DOMINIC LAWSON: Police say some male-bodied rapists are 'women'. Why?

DOMINIC LAWSON: Why do police and the NHS insist that some male-bodied rapists are ‘women’?

Like all too many of us, my attention is unfailingly grabbed by headlines revealing crimes of unusual depravity. For example, this one, from the New York Times just over a week ago: She Killed Two Women. At 83, She Is Charged With Dismembering a Third.

That’s not something you read every day. And about a woman, possibly never. Or at least, I had never heard before of a female killer in the habit of dismembering her victims.

So I read on, to discover the criminal history of Ms Harvey Marcelin, who had murdered ‘her then girlfriend in 1963’, and a year after being released in 1984, ‘stabbed to death another woman she had been living with’.

Remarkably, Marcelin was freed again on parole in 2019 … and earlier this month was charged with yet another murder of a woman, 68-year-old Susan Leyden.

Harvey Marcelin was freed on parole in 2019... and earlier this month was charged with yet another murder

Harvey Marcelin was freed on parole in 2019… and earlier this month was charged with yet another murder

Brooklyn police found dismembered parts of Ms Leyden in a shopping cart and — Exhibit A — ‘her head inside Ms Marcelin’s home’.

Reports of earlier parole hearings unearthed the fact that Marcelin admitted to having ‘problems with women’. Not as much as women have had problems with her.

Exasperates

Only is it, actually, ‘her’? Well, no. Or not, officially, at the time of the first two murders. As a single sentence in this sensational report explained: ‘Ms Marcelin was listed as male in earlier court records, but now identifies as a woman, according to a law enforcement official’.

So, on the basis of that recent ‘self-identification’, this now enters the records of the police as the work of a prodigously violent female serial killer.

You might think that this is very American: I mean, in the sense that it is the country where, in more than any other, you can ‘reinvent yourself’.

But the same thing is happening in the UK (though not yet with such a grotesque crime) — and in a way that exasperates many campaigners for women’s rights.

What especially concerns them is how sexual assaults on women — including rape — by male-bodied people self-identifying as female are officially registered as crimes ‘by women’.

This was raised during the recent Parliamentary debate on International Women’s Day by the Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin (whose wife, Anne, is a longstanding campaigner for greater involvement of women in politics, founding the group Women2Win).

Sir Bernard told MPs: ‘Nearly all violence against women is committed by men, but there is a new and growing category of violence against women committed by people who call themselves women but are biologically male.

Sir Bernard Jenkin has raised the issue in Parliament

Sir Bernard Jenkin has raised the issue in Parliament

‘We should always respond positively to people with genuine gender dysphoria, and I deliver this speech with kindness in my heart, but the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines rape as when a person ‘intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person … with his penis without consent’. 

‘The Crown Prosecution Service reports that between 2012 and 2018 more than 436 cases of rape were committed by women. The penis is a male organ, so these rapes are committed by men presenting themselves as women.’

The same point was made with characteristic force by J.K. Rowling last December, after Police Scotland — following the SNP administration’s decision to remove the requirement for medical checks before people obtain a ‘gender recognition certificate’ — declared: ‘The sex/gender identification of individuals who come into contact with the police will be based on how they present or how they declare, which is consistent with [our] values.’

The Harry Potter author tweeted (echoing the ‘newspeak’ of George Orwell’s novel 1984): ‘War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You is a Woman.’

J.K. Rowling made the same point as Sir Bernard in a post on Twitter

J.K. Rowling made the same point as Sir Bernard in a post on Twitter 

Why does this matter, apart, that is, from the linguistic confusion? As Kate Coleman of the Keep Prisons Single Sex campaign points out: ‘Males and male crime are hidden in the female data and statistics. This has serious implications for the accuracy of statistics and service planning.’

For example, the ‘service planning’ which led to Karen White, born Stephen Wood, and who had committed multiple rapes, being sent to a women’s prison, New Hall in Yorkshire.

Outcry

During three months there, the male- bodied Karen White sexually assaulted four other inmates. It was only this, and the outcry that followed, which forced the prison service to apologise, and White was transferred to a male prison in Leeds.

Subsequently, official figures showed that transgender inmates make up about 1 per cent of the ‘female jail population’, but are responsible for 5.6 per cent of sexual assaults in women’s prisons.

So, numerically, the problem is very small: but, proportionately, it is an obvious — and highly predictable — anomaly.

It’s one thing to talk about ‘rapes by women with penises’ — thus defying the reality of biological sex — quite another to deny that it happens. But that is the attitude in the NHS, at least if Baroness Nicholson (formerly the Liberal Democrat MP Emma Nicholson) is right.

In a Lords debate last week on single-sex wards, she reported a case in which a ‘male-bodied’ transgender person had raped a woman on the same ward, but the hospital had initially insisted that this was not possible, as ‘there was no male there’.

According to Nicholson, CCTV subsequently revealed that the thing the hospital said was impossible, did happen: the NHS has accepted it, and the police are preparing a prosecution.

Last summer, Nicholson wrote a piece for the Mail — this newspaper has long campaigned on the need for single-sex wards — protesting that ‘without consultation, NHS Trusts across the country have issued guidance saying patients should be accommodated based on the gender they say they identify with.

‘As a result, a biological male who is ‘physically intact’ — that is, who possesses a penis — has the right to choose to be accommodated on a female ward and to use women’s lavatories and facilities.’

She claimed that ‘some nurses have lost their jobs’ after objecting to this.

Realism

For what it’s worth, I have a compromise solution for hospitals and prisons. Post-operative transgender women — that is, minus the dangly bits — should be allocated to female wards/prisons; but those who are still in possession of a penis should be restricted to male facilities.

That would make the appropriate recognition of people who have undergone great suffering in reassigning to what they feel is their true gender, while also recognising the concerns of women about their safety and sexual privacy from male-bodied people in intimate surroundings.

Baroness Nicholson told a Lords debate last week of a case in which a 'male-bodied' transgender person had raped a woman on the same hospital ward

Baroness Nicholson told a Lords debate last week of a case in which a ‘male-bodied’ transgender person had raped a woman on the same hospital ward

And I would also like to see a little more realism in the reporting of crimes, if only to avoid the impression that women have suddenly become far more likely to commit violent assaults or sexual offences.

This is also argued by Professor Kathleen Stock in her recent book Material Girls (which was one of the reasons she was hounded out of her academic post at Sussex University, for ‘transphobia’).

She observed: ‘In a context where men — understood as adult human males — are responsible for nearly three times as many violent assaults as women, headlines such as ‘Gang of women repeatedly stamp on man’s head’ (Daily Mirror, June 26, 2018), ‘Sheffield woman found with over 1,000 indecent images of children hauled before the court’ (Daily Star, July 19, 2019), and ‘Woman who bragged about being a paedophile approached boys at Remembrance event’ (Wales Online, May 15, 2020) seem to demonstrate a flagrant disregard for women’s interests.’

The point is that all these headlines were about male-bodied criminals who identified as female.

As Professor Stock said when I raised this with her, in the light of the grotesque case of Harvey Marcelin: ‘I think these crimes were male crimes, and I don’t see any problem with reporting them that way — and if females were committing them, that would be worth reporting too, of course.’

None of this means that we shouldn’t treat transgender people with complete respect. Indeed, I feel that respect strongly for someone I know who was once Don and is now Deirdre. But we have to describe the world as it is — and that includes biology.