As I touched on in the article marking JK Rowling’s wacky weekend, the author has once again leaned into using crime related statistics to support her bigoted nonsense. But does it? Lets take a look inside JK Rowling’s latest transphobic argument;
On Twitter the Harry Potter author wrote a tweet to James Dornan, an SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart. We’ve already fully addressed her first point in this tweet in other articles, but this second point is new. JK Rowling’s latest transphobic argument is; “there are proportionately more trans-identified males in jail in the UK for sex offences than among male prisoners as a whole.”
I don’t believe that in launching JK Rowling’s latest transphobic argument she bothered to include the statistics she used to reach this conclusion. However luckily for us, whenever transphobes think they’ve finally found the golden ticket that makes all of their bigoted nonsense look like legitimate concerns; they run with it. And they run hard!
A graphic has been floating around Twitter for a short time now – in fact, several graphics all containing the same data have been floating around. One of them is even in video format. All of which show the same thing; a plotting of some prison population statistics vs total population, but with the numbers extrapolated up to prisoners per million members of a given population total.
I can’t confirm that this graphic is what JK Rowling’s latest transphobic argument has been informed by specifically. I can only point out how she is making the exact same argument this graphic attempts to make and therefore assume that she is using the exact same data this graphic attempts to use.
By looking at the numbers of men, women and “men who identify as women” who are incarcerated for sex offences (11,660, 3 and 92) and plotting that against the total number given for that population (29.5m, 30.4m, and 48,000) the graphic comes to the conclusion that per million men 395 are incarcerated for sex crimes, 3 women per million and 1916 “men who identify as women” per million.
Therefore the transphobes and JK Rowling’s latest transphobic argument assert; “there are proportionately more trans-identified males in jail in the UK for sex offences than among male prisoners as a whole.” With that word “proportionately” doing all of the heavily lifting of trying to make 11,663 sex offenders seem like less of a problem than 92.
We’ve seen these arguments before. Specifically we’ve seen them used in the opposition to black people’s civil rights in America. The claim there is that “proportionately black people make up 13% of the population but commit 52% of the crime!” As writers on this subject have pointed out before the point is to associate violent crime with blackness, the same way transphobes using the rhetoric Rowling employed are working to associate sex crime with transness.
As other writers also point out the way these propaganda tools work is by leaving out a lot of context and information. In the case of trans people the information being left out includes the fact that these statistics do not refer to conviction rates but prison populations. Which is significant as it alludes to the nature of how this data was actually collected.
In short they went around asking the near 90,000 UK prisoners if they are transgender or not – starting with those who had the longest stays and not bothering at all with those who had shorter stays. This due to the fact that by the time they got the results back the person would likely have been released making the data point redundant.
“A government survey has counted 125 transgender prisoners in England and Wales, but the Ministry of Justice says these figures are not yet a reliable reflection of the true numbers. The MoJ says 60 of them have been convicted of one or more sexual offences but it didn’t identify their gender. There are likely to be more trans inmates, on shorter sentences and who are less likely to be sex offenders, who don’t show up in this data.”
So very clearly the methodology of this study was always going to bring back a disproportionate number of transgender sex offenders. You could post the results of the people who said “no” and it would also likely show a disproportionate number of sex offenders. These are the types of crimes with the longest sentences, naturally they show up more in a survey that prioritises longer sentences.
But even if they had managed to get a fully accurate picture of who is in prison, whether they are transgender and what kind of crime they committed with absolutely no flaws in the data collection methodology; it would still not support the message of JK Rowling’s latest transphobic argument. It would still not prove a link between transness and a propensity for sex offences.
That’s because this data looks at prison populations and prison populations alone. It is impossible to get an accurate picture of what kinds of crime any specific demographic is committing by looking at prison populations. The simple fact here is that many crimes do not result in prison sentences at all. So you would probably want to look at conviction rate data instead though this is not free of problems and people debunking the 13/52 propaganda against Black Americans have written about it extensively already.
Not to mention the data they use for the total number of transgender women is also incredibly flawed. Many have pointed out that a moral panic surrounding transgender people made people less likely to answer the voluntary question. Also interference from anti-trans groups forced the ONS to include guidance stating that “sex” meant our legal sex – which many of us promptly ignored undermining the integrity of the survey altogether.
So we have two massively flawed data points, one of which is entirely the wrong data point to use for this purpose. Yet we still have hundreds of anti-trans accounts sharing the graphic enough for it’s main assertion to have become JK Rowling’s latest transphobic argument. But even if we take all of it at face value and ignore the mind boggingly bad use of incredibly wrong statistics; it still does not prove the thing these bigots want it to prove. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the point of criminal statistics is not to single out people as being part of a group of people whomst is bad. That’s literally just prejudice, not criminology.
What these statistics, at face value, would actually suggest is that perhaps trans people live in a society of hyper-scrutiny against us. Or that we have communities that will happily turn over sex offenders rather than protect them like the police. Perhaps it shows that we are actually under-policing cisgender people and not catching enough cisgender sex offenders. There’s any number of different things this could suggest – not prove – before we get anywhere close to “trans people are just dangerous I guess”.
The fact these people go straight to “trans people bad” should tell you all you need to know. They were never interested in understanding the data or even finding the correct data. They looked for the numbers that made trans people sound scary and bad because they wanted to make trans people sound scary and bad. It is not deeper than that.
Greatest author of our generation, apparently.