There’s been some interesting commentary on the “Transgender: Time To Change” meeting emerging in the blogosphere over the past few days. Natacha Kennedy has posted some of the correspondence that has taken place between herself, journalist Jane Fae and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It seems that RCPsych are keen to put the issue behind it by ignoring us really hard:
The conference aims to explore the recent academic, clinical and contemporary thinking on transgender issues. The SIG has invited speakers for their differing perspectives, including a speaker to give a personal perspective on transgender issues. The invitation of particular speakers does not mean that the SIG share the speakers’ views on the topic […]
You also say that the conference is “going to be perceived by those in the trans community as a threat”. The intention is not to cause alarm and distress to the transgender community, and we regret if our organising this event has done so.
Following this email, the discussion was (understandably) forwarded to Deborah Hart, the RCPsych Director of Communications and Policy. She had this to say:
The College is involved in organising numerous conferences about a wide range of issues. Any opinions expressed by individual contributors at these meetings are the personal opinions of those contributors and cannot be taken to represent the views of the College.
I feel that the previous correspondence from Liz Fox clarified the College’s position on this issue and that nothing further can be gained by continuing this debate as we have nothing further to add.
As Natacha and Jane point out, this response is entirely missing the point. By holding a conference on trans people in which the vast majority of trans people are not invited to participate, where individuals like Az Hakeem and Julie Bindel are invited to speak, the Royal College of Psychiatrists demonstrates its contempt for trans people. We deserve access to treatment, and we deserve to be treated with respect: RCPsych seem to be interested in neither of these outcomes.
Meanwhile, an interesting comment has appeared on Jane’s own blog, courtesy of Stuart Lorimer, a psych at Charing Cross. I personally respect Lorimer a great deal for his no-bullshit approach to treatment, his broad support for trans rights, and his presence at numerous demos (including the 2008 Stonewall Awards protest). In his comment, he seems to suggest that Christina Richards and James Barrett signed up as speakers at the RCPsych conference with the intention of refuting Hakeem and Bindel:
Psychiatrists are intelligent people. Well, some of us are.
This “debate” has been on the cards for a while. It’s probably fair to say that, as a clinic, we’ve been divided in terms of how to respond to an event already set up with non-clinician Julie Bindel and Dr Az Hakeem providing stances based on anecdote but limited evidence. To some extent, it could be argued that even the act of engaging with an ostensibly absurd/obscene topic to point out its absurdity/obscenity lends that topic a spurious pseudo-legitimacy it does not deserve. This is a valid viewpoint and one with which we have wrestled.
Those of us taking part do so because we felt, after much discussion, that it was important to inject some actual clinical evidence/experience into what might otherwise be a display of largely uninformed opinion.
Please do not tar all psychs with the same brush.
I think it is important to bear Lorimer’s final statement in mind when we protest against this conference next month. I personally know a few individuals who will be attending in order to oppose the more regressive views promoted by the event, and we will only benefit from winning over attendees who are currently ignorant of the situation.
As such, we should be careful to protest the conference itself, whilst treating attendees with respect. We want to make allies, not enemies: this can be done by directly addressing attendees with our concerns in a friendly manner even as we shout slogans and wave colourful banners in the general direction of the fancy RCPsych building.