The issue of transgender prisoners: Where do you place them?

Like all liberals, I favor equal treatment for transgender people, including using the pronouns that they choose for themselves. Previously, though, I’ve drawn the line at sports, in which transgender women, some of whom have undergone neither surgery nor hormone replacement, are allowed in some places to compete with biological women. Given the greater strength and heavier musculature of biological males, this bestows on them what I see as an unfair advantage when competing with women born as women. Even hormone replacement, it seems, can’t provide a level playing field, and so there’s an issue: what do we do to allow transgender athletes to compete but retain fairness for women athletes?

Well, one thing we shouldn’t do is to allow purely biological males who identify as females—without having undergone either surgery or hormone replacement—to compete with biological females. This is the current rule in Connecticut, which has allowed biological males to clean up in women’s track and field. As I wrote in February,

I’ve written about this before (see here and here), and, as always, I remain conflicted. Clearly transgender people should be able to participate in athletics, but what are good criteria for competing in “men’s” and “women’s” events?  Should there be a third category: “transgender women’s sports”? I don’t know.  But I do believe that simple self-identification that conflicts with biological sex is not sufficient to allow you to compete in a gendered event. In 2018 in a Connecticut state high school track meet, both first and second places in the women’s 100-meter dash went to transgender women (see the video here). As I wrote at the time:

 In Connecticut, where first and second place went to transgender women in the race above, “self identification” is the rule, so you can be a fully biological male, not having transitioned in any way, and enter a race if you say you identify as a women. Other states are more stringent: Texas, for instance, insists that you compete as the gender given on your birth certificate.

Both seem problematic.  Surely there is something unfair about the above: in which transgender women who are physically men, by virtue of greater strength, clean up in a women’s athletic event by “self-identifying” as women. That may well be true and not just a ploy, but the problem is not psychology but physicality. A liberal response would be “the civil rights of gender self-identification outweighs the disappointment of non-transgender losers.” But that answer doesn’t satisfy me. The unfairness is deep and pervasive, and “self-identification” seems a dubious solution.

As for putting limits on hormone titers, as the Olympics do, that too may not achieve “fairness”, at least to many, as the hormone limits are several standard deviations above that of biological females, and do not eliminate the physical advantages of maleness before a male transitions.  I have no solution, but as more people change their gender, the problem will increase. I suggested above a third category for competition, “transgender athletes”, but that seems unwieldy.

Now an article in Quillette (click on screenshot below) raises another issue of differential treatment for transgender people, again most often transgender women.

As Halley reports, both the UK and Canada have had difficulties with transgender women prisoners, and this may soon be happening in the U.S.. The problems are of two types. First, biological men who haven’t had surgery or hormone therapy, and who assert that they are women, can, in some places, request and be placed into women’s prisons. This has happened in Ireland (the individual was “a fully intact male sex offender”), in the UK, in Canada, while the California Senate recently voted that “self-identification”, independent of any medical transitioning, is sufficient to warrant placement in a prison with individuals of another sex.

Second, even with some surgery, like castration, transgender women, often in prison for sex offenses, have harassed and assaulted biologically female inmates. Here are a few stories:

Matthew Harks recently was released from the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Ontario. He is a serial pedophile who has been convicted of three sexual assaults against girls under the age of 8. He has claimed to have abused 60 girls and to have committed 200 offenses. A 2006 psychiatric assessment of Harks maintained that he has an “all-encompassing preoccupation with sexually abusing underage girls.” Like Laboucan, Harks has undergone SRS [sex reassignment surgery], but this has not stopped him from facing multiple accusations of harassment and assault while incarcerated in a women’s prison. In 2016, the Calgary Herald reported that Harks was potentially facing charges for “three alleged offences that took place recently while [Harks] was in custody: assault, unlawful confinement and sexual assault.” The Vancouver Sun has reported that Harks has assaulted two female inmates who were “childlike in appearance.”

Here’s the case of Karen White, whose transitioning appears to have consisted solely of self identification as well as wearing makeup, a wig and false breasts. There was neither surgery nor hormone therapy.

The activism of these British women brought the case of Karen White to my attention. White is a male rapist who was admitted into a women’s prison in Wakefield, England in 2017. White has been convicted of sexually assaulting two female inmates during his three months of incarceration in Wakefield. He was subsequently sent to a male prison.

I’m baffled by a mentality that would put a male rapist without any medical transitioning procedures into a women’s prison.

Here’s one more, a prisoner who did undergo SRS:

Dangerous offender Adam Laboucan is currently housed in the Fraser Valley Institution for Women in British Columbia. To receive the designation of “dangerous offender” under Canadian law, there must be evidence that the offender has a pattern of brutally violent behavior that is overwhelmingly likely to persist. Laboucan was convicted of sexually assaulting a 3-month old baby, yet he is now living in a women’s prison that participates in the Institutional Mother-Child Program, which is run by the federal government “to foster positive relationships between federally incarcerated women and their children by providing a supportive environment that promotes stability and continuity for the mother-child relationship.” One feature of the program is that it allows young children to live with their incarcerated mothers in detached buildings referred to as “cottages.”

CBC report on a 2010 decision to deny parole to Laboucan relays that he had threatened to kill a female guard, and that he had confessed to murdering a 3-year old child at the age of 11. (The Province reported that Laboucan also was denied parole in 2018. He had appealed this decision citing bias on behalf of the Parole Board but this was unsuccessful.)

Laboucan is not in a women’s prison as a result of Bill C-16 (which was cited to justify a policy of self-ID). He has been accommodated because, while incarcerated, he has undergone SRS. The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has allowed men who have had this procedure to apply for transfers to women’s prisons since 2001. This policy stemmed from a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling (Kavanagh v. Canada), which declared that not allowing castrated male offenders accommodation in women’s prisons was discriminatory on the basis of sex and disability.

Halley notes that women’s groups have been silent on this issue, despite the fact that vulnerable female prisoners are exposed to violent and sexually aggressive transexual women, some of whom, like White, have transitioned only by wearing wigs, makeup, and prosthetics. This doesn’t seem fair to the women inmates, already incarcerated but then facing further dangers from government policy.

Halley’s article goes in about her long and frustrating attempts to get official information on the number of transgender offenders transferred to women’s prisons (they’re apparently few but almost all were convicted of violent crimes). The article is in fact marred by Halley’s largely superfluous digression about the Canadian government’s unwillingness to give information, as the digression dilutes the issue at hand: how do we deal with transgender prisoners? One could, I suppose, put them in isolation, but that doesn’t seem fair: nobody should be given extra punishment for being atransgender individual. And yet we must protect women already in prison from further violence.

The only thing I know for sure is that there is no rationale for putting biological males who have not undergone SRS or hormone therapy into prisons with biological females. While such “self identified women” may well think they are women (and of course some may be pretending to feel that way), and should be addressed with the pronouns they prefer, they should be treated, in both athletics and in prison, as if they are biological males.

As for what to do with SRS-experiencing transgender women, well, you can weigh in below.



  1. Bender
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    “All liberals”? I’ve always considered myself a liberal, but I find this transgender thing pretty silly. And the more articles like this I read, the more stupid the whole concept looks to me.

    • Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but what do you mean by “this transgender thing”? That there are such thing as people who feel they’re of the opposite sex than how they were born? That’s just a fact, so I’m not sure what you mean by saying “the concept looks stupid”.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        I’m not sure that a man that ‘identifies’ as a female, does not transition in any way, and goes on to rape females, is ‘genuine’. That does not mean that real transgenderism does not exist, but I am skeptical (to put it mildly) of cases like Karin White.

      • Bender
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        I don’t have a problem with that. But I think people who feel that way should put up or shut up. If they feel they’re of the opposite sex they should have a sex change operation. I don’t see why society should accommodate people who just “declare” themselves of the opposite sex. That leads to all kind of problems, like the one described in this article, or that Jessica Yaniv lunatic.

        • Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          Well, try to be a little more civil, please. Read the Roolz if you haven’t already.

          • Bender
            Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

            Sorry, I don’t mean to be disrespectful. But I don’t understand why that people won’t go all the way and change their sex.

            • Nicholas K.
              Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

              “I don’t mean to be disrespectful. But I don’t understand why that people won’t go all the way and change their sex.”

              This is an astoundingly myopic statement.

              Changing sex is not like flipping a switch. For male to female, it involves major surgery. Such surgery is usually only done after a thorough psychological examination and requires signed statements from two psychiatrists (at least in IL) attesting to the fact that the decision for surgery was made soundly. None of this is free, so transgender people who are poor are out of luck.

              It is like asking people with clinical depression “why don’t you just cheer up?”

              • Nicholas K.
                Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

                And that is not even taking into consideration the reaction from family or employers regarding such a decision.

              • Rita Prangle
                Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                Also, all surgeries carry some risk.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted October 17, 2019 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

              Further to Nicholas, not just major surgery but literally years of psychological assessment, waiting lists and hormone treatments.
              And since there is a “words I hate” just up the contents list, that’s literally literally, not figuratively literally.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        It’s certainly not silly when female prisoners and correctional officer are being assaulted by these people, some of whom are what I’d call ‘female impersonators.’

        Is it silly that PCC(E) states that he’s “baffled by a mentality that would put a male rapist without any medical transitioning procedures into a women’s prison”? I’m certainly baffled and outraged. And how on earth could one not be sickened and outraged that a “dangerous offender,” such as Adam Laboucan, a self-confessed murderer of a 3-MONTH old infant girl be housed with pregnant women and young childrern?!

        Pretty silly, eh? That makes me wonder about your values.

        • Posted October 17, 2019 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

          I think that Bender is finding “pretty silly” the current policy regarding as Gospel any statement by a biological male that he feels like a female, and willing to subject actual females to any abuse in order to accommodate the biological male.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted October 17, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I agree.

      • Marifasus Lupinus
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        Jerry, I can’t speak for Bender, but gender critical feminists are skeptical about TG claims because they think they’re based on stereotypes and social conditioning. Their (plausible, to me) claim is that a TG person doesn’t – can’t, it’s impossible – “feel” like a member of the opposite sex, because being a woman or being a man doesn’t inherently “feel” like anything in particular. What they feel like is *their notion* of how it “feels” to be the opposite sex. GC feminists think the intellectually correct and emotionally healthy action is not to try to “identify” over to the opposite sex, but to instead stay within one’s own sex (male or female) and to work to enlarge one’s own view, and society’s view, of what is possible (emotionally, behaviorally, sartorially, etc.) for that sex.

        • Posted October 17, 2019 at 1:32 am | Permalink

          That makes a great deal of sense to me.
          I’m female. Had three children. Always had high oestrogen levels (which made menopause a nightmare). Thrice married (to men).
          I was always a ‘tomboy’. Love building muscle in my home gym. I feel ridiculous in dresses and have none in my wardrobe. Jeans, shirts and boots are my preferred attire.
          Am argumentative and opinionated and tend to want to solve problems rather than sympathise with the sufferer – all, so I’m told, are male characteristics.
          I have absolutely no idea what it feels like to be a woman. I only know what it feels like to be me.

        • Posted October 17, 2019 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          Well said! And explains why disappointment is so frequent in transgender people after transitioning.

  2. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    This is a no brainer: if the male that ‘self identifies’ as female has had surgery nor hormone therapy, he is a male, and belongs in a male prison. If they have had both, it may become a problem worthy of thought, although I’d still be inclined to throw them in a male jail.

  3. Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    This issue begs a different question alongside:

    Sexual orientation.

    Is it right to place a human being with proactive sexual inclination for men in a cell block with hundreds of heterosexual men?

    • Liz
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      I think sexual orientation might be irrelevant. In male prisons, heterosexual men rape and have sex with other heterosexual men out of necessity. At least that’s my understanding.

      • barb
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        “out of necessity”???

        The issue is obviously proclivity to rape, not sexual orientation. I strongly suspect that gay male prisoners are no more prone to rape than heterosexually deprived straight prisoners.

        • Liz
          Posted October 16, 2019 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

          That’s the way I understand it. Heterosexual males and females in prison sometimes have same sex partners whether it’s rape or consensual. I think the issue really is what to do with transgender females who might have a physical advantage if they were inclined to rape in a female prison.

          • Liz
            Posted October 16, 2019 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

            By the same token, transgender males might have less of a physical advantage in a male prison if they needed to defend themselves.

    • eric
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Personally, I think the much more important question this article begs is “why is our prison system designed in such a way that prisoners can rape each other with regularity?”

      I’m not some idealist looking for a perfectly safe incarceration system (at low cost! With no work!). But “prevents murders and rapes” is a pretty low bar for a prison system to meet. We should be able to meet it.

      • Rita Prangle
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:08 pm | Permalink


      • BJ
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. I’ve seen an article on the subject of Jerry’s post several times, but I can’t remember the last time I saw an article on the absolute epidemic of male rape in men’s prisons, which nobody seems to care about.

        This is even true of boys’ juvenile detention centers.

        • Posted October 17, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

          It’s a very real problem, even with PREA, which seemed to be taken quite seriously, at least in Florida prison.

          I’m not sure whether this is true or accurate, but I’ve read estimates that, because of the huge number of people we incarcerate and the horrendous incidence of rape in prison, the USA may be a nation in which more men are raped than women.

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted October 18, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

            I guess one could say without exaggeration that there is a real rape culture in the US: in it’s prisons.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

        Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide. How does that happen? No justice, and our system does not rehabilitate. I don’t think the United States judicial system has ever truly contemplated rehabilitation.

    • Liz
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      I believe sexual orientation is irrelevant in women’s prisons also. Orange Is the New Black is based on a memoir of a woman who spent time in prison.

      “Orange Is the New Black (sometimes abbreviated to OITNB) is an American comedy-drama web television series created by Jenji Kohan for Netflix.[1][2] The series is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010), about her experiences at FCI Danbury, a minimum-security federal prison.”

      Orange is The New Black: First Kiss In Prison of Alex & Piper (S1E09)

  4. Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I guess to me the real problem seems to be that prisons in America are so poorly managed that prisoners are able to rape each other. Where are the guards? If the people running prisons were prosecuted for negligence every time such a thing occurred, I would imagine things would get tightened up pretty quickly. I don’t see this as being specifically about trans people at all; after all, even in prisons containing only straight males, you end up with prisoners getting raped, apparently, because (a) sexual urges are strong, and (b) rape is not only about sex, but also about power and dominance. We ought to demand a prison system in which guards protect the prisoners from each other, and are (at least) fired, or (better, I think) prosecuted if violent crimes occur on their watch.

    • eric
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Completely agree. It’s not about safety of/from trans prisoners, it’s about safety of/from prisoners, period.

    • Marifasus Lupinus
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Very good comment. Our prison system is a human rights disgrace.

    • Filippo
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      I contemplate why someone would want to be a prison guard in the first place. Whom does society expect to become a prison guard?

      • max blancke
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        Many people are not able to get their dream jobs. I would think that someone who needs a job, and lives near a jail or prison that is hiring would possibly end up as a prison guard.

        Since this is an interesting question, I did some research. The prison system nearest my home is hiring, and offering a starting salary of $34K per year, plus full state benefits. And apparently I qualify for such a job, with my MS degree and military experience, even though I have no law enforcement background.

        Of course, I imagine that I would find such a job incredibly depressing and probably dehumanizing. I am glad that I will likely have the luxury to never find out.

        • Posted October 18, 2019 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

          Similarly, why woul someone would want to be a slaughterhouse worker, or any number of hard, dangerous, and unpopular jobs? Sometimes, it’s the only job they can get.

    • Posted October 17, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      This is easy to say, but it’s simply a fact that there are MANY more prisoners than there are guards even at the best of times, and some of the prisoners are adept at violence and willing to use it. And guards do not carry any serious weapons within a prison, because such weapons can all too easily be taken away from them. And there is a trade-off in being humane toward prisoners by allowing them a certain amount of space, interaction, and recreation, versus placing them all in solitary confinement, which would prevent rape but would surely be inhumane and not cost-effective.

      What’s more, prisoners are often disinclined to report such offenses to guards or to the very limited prison medical resources, for what are probably obvious reasons.

      Also, our society simply doesn’t take the protection of prisoners very seriously. There’s very much an attitude that allowing prisoners to brutalize each others is part of the punishment they “deserve.” Of course, this has a lot to do with the whole Christian/religious attitude in America that people “choose” to do evil and therefore morally merit any bad thing that happens to them because of it. Florida law – I was told this by a public defender – explicitly states that imprisonment here is not about rehabilitation but about punishment/retribution. Of course, I know PCC(E) is not on board with such ideas, and I suspect many of his readers agree, but until our culture takes a different attitude toward “free will,” there is unlikely to be a strong push toward any serious prison reform.

  5. Glenda Palmer
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink


  6. pablo
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    According to Blanchard, the majority of male transgenders have a paraphilia, an extreme transvestism fetish. There’s an erotic component. Keep them in a separate facility.

    • aljones909
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know the percentages, but I read about numerous cases where M to F transgender individuals are sexually attracted to females. This strikes me as odd and, at the very least, raises suspicions that we are dealing with an extreme fetish. I can’t control what fetishes people may have, but I shouldn’t feel compelled to accept that a fetish transcends biological reality.

  7. Liz
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I would say Karen White, who is biologically male, should be in a male prison. I wasn’t sure about the first person and the third person mentioned. Did they change genders to try and get rid of their sex drives because they were pedophiles or did they actually feel like the other gender since birth? It would probably be a good idea to have a separate prison for transgendered people. The best would be to have the transgendered men separated from the transgendered women on top of that.

  8. Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    While you focus, perhaps rightly, on the danger to female inmates from males who self-identify as women, have you given any thought to the dangers that self-identified women would face in a male prison?

    Unless we’re going to also assume that self-identified women without medical transitioning are a threat to women in, say, women’s bathrooms or showers, by what logic can we justify thinking of them as such in prisons?

    Seems like “equal treatment” would dictate that we start out with the assumption that self-identified women are not “female impersonators” until evidence proves otherwise. This would be a hard policy, but there are in fact no easy answers here.

    • Taz
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      …have you given any thought to the dangers that self-identified women would face in a male prison?

      Would it be that much different from the dangers any other inmate faces in a male prison? A small or weak man? An effeminate gay man?

      • Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Indeed; part of a larger problem with US prisons. In other countries, not only are far fewer people locked up, but prisoner-on-prisoner rape is not regarded as par for the course.

      • Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        “Would it be that much different from the dangers any other inmate faces in a male prison?”

        I would put the question this way: “Would it be that much different from the dangers any other female inmate would face in a male prison?”

        My point is this: if we would not put a woman inmate in a male prison, by what logic would we put a self-identified woman in a male prison? To do so assumes out of hand that the self-identified woman is in fact not a woman, which violates the “equal treatment” principle.

        • Sastra
          Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

          To do so assumes out of hand that the self-identified woman is in fact not a woman, which violates the “equal treatment” principle.

          No, I think the debate on whether transgender women are, in fact, women, would seem to come before the application of the “equal treatment” principle.

          • Adam M.
            Posted October 16, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

            Certainly many inmates self-identify as innocent. We shouldn’t necessarily take them at their word! ;-P

        • Taz
          Posted October 16, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          By the logic that prison inmates should be separated by biological sex, not gender. I’m not saying that’s necessarily the case, but as the story linked to in this post indicates there are certainly arguments for it.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        I don’t have a solution, only an observation:
        I used to be acquainted with an intersexed person (i.e. hermaphrodite) who identified as female, Sally Thomas (nee Walter). She had been engaged in criminal activities throughout her life and had been consigned to various prisons for males, San Quentin, Folsom, Alcatraz.

        I don’t know about her housing arrangements in the first two prisons but she told me that she was segregated at Alcatraz because, though she was deemed to be enough of a male to be sent to a male prison, her sexual ambiguity and identification as a female necessitated segregation from the general population. I contacted Alcatraz to learn more about her time in Alcatraz, but never got a response.

        She told me that Mickey Cohen, who was in Alcatraz while she was there, dubbed her “The Queen of Alcatraz.” A cognomen Sally was very proud of.

        In addition, I got the impression that there was a subculture of intersexed and trans women in the underworld and in prison, and this subculture was distinct from homosexual underworld and prison culture, though it did overlap. Surely, some trans scholar has researched the history of intersexed and trans people in prisons.

    • Posted October 17, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      I agree that male-bodied people identifying as females are vulnerable and will be targeted by violent men. However, I strongly disagree that “we start out with the assumption that self-identified women are not “female impersonators” until evidence proves otherwise”, because that evidence will be rape of an actual female. This means turning actual females into objects to test the sincerety of the trans females.

  9. Posted October 16, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    In each case separate men’s and women’s facilities, and a person born male wants to be considered as female, we should ask ourselves why that separate facilities exist.

    It is ridiculous that such persons be allowed to compete in women’s sport. Tough on them, but even tougher on all athletes born female if this is allowed.

    There is now welcome flexibility (at least in the UK) of roles available to each gender. All the more reason to wonder about our present preoccupation with transgendering.

    As for transgendering by simple self-description, this has predictably led to satirical, fraudulent, publicity-seeking, or malicious and even criminal abuses.

    Overall, I suspect that future generations will look back on this entire issue the same kind of way that we look back on Victorian diagnoses of catatonia, as a largely iatrogenic and culturally induced condition.

  10. Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    It is a very thought-provoking question. I think we should begin by asking why the sexes are segregated in certain cases at all. Segregation of the sexes in all walks of life was more wide-spread than it is now. Co-ed colleges were once a novelty. The general presumption now is that there should not be segregation by sex. Except.

    Segregation by sex is now largely restricted to sports, public bathrooms/changing rooms, and prisons. I will ignore the odious segregation practiced by some religions and the motion picture academy. Why exactly are there separate acting awards for actors and actresses? Seems archaic.

    With sports, as already mentioned, the segregation is because of the larger size and muscle strength of males. Does this justify segregation? I don’t know. It is the fact that it is important in sports to identify a “winner” and the potential monetary or recognition awards that follow from that. If people just engaged in sports for fun, it wouldn’t be necessary.

    Bathrooms. No one segregates bathrooms in their homes, so why do it in public? Social convention? Privacy? Safety? Are unisex public bathrooms common in some countries? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Prisons. I don’t know why it is important to segregate men and women with separate prisons. I suppose some will say women would be vulnerable in integrated prisons. But women are more vulnerable in society in general. Would it be more so in prisons? Is it because our prisons are so badly run, that it is not possible to ensure prisoner safety? In any case, segregated prison is an artificial environment and not conducive to preparing criminals to return to society where the sexes are not segregated. Do all countries do this, or does it reflect the relatively primitive state of incarceration in the US?

    Whatever the reasons for such segregation, they all seem to stem from physical differences. No one segregates sexes because of how people feel in their brains. So yes, people whose sexual identity is solely in their brains must follow the sex segregation rules we have, whether those rules are justified or not.

    Sorry to be so long-winded.

    • max blancke
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      “No one segregates bathrooms in their homes”

      Most home bathrooms are designed for single person use, so they afford complete privacy to any person using them.
      When I was attending school in Japan, there as a unisex bathroom for the kids, which never posed any problems that I was aware of, except that special slippers were required to be worn.

      • Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Trust me on this. There is no privacy in the bathroom in my home. I wish there was. Everyone barging in and out.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Is it because our prisons are so badly run, that it is not possible to ensure prisoner safety?

      I think that’s the heart of the problem. There’s a traditional barberic sentiment that people in prison don’t deserve the basic protections non-imprisoned people enjoy.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        The legal system mandates that egregious criminals lose their liberty, but in reality they lose a tremendous amount more, and everyone knows this and more or less accepts it.

      • Posted October 17, 2019 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Yet every incarcerated female still deserves the basic protection not to be sexually abused by a male (and I fully agree that more measures are needed to counter sexual abuse between males).

  11. Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    It may be an odd suggestion, but how about physically encumbering these biological males with female identities? If there is a risk they would sexually assault female prisoners, then have them have one hand chained to their waist, for example?

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      With enough resources per inmate, assault inside prisons should be as tractable of a problem as assault outside prisons.

      Although there’s a much higher percentage of outliers, unsocialized people, predators, etc. inside prisons; there’s also a much higher percentage of police (guards) per capita.

      • Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        But the ones in prison pretty much all ‘did something’. So the concentration of malefactors is higher.

        • Mike Anderson
          Posted October 16, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

          Yes, the concentration of malefactors is higher. But there’s more policing as well.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I can’t speak to all the vagaries involved, but I’d suggest as a starting point an intact-willy test: an inmate that’s got one doesn’t get assigned to a women’s penal institution.

    • Posted October 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      I agree, Ken. That would be a good starting point if only to avoid the additional problem of prison pregnancies. It does, however, underscore the artificiality–or as some would have it, “silliness”–of trying to respect the principle of gender self-identification.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I guess so, Gary. But, like our host, I favor equal treatment for transgender folk and believe in calling people whatever the hell it is they wanna be called.

        I also consider it beyond ridiculous to pass criminal laws telling people what toilets to use. I think that’s, by and large, a rearguard action being waged by the same people who fought tooth and nail against gay rights and lost.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted October 16, 2019 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

          I do like the name “intact-willy” test; but when a case involving discrimination because of an adverse application of the test to someone’s willy comes before the Supremes, to befit the august venue it might be renamed the Rehnquistus intactus test, in honor of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge.

        • Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

          I’m totally with you on criminal laws about toilets and with you and our host on equal treatment. But I don’t see why calling people by the pronouns they wanna be called by overrides my using the pronouns that I, preferring traditional grammar, wanna call them by. Seems to me “equal treatment” would mean respecting our preferences equally. 😊

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 17, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

            I’m personally in favor of calling folks whatever the hell it is they wanna be called; I’m not in favor of forcing other people under penalty of law to call them whatever the hell it is they wanna be called.

            • Posted October 17, 2019 at 10:25 am | Permalink

              “I’m personally in favor of calling folks whatever the hell it is they wanna be called.”

              I’m older, so don’t have as much time left as you do, but good luck with that. 😊

              Here’s a starter kit.

              He/She — Zie, Sie, Ey, Ve, Tey, E
              Him/Her — Zim, Sie, Em, Ver, Ter, Em
              His/Her — Zir, Hir, Eir, Vis, Tem, Eir
              His/Hers — Zis, Hirs, Eirs, Vers, Ters, Eirs
              Himself/Herself — Zieself, Hirself, Eirself, Verself, Terself, Emself

            • Filippo
              Posted October 19, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

              “I’m not in favor of forcing other people under penalty of law to call them whatever the hell it is they wanna be called.”

              Right. Especially to be required to memorize what these people want to be called, and even more especially those who have (IIRC in an NY Times article) “rolling” personal pronouns. I.e., the personal pronoun with which one should address another depending on what day of the week it is. Spare me!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      Not to fine a point on it but what would be the definition of an intact willy, in each term and as an entirety? I ask because what would you propose to do with trans men who’ve had surgery?

      They’ve got willies, too. Which prison should they be sent to?

      I realize that none of this matters to those who advocate co-ed prisons, which I consider a bizarre and woefully misguided utopian head trip, completely removed from the sordid, corrupt, most often brutal, reality of jails and prisons.

  13. Mike Anderson
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Trans in prisons is an incredibly tough problem and I can’t see a good solution coming about anytime soon.

    But we can work towards the obvious (unrelated to sex) improvements:

    * Don’t lock people up unless it benefits society.
    * Don’t equate imprisonment with punishment.
    * Minimize criminality within prisons (put in-prison predators of any stripe in isolation).

  14. max blancke
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    We are talking primarily about delusions held by those prisoners.
    We separate prisoners by sex largely as a means to protect the females.
    This is a reality, unaffected by trendy fads or ideology. It was true a thousand years ago, and will still be true a thousand years hence.
    People in prisons are often morally retarded, or lack impulse control. They don’t follow the rules of society.

    I have never been in a prison or jail, and my conception of how those places work does not include an understanding of how rapes can occur, or how cell phones and narcotics can be trafficked. But apparently these things are a big problem. Putting a violent man in a woman’s prison will have predictable effects.

    People who have a flawed and utopian view of the world should not be making rules for society based on what they wish were true about biology and human nature.

    • Adam M.
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      my conception of how those places work does not include an understanding of how rapes can occur, or how cell phones and narcotics can be trafficked.

      While I haven’t been there myself, I’ve watched many interviews with prisoners, out of a kind of morbid curiosity.

      Phones and other “luxury” contraband are often smuggled in by the guards and sold to the prisoners. Prices for contraband are incredibly high in prison (e.g. $500-$1500 for a phone), and a guard can easily make a hundred thousand dollars per year selling phones, so the temptation is high.

      Drugs are often brought in by visitors, usually women who smuggle them in their vaginas or, where security is looser, in candy boxes. Either way, the plastic-wrapped drugs are ingested by the inmate and pooped out later. Sometimes guards bring drugs in too, since the prices and profit margins are incredible.

      Prisoners are quite clever at hiding things in their cells where it won’t be found (e.g. inside a light fixture, in a cavity within the board of a shelf, under a false bottom in a box, within some coffee, etc). But when they really have to make sure something doesn’t get found, they either wrap it in plastic and swallow it (if small) or put it up their rear ends. Drugs, phones, knives… you’d be surprised what they can stick up there. The only way it gets found then is if they do a cavity search – quite rare – or it’s metallic and they use ‘the chair’ which has a metal detector in the seat – also quite rare.

      • max blancke
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for providing detailed info. All of this is well outside my areas of knowledge. I do know a lot about improvised weapons, but that is a different, though related subject.

        It seems like the problem that connects everything is corruption on behalf of the guards. Uncorrupted guards would neither smuggle in contraband nor permit anyone else to do so. And adequate security procedures, professionally implemented, would further prevent such things.

        But once again, it is not a world I am familiar with, except from film and TV.

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    You’d think that any transgendered person who had committed sexual assault or rape against females should lose their right to be housed with females. Same with assaults against children since it seems some assault “child like” females and especially in facilities where children are housed. So sure let’s accommodate but let’s draw the line where there are violent acts like this.

    • Posted October 17, 2019 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      I disagree that society should lock biological males together with defenseless females and stay passive until the male actually hurts a female.
      Females, even convicted criminals, deserve better than to be bioindicators whether some biological male is a con predator or just suffers of dysphoria.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 17, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Are you suggesting that I said that?

        • Posted October 18, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          This is how I interpreted this: to me, “any transgendered person who had committed sexual assault or rape against females should lose their right to be housed with females” means that a person who claims to be a trans female and has not yet committed sexual assault against females (or at least has not yet been caught) should be listened to and locked up together with the females – penis and all.

          Of course, authorities in the cited cases have acted even more outrageously by locking with females biological males who had already raped females; but I think that, once females are given second-hand status, it is difficult to stop the slippery slope degrading them even further. The same way, once bureaucrats decided that animals have rights, turning humans into prey for aggressive dogs was just a matter of time.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 18, 2019 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            “any transgendered person who had committed sexual assault or rape against females should lose their right to be housed with females” means just what it says it does. I didn’t decide on anything else yet but I do know that if you commit sex crime against a female you shouldn’t be housed with one. I said nothing and implied nothing about anything else. However, you’re “wait and see” suggests that we are doing the same in non jail society. Are we all just waiting and seeing if a man will assault a woman because he hasn’t done so yet? Maybe we should separate the sexes in society in general….oh does that twist what you’re saying? Shame that, eh? But yes I do think people should be listened to and we should have reasonable conversations with them about that.

            • Posted October 18, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

              In the society, we traditionally do separate males and females when females are undressed or otherwise vulnerable (toilets, locker rooms, prisons, hospitals) – no “wait and see” in such settings. (BTW, most females feel abused if they are naked in the presence of an unwanted naked male even if he does nothing to them.)
              In other places, we let sexes mix and “wait and see”. We do not ban even a convicted rapist from mixing with females in the street, once he serves his time and is free again.
              The problem with biological males, regardless of how they identify, is that every one of them can be harmed by a stronger male and at the same time can harm anyone weaker. Because we could not and should not put every male prisoner in solitary confinement, something else must be done to prevent rape. I have no idea what, maybe former inmates have. However, I find insane the current approach to give those males who say they feel like females every single thing they want.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 18, 2019 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

                Yes but I never said we should give them every thing they want, quite the opposite.

  16. Sastra
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Ultimately, the “hard cases” of transgender women in sports and prisons reflects a clash between two opposing viewpoints. The first is that transgender women are men who feel a need to identify as women; the second is that transgender women ARE women. The basic assumption in the latter view is that everyone is born with a gender identity, and this sense of being a man or woman is definitive. This self-knowledge is supposed to be far more significant than biological sex, which is often dismissed as insignificant or even socially constructed.

    In which case, it’s not that transgender women want to be like women, or become women. They already are. The hormones and operations are cosmetic only. If you disagree, it’s now no different than saying that black women aren’t women. It’s bigotry. And you’re “gatekeeping.”

    The alternative viewpoint— than trans women are men who identify as women — both allows them the right to be free from unwarranted discrimination but under reasonable restrictions when it comes to biology. As a group, men are larger and stronger; they’re also more aggressive and violent. If this has lead to different treatment between the sexes, then that’s the issue — it’s not transgenderism.

    • aljones909
      Posted October 17, 2019 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      “In which case, it’s not that transgender women want to be like women, or become women. They already are. The hormones and operations are cosmetic only. If you disagree, it’s now no different than saying that black women aren’t women.”
      I disagree with what you assert here – and I think that all adult females are women (regardless of race).

  17. Adam M.
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    My initial response mirrors that of some commenters above. Protecting women from trans women in prison is not what we should be specifically concerned about.

    I’ve read estimates that more men are raped in the US than women, when you account for prison rape. Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but it’s known to be a big problem. Women also rape women in prison, although less often. Far better to simply protect prisoners from rape, period, rather than worrying about the really quite rare cases of trans women in women’s prisons.

    • Dave
      Posted October 16, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      The reason for “worrying about these quite rare cases” (as you flippantly put it) is because real women have been sexually assaulted and physically harmed by transgender males misguidedly (in my view)put in the same prisons. More women will inevitably suffer in the same way if the practice continues. Eventually a woman prisoner will be killed by one of these TG males. Will that be the correct time to start worrying?

      Yes, every possible step should be taken to minimise the risks of rape (of all kinds) in prison, but this crime has occurred for as long as prisons have existed, and no magic wand is available to eliminate it. However, the risk to women of rape by TG male prisoners can be eliminated by immediately stopping the incarceration of those males in women’s prisons, and in my opinion that’s what should be done.

      • Adam M.
        Posted October 16, 2019 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I think prison rape by transsexual males in women’s prisons is a tiny subset of rapes in prison, and if we tackled the general problem it would take care of all the various cases. Putting a trans woman in a male prison instead, especially if he’d had surgery to make him look somewhat realistically female, would likely result in him being raped there, so it’s a problem wherever they go. Again, solving the general problem of prison rape would help this too.

        • Posted October 17, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          As far as I get, you are for mixed prisons with strict oversight. May sound well in theory, but, like an above commenter, I don’t think it will work in the real world.
          There is the old problem of male-by-male rape in prisons, and now a new problem is added to it, female-by-male rape, due to some bizarre ideas taking over Western societies. If I am incarcerated, and get raped by a male fellow prisoner because the State has decided that his statement of feeling female has precedence over my physical safety, it will be little comfort for me that many men also get raped.

  18. KD
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Shouldn’t you put them somewhere where they pose the least threat to other prisoners?

    (Assuming the goal is humane incarceration).

    Putting someone with male development with a propensity toward sex crimes against women in a population of women does not seem to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number.

    Frankly, prison sucks enough, and prison rape is already enough of a problem without actively trying to make it worse. Seriously, these ideologies need to be quarantined on college campuses and kept out of the real world for the welfare of all.

    Since gender is a social construct anyways, I don’t see the problem with putting someone with male genetics in a population with other persons with male genetics.

    [The weirdist thing about our latest moral “advance” is that it relies upon essentialized roles for males and females, and is parasitic on the biological concept of sex. Unless most males didn’t have a penis and were over-represented in forestry and coal mining, the idea of a woman “identifying” as a man would make no sense. Likewise, without female sex characteristics and an interest in cosmetics, etc., and you have no script for “identifying” as a female. Of course, expecting social activists to hold logically coherent ideological commitments is unfair. Who needs logic when you can accuse someone of “transphobia” or being a “TERF”?]

  19. KD
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    What I don’t get is society’s moral obligation to validate your condition. Say I identify as Napoleon, should I be housed in the imperial quarters? If I’m a dogkin, do I get to stay in the kennels?

    How do we decide which unconventional identities people get special treatment and accommodation, and which identities get ignored (or treated as mental illnesses). And if you have this protected identity, why do your rights to be yourself trample the rights of others to basic personal safety?

    While we are at it, why can’t prisoners have comfort animals?

  20. Posted October 16, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know:

    1. What are penal systems in other countries doing about this?

    2. Is there a difference in rape statistics between town/county/state/federal prisons and for-profit prisons in the U.S.?

    3. Is there any correlation between number of guards and incidents of rape?

    4. Are prison staff (at all levels) complicit in mistreatment of inmates by inmates of whatever sex?

    5. Are statistics being collected on prison rape? Male – male rapes vs. female – female rapes? (Why is it seemingly so seldom considered by many of us that females rape also?)

    6. There have been reports of males (and a few females) in society having sex with animals (rape). Does this occur in the “pet” programs in prisons? Would anyone care if it did?

    7. How about sex toys for the incarcerated? Would that minimize the raping at all?

    8. What is the possibility of having programs for consensual sex between prisoners?

    In re transexuals and male vs. female sexuals, I see no reason to have totally separate prison buildings to house them. They could be kept in separate divisions of the same facility; a tripartite set of units, or however many more are needed if transsexuals have to be separated out as male vs. female vs. whatever else also.

    • Posted October 17, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      I think you raise some very good questions. I’d certainly like to know the answers to 1 and 2. I suspect, in question 3, that there is an inverse correlation, but it’s hard to be certain. Aldo, with respect to statistics, they are surely hard to gather, since male prisoners are not terribly likely to report having been raped. This doesn’t make such data collection impossible, just difficult.

      As for 8, I know in Florida the policy of the DOC is that there IS no consensual sex in prison. I think this is the correct attitude to have, since legitimate consent without any kind of coercion is so difficult to confirm. Thus, any prisoner discovered having sex of any kind is given a rape charge (in principle). Harsh perhaps, but I understand the rationale.

      • KD
        Posted October 17, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Nonsense, there was a lot of work done on this issue during the Obama administration, and there was a prison rape elimination act passed in 2003 under W:

        • KD
          Posted October 17, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

          Here are some more BJS publications for the curious:

        • Posted October 17, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          I’m well aware of the PREA, having been under its aegis. When I say there is no consensual sex, I’m not meaning to imply that it isn’t really something that happens, but that the DOC will not consider any act of sex in prison to be consensual. This is largely because of the difficulty in confirming legitimate consent, and so it is safer to consider any sex to be under duress.

  21. Posted October 18, 2019 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Two reasons for their silence:

    1. Oppressed minorities can do nothing wrong.
    2. Transgenders are more oppressed than women.


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