Words: Lorna Stephenson
Last weekend, following a massive social media campaign and a support rally outside Bristol Crown Court, trans woman Tara Hudson was moved from the male prison HMP Bristol to the female HMP Eastwood Park. The 26-year-old’s case garnered rare national media coverage for transgender people’s rights.
Instrumental in the campaign to move Tara was Bristol Pride. The Cable spoke to Daryn Carter, director of Bristol Pride, about why Hudson’s case became mainstream news, and what needs to be done to protect other transgender people from the same treatment?
Bristol Cable: How did Bristol Pride get involved with the campaign in support of Tara Hudson?
Daryn Carter: A member of the community in Bath contacted us the Sunday after Tara’s conviction [on Friday 23 October] to ask if we were aware of this and flag up to us that she’d been sentenced by the Bath magistrates and taken to a male prison in Bristol.
Then from there we just started making enquiries. I contacted Trans Media Watch in London. They’re an online organisation that raise awareness of any trans issues in the media. They hadn’t heard anything yet. Then I contacted another well known trans journalist that deals with quite a lot of criminal cases to see if she knew anything about it yet. I passed on all the info we had, then it just took off from there. The community in Bath, along with people who knew Tara and knew Tara’s mum Jackie, wanted to help spread the word.
It did become a very big story. Was it a surprise that it got so much press coverage?
Yes, I was surprised that it received such national coverage. On Friday down at the protest rally I did interviews with Sky News, ITV, BBC, Made in Bristol… Trying to get trans issues in the mainstream media is usually quite a challenge.
What was the impact of the protest, and what else helped put the pressure on the prison service?
I think the main credit for helping Tara to move to a female prison was the online petition that was on Change.org. The last time I looked there was about 165,000 signatories, an incredible number of people. The campaign was pushed on social media and the effects of that were far reaching.
The rally itself though was really important – I hope Tara saw that there were people there supporting her, and it was really beneficial for Tara’s mum Jackie as well. It was an opportunity to raise awareness and show that there is support behind this cause.
Now that Tara has been moved to a female prison, have you heard how she is getting on?
We spoke to Jackie, Tara’s mum, over the weekend and heard that she’s spoken to Tara since the move and she was a lot happier. She had reportedly been suffering from verbal sexual harassment from the other inmates in the male prison that she was in, so having been moved she feels a lot safer.
How does Tara’s experience compare to what you know of treatment of other transgender people the criminal justice system?
It varies, Tara’s case isn’t the first of its kind. There are other female trans members of the community who have been placed incorrectly in male prisons. What we have seen is there isn’t clear guidance on this. The Ministry of Justice has got some vague guidelines that they’ve put out, but it seems that the prison service picks and chooses what they do and what bits of advice they listen to and follow. I think it has highlighted again the need to review the guidance and also put in place an actual policy that the prison service can follow.
What else needs to change?
The other thing that it highlighted for the community, and that needs to be looked at on a wider scale, is the gender recognition certificates [required to be recognised as your acquired gender under the law].
The prison service and the magistrates were initially saying that the reason that Tara was placed into a men’s prison was because legally her passport still said that she’s a man. She didn’t have the gender recognition certificate.
However, one of the things that we’ve been highlighting through this campaign is that this process needs to be reviewed. They [the certificates] can take a very long time to get and they cost a lot of money, £140 for the application. You also need to collect lots of back-up data which includes references and interviews with two different doctors, and a case study of evidence of how you’ve been living your life for the last couple of years.
None of us plan to ever get into a position where we end up in prison, so a lot of the trans community don’t have these certificates, because it is such a lengthy and expensive process. There’s work that needs to be done on making that process easier.