Tag Archives: transgender

Five days left to support trans and non binary people in England and Wales

One of my personal highlights of Lib Dem Conference in Brighton was the LDV fringe meeting on introducing some light and kindness into the currently toxic media atmosphere surrounding transgender and non binary people.

In Scotland the atmosphere is much more inclusive. Scotland’s feminist organisations are open to self identified women who are feminists. There has been an enduring, healthy and respectful dialogue between all equality organisations. That’s why I invited Emma Ritch, the Director of Engender  along with James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance to tell us more. Sarah Brown from LGBT+ Lib Dems was there to outline the current battleground – the ill-informed, scapegoating, fear-mongering in the media and Sal Brinton emphasised the party’s commitment to transgender rights. Sal talked about meeting a young actor who was trans early in her career and being horrified by the discrimination they faced.

Emma spoke about how a comparatively well-funded voluntary sector and a Government determined to make sure services were trans-inclusive helped. She said that there had been some difficult conversations and questions, but that what she called the “institutional kindness” of the Scottish Transgender Alliance had done so much to foster knowledge and understanding. She said that “radical kindness” was a key element in bringing people together.

James talked about the proposed reforms to the GRA and how they would make the process much easier for transgender people to amend their birth certificates. He pointed out that a statutory declaration was a very serious legal document and the penalty for making a false one is two years in prison.

It was a well attended meeting with some excellent canapés (I will dream about the mini Tiramisu things for a long time) and some warm and thoughtful discussion. Paul Walter wrote his account of it here.

One person who was there emailed me with some reflections:

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Why the National Autistic Society were right to reverse their decision on award winning charity Mermaids

This week, in a move described as “worrying” by LGBT+ Lib Dems, the National Autistic Society removed all links to the trans youth charity Mermaids from their Gender page. Yesterday they reversed their decision and apologised. As a trans person with autism myself, I know it’s crucial that signposting to proper support is essential.

I was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old. It’s a diagnosis that has been constantly rechecked throughout my life.

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WATCH: “I feel as though the media portrays us like we’re not human beings”

In many newspapers, on many radio and tv programmes at the moment, transgender people are attacked and marginalised. So called “gender critical feminists” take to the biggest media outlets in the land to complain that “debate” is being shut down and their “legitimate concerns” are not being listened to.

The thing is, these actions are not consequence free. A report earlier this year by Stonewall found that 41% of transgender people had experienced a hate crime in the last year. That is not far off being half.

I often hear parents of transgender children say that there are two things that scare them most when their children come out to them. The first is the hate crime figures. The second is the suicide rate. Another Stonewall report found that over a quarter of young trans people have attempted suicide and almost nine out of ten had contemplated it. In a climate where over 4 in 5 young trans people experience verbal assault and 3 in 10 are actually physically assaulted, you might say that this is hardly surprising.

Equally not rocket science is the evidence that where trans people are supprted and called by their chosen name, they do a lot better.

So irresponsible media coverage actively harms trans people by fuelling hostility towards them. Stop Funding Hate, an organisation which aims to encourage suppliers not to advertise in newspapers which exacerbate hatred towards particular groups of people has done something to try to counteract this hostile environment for trans people.

Working with Mermaids, an award winning charity which supports transgender young people and their families, Stop Funding Hate has produced this video which illustrates the harm that media coverage can do.

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Checking my underwear

Dateline: Brighton, September 2018

Wandering into Conference a leaflet is thrust into my hands. It touches on current Government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act.

One paragraph of the leaflet sets the tone “sex self-ID that would allow any man to get his birth certificate reissues in the opposite sex. Just like that. On demand. With no change to his body and no medical supervision.”

The rest of the leaflet is a list of scenarios each more prurient than the last. None of these scenarios are evidenced as ever having happened, no evidence that a trans woman has ever abused the trust of other women in these sensationalist and inflammatory ways. Just a list of “what if”.

Leaving aside the paucity of the author’s hypothesis there is another consideration, if not sex self-ID then what?

The author suggests “changes to his body” and “medical supervision”.

While this article is not a treatise on the NHS most people recognise that for anything beyond measles that means triage, waiting times, a postcode lottery, financial limits and gatekeepers.

In the context of the current gender recognition process (leading to a Gender Recognition Certificate and a new Birth Certificate) that means two medical practitioners from suitable disciplines with experience in treating gender dysphoria.

Let me tell you about my gatekeepers.

My third psychiatrist was a sincere doctor from Iran. They cared about their patients, understood the genuine and immediate health care implications of gender dysphoria – depression, stress, frustration, anger, self-harm, self-loathing and suicide. They wanted to help not just by treating the symptoms, but the root cause as well. Everything a good doctor should be.

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Liberal Democrat Voice fringe meeting: Trans rights are human rights

The panel at our fringe: from left to right: Back row: Caron Lindsay, Liberal Democrat Voice editor (Chair), Sarah Brown, LGBT+ Lib Dems, James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance, Emma Ritch, Engender and, front row, Sal Brinton, Liberal Democrat President.

Most of you may notice the odd advert on Liberal Democrat Voice. These help LDV to contribute to the Conference Access Fund, making it easier for those of modest means to attend Lib Dem conferences. With the advert funds, we also sponsor or host fringe meetings at conference.

At Brighton on Saturday, we hosted a fringe meeting in the Hilton hotel entitled: “Transgender and intersex rights – spotlight on the media”. This fringe meeting reflected something we feel very strongly about at LDV Towers: that when people come to our fringe meetings they should be well fed and have good drinks! There were some very good nibbles and drinks at the back of the room.

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Lib Dem, Green and Labour LGBT organisations condemn transphobic protest at Pride

This morning I said I was excited about Pride in London today. Unfortunately, it has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after a small number of transphobic protesters were allowed to march at the front and hand out transphobic literature to the people lining the streets. From the Huffington Post:

Organisers of the most “diverse” Pride event in London have hit back at accusations it allowed a group of anti-transgender activists to lead the parade through the capital on Saturday.

The small group, which reportedly only consisted of about 10 people, are believed to have carried signs with slogans such as “trans activists erase lesbians” and distributed leaflets stating “a male can never be lesbian”.

And here’s some more reports from Twitter:

The idea that someone’s rights must be the expense of someone else’s comes straight from the divisive rhetoric of the likes of Nigel Farage. And like Nigel Farage, a relatively small group of trans-exclusionary radical feminists are getting a disproportionate amount of air time, much of it complaining that they are being cut out of the “debate.” There’s a lot of their rhetoric which puts me in mind of the horrid homophobia I came across in the 80s.

A recent Stonewall report into trans people’s lives found that 40% had suffered hate crime in the last year and a third had suffered discrimination in their daily lives. These figures should worry liberals and we should be doing our best to stand up against it.

There is no conflict between women’s rights and transgender rights for the very obvious reason that women can be any combination of cis, trans, lesbian, heterosexual, of all races and religions (or none of the latter). Most women just work together for the good of everyone but there are a few who want to spread hate and there should be no place for that in any organisation which advocates equality.

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats condemned the protest and Pride in London’s reaction to it:

And there was a bit of cross-party consensus:

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How transgender people are treated in prison

One of the questions that has been voiced on Twitter recently in the debate about trans women has been the case of the Soham murderer, who in 2002 as Ian Huntley murdered two ten year old school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and was jailed for 40 years. A number of tabloid newspapers have reported that Huntley is transitioning, and wishes to be called Lian. Incidentally, the prison service has said several times that Huntley is not planning transition.

There are those who say that giving any trans prisoner with a violent past the rights to move to a woman’s prison and mix with women puts women prisoners at risk. They have even tried to say that the Liberal Democrats in supporting trans rights, do not care about women’s rights in prison.

I see that Sal Brinton has written about the Liberal Democrat policies on trans matters, and I wanted to write about the formal process that the National Offender Management Service insists on for the care and management of transgender offenders, designed to both recognise the rights of trans people in prison, but also ensuring the safety of other prisoners and staff. Their policy can be found here,

Pages 12-13 sets out the protocol relating to sentenced prisoners. It says that there will be an initial Local Transgender Case Board after a prisoner declares, and can provide evidence, that they are living in the gender the offender identifies with, and will, as appropriate, make arrangements for transfers to other parts of the prison estate.

With prisoners who might also be deemed a risk to other prisoners, there then has to be a Complex Case Board called for Transgender Offenders, which will look at the complexity and specifically assess the risk of harm prior to making decisions about prison location. The views of the offender must be presented to the Board, but there are a number of healthcare and psychology leads there to ensure that any move to a women’s prison would be safe.

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Lib Dems are very clear about the rights of transgender people

Embed from Getty Images

Once again transgender issues are making media headlines – sadly for all the wrong reasons. Arguments are being made that are based on misunderstanding and fear, rather than facts and tolerance.

As a party the Liberal Democrats are very clear about the rights of transgender people. We had a debate, and passed party policy on this, at conference in September 2015. The motion starts:

“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.”

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Why we could all do with reading LGBT Youth Scotland’s guidance on supporting transgender young people

This week, the excellent LGBT Scotland launched a guide offering advice to schools on supporting transgender young people. 

It’s badly needed. Some young transgender people find that their schools support them very well. For others, the story is very different. They find that their school does the minimum that they can legally get away with and no more.

They fail to recognise and protect young people from transphobic bullying. They make a massive issue about things like toilets and changing rooms. I know one transgender young person who was made to use the accessible toilet – not something that they were necessarily unhappy with if it hadn’t been presented in such a hostile way. The problem was that the accessible toilet was kept locked, so they had to ask for the key every time. That was incredibly stigmatising and distressing for that young person.  It’s hardly surprising that their attendance at school was extremely low.

The guidance covers practical, social and cultural issues – from residential trips and name changes to making the whole school an inclusive environment. So why is that important for us? 

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Liberal Democrats react to Transgender Equality Report

Today’s publication of the Transgender Equality Report by the Commons Women and Equality Committee should lead to some big improvements to services and better rights for transgender people. It has some useful recommendations around health services – ensuring, for example, that GPs have sufficient training in how they should treat transgender people. The Committee certainly seems to have listened to many of the concerns put to them.

Their approach to the spousal veto question was more cautious than I would have liked. They basically said that it needed more consideration but didn’t recommend doing away with it, even though they accepted that a spouse could stand in the way of a transgender person getting their legal recognition. However, if the law is changed to abolish that cumbersome process, as the Committee. This is a big step forward:

In place of the present medicalised, quasi-judicial application process, an administrative process must be developed, centred on the wishes of the individual applicant, rather than on intensive analysis by doctors and lawyers.

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LibLink: Tim Farron on LGBT rights

 

As ever the Liberal Democrats are ahead of other parties when it comes to LGBT equality.

That is a quote from an article by Tim Farron in the Huffington Post titled The Tories Are Trailing Behind on Transgender Rights. 

In this post Tim argues that we still have some way to go but that public attitudes have noticably shifted in a positive direction. He refers to this poll in which 68% of respondents “say a person who was born male but has transitioned to become female should be housed in a women’s prison”.

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Farron: Ministry of Justice need to be “dragged into 21st century” over Tara Hudson

Tim Farron has intervened in the case of Tara Hudson, the transgender woman from Bath who has been sent to serve a 12 week prison sentence at an all male prison because, basically, of some paperwork. She’s never applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate, but she has lived as a woman for all of her adult life.

Tim expressed his fears for Tara’s safety to Pink News. He said:

The Liberal Democrats will raise this case in Parliament.

There is a clear need for a policy change in this area. It looks like the Ministry of Justice needs be dragged kicking into the 21st century.

As I understand it, Tara has lived all her adult life as a female. I worry potential risk of harm to her in a male prison which was deemed to have levels of violence ‘considerably higher than in similar prisons’ by the prisons inspectorate.

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Jim Hume questions Scottish Government on gender identity clinic waiting times

If you are a young transgender person still at school, struggling to come to terms with your gender identity, you need specialised help pretty quickly. You should not have to wait a minimum of 7 months to see a specialist. If you are older, you should not be told that the waiting list is a year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume has highlighted this as another area in which the Scottish Government is failing to meet its 18 week target for referrals. This one will take a lot of thinking about as there are so few specialists in the gender identity field. They will have to come up with some long term plans to recruit and train more.

Kaleidoscot reports on Jim’s call for the Scottish Health Secretary to review provision for transgender people:

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Conference Countdown 2015: Transgender and intersex health charter

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.

Gender Identity clinic waiting times

 

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. 

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What I did for IDAHOBiT

I know that some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about and others will be scratching their heads wondering. Today, 17th May, is what used to be called IDAHO Day, the International Day against homophobia. It’s now known in various ways, IDAHOT or the one I prefer IDAHOBiT, which explicitly mentions biphobia and transphobia, too.

This is the day when we celebrate those across the world who are doing their bit in their communities to make life better for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people. In the UK that is relatively easy. In many countries, though, you take your life in your hands. In much of the world, homosexuality remains illegal and is punishable by long-term imprisonment or even death. Being transgender puts you at much greater risk of violence or sexual abuse or murder.

We went into Edinburgh today to see an exhibition by South African social justice activist and artist Gabrielle Le Roux, Proudly African and Transgender, which was hosted in the city’s Arts Centre by the Equality Network and the Scottish Transgender Alliance. Gabrielle was there to take us through her work and tell us how it came into being. In 2008, there was a ground-breaking gathering of transgender activists from across Africa. She painted portraits of ten of the attendees. They also wrote messages on the portraits. Julius from Uganda said:

It’s been a difficult journey but one I don’t regret taking because I can only be who I am – a unique creation

Quite a few of the participants were not able to continue living in their home countries. It wasn’t safe for Flavia to return to Burundi and she has had to seek refuge in South Africa.

Accompanying each picture is a typed A4 sheet where the activists tell their stories – and those stories are updated, making, as Le Roux said, the exhibition dynamic. It was really fantastic to have the artist there, though, telling us little anecdotes about each person.

You can look at all the pictures online here. 

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Some personal perspectives on non binary gender identity

I’ve read a couple of really interesting and illuminating articles recently in which people who don’t identify as either male or female talk about what that means for them. In yesterday’s Daily Record, there was an interview with NUS Scotland’s transgender representative Drew O’Donnell.

And while Drew says they know many people may find their ever-changing gender difficult to understand, they say people need to learn to be more understanding.

Drew, 23, of Paisley, said: “I’ve been told there are 37 different types of gender – a lot more than simply male and female.

“Even I can’t remember them all but when people ask me about it, I try to explain to them that sex and gender are two different things.

“The singer Cher has a transgender son who said, ‘Gender is between your ears, not between your legs’ and for me that describes it well. Gender is what you feel – and sometimes I might feel two thirds male and only one third female while the next day, I might feel two thirds female and only one third male.

“Some days I feel absolutely gender neutral – neither more male nor more female and that is totally fine too. I have three genders – the more feminine me, the more masculine me and the gender neutral me – but I am still the same one person.

“When I am feeling more feminine I will wear more feminine clothes – not skirts or dresses but clothes that have a more feminine than masculine look to them.

“I will wear make-up – I like eye shadow, eye liner and nail polish. And I have even coached my voice to sound more feminine.

“On days where I feel more masculine, my clothes are much more boyish and I won’t wear make-up. On gender neutral days, I’m somewhere in the middle.”

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Liz Barker leads first ever Lords debate on Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s health

Last Wednesday, Baroness Liz Barker, who made one of the most fantastic speeches of the entire debate on same sex marriage,  led the first ever debate on health services for lesbians and bisexual and transgender women.

The ignorance and even ridicule LBT women have faced from health professionals in the accounts Liz and others shared during the debate is truly astonishing. There does not seem to be a widespread understanding of even the very basic issues they may face.

The Minister’s reply was a bit frustrating because he basically agreed with everything that was being said but didn’t offer any actual, concrete proposal to make things better.

You can read the whole debate here, but Liz’s speech in full is published below:

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Welsh Liberal Democrats to hold Assembly debate on Transgender awareness

Transgender pride flagThis week, as well as being Anti-Bullying Week, is Transgender Awareness Week. Thursday marks the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial to all those transgender people who have been injured and killed as a result of hate crime.

Tomorrow, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are holding a debate in the Welsh Assembly that aims to make life better for Wales’ 31,300 transgender citizen. The idea is to persuade the Welsh Government to actually put some walk to the talk. For those 31,300 people, there is no Gender Clinic in Wales. While violence against transgender people is a hate crime, there’s been little done to actually make people safer.

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The Independent View: Non-gender-specific passports – why the EDM matters

This week has seen the submission, by Julian Huppert, of EDM 907, LEGAL RECOGNITION FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT ASSOCIATE WITH A PARTICULAR GENDER. If it sounds familiar, that’s because a similar EDM was introduced by Simon Hughes last month but had to be withdrawn when he became a minister. The subject, of course, will be unfamiliar to most of those who come across it, and that’s why it’s so important to explain how deeply it impacts those affected.

I work for a charity called Trans Media Watch which aims to improve media understanding, and thereby social understanding, or transgender and intersex people. As it happens, I’m currently processing results from a survey about people who don’t identify as male or female (generally described as non-binary people, though personal definitions vary). The survey relates to perceptions of the media, but two things come through clearly in it that seem relevant to this situation too. The first is that this is a group of people who feel very poorly understood. The second is that they experience a great deal of distress because of that lack of understanding.

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Opinion: The Burchill controversy – a mixed blessing for the trans community

I have followed recent mainstream media events unfolding around the transgender community with a mixture of excitement, anxiety and sadness.

Excitement, because it is rare that trans issues get coverage that isn’t designed to portray us as perpetrators of some hideous evil. Even though the stories started with biased coverage in the Guardian about a doctor under investigation by the General Medical Council, it turned into something more positive when the #TransDocFail hashtag lead to LibDem Councillor Sarah Brown discussing the issue on BBC Radio. Even the continuation of bad reporting had a silver lining, when Julie Burchill’s

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