In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.
First thing on Monday morning, Conference will debate a long 122 line motion on what is billed as a health charter for transgender and intersex people, but actually is much more wide-ranging.
Trans and intersex rights is the next major front for equality campaigners. Lynne Featherstone in government set out an ambitious transgender action plan but this was kicked into the long grass when she was moved out of the Home Office in 2012.
Certainly, there is much to be done, Figures show that waiting times for a first appointment at a gender identity clinic are more than excessive.
In Scotland, young people are now being told that they have a 7 month wait before they will get an appointment at the only Gender Identity Clinic for children and teenagers in the country. This is a mighty chunk out of a school year for very vulnerable young people who may be at particular risk of self harm and suicide.
One issue that I don’t think the motion tackles is the lack of gender specialists being trained. Until more people can be attracted into the field, the problem is surely only going to get worse at a time when many more people are seeking help. In Scotland, referrals are steeply increasing, with 2 young people a week being added to the waiting list. The clinic has recently been extended from one half day a week to one full day a week but that is far from sufficient to cope with demand. An article in today’s Sunday Herald shows the extent of the problem:
The long wait can have a serious impact on trans people who are desperate for help, both mentally and physically.
Gerber admitted: “It can be distressing and there are reports of people committing suicide as a result of that.”
Steph Bell, from Edinburgh, said she was so desperate for treatment that she told her health board she was thinking of buying hormones online, as she couldn’t face waiting months for help.
The 29-year-old claims after she told the Lothian health board her plans they agreed to move her up the waiting list, but nine months later she has still not been seen.
Bell, who has a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome, said she avoids going out alone and struggles with anxiety, made worse by her wait for hormone therapy.
Here is the motion in full. The deadline for amendments is tomorrow at 1pm.
Conference notes with concern that:
The transgender and intersex communities are too often marginalised, with little or no emphasis on their needs from government or third sector organisations. Transgender and intersex individuals experience similar levels and types of discrimination within society, including but not limited to hate crime, health discrimination, and difficulty obtaining documents in the correct gender.
Legislation concerning the transgender population often does not fully advance – and sometimes actively hinders – transgender equality. Transgender and intersex people are at a higher risk of mental health issues and suicidal ideation than the general population and the rest of the LGBT+ population, especially among BME transgender and intersex people.
Conference welcomes the party’s strong record of promoting transgender and intersex equality at all levels of politics. Conference also welcomes the commitment made in the 2015 General Election Manifesto, Stronger
Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone, to allocate £8 billion per year of additional funding to the NHS.
Conference is also concerned that:
Gender identity clinics are chronically underfunded and waiting times for each step of the gender transition process are often in excess of the statutory eighteen-week limit by a factor of three or more. Funding problems and waiting lists often force transgender people to seek private medical treatment at great personal expense, from obtaining hormone replacement therapy to updating documentation and obtaining second opinions for treatment.
The lack of a gender identity clinic in Wales forces transgender patients to travel to London for their appointments at personal cost in both time and money.
The right of transgender people – and especially transgender children – to receive adequate necessary medical care is increasingly under threat from multiple fronts.
The statutory NHS scrutiny body Healthwatch has described the treatment of transgender people in the NHS as that of “second-class citizens”.
Several gender identity clinics refuse to treat intersex patients or patients who do not fully identify as either male or female.
There are no explicit protections for transgender refugees seeking asylum due to fear of persecution in their home country.
Current practices in data collection make it difficult for a transgender person to have their gender recorded accurately under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998, and that, without a gender recognition certificate, their transgender status is not guaranteed to be treated as protected or sensitive data.
There are provisions in the Equality Act 2010 which mean that jobs and services cannot be open to only transgender people, but can be open to only cisgender people; this can prevent autonomous organising for transgender rights.
Very few people are fairly compensated for transgender or intersex activism, leading activists to sacrifice great amounts of their own time and money to ensure their voices can be heard.
Depictions of transgender people, both in fiction and political discourse, invariably resort to stereotypes and innuendo at best, and are outright voyeuristic and bigoted at worst, and almost entirely are a result of cisgender people projecting what they believe to be a transgender person’s experience.
Conference believes that:
Variations in sex and gender, however they manifest, are a simple fact of human physiology and psychology, and neither the state nor society should pass judgement on people who deviate from what is considered the norm.
It is irresponsible at best and malicious at worst, to refuse marginalised people such as the transgender community the right to organise or access sheltered accommodation.
Every person has a right to receive prompt medical care that is free at the point of service.
No person, and especially no child, should be made to undergo unnecessary medical treatments without their informed consent.
We have a responsibility as liberals to represent and liberate the most marginalised people in society.
Conference calls for:
The funding that NHS England has requested to be provided to ensure compliance with each person‘s needs and with waiting time standards in all aspects of the gender healthcare service.
The NHS to guarantee in their gender dysphoria protocols, in line with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care:
The right of transgender and gender-variant children to receive puberty-blocking medications until they are eligible for hormone replacement therapy.
The right of genderqueer, non-binary, and intersex people to access gender identity and reassignment services without discrimination based on their identity.
￼An independent inquiry into widespread and systemic abuse of transgender people within the health service.
Protections on gender reassignment in equality law to be expanded to also explicitly cover gender identity and expression, and all legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation to be extended to include gender identity and intersex status where appropriate.
Provisions in the Equality Act 2010 that legalise discrimination against transgender people and prevent autonomous organising to be reversed.
A streamlined simplification of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow individuals to change their legal gender at will.
The phased removal of gender markers in documentation unless it is absolutely necessary, and the introduction of an ‘X’ gender option and ‘Mx.’ title option on the remainder.
Changes to government-issued documentation on the basis of gender reassignment to be provided free of charge.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission to develop standards of best practice in which equality and diversity monitoring forms request transgender status separate from gender and sexual orientation, with options for ‘prefer not to say’ and ‘other (please specify)’ for each question.
Transgender status of any kind to be explicitly designated as ‘sensitive personal data’ under the Data Protection Act 1998 and ‘protected information’ under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
The practice of unnecessary surgery on children for the purpose of resolving intersex variations of primary sex characteristics to be phased out, and for the Royal College of Surgeons to develop standards on that basis.
More paid roles to help increase transgender and intersex representation, especially in third sector organisations working with LGBT+ or young people.
The government to recognise and observe Bisexual Visibility Day (23 September), Intersex Awareness Day (26 October) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November).
The party to continue to make the case for transgender and intersex equality, especially through challenging transphobia in political discourse and encouraging positive depictions in the media.
Conference also supports the Welsh Liberal Democrats in campaigning to
establish a gender identity clinic in Wales.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings