Installment 2 in the “Letters about Trans…” series: A letter to the Secretary of State for Justice

I shall take a quick break from quaffing Blessed Potions of Healing +1 (Brand Name: Lemsip) and wondering what do with spam sent by a customer in August 2007 that’s just been reported to me to write a quick note to the Secretary of State for Justice about the upcoming guidelines for Trans prisoners.

But first, I shall point out that the last letter I wrote to a government minister was 15 working days ago. Coincidentally, that is apparently the time limit within which that department aims to respond to letters. Hopefully I shall be able to blog tomorrow about the response I’ve received, but given I have not had one yet I’m not that hopeful. Still, I have had a number of emails indicating that the mail is apparently bouncing round between the Department for Education, the Home Office and the Government Equalities Office for reasons unknown to me, so maybe I’ll be lucky and get three separate responses.

Back to the letter:

Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke MP, QC, Secretary of State for Justice
By EMail

16th December 2010

Dear Mr Clarke,

I welcome the response from your office in relation to a Freedom of Information request (FOI/67805/10) that indicates that long-overdue guidelines on the handling of prisoners with Gender Dysphoria are being drafted and are likely to be implemented early next year. However, I am concerned about the stated timescales as they do not appear to allow for any consultation and I am unaware of any consultation having taken place to date. I would be grateful if you could outline what steps have been taken to consult with the Transgender community to date and if any future consultation is planned before these guidelines come into force.

Whilst I realise that consultation on internal Prison Service guidelines would typically be neither desirable nor necessary, as a community Trans people are often subject to policy stemming from “common knowledge” that is inaccurate and without any evidential base. This is highlighted by problems with the previous draft guidelines (PSO3300) that create a Catch-22 situation where it was impossible to meet the medical or legal requirements for transition and seem to make assumptions about the generic danger of pre-operative Transwomen in female prisons.

I am guessing that the Prison Service and MoJ have LGBT representatives and experts within them. However, although we share many campaigning goals with the wider LGBT community, the issues faced by the Trans community are quite different and such representatives in government departments are typically focused on LGB issues and may have little additional life experience or knowledge related to Trans issues.

Yours Sincerely,

Zoe O’Connell

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