As recent reports by Gript have highlighted, biological males are being held in women’s prisons in Ireland, among them men with histories of violent assault against women.
While much attention is being given to the wishes of so-called trans-women, very few column inches have been dedicated to the experiences of female prisoners held alongside biological males.
Journalist Paddy O’Gorman interviewed a number of women – including former inmates of Limerick women’s prison – whose voices shed some light on what it’s like for female prisoners when men are granted access to their spaces.
Lianne Casey, a former inmate of the prison, said that women were “punished” if they “disrespected” trans identified males and would be ‘put back in their cells’ when it was time for the men to use the cafeteria.
Speaking of what would happen when women expressed feelings of unsafety due to the presence of the men, she said, “When you’re voicing it out you’ll get locked back up in your cell because you’re disrespecting them and you’re not treating them as women,”
“There’s a lot of complaints in there because like you couldn’t go down the stairs, you had to go all opposite ways, so it just makes it very very awkward for the women,”
“They’re roaring out the doors, disgusting and vulgar talk,” she said, adding that it wasn’t “all the transgenders” but that in her experience two of the three biological males housed in the prison at the time of her incarceration behaved in this manner.
She said that although the transgender inmates are kept physically separate from the women – although housed in the same facility- they could still be heard shouting.
“Things happen to women” she said adding, “and then to hear that all over again..”
She spoke of how the men wish to be “treated like a woman” but that she feels as though some of them are “fooling the government” in order to access the female landing and “having fun out of it”.
“They’ve more privileges than the female prisoners,” she said, claiming that the trans inmates were allowed out of their cells more often.
She said that there should be a “new landing” for transgender inmates in the prison.
She expressed dismay that some of the biological males held on the women’s landing were doing time for “harming women,” which she said can cause “anxiety” among the women.
A young homeless woman who was four months pregnant at the time of the interview spoke of her experience of being held in the prison for one week, during which she said she encountered a transgender inmate who she said was on hormones but “still had his private bits,”
She claimed that although the man had “sexually abused children,” he received more privileges than her.
“It’s very scary,” she said, adding that if the man visited the prison psychiatrist the female prisoners were forced to return to their cells.
The young women said she was given cleaning duties during her week in the prison and had occasion to be beside where the transgender inmates are held.
She described the “vulgar talk” of the men saying that no punishment was levelled against them while claiming that females who used abusive language were punished.
She described the language used as “horrible talk” saying that she felt inmates with “a male private part” should be held on a male wing.
“It’s very intimidating,” she said, thinking of what might happen if male inmates managed to interact with the women.
“We’re so fragile going in there and so scared,” she said describing the greater physical strength of males.
“If they attacked you like, you wouldn’t be able to move,” she said.
“It was very scary to know that a male was there,” she said adding, “it was absolutely terrifying what she was in for, it was horrible,”
Another woman spoke of having to share hostel facilities with a biological male who identifies as a woman.
She said the man had ‘lost his temper’ and punched a woman and that the impact of the blow had sent her ‘about eight feet’ across the room and ‘split her’.
A Dublin woman who said she was homeless for 19 years spoke of transgender identified men being treated as women by homeless services and being allowed to sleep, change, and shower in women’s facilities.
Seeming to refer to the same alleged assault as the previous speaker, she said that the man had punched a 60 year old woman in the face.
“He fights like a man, he can hit women like a man,” she said, although,“he dresses like a woman and he’s classed as a woman,”
She said the man had attacked a women who she says weighs about six and a half stone “swinging her down the corridor,”
“They’ll always overpower a women no matter what,” she said adding, “they still have men’s muscles and man’s instinct for fighting and stuff like that,”
“It’s still being bashed by a man whether they look like a woman or not,” she said.
The full interviews are available for streaming on Spotify and can be accessed through Paddy O’Gorman’s website.