Sexual orientation and gender identity
Sexual orientation and gender identity

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Sexual orientation and gender identity

3.3 A current issue: prisons

An issue that has been in the news has been the question of the imprisonment of trans people. In 2015 there was a large petition calling for Tara Hudson to be moved from the male prison (at which she was originally sentenced to be detained) to a female prison. As you will see, after you have read the report linked from Activity 10, the approach of the prison authorities is to move prisoners – whose acquired gender is recognised under the Gender Reassignment Act 2004 (GRA 2004) – to a prison for those of the acquired gender.

A problematic situation arises where prisoners have not acquired a gender-recognition certificate under GRA 2004. Under GRA 2004 people seeking recognition of their acquired gender must first live in that gender for a minimum of two years. This is likely to be problematic, as trans people may face rejection by, or incomprehension from, family and friends. They may also receive less than sympathetic responses from medical professionals – many of whom will have little experience of dealing with trans people. They may also find that employers and work colleagues are not sympathetic or they may be fearful of the responses they receive. They may also meet hostility from strangers on the street and in other public places. As a result, it is well documented that many trans people find this period particularly difficult. An unfortunate outcome of this is that rates of suicide and depression among trans people are high, as are rates of offending. Therefore, while, numerically, the number of trans people may be small, the number coming into contact with the criminal justice system is significant.

Image: Gareth Copely/PA Archive/Press Association Images/Universal Images Group
Figure 1: Prison showing cells and walkways

As you read the BBC News report, consider whether the approach of the prison authorities outlined achieves the right outcomes. You should bear in mind that there will potentially be both m-t-f and f-t-m trans people in this situation, and consider the likely attitudes and sensibilities of other inmates with whom trans people may have to be housed.

Activity 10: Trans prisoners

You should allow yourself 1 hour to complete this activity.

Read the BBC News report ‘Transgender woman Tara Hudson moved to female prison [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ (BBC News, 2015) and assess whether the prison guidelines are achieving the best approach. Record your thoughts in the box below.

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