For not having her “papers”.
On Friday, 23 October 2015, transgender woman Tara Hudson admitted a charge of assault at Bath Magistrate’s Court, England. Handing down sentence, the magistrate ordered that Tara, 26, be imprisoned for 12 weeks in Her Majesty’s Prison, Bristol – an all-male prison.
Why has someone who is to all intents and purposes a woman been placed in an all-male prison? Because it is claimed that she is ‘legally’ a man, and does not hold a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
Tara Hudson has identified as female since she was a child of 5 years old. She has lived all her life as a woman. She has undergone psychological help, she has received hormone treatment and she has undergone gender reassignment surgery.
The English Ministry of Justice however have ruled that Tara has “not engaged with the authorities” by not purchasing a GRC; a certificate issued to a transgender person by a panel (usually all cisgender), for the sum of £30 (US $45), after they have lived post-op for over two years.
Let’s look at it this way; Tara Hudson has lived all her life as a woman. She underwent her treatment under the state-owned National Health Service – but she hasn’t engaged with the state? She apparently has a passport in her name with her photograph – but she hasn’t engaged with the state? She works as a woman and duly pays Income Tax and National Insurance in the name of Tara Hudson – but she hasn’t engaged with the state.
£30 of course is not a lot of money, but it is the principle behind it which is wrong. Many transgender people are against GRCs on the grounds that they are a “transition tax” and more importantly, they are an infringement on civil liberties. Being forced to carry a GRC is effectively being forced to carry identity papers, and of course, the details of everyone with a GRC is held on a government database. If this does not apply to cisgender people, then it is outrageous that it should be expected of trans people. The peoples of the UK have made it clear before they do not want ID introduced, so to enforce it upon one section of society – one of the most maligned and vulnerable sections of society – is not merely insidious, it is downright disturbing. And of course there have been more than a few incidences of civil servants losing portable media containing sensitive information, and of government computer systems being hacked.
There are some who feel that the bloody-minded British civil service are making an example of Tara Hudson. If that is indeed the case, which I fully suspect it to be so, then they are putting a woman in an obvious place of danger of assault, up to and including rape.
Moreover the Ministry of Justice, by placing Tara in an all-male prison, is ignoring their own 2011 guidelines. These rule that where there is no GRC, there are many factors to take into account. Identity. Steps taken. Risk to the prisoner. To other prisoners. All of which are meant to be addressed before the guilty party arrives at prison.
Tara Hudson satisfies all the above criteria. Indeed, one only take a look at her to tell she is a woman. Yet the Ministry of Justice, in the typically arrogant, bureaucratic style of the British civil service, is ignoring it all, and have put a woman in an all too obvious place of extreme danger.
But it gets worse. A HM Prisons spokesperson told the BBC “It is longstanding policy to place offenders according to their legally recognised gender. There are strict rules in place to ensure transsexual prisoners are managed safely and in accordance with the law.” However, I was listening to a radio show about the story, and a prison officer phoned in, under an assumed name, and explained what that meant. He stated that all too often transgender and gay inmates are placed in the secure units – along with all the child sex offenders. So not only has Tara Hudson been sent to an all-male prison, but there is every chance she has been locked up with all the kiddy-fiddling nonces in the place. The inference of this is not lost on me; that trans and gay prisoners are seen by the authorities as no different from paedophiles. It is nothing short of state-sponsored transphobia and homophobia.
If that is the case, then not only is that an insult upon Tara’s character as a trans woman – as a woman really – but the mental torture of that fact alone could cause extreme trauma, possibly ending in long-term or even permanent psychological damage. As it is, Tara’s mother has stated the does not think her daughter will cope well at all with being placed in an all-male prison.
And if Tara is not in the secure unit, then anyone with a shred of decency should be rightly concerned about her safety. Not least because HMP Bristol was the subject of a damning report in February, which recorded a high incidence of violence higher than in other similar prisons, and most worrying of all for Tara Hudson, an admission that there was not “enough being done to protect some vulnerable prisoners”.
What will the Ministry of Justice say when Tara Hudson suffers continual verbal abuse? What will they say when Tara suffers considerable psychological trauma? What will they say when she is raped?
A petition has been raised on Change (link below), asking Bristol Magistrates, the Ministry of Justice and the British Judicial system, to reverse their decision on sending Tara Hudson to an all-male prison. Nobody is asking for Tara to be set free. She admitted her crime and is willing to do the time. All we who back her ask is that the law acts appropriately and accordingly, by placing a woman in an all-female prison.
Should Tara Hudson have to serve out her sentence in HMP Bristol, however, I only hope that upon her release she refuses to pay another penny in Income Tax, and when Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs sends her a demand, she replies that they must have the wrong person – as the UK state does not recognise that she exists.
The Change petition can be found below. I urge all my followers, particularly those in the UK, to please sign and share this:
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