No undercover police sex charge reveals Crown Prosecution Service transphobia

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today released a statement explaining that it will not be prosecuting undercover police officers for sexual offences having mislead political activists about their identity. This decision is highly inconsistent, given the CPS have previously successfully prosecuted trans folk for what they call identity “deception” when it comes to sexual relations.

The phrasing of today’s release either admits to transphobic prosecution decisions within the CPS (specifically, believing that trans identities are inauthentic) or admits that they believe Lord Leveson’s Court of Appeal judgement criminalising trans folk for sexual relations is incorrect. In his ruling on the McNally case, which was prosecuted by the CPS, Leveson stated that being trans was enough to invalidate consent to sexual acts, but the CPS now say: (Emphasis added)

In order to prove the offence of rape the prosecution must show that the complainant did not consent to sexual intercourse. In this case the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and the case law interpreting that Act is applicable, the effect of which is that consent can be negated if…there has been deception as to the identity of the suspect. The identity of the suspect is relevant to a very limited extent. Section 1(3) of the Act expressly provides that impersonating a woman’s husband may vitiate (negate) consent. This section was later extended by case law to include the impersonation of a person’s partner. The law does not go further and allow the fact that a person does not reveal their true or full identity to be capable of vitiating consent where it is otherwise freely given.

The CPS are hardly unaware of the McNally judgement, given the same release cites it and specifically refers to trans identities as “deception”:

R – v – McNally, where consent was negated on the basis that the victim believed she was having sex with a male partner, where in fact she was having sex with a female who had deceived her. In this case the Court of Appeal said that “depending on the circumstances, deception as to gender can vitiate consent”… but added: “in reality, some deceptions (such as, for example, in relation to wealth) will obviously not be sufficient to vitiate consent.”

No clarification is given as to why they think this case differs from the case of the undercover police officers, even though the CPS now know that the courts have decided that identity does matter.

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Newsnight 101 (Or: trans folk are not perfoming seals)

As many will be aware, mainstream media outlets ran segments on trans issues yesterday following the news that former boxing promoter Kellie Maloney had transitioned. Trans people were invited to appear on both national and local radio and TV shows, and I know Paris Lees in particular had a very hectic day. In general, coverage was positive and the positivity was often from unexpected sources such as the tabloid press.

The BBC did, as is sadly increasingly the case with their coverage of trans issues, fail badly with their use of appropriate terminology and pronouns. The worst offender was Newsnight, which had booked Paris Lees and Fred Dash to appear. They then also asked someone holding transphobic views to appear and both Paris and Fred, being wise to how these things worked, decided to pull out. As the person concerned has stated very publicly that they wanted to debate trans folk getting access to toilet facilities, and that Julie Bindel reported that she was asked on to discuss “whether there is such a thing as a ‘female brain’ and gender essentialism” (Code for “debating if trans people are really just mentally ill?”) this definitely was the right decision.

But given some of the negative narrative I have seen today on Twitter, I thought a little reminder of some basic principles was in order:

Psychology 101: You can be a member of a group and still hold views oppressive to that group. In particular, the view that trans folk should be denied access to gender-appropriate facilities is a transphobic view that leads to events such as people being sexually assaulted. Just because it is a trans person is expressing that view does not magically mean it is not transphobic.

Politics 101: If you engage in discussion on a topic in front of people, you put it in their minds that it’s a topic that has not been settled. Thus, debating access to toilets on Newsnight puts it into the minds of hundreds of thousands of members of the public that it’s still something they can deny to trans folk, because they think it’s not been sorted out already. And Newsnight is regarded as a leader by some, so where they go others will follow.

No, thanks. Trans rights will progress much faster if we don’t go round in circles, endlessly having that debate. It is not as if the trans community has been lacking in other more positive coverage over the last 72 hours and reaching many more people than Newsnight would.

And I have saved the rant for last…

Equality 101: How is it acceptable to demand that anyone, particularly a member of a marginalised group, turn up and debate something on your terms as if they were circus animals? Worse, labeling their refusal to play nicely as oppressing free speech, “aggressive” (As Caroline Criado-Perez, the ten-pound note lady, did) or “intolerant” (As the editor of Newsnight did) really highlights how some people are utterly terrified that a previously oppressed group might finally be gaining some say in their own futures.

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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:

16 Comments

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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