As most people are doubtless aware, trans people (mostly trans women) are murdered at a ridiculous rate. The sort of execution-style killings you see in parts of Latin America are presumably the work of religious fanatics, but very many of these killings are sex-related, and often the perp, if caught, tries to get off by using something called the “trans panic defence”.
It goes like this. The perp says he had sex with what he thought was a really hot chick, but then he discovered that “she” was “really a man”, and he was so upset by this that he was driven into a violent rage. I suspect that in most cases the upset is caused by him stopping thinking with his dick and instead thinking about what his mates will say if they find out what he has done, but that’s by-the-by. The important point is that often this is sufficient to get the guy let off.
In the UK we like to pretend that we are more civilized than other parts of the world. We don’t go around killing people just because they are trans. But we do absolutely sympathize with unfortunate people in such situations. I mean, having sex with a tr*nny? Eeeeuuuwwww!
Now, however, you don’t have to go through all of that messy murdering stuff, you can just go to court and have the disgusting freak put away for a few years, and can rely on the lower class persons found in prison to perform violence for you. All the work is done for you by others. How very genteel.
No, seriously that is exactly what you can do. A judge has said so. The case has gone to appeal, and the appeal court upheld the decision. See here for details.
Now I have to admit that the lad in the case was somewhat foolish. I guess that only goes to show that young men think with their dicks even when they don’t have one. However, the sweeping nature of the judgement means that all trans people are now vulnerable to being jailed for the crime of obtaining sex by deception. A lot of observations follow.
Firstly, trans people are unique in being singled out in this way. You can have sex with someone without telling them that you are married, without confessing to being an undercover police spy (apparently a very common profession these days), without letting on that you have previous convictions for murder or rape, without admitting to being HIV positive, and for the benefit of my friends in US immigration without admitting to having previously been convicted of genocide. But if you have sex with someone while trans, and do not reveal this fact beforehand, then you are committing a criminal offence and can expect to be jailed for it.
Unfortunately, simply telling your partner won’t help, because if it is some guy who is thinking with his dick he’s still going to want to screw you. It is afterwards, when he gets to think about what he’s done, that the worries set in. And because this is sex we are talking about, there will probably only be two witnesses: you and him. Given that UK judges already believe that trans people are yucky and disgusting, or they would not have passed this initial judgement, which one of you do you think is going to be believed?
By the way, I have only had one brush with the UK courts. It was civil rather than criminal, and not something I could do much about, but the advice I got from my lawyer was so stark that I remember it clearly almost 20 years later. He advised me not to contest anything that was said about me, “because there is no justice in British courts for people like you.” That wasn’t prejudice speaking, I picked him because he was known to be friendly to trans people.
Oh, and that word “sex” isn’t simple. There was no penetration involved in the case in question because the lad didn’t have a penis. Genital touching was involved, but may not be necessary for an offence to be committed. Conceivably you can be done for “sex by deception” just for having an enthusiastic snog.
Presumably you can try to defend yourself by living a very open life, informing everyone that you meet that you are trans, just in case they should claim to have had sex with you. And of course you should be very careful never to be alone with anyone who might be able to make such a claim. Possibly you should be careful to dress in a manner that could not be seen as sexually appealing, just in case someone were to take a fancy to you. I’m sure that any woman who has been told that she’s “asking to be raped” because of the way she is dressed will recognize the arguments here.
The trouble is that it simply isn’t safe for most people to be openly trans. You might not hear of many trans murders in the UK, but there is plenty of bullying and violence. Only a couple of weeks ago there was a case of a trans woman who was forced to flee the town where she lived after being branded a “witch”.
In any case, many trans women still have to rely on sex work for money, because they can’t get jobs any other way. This ruling ratchets up the already very high risks of the sex trade.
It is an open question as to whether having a Gender Recognition Certificate will save you. In theory, a GRC is supposed to allow you to be treated as a person of your preferred gender in all ways. Heck, I have a birth certificate that asserts I was born a girl. But the recent Equality Act made it quite clear that as far as the government is concerned, trans people are “really” the gender they were assigned at birth. They are only protected against discrimination on the grounds of their appearance and behavior, not in matters where their “true” gender is an issue. Debate over the same-sex marriage bill also confirmed that both ministers and the civil service abhor trans people and believe that “normal” people need to be protected from awful people like me.
It is probable that both the Equality Act and this court judgement are in contravention of European Law, because both appear to roll back the equality provisions of the Gender Recognition Act. But this has yet to be tested in court, and it is debatable whether the UK will remain part of the EU for much longer. There is also an interesting legal debate as to whether someone with a GRC counts as trans under the provisions of the Equality Act. I’d like to see that tested, because if they don’t (and that’s the only way the Act can be read as not contravening European Law) then Julie Bindel and her pals are going to blow a gasket.
Still, that’s all by-the-by. Hopefully the judgement in question will be appealed up to the House of Lords (where it will be upheld) and then on to Europe. That, however, will take months, if not years. In the meantime, trans people in the UK are now vulnerable to malicious prosecution. You can bet that the tabloid newspapers will be busily looking for people whose cases they can finance.
Anyone think that their country is likely to grant me political asylum?
Given that this is all legal and political in nature, I don’t think there is much that ordinary people can do to help directly right how. However, if you do feel the need to Do Something, may I direct you to this funding appeal where Fox and Lewis from My Transsexual Summer are raising money for their educational films about trans people. The shorts that they have done to date are amazing, and I very much want to see them do more.