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Legislation To House Inmates According to Gender Identity Instead of Biological Sex

Will it place women’s human rights at risk?

By Katy Grimes, June 27, 2019 2:05 am

A bill proposing to house inmates according to their gender identity, rather than the traditional method of housing inmates by biological sex, is making its way through the California Legislature. SB 132 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), has passed every legislative committee along party lines, as well as in the Senate, and is headed for a vote in the Assembly.

Sen. Wiener says when transgender people are housed according to their birth-assigned gender, which is currently the typical practice, they are at heightened risk of violence, including sexual violence.

“This landmark decision comes despite the fact that the first male transgender inmate to be placed in a women’s facility in California was accused of carrying out a campaign of sexual violence toward female inmates,” WomenAreHuman.com reported. “Critics say that, while Sen. Wiener’s bill may help transgender inmates, it will place women’s human rights at risk.”

The Women’s Liberation Front (WOLF) and the California Family Council are joined in very interesting opposition to SB 132. “SB 132 would increase the risk of violence and injury for one of the most vulnerable groups in society: incarcerated women,” board members of WOLF wrote in a letter of opposition to the bill.  “It would allow any male at any time to self-declare that he has a woman “gender identity,” and on that basis allow him to demand to be housed in a women’s correctional facility. … SB 132 is a stunning attack on incarcerated women and one of the most extreme examples of elevating men’s feelings over women’s physical and psychological safety.” Women’s Liberation Front is an all-female all-volunteer organization of over 500 members, including in California.

“If adopted, SB 132 will put women prisoners and women prison guards and staff, at serious increased risk of male violence. These harms have received no consideration in the legislative materials offered in support of SB 132,” WOLF wrote.

“Biological sex is not arbitrary,” California Family Council President Jonathan Keller said in opposition to the bill. “The legislature is increasing dangers for both inmates and correctional officers by attempting to let prisoners self-determine their sex,” Keller said. “Even in prison, males and females are guaranteed a constitutional right to privacy. The legislature should not victimize prisoners, especially biological women, by requiring them to allow members of the opposite sex into facilities that are currently female-only or male-only. This bill is a recipe for complete chaos in our state’s correctional facilities.”

WOLF and the California Family Council listed what SB 132 would do:

  • Allow any incarcerated male to claim that he has a feminine “gender identity.”
  • Give any such incarcerated male the legal right to be housed at a women’s facility, unless the incarcerated male’s “perception of [his] own health and safety needs requires a different placement.”
  • Force correctional facility staff to use language pretending that males who claim to have a woman “gender identity” are women.
  • Forbid facility officials from considering anatomy, the presence or absence of a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and the presence or absence of any other physical or mental health diagnosis.
  • Forbid prison officials from overriding a prisoner’s demand to be housed in a women’s facility unless the prison official meets the extraordinarily high bar of demonstrating in advance “significant security or management concerns.”

Support for SB 132 comes from ACLU of California, Equality California, Lambda Legal, TGI Justice Project, Transgender Law Center, and TransLatin@

“SB 132 in many ways is a life saver for many Trans, Gender Nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) people,” said Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of Translatin@ Coalition. “This bill will set precedence not only in our beautiful state but it will also provide the ability for other states to follow suit and validate the lives of TGI people. In some ways, this bill will provide a bit of dignity to incarcerated  TGI people,” Sen. Wiener included on his website.

SB 132 is was passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday, and will be heard in Assembly Appropriations next.

Katy Grimes

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California's War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?
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4 thoughts on “Legislation To House Inmates According to Gender Identity Instead of Biological Sex

  1. This madness needs to stop. American is one place where women almost have a good life with almost equal rights, but abuses towards women are outrageous and too high. This law puts women back in a position to o be abused again by men. Who stands up for women?

  2. Are you saying Women should be treated equally in all places BUT prison?
    Meaning, women and men everywhere should be treated equally but in prison they need special protection?
    How sexist. and you are claiming women are weak.
    You should be ashamed of yourselves for saying its harming women, when if anything it is advancing women to be truly equal to men, so much so that they desegregate.
    In all reality, the fact that prison has segregated based on sex is against the constitution.
    If you want segregation based on sex, please clearly state so and get the constitution changed to declare all forms of STRICT SCRUTINY standard laws to be nullified. You will only be reversing every segregation decision EVER.

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