Isla Bryson and a handful of other transgender rapists have become major talking points in anti-trans rhetoric led by Scottish Tories who oppose the GRR Bill. It’s a disgusting smear, but sadly; its working.

Before Isla Bryson’s story hit the news I posted on Twitter about transgender rapists and the hard push by anti-trans campaigners for that rhetoric. I even said that Scottish Tories were desperately trying to make the “GRR bill protects rapists” line stick, but noted how it wasn’t having much traction. It’s amazing how quickly things can change in a week.

That’s because since Isla Bryson’s story became a major talking point in the mainstream media; both the UK and Scottish Prison Services have reacted to ‘widespread’ outrage amongst anti-trans groups, publishers, activists, broadcasters and etc with policy announcements. A couple of weeks ago a bit of shoplifting likely wouldn’t result in me being housed in a men’s prison facing all that entails for a 5’6″ soft skinned trans woman. Today it would!

Normally I would have covered all of this individually as it happened but I have just been so gosh darned busy. So instead you’re getting a mega-post. Here’s everything you need to know about about prisons, transgender rapists, Isla Bryson and the disgusting smear being led by Scottish Tories. All in one place! Content warning for a lot of talk about rape and prison violence.

First, who is Isla Bryson? Isla Bryson has been convicted of committing two rapes both prior to transitioning. She was initially supposed to be sent to a men’s prison in Glasgow but it appears as though since she transitioned this was changed to a women’s prison in Stirling in order to await sentencing.

The manufacturing of outrage and fear surrounding placing Isla Bryson, transgender rapists or indeed any transgender woman at all in prison with cisgender women has been a long-lived anti-trans talking point. Groups like Fair Play For Women and A Women’s Place UK have regularly spoken on this subject.

Generally the argument is either that predatory cisgender men will pretend to be transgender before sentencing in order to be placed in a women’s prison. Or that transgender women are simply too big, strong and have too many dicks (one) to be safely accommodated for in women’s prisons.

This latter point also made the news on its own recently as a former inmate of a prison sold her story of being utterly terrified when she was housed with two transgender women. She claims she went as far as having a contraceptive coil put in to prevent her from getting pregnant should one of them rape her. This story was even posted about by JK Rowling.

Immediately after people looked up the cis woman in question and found her to have been convicted of violent crimes. In fact there was a whole string of violence she had been the perpetrator of, including against cisgender men. So I personally wasn’t super bought by her story of being super afraid of men all of a sudden.

In any case, whether her fear was real or not, it should be that prisons are organised in a way where an attack of that nature cannot occur in the first place. But they aren’t and it isn’t because of transgender people that our prisons fail those they have a duty of care over. It’s because prisons are bad – more on that later.

While all of this was happening the story of a transgender woman housed in a men’s prison and reports being raped 2,000 times across her 4 year stay resurfaced. Chiefly as a means of attempting to combat the idea that trans women should be housed in men’s prisons because its dangerous for us but also with a detour via a former comedy writer who thought the whole thing was simply hilarious because he didn’t believe the maths.

Then we get to the actual statistics of the issue. A couple of years back the UK Government were doing this exact dance with transphobes agitating over Karen White. They found that across 124 sex attacks in women’s prisons between 2010-2018 transgender people – not necessarily transgender women – had been the perpetrator’s of 7. Whereas in a single year trans women in men’s prisons were victimised in 11 sex attacks.

How does all of this relate to the Scottish GRR Bill and why are all the Scottish Tories posting on Twitter saying that the bill has caused these problems despite not being law yet? Well, it doesn’t really. But after having failed to secure an ammendment to the GRR Bill preventing sex offenders from getting a GRC and changing their legal sex; the Scottish Tories have been desperate to make the line stick.

Their claim is that sex offenders shouldn’t be able to access the GRC because something something something they will be able to more easily access cisgender women. This is never adequately explained, it’s just something they say and we are expected to take their word for it despite the 7 years of debate that has pretty consistently shown the GRC has little to no impact on access to spaces, including prisons.

Transphobe groups attempting to pivot this situation into a position that still sounds like it sort of works are now saying things like “well actually GRR Bill is a symptom of an ideology and its that ideology we oppose”. Again, it is never adequately explained by transphobes or Scottish Tories what those ideological beliefs entail outside of propaganda and smear attempts such as rhetoric like “the GRR bill defends rapists”.

The GRR Bill doesn’t defend rapists and the amendment the Scottish Tories wanted to include that would prevent rapists from applying for a GRC was likely out of Scottish Parliament’s competency. Meaning that ironically, including such an amendment would have been legitimate cause for the UK to issue one of it’s “woah mate” orders against Scotland. Something the Scottish Tories probably knew which is likely why they tabled it and many other wrecking amendments.

The amendment they wanted to pass failed however another amendment that does largely the same thing with the same flaws was however passed;

Some Scottish Tories even went as far as displaying their incompetence regarding the law by kicking up a stink about whether Isla Bryson and other transgender rapists would be recorded in statistics as men or women. This is also a common anti-trans talking point echoed by Scottish Tories who claim that the law states “only a man can commit rape” – something that the law does not actually state at all.

Short story; the law states that its only rape if a penis was used in an act of penetration of the anus, mouth or vagina without consent. It does not at all specify men, despite the use of the pronoun “he” in the legislature. It would present an absurdity, legal term look it up, to only apply this to men when women with penises exist in our country, by law. Therefore, it applies to women too.

Which is where we get to the policy changes. Both the UK and Scottish prison services have now updated their policies on transgender prisoners as a result of this backlash amongst conservative and anti-trans media. With Nicola Sturgeon being pressured to say whether she thinks trans women are women, Scottish Prison Service halting any plans to house trans women in women’s facilities and the UK issuing policy that states any trans woman with a penis will be housed in men’s facilities.

This is bad policy that has been rushed out as a means of pandering to the loud minority of people manufacturing this outrage. It does absolutely nothing to make prisons safer for the cis women they claim to care about; again only 7 of the 124 attacks were carried out by a transgender person in women’s prisons. The remaining 114, the vast majority of sex attacks in women’s prisons, remain unanswered for.

Its clear that the anti-trans brigade are really only here to push their anti-trans views, not make cis women or prisons safer. But nonetheless, its obvious that there are complex issues that do indeed need to be talked about, discussed and figured out in order to ensure prisons are safe. Despite shining a light on these issues through a mangnifying glass pointed directly at transgender rapists in the hopes of starting a fire that would burn all of us; what that light has revealed is still important.

So how do we solve these issues without pandering to transphobes along the way? First of all, the fewer inmates in prison the better. It costs time, money and effort to look after inmates; the UK government puts this cost at a little under £50,000 per person. We can make an immediate difference to the safety of prisons by simply choosing to not detain people unless they pose an immediate risk of harm to other people or themselves.

This doesn’t mean that we let people like Isla Bryson go free. No no, transgender rapists and cisgender rapists would still count as people who pose a harm to others and until its been assessed and proven that they aren’t likely to do so again; should be detained. But with fewer inmates to look after it becomes far easier for our prison systems to do so effectively.

So where should we house transgender rapists like Isla Bryson? Transgender women are women and if you would not house a cisgender woman who had committed the same crime in a men’s prison then you should not house a transgender woman there either. Accommodations can and should be made where women – whether cis or trans – who have a criminal history of abuse against other women are kept separate from other women and/or highly monitored where separation is impossible.

What if they are just cisgender men pretending to be transgender women? I have no power to discern who is and isn’t a transgender person, neither do you or anyone else – but it shouldn’t matter either way. If a cisgender man lies his way into a women’s prison after committing violence against women he should be separated and highly monitored just as much as any other convict in that prison with the same history of violence against women.

It’s the violence against women part that should get you segregated from women – not the make up of your anatomy or whether you have been able to access a gender recognition certificate. The only reason to argue against this is because anti-trans people oppose trans people, not because they give a crap about the safety of prisons or (cisgender) women.

With no one able to find a platform on which to talk about these issues without intentionally framing them through transphobic lenses I am not at all surprised to see politicians and the prison services cave under a sense of building pressure. They’re going to kick themselves when they realise its just the same handful of bigot losers its always been though.

So that’s where we are now. Bad and objectively transphobic policy being implemented surrounding prisons to try and curb a moral panic that shouldn’t exist because we should have a media and political class willing to be informed about issues alongside prisons that aren’t essentially pointless acts of cruelty we enact upon people in the hopes it’ll make them nicer on the other side.

Great. Just fucking wonderful. Thank you.