Scottish trans man guilty of fraud – just for having a relationship

(Warning: All the news stories linked in here are highly transphobic, with references to acquired genders being a “pretence” or “fake”)

It looks like we have another case of someone trans being prosecuted for “obtaining sex by deception“. I am always wary of mainstream press coverage of cases involving trans people, because the facts can so easily be distorted either through ignorance or, in the case of The Sun’s article on this incident which I’m not going to link to, maliciously.

However, what has been widely reported seems to indicate that in this case, the person being prosecuted was definitely a trans man – they had presented as male for many years, with the STV coverage specifically using the word transsexual and they were already seeing a counsellor. One report also mentions they are on a gender reassignment programme, presumably a reference to a Gender Identity Clinic.

In summary, Wilson plead guilty to two counts of “obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud”. In the first case, this sexual intimacy apparently went no further than kissing and cuddling, with Wilson refusing to engage in anything more.

The second, later case is problematic in that actual intercourse took place and their partner was underage at the time, having mislead Wilson about their age. There was no prosecution for that mentioned however, so it would appear that Wilson’s actions in immediately terminating the relationship and refusing to see her any more when this was revealed were the correct course of action here.

This case makes it clear that the police and courts in Scotland regard failing to disclose trans status prior to kissing/cuddling someone as a criminal offense. Proving you told someone is of course tricky, so unless you’re very “out” there could be trouble ahead.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceWilson has ended up on the sex offender’s register as a result. Full sentencing has not yet taken place.

Edited 1315, 8th March: From the Scottish Transgender Alliance:
In partnership with Trans Media Watch, we have just received advice to the effect that the charge of sex by fraud in this case does not relate to Wilson presenting as male but instead relates to the use of a substitute object under the pretence that it was a penis and therefore without consent. This means that reporting that states Wilson is in trouble over gender presentation is inaccurate. Please help us to raise awareness of this. We need as many of you as possible to write to the newspapers (and any other media outlets covering this) and explain.

Edited 1800, 8th March: Initial assurances that the conviction was related to the “use of a substitute object” were incorrect – it has now been confirmed the prosecution was related to identity.

6 comments

  1. Sorry, I haven’t done so much background reading around this offence, but is it clear that it refers to gender rather than age?

    Age is, of course, also a complicated factor, as it seems clear that representing oneself as younger when a trans man would in some cases be necessary to “pass” as cis and avoid transphobic violence.

    1. As far as I can tell from all the reporting, it’s entirely down to gender and not age – STV and Scotsman.com seem the be the primary sources with the others just engaging in churnalism. Neither makes any mention of age being a factor in the guilty plea.

      1. Urgh. This really needs more international coverage, then. Frankly, with this serving as precedent Scotland is not a safe country for trans people to enter.

  2. According to the Scotsman article, it wasn’t “intercourse”, though it seems to be what many people, and certainly gay/bi women, would consider sex. Legal definitions tend to be boringly preoccupied with PIV sex as the only “true” form of sex/intercourse. And of course, a lot of people get terribly confused at the idea that sex could involve anything other than PIV sex, fretting about whether or not same-sex marriages could be technically consummated and so forth (frequently a red herring argument). I wouldn’t be surprised if these unimaginative folks were the same ones who can’t understand even the basics of what trans means. In this case, apparently part of the deception was passing off a vibrator as a penis. A vibrator? Really? Was it on? The whole thing sounds confused and, well, odd.

    I wonder what “sex by deception” has historically covered, and what it’s generally used for? People have been lying to their sexual partners for probably as long as humans have been able to talk and form societies. It’s certainly rampant in the area of online dating, and there was an article just the other day on the Pink News complaining about the number of supposedly straight men cruising on Grindr. It was generally pointed out in the comments that this article was a bit of a nonsense, since Grindr is a cruising site, you’re signing up for no-strings sex rather than a relationship, and whether or not someone is out as bi isn’t really relevant in that situation.

    As a friend pointed out, this chap presumably didn’t introduce himself with, “Hi, I’m cis.” The whole concept of “not a real man, therefore pretending, therefore fraud/sex by deception” assumes that transsexuality is not recognised in law, which is odd because as far as I’m aware, it is. We have the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Although I’m now reading up on it, and apparently it’s a long process and involves qualifying before a panel and a certificate and so forth. I’m not an expert in trans legal issues: am I right in thinking that the problem here is that transitioning is being treated as a single event (marked by getting a Gender Recognition Certificate) rather than an ongoing process? And another problem with people not being recognised as trans until they are undergoing state-recognised treatment to transition? Have there been similar cases with people who have completed transitioning, and in particular who have gained a Gender Recognition Certificate? Surely at that point you are legally the gender you say you are?

    1. It occurs to me that if whoever wrote the story isn’t themselves lesbian or a bi woman that they might be confusing a vibrator and a dildo of some sort. (A feeldoe wouldn’t even require straps/hands)

      A comment on an older blog post of mine (http://www.complicity.co.uk/blog/2011/01/sex-by-deception/#comment-8908) clarifies the historical context – an early case revolved around a man impersonating someone’s husband.

      “Transition” as an event is unclear. At one end of the spectrum, the Equalities Act 2010 gives protection to anyone who is even considering changing gender, which certainly applies here. At the other end, a GRC generally carries with a presumption of surgery, plus you need to have fully transitioned socially for at least 2 years to get one. Not everyone applies anyway because of the implications with marriage (You have to divorce, which can mess up pensions) and it’s decreasing usefulness as legal protection following the passage of the Equality Act 2010.

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