Archive for the ‘UK’ Category
We recognise transgender issues are distinct and need to be addressed separately. This is why we will also be publishing the first ever cross Government transgender equality action plan later in the year. Highlighting where distinct action is needed in addition to the measures outlined in the LGB&T action plan.
But we won’t be successful without your involvement. To make sure we really deliver for the trans community, we need to know how you think we should be progressing the agenda. So I am delighted to introduce the first trans E-Bulletin, which gives you an opportunity to do just this. It includes an ONLINE SURVEY asking you to tell us the areas you would like us to concentrate on, how you would like us to communicate with you and to contribute your views and ideas. We will use the findings of this first survey to shape the Government transgender equality action plan and formulate initial Government commitments. The next E-Bulletins and surveys will focus on specific themes, depending on the results of this survey and feedback from meetings with you. We plan to issue E-Bulletins and surveys every other month.
The survey targets UK people only and closes on 6 May 2011. Any queries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ms Featherstone adds that “personal details will be kept strictly confidential and not shared with anyone outside the Government Equalities Office“.
Helen has already written about this, but there’s an angle I wanted to add – something that potentially affects us all as trans people; the ease with which our lives and identities can be stripped from us and used as a public plaything.
The World now knows that both the victim and the suspect in the death of Sonia Burgess are transgender. In one of the most hateful pieces of alleged “journalism” I have ever seen on trans issues (warning, reading this reduced me to sobs and I had to resort to Valium. You have been warned), the Daily Mail casually strip both women of their identity, their dignity and their humanity.
Notice too how the legal system is doing the same. The police outed the victim, the judge apparently outed the suspect (I knew she was trans and who she was a few days ago – I was keeping quiet about it). Notice how the suspect was remanded in a male prison, notice how she appeared in court with significant male-pattern facial hair. Notice how the judge asked if Nina had “completed” her “sex change”, which is, of course, code for “does she have a penis?”. Notice how it’s reported that Nina “wished to be referred to as Nina” (probably because that is her name). Wonder whether, in allowing this information to come out in this way, the state is allowing Nina to receive a trial which is fair and unprejudiced?
And, to reiterate, notice how this woman is currently in a male prison. Regardless of her guilt or innocence, she is now being punished beyond anything I dare to imagine. I can only hope that they have her in solitary confinement, because if she is exposed to the general male prison population …
This then is what transgender people face every day of our lives – the possibility that on a whim of a policeman, or a judge, or a journalist, our identities, dignity and humanity can be stripped from us, and it can be done with impunity. Sure, in theory there is the Gender Recognition Act, the thing that supposedly protects us, only according to the explanatory notes for the 2010 Equality Act, it doesn’t – not really. It should be noted that no case has ever been brought under the anti-outing provision of the GRA – Zoe checked using the Freedom of Information Act.
The Equality Act itself makes our precarious situation in society very clear, in perhaps its most chilling part for trans people. With respect to 8 of the 9 “protected characteristics”, employers can create a position which requires someone to have that particular characteristic. You can, for example, require that applicants are female, or from a particular ethnic minority, or is a wheelchair user, or is gay.
For the last remaining “protected characteristic”, gender reassignment you can’t do this – it’s not just that there is no provision in the Act to allow a job to require a transgender applicant. No, the sense of the Act is actually reversed at this point – you can only allow a job to require that the applicant is not transgender.
And if the explanatory notes are to be believed, the mighty GRA is, in this situation, irrelevant. That bit of paper that says I’m female, my birth certificate that says the same thing; the state apparently doesn’t regard them as true, not really.
Imagine living your life faced with the constant possibility that who you are can be taken away from you, if you are a woman, that you can be dumped in a men’s prison, and also that the thing that causes you the most pain in your life can and will be dragged through the press for the public’s entertainment. That is what it is to be transgender in the UK in 2010.
There but for the grace of god go I, and all that.
It’s still unclear to me from the various press reports whether or not the victim of Tuesday’s tragedy at Kings Cross station was a transgender woman. The only new piece of information that I’ve seen since the story broke is that the woman who was with the victim has now been charged with murder. Via The Telegraph:
A woman, Nina Kanagasingham, has been charged with murder, after a man wearing women’s clothes was pushed in front of a Tube train at King’s Cross station.
The 34 year-old, of Cricklewood, north London, will appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday [...]
Those “newspapers” continuing to push the line that the victim was “a man wearing women’s clothes” include the Press Association, BBC News, The Independent, The Guardian and The Sun, which oh-so-helpfully adds that the victim “was wearing a dress and make-up“.
Those using the term “transvestite” include The Telegraph, The Mail and The Mirror, which adds that it’s unclear whether the victim was “a transvestite or simply wearing drag as a party costume“. I must admit that I don’t entirely understand what relevance that fascinating titbit of information has, but then, my mind clearly doesn’t function in the same way as that of a tabloid “journalist”.
Either way, the victim is being positioned as male, regardless of what hir own self-identification may eventually be revealed to have been. It’s obvious to me that the opportunity for the media to make its various hysteria-infused assumptions – based, it seems, entirely on the personal prejudices of the “journalists” – has arisen from the disparity between eye witness reports of “two women” and the words of Detective Superintendent Ashley Croft, BTP’s senior investigating officer, who was adamant that “The deceased has been identified as a male, believed to be middle-aged“. In keeping with the general obfuscation of the victim’s identity, it’s unclear who carried out the identification and what criteria they used to make their value judgement.
I’ve seen this misgendering of TS/TG women so many times now that it’s hard to keep track; the most recent parallel – (I’m not saying that one case is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other, just pointing out what I see as a similarity in one aspect) – being the ongoing case investigating the murder of Victoria Carmen White in the US where, even though the County Prosecutor’s office knew that Ms White was female – physically, legally, socially, everything – it still insisted on misgendering her. That the prejudiced fools who call themselves “journalists” then decided to build a bigoted and hysterical story around the tragedy of her death was almost an inevitable outcome – and I begin to wonder if a repeat performance is being engineered here by the UK press.
As I said before:
The hypocrisy is breathtaking: our identities are not recognised until/unless our documentation and our bodies match – and even when they do, the authorities are apparently still at liberty to ignore the physical evidence on which they insisted before they would change our documents. And then, they will proceed to ignore the documentation itself. We are damned if we do and we are damned if we don’t. We don’t even have the choice not to play their sick and twisted mind games.
Sending my condolences to the loved ones of the still-anonymous victim of Tuesday’s tragedy.
Ms Burgess, 63, was described as gender variant by her family, who said she was known to friends, family and work colleagues as both Sonia and David.
She was a solicitor who lived on Shaftesbury Avenue in central London and had two daughters and a son, all adults.
In a statement, her family said: “Sonia (David) was a loving and wonderful person and will be missed deeply. We would appreciate being given space to come to terms with our loss.”
Additionally, via the Press Association I understand that Nina Kanagasingham appeared at the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning accused of murder.
There was no application for bail and Ms Kanagasingham, of Chichele Road, Cricklewood, was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on Monday.
The toilet debate seems to have flared up on my twitter feed today, with much discussion taking place at Jack of Kent’s blog.
I always find this very frustrating, but I think an important point is highlighted by the way this debate is typically framed.
The “trans people in public toilets” debate is almost always framed in terms of protecting cis women from trans women
Quite often this framing is not explicit, but is implicit in the language used to frame the issue, and in terms of what is and is not said.
Let’s take Jack of Kent’s framing of this issue as an example – he asks:
Or should the law relating to, say, breaches of the peace be used to prevent transgendered people, especially male to female (MTF), intruding into the “space” reserved for a particular gender?
The emphasis is mine. Now I’m not having a go at Jack of Kent here – his framing reflects wider societal attitudes, but I do think these attitudes, as displayed in the way this question is so oft approached by cis people, are inherently transphobic, and misogynist.
Firstly, there’s the more obvious objection – the idea that trans women in a space reserved for women can ever be considered to be intruding. Since trans women are women, it’s not possible for us to intrude into women’s space, which by definition we have as much right to enter as any other woman. We can be excluded by an act of transphobia, but even asking the question of whether we should be allowed contains an assumption that trans women are not women. This is cissexist (cissexism is the statement or belief that trans people’s identified genders are less authentic or less valid than the genders of cis people)
Secondly, notice the “especially” bit in there. The issue of trans men in men’s toilets always seems to be considered less important. On the face of it this is perverse. Certainly here in the UK, typically women would not see each other in any state of undress when using a public toilet, because the actual act is done in a cubicle. In the gents, one would often expect to find urinals. Should one decide to deviate from the 1,3,5 rule, and also from the expectation that one should look straight ahead and not even glance sideways while using a urinal, one is afforded the opportunity to see someone else’s penis. That this debate is so often framed in genital essentialist terms, that it concentrates on trans women at all is really odd, given the much greater opportunity for genital exposure in a men’s loo.
This is one reason why I think this argument is misogynist. It is deemed less important that a trans man (who, it is presumed, does not have a penis – the general public tends to be quite ignorant on these matters) might see a cis man’s penis than it is that a pair of adjacent locked cubicles might contain a cis woman, with vagina, and a trans woman, with penis (those trans women who are post vaginoplasty seem to be all too often conveniently ignored by this). This is presumably because men are tough, pragmatic sorts who won’t be bothered by having someone who doesn’t have a penis seeing theirs, but women are fragile, delicate, pathetic things and must be protected from the possibility of someone pissing through a penis the other side of a wall.
Thirdly, and I think this is the most insidiously transphobic part of the whole deal, is the unstated assumption (actually, it’s not usually unstated, but in this case Jack of Kent seems to attract a better class of commenter); the “man who thinks he’s a woman” might commit sexual assault/indecent exposure in there.
Corollaray – since there’s no reason to expect trans women would be any more prone to doing this in a public toilet than anywhere else, we can add, where there won’t be a proper man to protect the women folk! Yup, we’re back to misogyny again too.
This is predicated on the idea that trans women are likely to be sex offenders. This is stigma that gay men are only just starting to emerge from – the idea that somehow being gay makes them likely to be sex offenders (if you doubt this is still an issue, take a look at how the gay adoption debate is often framed, especially in the US). With trans women, this offensive sterotype is still firmly entrenched.
The irony is enough to make one weep – I’m not aware of sexual assault ever being committed in a women’s toilet by a trans woman where a cis woman is the victim. Long time readers will, however, be familiar with the case of a trans woman who was sexually assaulted at Pride London 2008, after being made to use the men’s toilets by transphobic stewards. I’ll also state for the record that I have also been sexually assaulted in a public toilet – in this case it was a woman’s toilet and a cis woman apparently felt that grabbing my tits while I was washing my hands was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but the reality for many trans women in toilets is that we are far, far more likely to be the victim of sexual assault than the perpetrator. We are vulnerable in toilets, especially if we are read as trans – expulsion, humiliation and violence are the least of the expected consequences, but nobody ever seems to talk about how we can be protected from cis people. It’s always the other way round.
Dismayingly, the way trans people are treated by the so-called Equality Act, 2010, seems to be almost completely influenced by this idea that “normal” people must be protected from trans women (I guess those responsible for drafting this repulsive piece of legislation never attended a transgender day of remembrance), and gives barely lip service to the idea that trans people, trans women especially, are vulnerable people who are often the victims of violence and discrimination and need the protection of the law.
No, instead everything is framed in terms of protecting everyone else from the distasteful idea that they might encounter us, or that “proper” women might somehow be contaminated by proximity to us. This attitude needs to change, but we seem as far away from that as ever. In the meantime we will continue to be beaten, assaulted, ridiculed and murdered by the same society that regards us as a dangerous predators.
It means that there is one “protected” class where protection is explicitly removed, not granted. It means that a gender recognition certificate is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Rather than being a recognition that they are of the target gender, it’s a nullity, as the law states that they’re not, not really.
[...] any legally sex-segregated area can now legally exclude anyone who’s trans from either being employed there, or as customers.
Regardless of whether they have a GRC or not.
All the proprietors have to prove is that it’s genuinely possible some of their clientele might be lost should they allow a “transsexual person” to be present on the premises.
Note also that the converse does not apply: it is illegal sex-discrimination to require counsellors for trans people to be trans themselves.
[The Equality Act 2010] effectively repeals large sections of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 – to wit, in all areas of provision of legally sex-segregated services. Things like toilets for example.
Note that it does not apply to transgendered people who are not transsexual persons. Only those who have started or completed the process of transition. Crossdressers good, transsexuals bad.
So apparently, even though I have a full GRC, and all my other documentation shows my gender correctly, I will no longer legally be a woman when this Act comes into force in October; I’ll be a “transsexual person” and that means I can forget it if I think I can count on UK law for any protection of my civil and human rights.
I’m already seeing a groundswell of outrage and anger amongst some of my trans sisters online; I think it’s entirely understandable, even justifiable. Because, when you get right down to it, cis society is transphobic, by default and to its core; there is precious little respite for trans people and, like most humans, repeatedly backing us into a corner isn’t going to put us in the best of humours.
But anti-trans prejudice is so deeply embedded in cis society that all the legislation in the world is never going to change anything for the better, least of all the attitudes of cis people. There’s no logic, no acceptance and certainly no justice. There never really was – all this legislation will do is formalise a state of affairs which already exists.
Cis people may, rightly, feel aggrieved about the low proportion of reported rapes that end in a successful prosecution – but has anyone ever seen statistics for reported rapes of trans people? Has anyone ever heard of even one trans person who’s seen a successful prosecution? And there may well be too few rape crisis centres available to cis women – but how many of them will even let a trans woman through the door, let alone offer help and support?
The fact is that the law – like many other aspects of society which the majority of cis people take for granted – is simply not accessible to us. Trans people are routinely dehumanised and demonised, excluded and harassed, attacked and even murdered with impunity by cis people from across the entire class spectrum – and, be honest, would you trust a system in which nearly everyone you meet treats you as less than human?
As the old joke goes: it doesn’t matter which way you vote, the government still gets in. And as far as I’m concerned, with this legislation, the government looks set to do a far better job of morally mandating people like me out of existence than Janice Raymond could ever dream of.
A man has been found guilty of murdering a woman he visited for sex and setting fire to her Brighton flat.
Neil McMillan, 42, applied “unremitting pressure” to Andrea Waddell’s neck at her flat in Upper Lewes Road on 15 October last year.
Addressing McMillan, of Bennett Road, Brighton, after the verdict, Judge Michael Lawson QC said : “What you did that night brought to an end a life which in many views was one of relentless difficulty faced with extreme courage.”
“The person you killed was a person who always sought to overcome difficulties.”
“On the other hand, faced with a difficulty in that flat, whatever that was, you chose to take it out on her.
“You strangled her, with relentless pressure for over 20 seconds. There was the distinction between you and her.”
And he added: “Once you lost control, for whatever reason and which cannot be regarded as justified, you formed the intention to destroy her, to kill her.”
“It wasn’t an accident and you continued to hold her round her neck, crushing the neck structures until she was dead.”
“Having done that you then dragged her back into the bedroom and set fire to her and set fire to the bed on which together you had laid.”
“The reason was that you were frightened that there would be some trace of your presence in that flat to prove that in fact you were the last person to have seen her.”
I last posted here about Christie Elan-Cane’s continuing fight for legal and social recognition outside the societal gender system in the UK in May 2009 and am interested to see the latest update on per LJ.
Per has obtained the support of Baroness Sarah Ludford (Liberal Democrat MEP for London) and she has recently tabled a written question to the European Commission asking whether the Commission considers that EU legislation sufficiently protects citizens who identify as non-gendered or differently to that registered at birth, and whether there are any plans to revise EU Directives in a more gender neutral way.
The question was tabled after Christie approached Baroness Ludford to request her support and assistance in taking the issue forward to Europe (armed with the ‘Sex Not Specified’ initiative that has taken place in Australia), as per felt that the pace of progress in the UK has been intolerably slow to date and seems unlikely to change any time soon.
Having started the process, per will nevertheless continue per fight here in the UK in the hope that the proposed changes to existing legislation might eventually bear fruit, although this might be overtaken if per campaigning directly at the European Parliament succeeds.
I have always tried to stress the point that legal recognition and equality of treatment for the most marginalized human beings who lead a socially invisible existence outside the gendered societal structure is a HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE whereas the perception within the United Kingdom tends towards designating anything ‘trans related’ into a ‘health issue’. The pathologisation (and resultant stigmatisation) of what is fundamentally an innate inability to conform within a gendered societal structure is something I totally oppose.
Christie adds that it could take up to six weeks before per receives a response from the Commission, and per next step will be decided upon after that.
The Equality and Human Rights Commmission (EHRC) has published its Research Report 27: Trans Research Review, a review of evidence on the inequalities and high levels of discrimination faced by trans people in Britain. This includes such things as: attitudes towards trans people; housing; education; crime; economic status and employment; health and social care; media, leisure and sport; family life and relationships; community and citizenship.
From the introduction to the Review (link here):
Existing evidence suggests that trans people experience, and are badly affected by, transphobia, in a wide range of forms. This includes bullying and discriminatory treatment in schools, harassment and physical/sexual assault and rejection from families, work colleagues and friends. For example, Morton (2008), found that 62 per cent of respondents had experienced transphobic harassment from strangers in public places who perceived them to be trans. Whittle et al (2007) also found that a majority of respondents had faced harassment in public spaces. They noted that ‘73 per cent of respondents experienced comments, threatening behaviour, physical abuse, verbal abuse or sexual abuse while in public spaces.’ Tackling transphobia must be a priority.
Data on trans population
No major Government or administrative surveys have collected data by including a question where trans people can choose to identify themselves. Publicly collected data on trans people is virtually non-existent, though there is some evidence on attitudes towards trans people, for example in the 2006 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 50 per cent of people said they would be unhappy if a close relative formed a relationship with a transsexual person (Bromley et al, 2007) and in the Commission’s Who Do You See? attitudinal survey in Wales, the figure was 47 per cent (EHRC, 2008).
At present, there is no official estimate of the trans population. The England/Wales Census and Scottish Census have not asked if people identify as trans and do not plan to include such a question in 2010. GIRES, in their Home Office funded study estimate the number of trans people in the UK to be between 300,000 – 500,000, defined as ‘..a large reservoir of transgender people who experience some degree of gender variance’ (Reed et al 2009) (2)
The absence of public data raises significant concerns for populating the Equalities Measurement Framework, in order to map the changing face of inequality for trans people.
The download page for the report can be found by clicking here; despite my reservations about the EHRC (particularly with regard to their seemingly uncritical support for the distinctly trans unfriendly Equalities Bill) this is nevertheless a significant document which anyone with an interest in the inequalities faced by trans people would do well to study.
Cross-posted at Bird of Paradox
***NOTE: Survey is open to UK residents only***
Via Survey Monkey
The Equality Network’s Scottish Transgender Alliance is working to research quality of life and health issues for transgender people. The research findings will be used to inform Government and NHS policy work on transgender equality and inclusion.
THIS SURVEY IS FOR PEOPLE LIVING ANYWHERE IN THE UK WHO ARE AT LEAST 16 YEARS OLD.
The World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The World Health Organisation recognises the importance of improving quality of life for everyone and is at the forefront of research in this area.
Therefore, to robustly assess quality of life we are using the World Health Organisation’s Quality of Life (WHOQOL) internationally standardised research survey instrument.
IT TAKES LESS THAN 10 MINUTES TO COMPLETE THIS SURVEY.
By completing the survey you are agreeing to your ANONYMISED responses being shared by the Scottish Transgender Alliance with these other parties:
- The Scottish Government Social Justice (Equalities) Research Team;
- The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) Gender Variance Prevalence Research Team;
- The World Health Organisation Field Centre for the Study of Quality of Life, University of Bath.
Confidentiality will be protected in the publication of any results, and your responses will be anonymised.
Any questions about this survey should be directed to:
Scottish Transgender Alliance Project Coordinator
30 Bernard Street
Click here to complete the survey
Cross-posted at Bird of Paradox