Defending his bill to let inmates self determine their sex, Senator Scott Wiener told legislators that male inmates who think they are women, really are women – the same goes for women who think they are men. The San Francisco Democrat made this argument several weeks ago in an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing for SB 132, a bill that lets trans-identified biological men be housed in women’s prisons, ignoring the privacy and safety of women inmates.
“Assembly members, you are in a bubble if you think this is what California voters want. Common sense screams out, this is a really, really bad idea,” California Family Council Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt told committee members. “If you care about the safety of women, you will oppose SB 132.”
Also arguing against this proposal was Abby Lunetta, a member of the Women’s Liberation Front. “I am a Democrat, a feminist, and an advocate for women’s rights. I’m here today because if SB 132, as it is currently written, becomes law, the state of California will sanction the desire of male rapists to share quarters with female inmates.”
As evidence, Lunette pointed to a current California inmate, a trans-identified male named Richard Masbruch, currently being housed in a female prison in Corona, California, even though he is serving time for torturing and raping women. (Read case details here.)
“Under no circumstances is this morally justifiable,” Lunetta told the committee. “This bill permits male inmates to be housed with female inmates at the mere request of a male inmate, even though males commit violent crimes three times more often than women, and there are no studies to show that males who self-ID as trans commit less violent crimes relative to the general male population.”
Senator Wiener disregarded these arguments saying women had nothing to fear from letting trans women (who are really men) into women’s prisons. “We are all concerned with the security of all our incarcerated individuals,” he told the committee, but transgender inmates are the ones being victimized, not doing the victimization. This bill protects the transgendered from assault, he argued.
Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R- Visalia) asked Wiener why we couldn’t set up a separate prison block for transgendered individuals in order to protect them. The United Kingdom set up a transgendered prison after trying to let inmates self determine their sex. According to recent news reports, the SB 132-like program was abandoned after a transgender prisoner, sexually assaulted two women.
“Because trans-women are women. Trans-men are men,” Wiener responded. “What we are saying is that if you are a trans-woman you are a woman – you should be able to be housed as a woman.”
The chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), acknowledged opposition concerns, but he compared their fear of transgendered men in a women’s prisons to the same fears a previous generation had regarding letting black teens go to school with white girls.
“There was a time where my uncle couldn’t go to the same school as white kids because it would mongrelize, or African American males would rape white women if they went to school together,” Jones-Sawyer explained. “I think we’re just now really trying to understand the trans community. I mean it is all new to us.”
SB 132 was passed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee with a vote of 5 to 1, with two members not voting. The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee chaired by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) tomorrow, July 10.