Tag Archives: transphobia

Liberal Democrats adopt definition of Transphobia

The Lib Dems have always believed trans right are human rights. Over the last year it has become clear that the Party needed to explain what that means in practice. 

We know that some parts of the media have been actively trying to smear the Trans community and have promoted scare stories designed to frighten people into rolling back trans rights in general and preventing the reform of the Gender Recognition Act in particular. We want to support members who want to call out transphobic behaviour, and challenge it both in and outside the party. 

It was time for the Party to make its position clear. 

Our Party President, Mark Pack asked the Disciplinary Sub Group to work on this definition. It has taken us some months and many different drafts to produce a definition that we believe will give members an effective way of answering the question ‘What do the Lib Dems believe is transphobic behaviour?’

We have consulted with trans members of the Party, with LGBT+ and with other interested parties. Our colleagues on the DSG have put in suggestions and concerns. We thank them all for their extremely helpful input. We have also drawn on the work done by organisations such as Stonewall and TransActual UK. 

This document was then submitted to the Steering Group of the Federal Board, who adopted the definition of Transphobia unanimously. 

We hope this definition will help guide members who want to support the trans community and call out transphobic behaviour. It will also be key to supporting the Party’s disciplinary processes. It is an important step towards ensuring that in 2020 the Liberal Democrats continue to demonstrate their commitment to Liberal values, as eloquently described in the opening sentence to the preamble to the Party’s constitution.

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.” 

Definition of Transphobia 

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New words, old prejudices

A friend shared a tweet with me from pink news yesterday; it highlighted Layla Moran’s coming out story for Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility day. The comments on this tweet were a veritable smorgasbord of unkindness and prejudice. There are various themes of hate, the party, the day, Layla herself, trans people. The one that I want to focus on though is the comments that object to the word pansexual. I think these are the comments that are quite likely to seem harmless or even valid to a wider audience. They are not.

“Virtue signalling nonsense” “Pansexual? What community what? People go deeper every day; we need to start talking straight again. This is crazy” “So a new name for bisexual then?” “For those unsure, a Pansexual is someone who will will have sex with anyone with a pulse. In the old days, we called them Squaddies”. These are a few of such comments, I could go on, but frankly, it’s exhausting and demoralising.

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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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Should I jump into a debate with transphobic “feminists”? No.

Imagine for a moment that a group started up in your local area wanting to ban you – just you, personally –  from the local post office. You would probably find it odd, a bit unnerving, but you would probably shrug it off. The campaign grows and now they’re banning you from the local supermarket, then the pubs, then the town centre as a whole – except for one hour a week when you’re permitted to enter. You start to get hate mail and threatening messages on your phone from the campaign group. Then your local Lib Dem Executive starts talking to this campaign group, to get to the bottom of the problem. Your local party Chair says that the campaigners seem to be sincerely worried about your presence in town, and the local party are going to debate the issue.

How would this make you feel?

Something similar is happening.

The Government has begun its consultation to amend the Gender Recognition Act. The proposed changes would allow transgender people to amend the details on their birth certificates more easily. This would probably be done by a process involving a statutory declaration like the ones that exist already in countries like Ireland, Norway and Malta. At the moment, if you want to change your gender on your birth certificate you enter a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare where a panel that you don’t even meet decides whether to allow your application, with no right of appeal. 

This consultation has kicked off a wave of controversy that is deeply unpleasant.

Of course there are the normal bigots and hate-filled rants filling the internet. That’s sad, but hardly out of the ordinary. What’s new this time is the much more seductive approach of the “feminists”. (I’m putting that word in quote marks because I do not buy into the idea that these people are feminists at all.)

These faux-feminist campaign groups say they are concerned about the unintended consequences of changing the Act. They are worried that non-transgender men will somehow abuse the new legislation to argue their way into women-only spaces. They say that they are concerned about how the needs of cis women and trans women intersect. (Cis meaning that your gender identity matches the gender you were assigned at birth.) And some of these groups add on other concerns about gender roles and protecting children from misguided gender confusion or hormone therapy.

A fundamental belief of Liberal Democrat philosophy is the right to free speech and the right to question things. But our belief here needs to go hand in hand with some common sense, sensitivity and caution. Because this is one area where engaging with people’s concerns can actually cause harm and hurt.

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International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

On this day in 1990, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of ‘mental disorders’. Since 2004 the anniversary of this has been used to promote awareness of the legal and cultural discrimination LGBT+ people still experience around the world.

In the UK that we have come a long way towards achieving equality – and yet we know that, for many, there is still a stigma around their sexuality or gender identity. Imagine being a teenager struggling to reconcile same-sex attraction with the teachings of their parents, or religion. Think about why you may not know many people who are openly bisexual, or those who have multiple partners in consensual polyamorous relationships. Consider the workings of the “spousal veto” which insists a trans person’s husband or wife must consent in order for them to gain gender recognition.

IDAHOBIT is about celebrating the diversity of human sexual and gender expression and challenging the barriers to people living their lives as openly as their cis, straight peers.

In the UK, this year’s day takes place against a backdrop of the current media storm over self-ID for trans people. This is the proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act such as to reduce the hoops that trans people have to go through to replace their birth certificates. Despite what you may have read, it’s not a licence for any man who wants to perv at naked women to walk into the female changing rooms at the local swimming pool. There are, after all, already rules against that sort of thing. It is merely the UK catching up with such notoriously socially liberal states as Ireland.

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On IDAHoBiT, what is in the Lib Dem manifesto for LGBT+ people?

Today is IDAHoBiT – the international day against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Liberal Democrats have a proud tradition of fighting for LGBT+ rights. The 2017 manifesto, published today, aims to go further than any other party is furthering LGBT+ rights. However, because we Lib Dems believe that LGBT+ rights are human rights, a lot of the LGBT+ content in the manifesto is spread out in the various policy topic areas the manifesto covers. While I like this, because it means that LGBT+ rights are integral to our policies, not tacked on as an afterthought, it can make things easy to miss. In lieu of a manifesto index, therefore, I am going to draw it all together in one place, starting at the beginning:

  1. Our young people are bright, creative and want a world that is clean and green and that the rest of us haven’t wrecked. They want jobs, good health and the chance to choose who they love and how they live– Introduction by Tim Farron, p7, emphasis mine.
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LibLink: Nick Clegg: UKIP would rather turn the clock back on LGBT rights

rainbow flag on white background  : harvey milk plaza, san francisco (2012)In an article to mark today’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Nick Clegg has told readers of Pink News what the Liberal Democrat MEPs have done for LGBT rights both within Europe and globally:

Your Liberal Democrat MEPs have already been fighting for the rights of the LGBT community in Europe. For example, they have supported a European Parliament campaign for the recognition of equal marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation in EU countries, as well as for

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Liberals need to stand up against hate speech and prejudice. If we don’t, we condone it.

Over the last couple of weeks, several events have proved, as if we needed it to be proved, that hate speech and prejudice is alive and well in 21st century Britain.

Last week, Pink News reported  a disturbing, angry and hate-filled transphobic rant by Julie Burchill which appeared as a comment on an article by Paris Lees. Paris had written of her delight in being catcalled and wolf-whistled while on holiday in Ibiza and asked if that made her a bad feminist. Burchill’s reply seemed to be trying to make out that she was a bad human being.

I don’t …

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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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