Spousal Veto to remain?

According an article written by the Minister for Equalities today, the Spousal Veto seems set to remain in legislation in England and Wales:

From 10 December there is also good news for married transgender people. You will now be able to change your legal gender without ending your marriage, provided you and your husband or wife agree to remain married.

It is entirely possible that this not intended to be such an announcement but is simply sloppy and insensitive drafting by the Civil Service who should, if they are paying attention, be well aware of the coverage the spousal veto has been getting. The announcement today was partly a cover for the less positive news arising from the publication of the response to the consultation into civil partnerships. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport have decided that they are not going to legislate for mixed-sex civil partnerships – something that is bound to end up facing continued legal challenge.

Sadly, the technical paperwork underlying the announcements also fails to shed any light on the issue but the inclusion of the 10th December date means we at least know that the government must have decided for sure by that date, when the first conversions happen.

A number of people, myself included, have already contacted the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to ask for clarification.

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Openly trans politicians – election results

For those that didn’t see updates on twitter the day after the elections, below are the election results for all openly trans politicians who stood in May’s Local and European Elections.

Spoiler: Nobody won.

This ends a 14 year run of openly trans politicians being elected in the UK. I doubt this will make any direct difference to campaigning for trans rights, which is done via internal party structures and external campaigning quite separate from district and European councils, but it’s certainly not good. Whilst nobody listed had been the holy grail of a safe seat, there was certainly no lack of winnable seats – I only lost my own election by 10 votes, and Anwen Muston failed to gain a seat by just 36. Press narrative before the election also gave Anna Booth and Charlie Kiss a reasonable chance of winning and Sarah Brown was restanding in her own seat.

In the tables below, entries for openly trans folk are in bolded and italics indicate the winner(s). Entries are listed in order of how close the result was.

Cambridge, East Chesterton
Labour and Co-operative 1076
Zoe O’Connell, Liberal Democrats 1066
UKIP 328
Green 299
Conservative 260
Wolverhampton, Penn
Conservative 1490
Anwen Muston, Labour 1454
UKIP 896
Liberal Democrats 202
Trafford, Davyhulme East
Conservative 1256
Anna May Booth, Labour 973
UKIP 509
Green 134
Liberal Democrats 63
Socialist Labour 41
Islington, Highbury East (All-up)
Labour 1514 1430
Green 1214
Labour 1206
Liberal Democrats 1204 1185 1138
Charlie Kiss, Green​ 867
Green 721
Conservative 411 375
UKIP 247
Cambridge, Petersfield (2-up due to by-election)
Labour 1280 1223
Sarah Brown, Liberal Democrat 720
Green 688
Liberal Democrats 317
Conservative 262 228
Bolton, Tonge with the Haulgh
Labour 1399
UKIP 1053
Zoe Kirk-Robinson, Conservative 486
BNP 109
Green 91
Liberal Democrats 66
Left Unity 14
Lincoln, Hartsholme
Conservative 730
Labour 632
UKIP 429
Jess Key, Liberal Democrats 78
European Parliament, West Midlands
UKIP (3 elected) 428,010
Labour (2 elected) 363,033
Conservative (2 elected) 330,470
Liberal Democrat 75,648
Green 71,464
An Independence from Europe 27,171
We Demand a Referendum (Nikki Sinclaire) 23,426
BNP 20,643
English Democrats 12,832
NO2EU 4,653
Harmony Party 1,857

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Yet another update on Inhouse Pharmacy

I had been editing earlier posts with updates, but that was getting confusing so here is the latest as of 8th May that I know of:

On the topic of what IHP are saying publicly, they clarified their earlier email as follows:

These changes apply worldwide. Visa do not want us shipping prescription meds – they do not agree with it.

In terms of what they are actually doing, this is more complicated. I have heard from numerous people who ordered from IHP over the weekend using a credit or debit card, were not asked for a prescription at the order stage (after logging in) and have had shipping confirmation. Conversely, I have also heard from people ordering yesterday (7th May) who have been “flatly refused”. Regular customers of the .biz site seem to have the most luck, whereas new customers or those who previously used the European (.com) site which has a separate system for customer accounts are stuck. I have always used the .com site and I cannot order without a prescription.

In case anyone is curious, although I have a repeat prescription from my GP I’ve always chosen to order from IHP because it is easier than having to worry about getting to the GPs during working hours to move little bits of paper around. It’s also as a personal statement on bodily autonomy and not handing over power to doctors. I have placed an order with an alternative site, UnitedPharmaciesUK, but do not expect to receive anything for another few days.

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Full text of email received from IHP

The below is the complete text of an email received from Inhouse Pharmacy at 10:14am BST on the 6th May, , responding to a query to clarify the situation for UK users. I have emailed them back to triple-check this applies to UK users as this is obviously a canned response and may have been sent out instead of a more specific UK option.

As of 7th May, some people have received shipping confirmation from IHP so this advice may be inaccurate. Others have also received a slight variation on this mail stating that they will continue to process orders for long standing customers without a prescription.

The latest news, including a reply from IHP confirming the below as their public stance, is on this update blog post.

Hello

Times are changing for Online Pharmacies, and in the last week of April 2014 some significant changes have taken place. Visa and Mastercard are targeting Online Pharmacies due to lobbying from Drug Companies and BigPharma in the US. This is out of our control and failing to supply a valid prescription could result in our business being denied access to their payment facilities. Visa, MasterCard and Amex who will not tolerate their names being brought into ‘disrepute’ – as supplying meds without a valid prescription is unacceptable to them.

The site www.inhousepharmacy.vu has been made a one payment option only – that is ECheck (an electronic check) and not a credit card. This is only available to residents in the US.

For us to have credit card payment options available to you, we have had no choice but to change our other sites such as www.inhousepharmacy.biz and www.inhousepharmacy-europe.com to be prescription only.

When you place your order with www.inhousepharmacy.biz please follow the prescription directions that appear in the payment checkout page. If an order is supplied without a prescription this may result in your order being delayed or cancelled. Amex and Visa are accepted, but MasterCard is not yet available.

Sincerely
(Name removed)
Customer Services
Email: customerservices@inhousepharmacy.vu
Website: www.inhousepharmacy.vu
Phone: USA: 800-868-9064 UK: 0808 234 7254 International: +1-800-868-9064

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A quick update on the Inhouse Pharmacy situation

Although phone calls and emails to the UK contact details listed on the IHP website have gone unreturned, someone has managed to contact with via their US web site. They have been told that the prescription required message is incorrect and was only intended for US customers, and that if you select the option to fax a prescription on the .biz site then they will ship it anyway as normal.

In addition, payment options have reappeared on the web site for UK shipping addresses and estrogen is no longer showing as all out of stock and/or discontinued.

I have not spoken to IHP personally, but this is all good news. I would be happy to hear from anyone who has received a shipping confirmation from IHP in the last 24 hours. (Receiving your order will, obviously, take a little longer!)

Update: Also see this email from IHP, which seems to contradict the information given over the phone. However…

Update 2, 7th May: Some people have received shipping confirmation from IHP following the advice here, so it appears it may be accurate.

The latest news (8th May) is on this update blog post.

IHP BIZ order

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UK trans women’s drugs supply cut off

Updated, Tuesday 6th May: For the latest news, see this post.

Update 2, Tuesday 6th May:: Also see this email from IHP, which seems to contradict the information given over the phone to some people.

Latest news (8th May) is on this update blog post.

It has just come to light that the main source of HRT for trans women apart from the NHS has been closed down. Estrogen has long lived in a strange spot in drugs legislation as it is illegal for a pharmacy to sell it to you without a prescription – but it is quite OK to buy it. For years, people have been buying it online to the extent that it is not considered unreasonable by doctors for someone turning up at a Gender Identity Clinic to already be on HRT. Given the length of NHS waiting lists this happens in around half of cases. (Edit: See in the comments below for recommendations of alternate sites to use. I cannot vouch for any of these personally – yet – and I don’t know if they have been affected by whatever caused the IHP shutdown)

For some, obtaining HRT online is the only way they can get it, as some NHS organisations have “red-listed” supplies and completely cut off non-private sources. Unless you can afford a private prescription (Way more costly than the drugs themselves, which the NHS actually makes money on via the prescription charge) then IHP was the only legal way of obtaining HRT, even if not having HRT would leave you undergoing chemical menopause due to being post-operative.

Unfortunately, a recent international crackdown on less legitimate online pharmacies seems to have caught IHP up. On the European site you are now asked to provide a prescription with any order, as well as payment options being restricted to American Express (Hard to get hold of in the UK) only:

IHP EU - UK orders

The alternate sites, that are not branded as being UK or EU specific, have sometimes escaped some of the changes pushed upon the European version but there is no such relief here. There is simply no payment option presented and it is impossible to proceed.

IHP VU - UK orders

For comparison, here is what you see if you provide a US shipping address on the .biz or .vu sites: the eCheck payment option appears.

IHP VU - US orders

I have written to IHP to try to find out more information on what has happened, but in the mean time for those affected, the following advice from Jess Key may prove useful:

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Trans folk and marriage without a Gender Recognition Certificate

There has been some discussion both in my Inbox and on Twitter recently regarding the implications of the Same-Sex Marriage Act for Trans folk in England and Wales.

To try to clear things up, I have written the below (With my LGBT+ Liberal Democrats hat on, so it carries some weight) to the General Register Office. Their auto-reply promises a response within five working days, but I would imagine this one may take a little longer.

I am fairly confident of a positive reply in terms of all aspects of this with the exception of the wording to be used in a civil ceremony, which is less clear. (Although I have avoided phrasing the question below in such a way that it might unnecessarily provoke a negative response from the GRO) Sadly, non-binary folk are completely out of luck as the law requires use of either the word “husband” or “wife” in a civil ceremony. (Religious ceremonies can differ, the most notable example being that for the language used by Quakers is left up to them and is not dictated by legislation)

One issue was raised after I had sent this off, which is that buildings must be registered for same-sex marriage separately from registration of for mixed-sex marriage. Getting married without a GRC in an building which is inappropriately registered may cause problems further down the line – as to the nature of the problems people might face if the marriage collapsed, that’s one for the courts to sort out. I fear the answer would favor whoever can afford better lawyers which will often not be the trans person in the relationship. Updated 30/04: This statement was a misunderstanding on my part – you do not need to have a building registered separately for civil marriage, only for religious marriage.

Thanks to Jess Key for doing the digging around in the legislation on these last two points.

On contacting their local registry office, many people have been told that there is no requirement to specify legal gender when applying for a marriage license, (e.g. It is acceptable to apply with a passport rather than birth certificate) no requirement for legal gender to be revealed during the marriage ceremony and no requirement for legal gender to be revealed on the resulting marriage certificate.

This tallies with our understanding of the law and is a huge benefit to trans folk who have legally changed their name and live full time in their acquired gender but for whom it would not be desirable or would not be possible to change their legal gender. As well as the emotional impact of being incorrectly gendered on your wedding day, people in this position may have transitioned many years ago and fear “coming out” to friends, colleagues etc if their birth gender is listed on notices or referred to during the wedding ceremony.

Unfortunately, the advice given has been contradicted by DCMS who stated that marriage documents would all show birth gender for those not in possession of a Gender Recognition Certificate. At least some solicitors also seem to be unclear as to what the position is, in particular with the correct wording (husband or wife) to be used during the ceremony.

If you could clarify your understanding of the situation regarding this for people who do not hold a GRC, we would be grateful. Any references to official policy would also be useful.

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Openly trans politicians standing for (re)election on 22nd May

Trans involvement in mainstream politics has been on the rise in recent years, and 22nd May 2014 appears to be setting a record for the number of out, full-time trans folk standing for election at borough council level or above – there will be six seven eight people appearing on the ballot next month.

The list of names I know of is as follows: (Updated 6th May to add Anna May Booth and Charlie Kiss)

  • Anna May Booth – Labour Candidate, Trafford Council, Davyhulme East Ward (Existing Conservative councillor is also standing for reelection)
  • Sarah Brown – Liberal Democrat Cambridge City Councillor, Petersfield Ward, restanding, also a simultaneous by-election.
  • Jess Key – Liberal Democrat Candidate, Lincoln City Council, Hartsholme Ward (Existing Conservative councillor not restanding)
  • Zoe Kirk-Robinson – Conservative Candidate, Bolton Council, Tonge with the Haulgh Ward (Existing Labour councillor is also standing for reelection)
  • Charlie Kiss – Green Party Candidate, Islington Council, Highbury East (All-up elections in London, currently all 3 councillors are Liberal Democrat)
  • Anwen Musten – Labour Candidate, Wolverhampton City Council, Penn Ward (Existing Conservative councillor is also standing for reelection)
  • Nikki Sinclaire – We Demand a Referendum Party (Formerly UKIP) MEP for the West Midlands, restanding.
  • Zoe O’Connell – Liberal Democrat Candidate, Cambridge City Council, East Chesterton Ward (Seat is already Liberal Democrat, current councillor is not restanding)

The lack (so far) of trans men or anyone clearly (to the general public) non-binary on this list is noticeable. I hope that within a few years, things will have progressed to the point we have a reasonable gender balance of people standing. (Update: The addition of Charlie Kiss to this list means we know of one trans man standing. Whilst not exactly balanced, this is better than none!)

On the negative side, the only currently serving openly trans folk in publicly elected office are Nikki Sinclaire and Sarah Brown and none of these elections are safe “don’t even bother campaigning” seats. Unfortunately, this means it is entirely possible we could be left with zero trans folk in office by the end of next month. I hope that does not happen!

I am only listing candidates where I have confirmed they are publicly “out” – I am aware there are other trans candidates in elections who are not out. Please do not comment with (or tweet at me) the names of anyone you think is “missing” from this list unless you know they are OK with being listed or are clearly not stealth. (E.g. Twitter account or blog post stating both political candidature and trans identity.

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The UK’s “Christian” holiday calendar

As part of the “the UK is/isn’t a Christian country” narrative, earlier this week the BBC published an article listing “Eight arguments about whether the UK is a Christian country“.

The dates of our holidays were listed in the “for” column:

For: The calendar

A glance at the way national holidays are structured – not to mention the working week – demonstrates the continued influence of Christianity, says Rees.

The major holidays around Christmas and Easter are there for the Christian festivals and events,” she says. Despite occasional warnings about a “war on Christmas”, both festivals are widely celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike.

This has always seemed a rather weak argument when you look at the influence that older religions have had on how Easter in particular is celebrated. Here is a complete list of the bank holidays in England and Wales:

  • 1st January – Originally based on the Roman celebration of Janus, on which the Julian (And thus Gregorian) calendar is based. Some association with the Christian “Feast of the Circumcision of Christ”.
  • Good Friday/Easter Monday – At least in name is based on the original pagan Ēostre festival. Edit: Although I was aware the bunnies/eggs link is recent, it appears by disclaimer about “at least in name” is not sufficient – see this blog post for more information on the history of the name
  • .

  • May Day (First Monday in May) – An old pagan fertility festival, whose rites (Such as dancing around the maypole) are still practiced today
  • Spring Bank Holiday (Last Monday in May) – The only totally Christian holiday by date in the calendar, although ceased to be known as Whitsun until 1971.
  • August Bank Holiday – No religious significance.
  • Christmas Day/Boxing Day – Also the old pagan Saturnalia/Yuletide festival.

So that’s 1 completely non-religious holiday, 5 days that are jointly Roman/Pagan as well as Christian and one each that can be claimed solely as Pagan/Christian. There are other celebrations that do not have holidays associated with them in England and Wales too – Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve/Samhain) is a common one celebrated as a Christian holiday in some parts of Europe, but that retains some of it’s pagan ritual.

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The Other Spousal Veto

The other Sarah has dug out some revealing statistics from the Ministry of Justice.

The first statistic is interesting, but probably not that surprising for anyone involved in trans activism. There is a clause in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 that allows the Secretary of State to refer to the courts any case where they believe gender recognition might have been obtained fraudulently. Despite the fact that the Gender Recognition Panel (GRP) insist on documentary evidence that someone transitioned at least two years ago, that they provide letters from two doctors on the GRP’s list of approved doctors and up until now, that they divorce, there was still a fraud clause included in the act just in case.

No case has even made it as far as a referral to the courts due to fraud, which rather takes the wind out of the sails of anyone suggesting gender recognition is too easy to obtain, or that people do it because they want to commit fraud. (You can change your name without also changing your gender, anyway)

The second statistic is rather more worrying, however. Many people will know about the spousal veto included in the Same-Sex Marriage Act that allows spouses to de facto veto gender recognition of even an estranged partner. But there is an older spousal veto: Section 12(h) of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which was inserted by the Gender Recognition Act way back in 2004.

It was always thought that this clause, which allows someone to void their marriage if they find out their partner had obtained legal gender recognition prior to the marriage, was largely theoretical. There are some safeguards – there’s a time limit of three years after marriage to annul unless you get special permission from a judge, and it only applies if you didn’t know your spouse had a Gender Recognition Certificate. (This last point is a little tricky, because it’s hard for someone who is not out to prove they told their spouse something so it’s likely to descend into a case of he-said-she-said in court)

As with the spousal veto, this is just another case of the law feeling it needs to create special cases surrounding trans folk. But this is unnecessary – if trust in the marriage has broken down to that extent, why not resort to the usual divorce process – just as you would have to if your new husband or wife turned out to be a convicted criminal.

Unfortunately, it turns out not to be so theoretical after all. As a result of the Freedom of Information request, we now know that at least 13 marriages have been annulled because the spouse claimed not to have known their partner had a GRC. The reason is only recorded in 60% of cases, so the actual figure is higher – 21 or 22 cases in total, which is two or three cases a year.

So that’s yet another way in which trans folk have less rights in marriage than everyone else.

Equal marriage? I wish.

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