Tag Archive for: PrisonTransgenderism

Lying to Ourselves

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

One of the peculiarities of our age is the ferocity with which intellectuals and politicians defend propositions that they do not—because they cannot—believe to be true, so outrageous are they, such violence do they do to the most obvious and evident truth. Agatha Christie (a far greater psychologist than Sigmund Freud), drew attention almost a century ago to the phenomenon when she had Dr. Sheppard, the protagonist and culprit of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd say, “It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by someone else will rouse you to a fury of denial. I burst immediately into indignant speech.”

Among the propositions defended with such suspect ferocity is that men can change straightforwardly and unambiguously into women, and vice versa. Now everyone accepts that they can change into something different from ordinary men and women, and can live as if they were of the opposite of their birth sex; moreover, there is no reason to abuse or otherwise maltreat them if they do, and kindness and human decency require that we do not humiliate them or make their lives more difficult than they are. But this is not at all the same as claiming that those who take hormones and have operations actually are the sex that they choose, or that it is right to enshrine untruth in law and thereby force people to assent to what they know to be false. That way totalitarianism lies.

To propound and defend ideas that you know are false is intellectually and morally frivolous, but it lacks the usual enjoyment that frivolity is supposed to supply. It is combined with earnestness but not with seriousness: one thinks of the Austrian saying under the Habsburgs, “the situation is catastrophic but not serious.”

An excellent example of the tendency to adopt ideas that are known to be false and yet are made the basis of policy is the Scottish government’s bill to reduce the legal obstacles to sex change. The bill proposed that adolescents from the age of sixteen could change their sex (for all legal purposes) without having to undergo any medical examination or treatment, and simply after completing three months of living as the sex that they desired to be.

Let us overlook the fact that “living as a woman” or “living as a man” implies that there is a binary distinction between male and female that is not merely a matter of social convention: no one, surely, could truly believe that after three months of role-playing, however successfully or gratifyingly to the person who role-plays, someone changes his or her sex. And this theory was put to a practical test very shortly after the passage of the bill (though it was vetoed by the British government). There was an understandable outcry in Scotland when violent sex offenders against women who claimed to be changing sex were sent to women’s prisons. The Scottish administration was forced to back-pedal, and the two were sent to men’s prisons instead.

How to explain that societies that prided themselves on having overthrown superstition and on basing themselves upon scientific enquiry nevertheless believed in the grossest absurdities?

Now according to the theory adopted by the government, these men were straightforwardly women because they identified as such. They were as female as Marilyn Monroe. Their motive for changing sex was beside the point: according to the theory, it was their self-identification that counted. And the fact that they had been violent towards women was also beside the point: a woman’s prison, after all, can be expected to house women who have been violent to women. If the administration genuinely believed the theory behind its own legislation, it would have stuck to its guns: the sex offenders who were men when they committed their offences were now women, and since women should be sent to women’s prisons, these two offenders should have been sent to women’s prisons, outcry or not.

If we try to look on this episode with the eye of a future social historian, on the assumption (by no means certain) that western societies will someday come to their senses and that their social historians will be at least moderately sensible, what will we hypothesise? How to explain that societies that prided themselves on having overthrown superstition and on basing themselves to an unprecedented extent upon scientific enquiry, and that had a higher percentage of educated people than ever before in human history, nevertheless believed in the grossest absurdities? What could have possessed them?

I think that social historians will find a clue in G. K. Chesterton’s book, Orthodoxy, though it was published more than a century before the phenomenon for which the explanation is sought, in 1908. Chesterton wrote:

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered … it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.

Pity and compassion, formerly Christian virtues, are the virtues that run wild in the modern social liberal’s mind. Indeed, one might almost say that he has become addicted to them, for they are what give meaning and purpose to his life. He is ever on the lookout for new worlds not to conquer, but to pity. In his mind, pity and compassion require that he adopts without demur the point of view of the person he pities, for otherwise, he might upset him; he must not criticise, therefore. In short, if need be, he must lie, and he frequently ends up deceiving himself as well as others. And if he has power, he will turn lies into policy.

This article was published by Law and Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

By the Numbers: How Many Men in California Prisons Identify as Women

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

California’s prison population includes 1,115 biological males who say they identify as women, according to the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

About 1 in 3 in that population has requested transfers to women’s prisons, but only about 1 in 10 of those requests have been approved, the corrections department says.

California’s prison agency provided the statistics in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Oversight Project, the government watchdog division of The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)

A women’s advocacy group sued the state of California in November to overturn a law allowing biological males to be housed in women’s prisons after a female inmate said she was raped by someone the prison called a “transgender woman with a penis.”

A section of the corrections department’s website devoted to “frequently asked questions” includes this question: “Does a transgender person have to have gender-affirming surgery to be housed at an institution that matches their gender identity?”

The department provides this response: “No. All housing for incarcerated people is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, which includes their criminal history, behavior, rehabilitation opportunities, medical and psychiatric needs, [and] program needs as well as their safety and security.”

Legislation passed by the California State Assembly—SB 132, called the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act—took effect Jan. 1, 2021. The new law allows incarcerated transgender, nonbinary, and intersex individuals to request to be housed and searched in a manner consistent with their gender identity.

In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which prohibits making decisions on prison housing based on an incarcerated person’s genitalia.

‘A Tragedy’

California’s law could put female inmates in danger, state Assemblywoman Megan Dahle says.

“All incarcerated individuals have a basic right to safety while serving their sentence in the California prison system,” Dahle told The Daily Signal in a written statement, adding:

If people are under the prison system’s care, we should do everything in our power to prevent cases of sexual assault. I voted against SB 132 when it was in the State Assembly and it is a tragedy to hear that there are cases that have come as a result of this poor policy.

As of May 23, 1,549 state inmates identified as transgender, nonbinary, or intersex, according to the corrections department. That means the 1,115 who are biological males identifying as women make up the largest subset of that group of inmates.

Also as of May 23, a total of 342 biological male inmates who identified as women had requested to be transferred to a women’s prison. Of them, 39 were approved for transfer to a female institution, according to the corrections department. Another 14 were denied a transfer and 28 changed their minds about making the move, the agency said.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation “is committed to continuing to fully implement” the new law and to “safely housing everyone in its facilities,” spokesperson Terry Thornton told The Daily Signal in an email.

“This is important as national data shows transgender people experience the highest rates of sexual victimization inside prisons and jails,” Thornton said.

Heritage’s Oversight Project also asked California’s prison agency how many biologically male inmates who identify as female have at least one conviction for sexual abuse or a sexual assault.

The corrections department responded:  “We are still working with another unit on this item.”

Asked how many of these inmates have been charged with a sexual abuse or sexual assault offense while in prison, the department responded that “reporting mechanisms do not track sexual assaults by gender identity.”

“Requests for transfer are voluntary; CDCR does not collect and cannot provide information on individual decisions to make, or not to make, a voluntary request for searching or housing based on gender identity,” Thornton, the department’s spokesman, said.

Related Litigation

In November, a feminist group called the Women’s Liberation Front filed a lawsuit, Chandler v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, accusing the state prison system of endangering women by housing biological males in women’s prisons. 

The complaint argues that incarcerated women have experienced “fear, anxiety, depression, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder” because of residing, dining, and showering with biological males. SB 132, the lawsuit says, violates the First, Eighth, and 14th amendment rights of female inmates.

In April, the state filed a motion to dismiss the case. In early May, four incarcerated biological males who identify as women filed a motion to intervene in the case, to which the Women’s Liberation Front recently filed a response.

“There is more to come. We will have witness declarations, information from plaintiffs, and information from more inmates,” Lauren Adams, legal director for the Women’s Liberation Front, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “Some of the conditions for women in these prisons are horrifying.”

Among the plaintiffs is Krystal Gonzalez, who says she was raped at Central California Women’s Facility by a male who said he identified as a woman. 

According to the lawsuit, after Gonzalez requested to be housed away from men, the prison’s response referred to her alleged attacker as a “transgender woman with a penis.” The lawsuit adds that “the psychological distress caused by her assault is exacerbated by the prison’s refusal to acknowledge the sex of her perpetrator.” 

Asked about the fairly modest number of transfers compared to the prison system’s total number of males who identify as female, the Women’s Liberation Front’s Adams said: “The state started last summer making transfers. They have slowed the rate, but the transfers haven’t stopped. They were forced by security and safety reasons to put the brakes on.”

The corrections department doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation, Thornton said.

“However,” the spokesperson said, “the department is committed to continuing its full implementation of SB 132 and providing a safe, humane, rehabilitative, and secure environment for all people in its custody.”

Review Process

The website of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has a lengthy entry on “Frequently Asked Questions” that addresses aspects of SB 132 for prisons.

The FAQ page includes this question: “Will housing transgender women in a female institution put the safety of cisgender women at risk?”

The answer: “Part of the review process for transgender, non-binary and intersex people requesting housing based on their gender identity will include an evaluation of the safety of the person making the request as well as the safety of the people at the facility where the person has asked to be housed.”

Adams, the lawyer for the Women’s Liberation Front, rejected the state’s argument that a careful review process exists.

“If it is a good review process, I would hate to see a bad process,” Adams told The Daily Signal. “Beyond our general objections to housing women with biological men, we are hearing reports of incidents of sexual acts, both consensual and non-consensual.”

The prison system’s FAQ entry also includes this question: “Is there a risk that cisgender men will falsely claim to be transgender women in order to be housed with women?”

The answer: “CDCR has the ability to deny a request based on management or security concerns.”


This article was published by the Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.