Update: After this post was written, Press For Change began to campaign openly for a fully trans-inclusive Equality Bill. Fair play to them. I originally wrote the title of this post in anger, but now feel that PFC have demonstrated that – unlike groups such as Stonewall and the HRC – they are prepared to listen to others and revise their position.
Contrasting somewhat with the approach of the Scottish Transgender Alliance and Gender Spectrum (see previous post) is that taken by Press For Change, the UK’s most high-profile trans rights group. As an “insider” group, they’re in the privileged position of being able to prepare a briefing for the Equality Bill Select Committee.
That doesn’t guarantee that the briefing’s proposals will be taken forward by the government or even individual politicans who wish to take on the cause, but it’s one of the most influential things any part of the trans community can contribute at the moment. Unfortunately, there are a couple of serious issues with this document.
1) Press For Change speaks on the behalf of “ALL trans people”, but has not consulted widely on this issue. The text of the briefing implies that PFC has attempted to consult with “several organisations who work the transgender community” (sic) rather than the community on the whole. This is understandable given the rapid turnaround that has to be undertaken by individuals who are essentially volunteers in order to prepare this kind of document at very short notice. However, it was perfectly possible for the Scottish Transgender Alliance and Gender Spectrum to create a basic survey at short notice, which is being passed around by word of mouth. By their own admission, PFC have access to 1800 people through their mailing list: why didn’t they even ask for opinions on this vital issue? Given the circumstances, I may have considered this forgiveable, if it wasn’t for this:
2) Press For Change seem intent on pushing for the rights of transsexed people at the expense of all other trans people. This accusation is increasingly levelled at PFC by members of the trans community, and this document appears to confirm that. PFC describe themselves as “the leadership of Britain’s campaign for the social inclusion and non-discrimination of transsexual people”, and describe “trans” as shorthand for “transsexual”, making a mockery of their “ALL trans people” slogan. When criticising the government’s choice to protect individuals on the grounds of “gender reassignment” and suggest that a term such as “gender identity” be used instead (a position widely agreed upon by many trans organisations and individual activists) they then clarify this by stating:
“we feel that to ensure clarity of purpose the bill should refer to gender identity as the defining characteristic including transsexual and transgender people, with by way of the explanatory notes a clarification to refer to people intending to live, or living permanently, in their preferred gender role which is opposite to that of their natal sex”
This would mean that those trans people who are unable to transition or are discriminated against because of a non-binary identity would continue to recieve no recognition or protection: exactly the problem that providing protection on the grounds of “gender identity” is meant to overcome!
This is horribly reminiscent of the approach of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the USA. That supposed LGBT rights group received heavy criticism from those trans people it was meant to be representing after supporting a trans-exclusive version of ENDA.