While it should be obvious that women’s prisons are for convicted criminals who are female, California Senate Bill 132, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Weiner (D–San Francisco), requires men who say they are women to be housed in women’s prisons.
The State Senate passed the bill in May, and it passed the state Assembly with very little opposition on June 25. The bill demands that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ask prisoners their preferred pronouns and gender identity at intake, then house them accordingly. This means that a man need only say at intake that he is a woman to gain access to women’s prison. In passing this bill, California has turned its back on incarcerated women.
In describing the bill, the Legislative Council’s Digest states:
The bill would require staff and contractors to consistently use the gender pronoun and honorific an individual has specified in verbal and written communications with or regarding that individual that involve the use of a pronoun or honorific. The bill would require the department, for a person who has a gender identity that differs from their sex assigned at birth, to only conduct a search of that person by an officer of the gender identity of the person’s preference, and to house the person in a correctional facility designated for men or women consistent with the incarcerated individual’s gender identity, except as specified.
While the hearing before the California Assembly featured many groups in support of the bill, from queer-owned law firms and social workers to transgender prisoners, only two people spoke in opposition to the measure. This does not speak to how much opposition there is against a bill like this, but to how many people are willing to speak publicly against housing criminal transgender males with women.
The opposition spoke to the consistent and perpetual problem of male-on-female violence. They brought up the fact that many within the prison system are “bad actors” who will claim womanhood to gain access to women.
Lawsuits for Misgendering?
Because the legislation mandates that prison guards and officials use an inmate’s preferred pronouns unfailingly, there may be an expense associated with lawsuits of trans individuals suing guards and officials for “misgendering.” While men who wish to be women may opt to be housed in women’s prisons, no woman in her right mind—whether she lives as a man or not—would opt to be imprisoned with men.
There are no exceptions to make sure that men who have committed violent or sexual crimes against women are not placed in prison with women. The opposition advised that other nations that have undertaken this change in policy be looked at to see what lessons can be learned.
Bill supporters stated that trans women are women and ought to be housed with women. They are rightfully concerned that trans women are in danger in men’s prisons, but they hardly care about the risks of housing women with criminal men. When asked why it wouldn’t be better to have separate facilities for trans prisoners, those in support claimed that new facilities for transgender individuals would make transgender people “seem like aliens.”
Placing convicted rapists with women in prison is fine, bill supporters testified, because rapes already happen in women’s prisons—at the hands of prison guards. Apparently increasing rape risks to incarcerated women is just not that big of a deal so long as transgender men are validated in their delusion that they are women.
Impossible to Track Real Threats
Once transgender inmates are housed and classified by gender identity as opposed to biological sex, crimes they commit in prison are cataloged with the stats of the opposite sex. This will make it impossible to track how many male-to-female transgender inmates abuse their male-bodied privilege and assault, harass, or attack female prisoners. In practical terms, this would both skew the violent crime stats and make it that much harder for women inmates to differentiate their male attackers from the rest of the prison population.
Even so, there have been reports of male to female transgender inmates attacking women in women’s prison. Since living as a transgender person does not require an inmate to undergo body modification surgery (often euphemistically called gender-affirming surgery), men who are prone to commit violent and penetrative sex crimes against women will still have the necessary tools to do it.
Women are rightfully uneasy about being incarcerated with men, especially since so many women suffer violence at men’s hands. Are we supposed to believe that male offenders are super peaceful and kind and have no interest in harming women, despite the prevalence of violent crimes committed by men against women?
Other Countries Have Gone Down This Dangerous Road
Female prisoners in New Zealand have objected to housing male-bodied persons in women’s prisons. Upon her release from prison in Christchurch, a female inmate raised concerns about the placement of trans women in women’s prisons, citing the vulnerability of the women housed there. Prison staff called the complaint of sexual assault hearsay.
Canada made this change on a federal level in 2018. The first transgender inmate was moved from a men’s to women’s prison in 2017: Fallon Aubee is serving a life sentence for a contract killing, and came out as transgender after being brought into custody. Aubee fought for a decade for the switch, which opened the door to housing additional violent criminals with women.
Housed in a woman’s jail in British Columbia, Hayden Patterson will soon be extradited to the United States to be tried for a murder charge. Patterson asked to be placed in a woman’s prison but balked when told Patterson must consistently demonstrate female gender expression to remain in the women’s facility. Patterson was worried that not shaving would violate this condition.
In the U.K., convicted pedophile and rapist Karen White, a male-to-female transgender inmate, was housed in a women’s prison. After the extent of White’s crimes were made public, White was moved to a men’s prison, where White is undergoing surgery in order to move back to women’s prison. Already, rapists and child molesters have been housed with women.
In the United States, the Trump administration rolled back policies allowing male-bodied persons to be housed in women’s prisons. While transgender rights activists called this a violation of human rights, the move was made after female prisoners in Texas filed a lawsuit, saying that it was unlawful to imprison men with women.
Violent men who believe they are women and have committed violent crimes against women are dangerous. Transgender men who killed their girlfriends, such as Sora (née Jordan) Kuykendall, who after she broke up with him murdered his teen girlfriend, whom he had physically abused for years, should not be behind bars with women.
Statistically, men commit the majority of crimes against women. The World Health Organization estimates that 35 percent of women internationally have experienced sexual violence, most of it at the hands of intimate partners, and 38 percent of the murders of women are committed by male intimate partners. Women in prison who have perpetrated crimes have, in many cases, also been the victims of crimes. As they serve their debt to society, they should not be further victimized.