Reclaim the Night London to become explicitly trans-inclusive

A rather good article explaining why cis women need to actively oppose transphobia within feminism was published on The F-Word a couple of days ago.

This piece was written by Ray Filar, a member of the steering committee for Reclaim the Night London. The organisers of this annual demonstration against sexist harassment and violence have long maintained a studied ambivalence on the subject of trans inclusion. To my pleasant surprise, the article announced a welcome change in policy:

Every year, the women-only march Reclaim the Night London is questioned on its attitude towards trans women. As one of the members of this year’s steering committee, I’m pleased to say that it will now be made clear on our website that Reclaim the Night welcomes all kinds of women, whether trans, cis, disabled, of colour, lesbian, able-bodied, white, bisexual, Muslim, Jewish, straight or otherwise.

This new approach is echoed by the Reclaim the Night London Facebook page, which includes a picture of last year’s trans inclusion bloc amongst the small number of images used to promote this year’s event. On a more personal note, I’ve also been asked to DJ at the demonstration after-party for the second year running, and I’m not exactly silent about my own trans identity!

So, we’ve “won”, right? Well, not quite. Filar’s post continues:

But the discussion is far from over, and it is a small and rather pathetic step for a group which officially acknowledges that trans women are just as welcome as cis women, but doesn’t really want to say so openly. We still have to appease the transphobes. Their voice is small, but by god it is vocal. The committee that finally agreed to welcome trans women on our website, (but not our flyer, oddly) was split down the middle; a small minority expressed opinions that would make even David Starkey blush.

We still have a long way to go before we eradicate transphobia within the women’s movement. Nevertheless, I feel more progress has been made than Filar perhaps realises.

From a trans perspective, one of the biggest problems with Reclaim the Night has always been that organisers and volunteers who said that they were trans-positive never seemed prepared to actively oppose the transphobic attitudes propagated by their peers. This situation finally seems to have changed, with the shift in policy indicating that a critical mass of cis feminists have decided to act like true allies and stand up for trans inclusion. There’s a lot still to be done, but we’re getting there.

Cis and trans feminists alike need to keep up the pressure in a sisterly fashion. To that end, I hope to see more trans and genderqueer women at this year’s Reclaim the Night march: let us never forget that we fight for trans inclusion within feminism because we ultimately seek to smash patriarchy!

I wrote about why individuals who identify at any intersection of “trans” and “woman” should consider participating in Reclaim the Night last year. This post included a brief discussion of gender policing and genderqueer inclusion.

Support LGBT Asylum News

The quite fantastic LGBT Asylum News blog has recently posted to ask for a little financial support from its readers. This blog is an incredible resource, with well-written, well-researched daily news stories from all over the world dealing with a wealth of issues that might otherwise receive very little attention in the UK. Its writers are also wholeheartedly dedicated to a genuine “LGBT” approach: one that incorporates a wealth of perspectives and experiences relating to multiple sexualities and gender identities.

You can read more about why LGBT Aylum News is wonderful and why it deserves your support here.

Transphobic conference CANCELLED

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have cancelled “Transgender: Time to Change“. This isn’t just a victory for the trans movement: it’s also a victory for angry blogging, community organising and the threat of peaceful protest.

Pink News have a really positive piece on the cancellation.

RCPsych claim that the cancellation was down to low ticket sales. However, it’s pretty telling that the event was cancelled right after Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic put out this statement:

The team at the WLMHT Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) at Charing Cross Hospital notes the apparent shift of emphasis in the Royal College of Psychiatrists Gay & Lesbian Special Interest Group conference, ‘Transgender: Time To Change’ on May 20th and feels compelled to withdraw on this basis.

When we were originally asked to take part, GIC clinicians understood that our role was to outline the work we do within our own service and explain the very considerable evidence base which underpins it. We are very happy to do this and our more than 55 years of experience as the country’s leading NHS provider gives us a rich and robust data set from which to draw observations.

It now appears that the conference comes at trans issues from a very specific agenda, namely, to explore the validity or otherwise of gender diagnoses as medical and psychiatric phenomena. So long as this is the case, we feel we can’t support it.

Although we were somewhat wary of engaging in what is essentially a clinical discussion with a predominantly non-trans panel, which, moreover, features a non-clinician whose personal opinion is already well known, we agreed to do so in order that discussion might focus on evidence rather than anecdote.

The Royal College should be aware that there is a great deal of disquiet around this event within the trans community and interested parties should note that the discussion as it now stands will be one-sided at best..”

On the subject of “numbers”, it’s also worth pointing out that registration was meant to be open until 9th May. That suggests that the number of people signing up for the event was really low: an encouraging turn of events! Commentators elsewhere have suggested that many psychs will have been put off by the outdated views held by many of the speakers. I only hope this is the case.

This is well worth celebrating, but the good news shouldn’t be the end of the matter. There’s a few really important lessons we can learn from the whole affair, and some things we need to think about regarding future action.

Trans people are still treated awfully by the medical establishment in general, and the psychiatric establishment in particular. We need to explore how to bring about change: through research and its dissemination, through lobbying, and through protests. The simple threat of a colourful, vibrant protest on the PCPsych doorstep clearly had a massive impact, as did the actions of those who talked to psychs and to Charing Cross.

The gender clinics and gatekeepers of this country have a troubled relationship with the trans community, but it benefits us to work with them. Currently, they’re not particularly accountable: Charing Cross has a patient feedback group, but how many trans people even know of this group? How many know how to contribute to its feedback? How many know the vast majority of groups invited to attend the meetings are London-based? This situation needs to change, but the clinic’s actions on this occasion suggest that it can.

Julie Bindel will probably kick up a fuss. Personally, I feel we should let her get on with it. Any opportunity for us to promote our arguments against the approach taken by the cancelled conference is a good one.

Finally, I’ve been informed that activists are planning to go ahead with the community “teach-in” that was originally planned to coincide with the transphobic conference. After all, there are speakers and facilitators booked, so why not? People are talking about focusing on the continuing problems within trans health in general and psychiatry in particular, and exploring where we might go from here. The venue and timetable are still being arranged, so I’ll post again once there’s news on that front.

NUS Women’s Campaign condemns transphobia in the Equality Act

Student representatives at the annual NUS Women’s Campaign Conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion that condemns transphobia in the Equality Act and within the women’s movement yesterday.

The motion in question – entitled “Transmisogyny in the Equality Act” – addressed the horrific exemption which ensures that:

“A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.”

The trans community has blogged about this exemption at length, exploring how it could result in trans people being denied access to numerous public services, and how it massively undermines the Gender Recognition Act. We’ve also discovered that the clause in question was pushed by certain individuals representing Rape Crisis Centres.

It’s really positive that a feminist organisation is keen to unite behind trans rights. It should, of course, be a given that this is the case since we fight the same fight against patriarchy and gender essentialism, but the attitude of those women’s groups who pushed the offensive clause in the Equality Act shows that we cannot take trans-positive feminism for granted. I was therefore really pleased that NUS Women’s Campaign policy now includes a commitment to lobby the government on changing this unfair law alongside the aforementioned condemnation.

For those who might be interested, the new policy is as follows:

1. To condemn the offensive clause within the Equality Act 2010 in the strongest possible terms.
2. To lobby the government for an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 that ensures that trans women have fair and equal access to women’s shelters and rape crisis centres.
3. To support campaigns which seek to persuade transphobic women’s shelters and rape crisis centres to revise their approach.
4. To oppose any campaigns that seek to shut down transphobic shelters and rape crisis centres.

Full details of the motion can be found here.

I take this commitment entirely seriously because the NUS Women’s Campaign has demonstrated many times that it is fully behind trans rights during the last two or three years. This is a feminist campaign that refuses to share a platform with Julie Bindel (and was prepared to face legal action from her after doing so), supported a trans block at Reclaim The Night London, and ensured that trans individuals were included in groundbreaking research on women students’ experiences of harassment and violence. It’s a women’s organisation that broadly “gets” non-binary gender identities, and has a permanent trans representative on its elected committee (two people are holding this position as a jobshare this year).

I also noticed at this year’s conference that a number of cis women were keen to mention trans issues in relevant speeches. Meanwhile, prominent trans activist Roz Kaveney was invited to participate in a panel on intersectionality.

This post has turned into a bit of a positive gush but I honestly only have good things to say about how this liberation campaign has dealt with trans issues, and that’s a rarity that deserves celebration. I can only hope that the campaign sustains this momentum in future years, and wish its members the absolute best for this future.

Gay men exploit trans loophole to marry in Ecuador

I’m a little behind on this one, but it’s a lovely story and I feel like writing something a little more positive since it’s the Christmas period and all.

Several news sources have reported the marriage of Ecuadorians Joey Hateley and Hugo Vera.  Ecuador does not have equal marriage laws, but the couple successfully subverted homophobic and transphobic laws in order to enter into a legal partnership.  As a trans man, Joey’s gender is not recognised by the state, which continues to regard him as female.  This meant that he and Hugo were able to wed as “husband and wife” whilst clearly being husband and husband.

This event demonstrates that Ecuador (like nearly everywhere else in the world) has a long way to go before it achieves even the limited goal of equal access to state marriage by monogamous couples. It’s also important to recognise that most gay men in the country won’t have the “trans option” available to Joey and Hugo!  However, the glorious thing about this marriage is that it allows the couple to officially recognise and celebrate their relationship whilst highlighting the inherant foolishness of both unequal marriage laws and non-recognition of trans peoples’ gender identities.  By making their marriage loud and proud, the newlyweds have drawn attention to their cause and made a powerful case in favour of more progressive laws.

The attitude of LGBT organisations within Ecuador also seems to offer a fantastic example to the rest of the world.  They appear to have seized upon the importance that this action has for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in a way that puts many UK organisations to shame.  They demonstrate that it’s so easy for our fractured community to work together towards not just shared goals (e.g. equal marriage) but also goals that benefit certain aspects of the community (e.g. trans-friendly laws) at the same time.  The LGBT(+) alliance makes so much sense because we have so much to gain by working alongside each other, because issues of sexual orientation are issues of gender identity in the law as well as in society.  We have a lot to learn from this positive example.

New process for changing name and gender in NHS Coventry

The below document was issued last month following consultation with local trans activists. It should make life a lot easier for people who are changing their name and/or gender with a G.P. or dentist within the Coventry Primary Care Trust. If you’re in the Coventry area and are having problems with changing your name and/or gender, this policy should give you the leverage to sort it out. If you live in another area where the P.C.T. is giving you grief, it might be worth trying to cite this as an example of best practice.

    Process for changing name and gender in Primary Care

The purpose of this document is to clarify and bring together already existing legislation and guidance for primary care providers to change the name and gender of trans people who request it.

Considerable legislation(1) already provides explicit protection and rights for trans people in the areas of employment, goods, facilities and services (including health) and for their legal recognition as ordinary men and women in their acquired gender.

“Gender transition is not embarked upon lightly. There is substantial evidence that many trans people encounter extreme violence and discrimination if their background becomes known within their community(2).”

When trans men and women are planning to live permanently in their preferred gender role, they need to ensure that all of their documentation reflects their new name and gender. This includes their passport, driving licence, credit cards and, of course, their medical documentation.

In the UK, anyone can call themselves by any name and any gender that they want to as long as they are not doing it in order to commit fraud. They do not need to use deed poll to change their name nor do trans people have to have a gender recognition certificate to change their gender on documents(3).

There is a simple process for this, which is accepted by many government departments including the Department of Health (4).

1. The patient tells their GP, or directly informs the PCT, that they are transitioning and that in future they would like to be known by their new name and gender(5). They can write a “statutory declaration”, they may have a deed poll document, or they may simply make the request. This request should be in writing, signed by the patient.

2. The GP writes to the Registration Office at the PCT. The GP may write a letter of support confirming the gender role change and that this change is intended to be permanent, but this is not a requirement.

3. The Registration Office then writes to the Personal Demographics’ Service National Back Office. The National Back Office will create a new identity with a new NHS number and requests the records held by the patient’s GP. These records are then transferred to the new identity and forwarded to the GP.

4. On receipt, the GP surgery changes any remaining patient information including the gender marker, pronouns and names. Trans patients have a legal right to change their name and gender on their NHS records and would be able to bring a civil claim against any GP or practice which refused to accede to their request.

Please contact me if you have any queries on the number below.

Helen Bunter
Head of Equality and Human Rights
NHS Coventry
Tel: 024 76246092

(1) The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (amended 2008), Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999, The Equality Act 2006, Gender Recognition Act 2004

(2) http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_089939.pdf

(3) http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_085013.pdf

(4) Press for Change, 2008: “Name Changing on Personal Documents: A Guide for Organisations

(5) http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/systemsandservices/demographics/pds/ig/access/gender_reassignment/?searchterm=gender%20reassignment

Update on the Charing Cross gender clinic deed poll affair

This is a brief update on the entry I wrote about Charing Cross gender clinic getting a bit funny about DIY deed polls. In short: the clinic is once accepting such documents, so hurrah!

I have been reliably informed that the issue was raised at a stakeholder meeting. It was confirmed that was indeed some confusion at the clinic about the status of home-made change of name documents.

The policy at the clinic has now been changed to bring it in line with the advice of the Gender Recognition Panel, which recognises appropriately written change of name documents signed by the person changing their name, and a witness.

Such documents can be found online in a number of locations, such as here.