Friday, February 10, 2023

A question of Gender


They said it wouldn’t happen, and it did, very quickly. Within a couple of weeks of the Scottish government’s new Gender Recognition Reform Act (the one that puts self identification on a statutory basis) a man who has been found guilty of the rape of 2 vulnerable women has decided that he’s now self identifying as a woman and has insisted in his right under the law, that he spends his to-be-determined sentence in a women's prison.

"Nicola Sturgeon criticised for calling transgender rapist Isla Bryson 'she' and 'her' "

Obviously this sparked outrage – in all quarters - and he was moved to a segregation unit in a male prison in Edinburgh until it was considered what to do with him.

Like many things, the act is a simple solution to a very complex problem but the timing of this couldn’t be worse.

The bill has been slightly halted by Westminster before it goes to royal assent because it would adversely affect the UK-wide equality legislation and then the 'Bryson case', and another very similar that immediately followed, became part of the larger political argument.

"Campaigners stage protest against transgender criminals in women’s prisons"

So I’d like to be clear what I’m talking about here. Isla Bryson was born Adam Graham. He lived as a man for 29 years, committing two rapes, (2016, 2019). His wife says that he has never shown any tendenancy to be transgender, he has never attended any counselling for gender reassignment, he’s never had any surgery. Between his arrest for the rape of 2 vulnerable woman to his appearance in court he self identified as a woman and called himself Islay Bryson. Even Nicola Sturgeon herself has admitted that he might be trying to 'pull the wool over our eyes'.

So he's wanting to go into a female prison, anatomically male, with the mindset of a rapist- a male who only mentioned being transgender after he was arrested.

To my mind, it's a huge slap in the face for women, for genuine transgender people and the prision authorities who have worked so hard to make places like Corten Vale an establishment of care and nuture.

Rape is not, and never has been a sex crime. It's a crime of power, and extreme misogyny. Nothing much changes that mindset.  

Transgender rapist Isla Bryson moved to men's prison

I think even the united Nations had warned the Scottish Government that they were creating a problem without providing a solution. You can’t put people in jail in solitary confinement, that is obviously against their human right. But equally the new bill says that you can wake up that morning and identify as anything you wish and you have to be treated as such or the authorites could be in serious trouble  under the equalities bill.

I have a friend who teaches history in a secondary school and the 15 year-old male class trouble maker is identifying as a cat. My friend has been teaching for so long that she can put him in his place,  (in his basket?), with a degree of humour and sarcasm. But she heard two of the younger teachers talking in the staff room and asking if he is allowed to urinate in the classroom in a box. She hoped they were joking.

The First Minister was confronted by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross over dangerous trans criminals in prisons at Holyrood and once again failed to say whether Isla Bryson was a man or a woman.

There are already laws in place, many of them, to protect minorities of any status from victimisation and persecution. And this obviously covers transgender people as well. My two transgender friends are concerned that the Bryson case is taking the limelight away from the genuine problems that transgender people face, not because of any determined action in opposition to them, more in the case of the country isn’t just quite ready and needs to be given time to adjust. Toilets are an obvious area of discussion, although very rarely is it a discussion, with so many passionate voices on either side shouting to be heard. Are three sets of toilets the answer? Male, Female and Unisex and then you can go where you want. But that suggests that there is a female only space present, and indeed a male only space present. And some folk find it disrespectful that each birth gender might want their own 'space'.  I personally don’t have an issue with that, but then, I’ve had forty years of being very respectful to the choices of patients who wish to be treated by a therapist of the same gender as they are. Spinster elderly ladies don’t want to be treated by young men. And young guys with groin strains from football do not want their groins lasered by a female therapist.

It works both ways. It's their choice and you need to respect that choice. 

More than one patient has asked me this week what happens if we take on a therapist who is biologically and physically male wants to identify as a female. There are issues of personal confidentiality on both sides of that treatment table. And a professional body sooner or later is going to have to come out and give us guidance, I’m just glad I’ll be retired before it really hits home.

And one more thing, one little  point that I haven't seen argued anywhere.  Adam/ Isla is a 29 year old biological male identifying as a female, convicted of raping of two vulnerable women. I'd have very serious concerns about Adam/Isla's safety in a female prison. Even in a establishment of male incarceration, he probably be  kept away from the main population.



  1. This sounds like a messy issue. But even as a female who has sexually assaulted two vulnerable females, Isla would kept isolated from the rest of the female community?

  2. The female prison population might perform their own gender reassignment surgery on Isla. Then deepfry the meat and two veg so Isla can celebrate with a feast (or happy meal, depending on portion size).

  3. Caro, you have crafted the perfect Law School Examination Question for our times...and added a real world complication as the final dramatic twist! Back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was a lawyer doing pro bono public service work, I served as Special Counsel to the NYC Board of Correction. I can tell you from experience that inmates in the Women's House of Detention were among the most fearsome, and often given wide berth by correction officers in their carryings-on among themselves. Given the circumstances of Adam/Isla's likely "cutesy" effort to game the system, I'd say the smart money's on A/I serving time in unimaginable hell...or exiting Jeffrey Epstein style.