It appears as though Paris Green, who is serving 18 years in prison in Scotland for committing a horrific murder, is being moved to a men’s facility because she had sex too often with other women. I write “appears” because the coverage is so awful that it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
I found this story on the Daily Star, a UK tabloid, this morning. I thought it would be interesting for readers of LGBTQ Nation because it shows homophobia, sex-negativity, and transphobia in this prison.
I was hoping the story would raise questions like:
- Is it realistic to expect adults to spend years of their lives in close proximity to others without having sex?
- Would a cisgender woman prisoner who had sex with her fellow inmates be punished by being sent to a male prison facility?
- Transgender women are at a high risk of being sexually assaulted in male facilities. Why is heterosexual rape considered preferable to lesbian consensual sex?
The Daily Star, while it gets Green’s gender correct, does everything else to show that the story is really about a freak who can’t control herself abusing the system for fun. It describes Green’s surgical status with the phrase “sex swap”:
But Green, who has yet to have a sex swap operation, has now been transferred back to the male block because she has been sleeping with female prisoners.
The Daily Star quotes an anonymous source (how can readers evaluate their credibility?) who apparently knows what sex acts Green was engaged in, and also does not know that lesbian sex exists:
A source said: “The women want sex and Paris is the only person who can give it to them.”
The victim’s sister is understandably unsympathetic to Green. But that doesn’t explain why the Daily Star would need to repeat the nasty stereotype that transgender people are fakes looking to take advantage of others:
“The whole thing is a joke. We don’t believe he really wants a sex change.
“He’s just trying to manipulate the system and the tax payer is footing the bill.”
With all this, it’s hard to tell what even happened, if anything has happened at all. Was the anonymous source correct? Did the Daily Star corroborate its facts with a prison official?
The Daily Star is a tabloid. That said, this kind of coverage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As of this writing, I can’t find a better source that actually covered this story (that is, a media outlet that didn’t just summarize the Daily Star). Mainstream media hasn’t followed this story.
Why would any publication cover this story, since it is just one thing that happened to one person? Tabloid readers are easy to explain: they want to be shocked with a story about sex, and then wag their fingers at the people having sex “wrong.”
It takes a strange psyche to want to be stimulated and enraged simultaneously, every day, but there’s a market out there for that.
A mainstream publication, though, wouldn’t write a story for that reason. They’d want their readers to actually care about the subject of the story, and it’s hard for people to care about prisoners. Green herself is particularly unsympathetic, considering the brutal crime she was convicted of.
But we should care. Partly because the victim of this apathy towards transphobic policy is not just Paris Green. Green is not the sole victim of transphobic coverage, either.
Accusing Green of trying to fool people is just another signal to cisgender people telling them that it’s OK to question someone’s gender identity. Sending Green to a men’s facility will make it that much harder for trans prisoners to get into the appropriate facility in the future.
And partly because it makes us worse people to treat anyone like this. We like to think that we aren’t cruel, and that when we are, it’s justified. We’ve accepted that it’s OK to be cruel to prisoners, since they were cruel to others.
But cruelty is a strange thing. There isn’t a way to limit it to one person, to one group of people. Cruelty is addictive. It makes someone feel powerful to call for violence against someone else, to enact that violence against someone else.
If the story is what the Daily Star says it is, then this is wrong. It makes no sense to punish Green by sending her to a men’s prison. That is not a punishment. Sending her to prison is the punishment. Sending her to a men’s facility is an act of cruelty.
And we should care.