Action for Trans Health recently put in a series of Freedom of Information requests to the Home Office regarding trans people currently detained in immigration detention centres, Jess Bradley writes. According to the Home Office, as of 27th March there were 5 inmates in detention centres who the Home Office recognised as being trans. Over the last 3 years, there has been 21 inmates recorded as being trans. Given the relatively narrow definition of trans used by the Home Office in their record keeping, it is likely that this number will be higher. We had a look over the protocols governing the “care” of trans inmates in detention centres and compared them to the equivalent protocol for UK prisoners. Here is what we found:
content notes for: incarceration, searches, misgendering
As with UK prisoners, a detainee with a Gender Recognition Certificate (or equivalent) is required to be housed with other prisoners of the same gender. Should a trans detainee not have a GRC (which will probably be most of them) a “multi-disciplinary risk assessment” will be completed to decide where the detainee will be housed. Should the detainee’s request to be housed with people of their actual gender (as opposed to their legal one) be accepted, they will have their own private room.
Both UK prisoners and detainees who have a GRC will be searched by staff of the same gender. If a person has not undergone any medical interventions, then they will be searched by staff of the same sex that they were assigned at birth. If a person has started medical interventions but doesn’t have a GRC, the institution will make a judgement call as to what is the most appropriate course of action (reading between the lines, this will probably be based on what a person’s genitalia is assumed to look like). It is not allowed to conduct a search in order to ascertain a person’s sex / gender.
Access to packers, binders, breast forms, etc.
The protocol allows trans people in detention centres to wear wigs, packers, binders, and breast-forms. Unlike the protocol for UK prisoners, these do not have to be provided by the institution, so it is likely that many trans detainees will be forced to make do with makeshift equipment/prosthetics.
Worryingly the immigration detention centre protocols do not explicitly mandate access to hormones and other transition related healthcare. Instead, they say that healthcare treatment is a “clinical matter for the healthcare team at the centre in which the detainee is located”. The fact that the protocol does not explicitly mandate detentions centres to provide access to transition related healthcare when the equivalent UK prisoners protocol does implies that at best access to healthcare is inconsistent across different detention centres. We have sent follow-up Freedom of Information requests asking for more details regarding what access trans detainees have to transition related healthcare.
A note on non-binary
As the UK doesn’t officially recognise non-binary as a gender, there are no provisions for non-binary people incarcerated at detention centres or UK prisons.
We also completed a freedom of information request for the number of trans staff working at immigration detention centres. The Home Office said they did not keep that information.
It is worth noting that the above describes what should happen in theory, rather than in practice. Immigration detention centres are known to be rife with human rights abuses, so it is likely that trans inmates will face significant hardship. We are going to take further steps to find out more information about the trans detainees and to act in solidarity with them.
At Action for Trans Health, we do not consider the environment within the detention centres (or in prisons) conducive to adequate, timely, or empowering trans health care, and adopt a broadly abolitionist approach to their use. We believe that organising for a liberating trans healthcare system necessarily involves getting involved in issues many people feel are not strictly “trans issues”. After all, trans people are not just trans people: we are also disabled, black, women, homeless, sex workers, and asylum seekers. Trans people have a stake in all progressive movements. On that note, please consider signing this petition to keep lesbian asylum seeker Aderonke Apata from being deported.
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