Transgender Jan. 6 Rioter Is Now in a Women's Prison. Did Far-Right Republicans Help?

Matt Gaetz, Jessica Watkins, and Marjorie Taylor Greene
Matt Gaetz, Jessica Watkins, and Marjorie Taylor Greene
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Jessica Watkins, a transgender woman convicted for her role in the U.S. Capitol insurrection, has been transferred to a women's prison after being held temporarily in a men's jail.

Watkins had appealed to anti-LGBTQ+ U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Jim Jordan in hopes of being sent to a women’s prison. It remains unknown if they had anything to do with the action by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Advocate has sought comment from all three, but not one of them has responded.

Watkins posted last month on X, formerly Twitter, that she was being held in a men’s jail and that the Federal Bureau of Prisons planned to send her to a men’s prison, She asked her followers In her message on X, she asked followers to contact the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, Judge Amit Mehta, and Greene, Gaetz, and Jordan to help assure she goes to a women’s prison.

She said that sending her to a men’s prison is against the orders of Mehta, the federal judge in her case. She said Jordan, from Ohio, is her representative in the U.S. House, but it’s unclear why she chose Greene and Gaetz, although their promotion of conspiracy theories about January 6 may be a factor, and Greene has voiced concerns about prison conditions for participants in the insurrection. All three are far-right Republicans.

She followed up with a post in September thanking the Bureau of Prisons and saying she was at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. The prison has sections for both men and women, but Watkins's post on X shows her designation as female.

Watkins was convicted last year of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, interfering with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging duties. In May, she was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

She had founded a militia group in Ohio and coordinated actions with the extreme-right Oath Keepers in attacking the Capitol on January 6, 2021, to stop the counting of electoral votes and keep Joe Biden from becoming president instead of Donald Trump.Greene, from Georgia, is well-known for her anti-trans and generally anti-LGBTQ stances as well as her embrace of many bizarre conspiracy theories. In 2021, she trolled then-U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, a Democrat who has a trans daughter and who had an office across the hall from Greene’s. Greene put up a sign reading, “There are TWO genders: Male & Female. Trust the Science!”

Greene has said there is a plot to turn everyone in the nation gay or trans, and that social media has caused children to identify as trans. She is behind legislation to criminalize gender-affirming care for trans minors nationwide. She has contended that the Equality Act, an LGBTQ+ rights bill pending in Congress, will destroy religious freedom and women’s sports. She has said schools are teaching racism (by teaching about racial injustice) and sexual content, and that amounts to child abuse. She has called the Democrats the party of pedophiles. The list goes on and on.

Gaetz, from Florida, is generally anti-LGBTQ+, but he was one of only five U.S. House Republicans to vote against the so-called Parents Bill of Rights Act, which would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents and put other anti-LGBTQ+ policies in place. Greene and Jordan both voted for it. The bill passed the Republican-controlled House this year, but it is expected to go nowhere in the Senate, which has a Democratic majority.

Gaetz and Jordan have both opposed the Equality Act. Gaetz said in 2019 that the Equality Act would allow anyone to just declare they’re trans and take advantage of that. “What happens when sex is defined as gender identity, and gender identity is terribly vague?” he said. “Will all sex-based distinctions be erased? ... Would grants for female-led businesses or programs for women in STEM fields suddenly be open to all persons, whether they believe or not that they identify as a woman?”

Trump, who was then president, could even have claimed to be the first woman president, Gaetz said. The congressman claimed to support equal rights for trans people but said he feared “bad actors” would exploit the Equality Act.

Also, Gaetz recently introduced a bill to support public prayer in schools and told the Daily Caller, “Our country’s education policy forbids students and faculty from praying while endlessly promoting degenerate LGBT and anti-white propaganda.” Actually, no one is forbidden from praying privately in public schools, and school officials cannot lead a prayer or require students to participate.

On the first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Gaetz and Greene held a press conference promoting the conspiracy theory that the attack was urged on by undercover federal government agents, presumably to make Trump supporters look bad.

Jordan likewise has a long anti-trans and generally anti-LGBTQ+ record. In 2016, he objected to the Obama administration’s guidelines urging schools to allow trans students access to the restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. “Unfortunately this type of blanket federal policy may tie the hands of those very parents, teachers, school administrators and local school boards who want to protect kids against dangerous situations that could arise from mixed-gender restrooms and locker rooms in schools,” he said in a statement at the time.

During his sentencing of Watkins, Judge Mehta was sympathetic about her struggle in coming to terms with her gender identity but not about her actions on January 6. “I think you would not have a human … who heard your testimony and would not have been moved,” he said, according to published reports.

“Your story itself shows a great deal of courage and resilience,” he continued. “You have overcome a lot, and you are to be held out as someone who can actually be a role model for other people in that journey. And I say that at a time when people who are trans in our country are so often vilified and used for political purposes.”

But he added, “It makes it all the more hard for me to understand the lack of empathy for those who suffered that day.”