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31 October 2015

In the news …

Tara Hudson, Bristol, convicted of assault and sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment, was sent to a men’s prison until there was a kerfuffle in the press and in Parliament, and then she was transferred to a women’s prison.   The article in Pink News says:  “Current policy states that a Gender Recognition Certificate is required for trans prisoners to be placed in the correct prison for their gender, which Ms Hudson did not have despite living full-time as female for six years.”

So what happened to the New Prison Guidelines of November 2011?
"An establishment must permit prisoners who consider themselves transsexual and wish to begin gender reassignment to live permanently in their acquired gender …
the prisoner is considered to have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and must not be discriminated against or harassed because of this …
Establishments must put in place measures to manage the risk of transphobic harassment and transphobic hate crime …”
This was reported in Pink News and elsewhere.   Up to that date convicted trans persons were avoiding prison sentences because there was no safe place to put them, and the Daily Mail was having conniptions about this.

Why does Pink News no longer remember the New Prison Guidelines?  Likewise The Guardian, and every other news source.  Did the Conservative Government quietly abolish the New Prison Guidelines, and if so why does no news source tell us so?

Sandra MacDougall is back in the news.  MacDougall, who had been with the army in Northern Ireland, was featured in several newspapers in 2002 when her transition was not going very well, and she was suffering abuse from people in the small town in Ayrshire where she lived.  Lynn Conway included Sandra in an article, still available, on transsexual regrets along with Renée Richards, Danielle Berry and Charles Kane.  I was uncomfortable about this article in that I feel that any more-trans-than-thou game is very sterile.   It is for the more successful transsexuals (such as Lynn) to help and advise the less successful rather than to tell them not to consider transition.

This month Sandra, now 63, is in the news in that her pension has been suspended because she does not have a Gender Recognition Certificate and has not reached the male retirement age.  

Context: The pension age in the UK used to be 60 for women and 65 for men.   This was ruled discriminatory, and the female retirement age is gradually being raised to parity with the male.   This will be achieved in 2018, and then both male and female retirement ages will rise together to 66 by 2020.   There are many women in the UK now in their late 50s or early 60s who had been expecting to retire at 60 and now have to work until 66.

Sandra finds herself in the middle of this transition.   If she were a few years younger she would have had to wait until age 65 or 66 irrespective of gender history.

Sandra did not obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate.   I can sympathise.   The Gender Recognition Panel have shown themselves to be quite perverse in their demands.   In my case they initially demanded that I divorce the husband that I married after transition.  There were however two reasons to persevere with them: to obtain a pension at 60, and to marry in the UK.    The former does not apply for any trans woman born 1955 or later; and the latter no longer applies of course since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (except in Northern Ireland).

It appears that it would also be useful to have a GRC if you end up in prison (see above).  

For those who did persevere, the GRP not only issued their GRC but also liaised with National Insurance to change one’s name and gender in the pension database, and many of us got our pension at age 60 with no problem.

Another context is that the current government, David Cameron’s Conservative Party, affectionately known as the Nasty Party, has been attacking the working poor and those on benefits so that they can reduce taxes for the better off.   There have been many stories in the press about disabled persons who can hardly walk, who are ruled ‘fit to work’.   Some of these died of their disability shortly afterwards (the shock of losing benefits can hardly have helped), and others were driven to suicide.

In this context it is easy to think that managers have been instructed to look for women aged under 65 drawing a pension whose paperwork is not up to snuff.  I expect others, in addition to Sandra, will be found soon.

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