in December 2017, I cut my testicles off when I was in my prison cell.
There was so much blood, I nearly died. But it meant the clinic had to give me oestrogen. I could not cope any more. Without testosterone, you end up with the same conditions as a woman would risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis, so it had to be balanced out. I will be on oestrogen for the rest of my life.
A prison is indeed a dangerous place for trans folk - both trans men and trans women. In the last ten years, deaths in prisons have doubled. The death rate of a trans woman whilst in prison is 0.8%, nearly three times higher than cisgender women, which over ten years (2011 to 2020) average at 0.28%. Trans women deaths, invariably by their own hand, include:
Vikki Thompson (HMP Leeds Oct 2015), Joanne Latham (HMP Woodhill Nov 2015), Jenny Swift (HMP Doncaster December 2016), and Jade Eatough (HMP Parkhurst August 2017). No one can deny that some were indeed very dangerous people and should be in prison, but Vikki Thompsons’s case was tragic – she was just a petty thief sent to a male prison. Catherine Smith, at that time the Shadow Equalities Minister said in Parliament this about Vikki’s death:
“Given that I raised quite recently [this issue] with the Tara Hudson case, it’s devastating the issue has come back again so quickly but with tragic circumstances. The reality is that sending women into men’s prison to serve sentences would shatter even the strongest person.”
The Prison and Probation service report concerning Vikki’s death stated:
“Ms Thompson was originally sent to Leeds, a male prison, in line with existing national instructions, but this was not reviewed. We are concerned that a men’s prison might not have been appropriate for a transgender woman who had lived with a female identity for ten years.”
“The equalities team held two multidisciplinary case conferences about how to manage Ms Thompson, but no one considered the possibility of a move to a women’s prison. Despite her particular needs as a transgender prisoner, no one from the equalities team or any healthcare staff attended Ms Thompson's ACCT case reviews”.
But there was no one to weep except perhaps a few family and friends.
And there was no organisation “Fair Play for Trans Women” to scream from the rooftops.
No right-wing press wanting to highlight that trans women took their lives because the conditions for trans women in prison (especially in the male estate) are so traumatic that they decided to end it.
Everyone has the right to be safe in prison, but a transgender prisoner is sexually assaulted in an English or Welsh jail on average every 33 days - the UK press does not want to highlight that either. If those statistics were true of cisgender women in prison, the right-wing press and Fair Play for Women would likely be shouting at the top of their voices. When in prison trans prisoners rarely give any trouble. In April of 2020 Baroness Mc Donagh, a Labour Party Life Peer in the House of Lords wrote a written question (number HL3198) the text read:
“To ask Her Majesty's Government how many sexual assaults have been carried out by trans prisoners against women prisoners and prison officers in prisons in each year since 2010; in which prisons any such assaults took place; and in each case, what action was taken against the perpetrator”.
The reply came back just two weeks later. There had been no sexual assaults against prison officers in ten years and just five assaults in the ten-year period against other prisoners. We do not know if the perpetrators were trans women or trans men or if the attacks were against other trans inmates. What we do know is that close to 300 sexual assaults are reported in English and Welsh prisons every year so to put in context over the next ten years some three thousand sexual assaults will take place.
Five transgender perpetrators in ten years in the female estate – likely THREE THOUSAND by cisgender people ones across the prison estate as a whole.
This article paints a very different picture compared to what the gender-critical media and transphobic women’s organisations want the public to believe. For there is no doubt transgender people suffer not only injustice and discrimination but worse still – persecution.
Are all trans folk saints? For certain, no - and I want to stress that I certainly don't advocate cisgender women being put at risk.
But the next time Woman's Place UK or in particular Fair Play to Women publish a negative trans article, let us all remember everyone has an agenda.
And that in the toxic, and totally unnecessary gender war - statistics and databases can be presented in devious and exceedingly hateful ways.
Thank you for reading my work. If you like it, please use the share buttons at the bottom of this page. Can I just add this is by far the most challenging subject that I have ever authored and that I appreciate some people may not like all that I have written. My thanks to those within the trans community and cisgender allies who one way or another have contributed to this article; Julie, Paul, Elisabeth, Katie, P********, Claire, Diane and Tilly, your feedback and help have been invaluable! I would also like to thank Jen my amazing wife, who worked as an Information Scientist for over twenty years and has helped me so much. You can follow me on Twitter @PlaceSteph Comments and complaints about this article should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org