BBC’s Latest Crusade: Against Internet security

The BBC have caused a bit of a stir by labeling anyone using encryption in the form of a VPN a “pirate”.

On that basis, almost anyone who works from home regularly – and whose laptop is likely to be backed up over a VPN as a result – is a potential pirate. Small offices with just a few staff in also often use broadband connections with VPNs back to HQ.

Snooping for heavy users of encrypted traffic will also pick up those using services such as Tor, to evade state surveillance and blocking. Such tools tend to be used more heavily in more oppressive regimes, but a more oppressive internet regime is exactly what the BBC is encouraging with this “ISPs should spy on users” approach.

Some may think that I’m being a bit harsh on old Auntie, but this isn’t the first time they’ve missed a trick when it comes to online issues. There’s the time they funded online organised crime. The ongoing campaign against online pharmacies, a lifeline for many trans people who are denied or delayed treatment by the NHS. Oh, and they’re a member of an organisation that refers to Harry Potter as “Adult Media”.

Media outlets reporting things badly is troublesome enough but still remains part of day-to-day life. It worries me when the same poor reporting spills over into official submissions to governments.

#TransStonewall: The Meeting

Yesterday, Saturday, was the day of the big Stonewall-Trans meeting in London. The briefest bit of background is in order for those who are not engaged in LGBT politics, or who are reading this in ten years time and don’t know what the fuss is about: Stonewall UK are an LGB organisation, not an LGBT organisation.

Historically, this has caused problems.

But Stonewall is under new management in the form of Chief Executive Ruth Hunt, who is keen to work with the trans communities and build bridges. A few of us have worked with Ruth from when she was the number two at Stonewall, and knew her to be approachable and someone we could work with so we were not walking into this completely blind.

What the meeting was not

One point that is quite clear from all that has been said is that the meeting itself is not definitive. It has certainly been influential, not least as a rare gathering of so may trans people who agreed if not on the detail, at least on the general direction we’d like this to go in. But Ruth is keen to hear from as many people as possible and Stonewall are still looking for feedback from trans people. (As an aside, please don’t think Stonewall can solve every niche issue faced by every trans person any more than they can do the same for the LGB community. Such expectations can only lead to disappointment. What working with Stonewall will give is better trans activism overall, not perfection.)

Any closer working with Stonewall is also not about services. Stonewall do not provide individual support and do not pursue legal actions on behalf of individuals, except as part of a more strategic outcome. Stonewall’s modus operandi is strategic, UK-wide lobbying, research and education/training.

Finally, the meeting was not about cis people. The only non-trans people present were Ruth Hunt herself, Stonewall’s chair Jan Gooding and the facilitator, Caroline. A number of cis people who were involved in (LGB)T organisations did ask to turn up but were told this was a meeting for trans folk only.

Concerns have been raised over the inclusivity of the meeting. Whilst no group can ever be perfect, I can certainly say it wasn’t awful: About a two-to-one trans feminine vs masculine split, (Which is roughly representative of the trans communities in the UK) clear non-binary representation, a spread of religious beliefs and not excessively London-centric or exclusively white. There was certainly also some representation from people with disabilities and I believe intersex people, but being invisible traits I can’t say how numerous that representation was.

Stonewall does also intend to hold separate meetings with PoC and other groups.

The options

The day was mostly about the how, rather than the what. What’s needed is something we all had experience of and Ruth outlined three options on the how, which formed the focus of the day. These were:

1. Stonewall becomes fully LGBT. All Stonewall’s output is LGBT-inclusive, as is all their fundraising.

2. Stonewall does “a bit” of LGBT, but also supports the community in setting up a sibling organisation. For the first year or two, this would involve mentoring, initial fundraising and shared back-office (HR, IT) resources.

3. Stonewall does not do T. Instead, they gives grants to trans organisations.

There was also a number 4 on the list, which is simply “Stonewall is a better ally”. This wasn’t discussed because Stonewall have committed to do this anyway, as they feel comfortable that they don’t need a mandate just to Do The Right Thing.

Where the meeting went

I shall skip several hours of discussions, in which many excellent points were raised in the various smaller groups. The quickest one sentence summary is “nobody likes option three”. (The Stonewall-gives-grants option) Many reasons were given for this but it boils down to any attempt by an LGB organisation to give grants appearing paternalistic, as well as the trouble of how LGB folk are supposed to know where money for T issues is best spent.

A number of attendees with experience of small organisations obtaining grants also commented on how taxing navigating grant applications can be for such groups.

Which of option one or two is best is a much harder call, particularly given that is can be viewed more as a range of options rather than strictly either/or.

The positive points about option one, Stonewall becoming entirely LGBT, is that Stonewall tends to be a one-stop-shop, with large organisations focusing on LGB issues for a while before finding some other equalities issues to worry about. Despite such groups being told by Stonewall that T is separate, they don’t quite get around to thinking about gender identity but just tick the “We did LGBT!” box and move on. If Stonewall deliver LGBT rather than LGB training and include the T when lobbying government bodies, that’s immediately a great deal more than we are getting right now.

The obvious drawback on that option is lack of autonomy of the trans community. Work will inevitably be focused on what LGBT needs this year and next year, not what T needs this year and next year, and trans issues can often court controversy which Stonewall is likely to be uncomfortable with. For example, there is not likely to be another LGB-centric bill going through parliament in the next decade or two so Stonewall will be less likely to focus on lobbying, but there are still a significant number of legislative changes being sought by trans people.

Option two, Stonewall having a sibling organisation, gives back that autonomy. What it does lose is the commitment from Stonewall itself to carry on doing the “T” long term once it has spun off such an sibling group. It also results in the loss of the contacts and influence Stonewall has that enables it to go into large organisations via it’s Workplace Equality Index and other initiatives.

The sweet spot appears to be somewhere between option 1¼ and 1¾, with a range of ideas on how that might look. Where we seem to be heading is towards Stonewall starting to do trans-inclusive work now, where “now” in such a complex organisation is more like “over the course of the next year, because lots of staff training needs to happen“. There were no concrete ideas at this stage on how this work would engage with trans people – either as employees or outside advisers, but Ruth was consistently and repeatedly clear that Stonewall will not be attempting anything without trans involvement.

The inclusive work is things like education/training campaigns (e.g. Some People are Gay would have also included “Some People are Trans, Get Over It”) as well as any lobbying work and research.

That leaves the trans-exclusive work which does not overlap with LGB issues: Gender Recognition Act reform, Spousal Veto, Sexual Offenses legislation, Healthcare and so on. Under a pure “Stonewall does LGBT” approach, some of this could be picked up but as it would result in a more major shift in campaigning it would not be quick, would take at least a year to get going and risks diverting some funding that existing T-exclusive organisations are already receiving. However, it looks more likely that Stonewall will help to set up a sibling trans-specific organisation to handle these issues instead.

Where next

As mentioned earlier, there is still more consultation that Stonewall would like to do. They are aiming to produce a summary document in January, which the Stonewall board will look at and trans folk will have the chance to comment on further.

The final report, with a definitive statement on Stonewall’s future intentions, is expected in April.

Varnish with STunnel (On the same box)

I have recently needed to run varnish (A very fast web cache for busy sites) in a situation that also required use of HTTPS on the box. Unfortunately, Varnish does not not handle crypto, which is probably a good thing given how easy it is for programmers to make mistakes in their code, rendering the security useless!

Whilst recipes for Stunnel and Varnish together exist, information on running them on the same box whilst still presenting the original source IP to varnish for logging/load balancing purposes was scarce – the below configuration “worked for me”, at least on Debian 7.0. (Wheezy) You will need the xt_mark module which should be part of most distributions, but I found was missing from some hosted boxes and VMs with custom kernels.

IPTables – mark traffic from source port 8088 for routing
iptables -t mangle -A OUTPUT -p tcp -m multiport --sports 8088 -j MARK --set-xmark 0x1/0xffffffff

Routing configuration – anything marked by IPTables, send back to the local box. These two can be added under iface lo as “post-up” commands if you’re on a Debian box.
ip rule add fwmark 1 lookup 100
ip route add local 0.0.0.0/0 dev lo table 100

STunnel configuration. The connect IP MUST be an IP on the box other than loopback, i.e. it will not work if you specify 127.0.0.1.

[https]
accept = 443
connect = 10.1.1.1:8088
transparent = source

From default.vcl:
import std;

sub vcl_recv {
// Set header variables in a sensible way.
remove req.http.X-Forwarded-Proto;

if (server.port == 8088) {
set req.http.X-Forwarded-Proto = "https";
} else {
set req.http.X-Forwarded-Proto = "http";
}

set req.http.X-Forwarded-For = client.ip;
std.collect(req.http.X-Forwarded-For);
}

sub vcl_hash {
// SSL data returned may be different from non-SSL.
// (E.g. including https:// in URLs)
hash_data(server.port);
}

From The Archives: TranphobiaAtPride

As a result of some recent discussion, the Toiletgate incident from Pride London 2008 has been in people’s minds again. It surprised me that this event is little known to some, even though it was in relatively recent history. It surprised me even more when I realised that a key focal point for this incident, one that has even ended up being cited in academic texts, is not longer available.

Specifically, a single web page was put up on the old www.TransAtPride.org web site to document the incident and the aftermath but the site no longer exists and was not captured by the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.

I did not write the page, but it was hosted on my servers and I still have a backup – which I reproduce below. For the purists, I have also put the original unedited HTML as it appeared back in 2008/2009 on it’s own page.

2008 was somewhat of a defining year for the trans movement, happening as it did in the same year as the protests against Stonewall’s nomination of a transphobic journalist for an award. That protest led to major changes within the trans activism scene in the mainland UK, and shaped things that we do today.

Pretty major change too – that was 6 years ago. Even 3 years ago, we were still dealing with the fallout of Stonewall campaigning against Same-Sex Marriage, but under new leadership Stonewall has come on enough that many activists, myself included, will be attending a joint Stonewall-Trans meeting next weekend. (Ruth has written a lengthy post about her thoughts on this on her blog that is worth reading)

I wonder what things will look like in another six years?


TransphobiaAtPride

The Pride march and rally are now over for 2008. A lot of fun was had by many, but unfortunately transphobia reared its ugly head at the Pride rally in Trafalgar Square. At about 6:30 in the evening, Roz Kaveney, long time human rights campaigner, journalist and transsexual woman, needed to answer that most basic call of nature and use the loo. What happened next is the sort of thing one is used to reading about in reports of sexual discrimination cases against transpeople. In Roz’s own words:

Official stewards who were running the toilets at Trafalgar Square announced that I, and any other transgender or transsexual woman, had to use the disabled toilets and was not allowed to use the regular women’s toilets. I pointed out to the stewards that I transitioned and had surgery before they were born; I was more polite than a polite thing. No dice.
I went and fetched a posse of transwomen and transmen and we made a collective fuss. Their response – and remember these were official stewards AT PRIDE – was to radio in “we’re being attacked by a mob of trannies! send backup”. They were joined by a policeman, who was a LGBT liaison officer, who claimed that we had to be able to show our Gender Recognition Certificates if we wanted to use the women’s loos and got quite upset when I explained to him that I had been involved in drafting the Act and that it did not take away rights that existed before it. At one point he threatened to arrest us for demonstrating on private property – those loos belong to Westminster Council, so you are not allowed to make a fuss there.
At one point it was claimed that they had instituted this policy a few minutes earlier because a man had attacked a woman; at another they said it was official Health and Safety policy. I don’t think it was particularly to do with how much I do or don’t pass – I think I got read in part because I am so tall and turned up in the queue among a particularly short group of lesbians.
It was one of the most wretched experiences I have had in thirty years, only made positive by the love and solidarity of my community – including various transmen who proposed that, since they had no GRCs, they should be made to use the women’s loos. Beards and all.

This raises a number of troubling issues:

  • Transphobia and transmisogyny continues to be a problem in the wider queer movement. It’s unthinkable that a steward would have refused entry to, for example, a butch lesbian (and to then be backed up by an LGBT liaison officer in that action), but such discrimination can still be casually directed at transpeople.
    Making transfemale people at the rally the scapegoat for a reported sexual assault.
  • An LGBT liaison officer, someone whose job requires the need of tact and sensitivity in dealing with LGBT people in situations where they may be experiencing abuse because of their gender identity or sexual orientation aggressively colluding in such abuse and threatening to arrest the victims of transphobic discrimination, rather than supporting them.
  • The use of stewards for a supposed LBGT Pride event who have apparently had no sensitivity training for dealing with transpeople.
  • A very large number of transgendered people were present at the Pride march and rally. For many, it is one of a very small number of places they feel safe enough to express their gender identity. Roz is a confident woman who has lived in her identified gender post operatively for 3 decades and was able to immediately find support and solace from other transpeople present. What’s unclear is if something similar happened to other transgendered people, perhaps taking early tentative steps out in public, who then ended up leaving in tears with their confidence crushed.
  • The actions of the police officer involved illustrate a worrying trend of using the Gender Recognition Act as a way to justify sexual discrimination against transpeople, which is very much a perversion of what the act was supposed to accomplish.

UPDATE: Pride London have issued the following statement:

We at Pride deeply regret this incident happened and are doing everything within our power to remedy the situation. As the Appointed Director to handle this issue I am concerned that a lot of misinformation has been circulating with regard to this.
So let me clear some of this up:
Firstly SFM workers are not volunteers for Pride London, they are handled by SFM directly. The incident that took place in the women’s toilet did not involve one of Pride’s stewards as been reported as we at Pride do not adhere to any discrimination issues. We have a clear policy with regard to toilets and usage by Trans people, that is a Trans woman is clearly allowed to use the women’s toilet and a Trans male clearly able to use a male toilet. We would never say to any Trans person to use the disable loo as this is clearly illegal.
SFM have adhered to Pride’s policies for their three years of providing additional stewarding at our events, and this is the first complaint we have had over their handling of such an issue in all that time against all the hundreds of staff that they provide. SFM have assured us that this incident was not how they would normally handle such an issue, and was a genuine mistake. We are working with them to ensure that there is no repetition.
Secondly we at Pride cannot speak on behalf of the Metropolitan Police with regard to this incident. It has been alleged that one of their LGBT liaison officers requested a Gender Recognition Certificate: this is a breach of all legislation in relation to Trans, as very few individuals can request this, and a GRC is never to be used as an ID document. I am sure that the Metropolitan Police will be looking into this.
Thirdly we have very clear policies regarding equality and expect that all sub-contractors adhere to this – this is going to be looked into as a matter of urgency.
*Making this Public statement I must also say that we deeply regret that Roz Kaveney had to endure such an experience at our event, this is deeply regrettable and should never have happened, and so I publicly apologise on behalf of Pride London to her with regard to this, and we will endeavour to ensure that it never happens in the future with respect to any groups that are a part of our Stakeholders forum, or indeed any one attending Pride London’s events.*
When things like this happen it leaves a very distasteful feeling with any person or community who feel that they are being singled out or picked on and this is not what we are about at Pride London. We hold very dearly our commitment to equality. We accept that in some cases training is important and we are happy to work with any of our contractors with the training of their volunteers in this respect, and we will also include any individual or groups that have an interest with this as well, where appropriate. This can involve Trans members being called upon to be a part of a training package.
Pride London has an excellent track record or working with all members of our community, and has in particular a strong record on Trans issues. This incident has marred a very successful event and lessons have to be and must be learnt from it.

Patrick Williams
Chair stakeholders Committee and HR Director
for and on behalf of Pride London

  1. Trans at Pride and the ad hoc group Stop Transphobia At Pride accept the official apology of London Pride to Roz Kaveney and the broader Trans Community subject to the following provisos:
  2. that there be some real movement to accept the suggestions we have made for greater inclusivity and diversity awareness on the Pride board, and that real institutional change follow from this.
  3. that there be proposals to deal with the weakness that the incident demonstrated not in Pride’s transinclusivity alone, but also to its insitutional skills in crisis management.
  4. that Pride’s response to the failings of both FSM security and Capita’s health and safety people in this matter be made transparent.
  5. that FSM and Capita apologize for the incident and indicate preparedness to make institutional change to ensure this never happen again.
  6. that Pride, FSM and Capita clarify the earlier incident from which the segregation of the toilets derived. If, as alleged, a transwoman was assaulted by a male in the women’s toilets, what happened to her? Was she taken care of and encouraged to make complaints? Why did no one connected with that incident try to contact the Trans Community stall thirty yards away to help us take care of her? We are glad that the Metropolitan Police are investigating the assault, but are shocked at the poor support given her on the spot.

The Metropolitan Police have issued the following statement:

Pride London 08 celebrations took part in Central London on Saturday 5 July and was attended by 825,000 people who enjoyed the day.
Feedback to both the Metropolitan Police Service and PrideLondon was that it was a day of celebration and festivities with an appropriate police response which met the needs of all communities.
Police dealt with a number of incidents that day which they resolved with the least disruption to people’s enjoyment of the day.
Regrettably for all the organisations involved in the management of this event, an incident occurred which caused great offence to members of the Trans community.
The incident took place in the public toilets within Trafalgar Square where a Trans woman was denied access to the female toilets.
As a result a number of Trans community members decided to stage a demonstration within the entry area to the toilets, an argument ensued, and the steward at the toilets was barged and pushed up against a wall, and inappropriate language was used.
An off duty police officer, a LGBT liaison officer, who was in the area at the time intervened at this stage. One of the officer’s primary concerns being that some of the trans community members, having previously participated in the parade, still had their placards with them and during the growing arguments, he felt that these could inadvertantly cause injury through escalating tensions and heated exchanges. The officer took action to reduce those immediate tensions and ascertained facts from both the steward and the trans woman involved.
The officer’s actions included attaining an apology for the Trans woman, an offer to act as her witness should she wish to take the matter further and he also provided his name and details should she wish to contact him further. The officer then left believing that all actions he had taken were of satisfactory outcome.
The MPS also reviewed the CCTV footage outside the public toilets.
Neither party wished to make a formal complaint at the time against the other party.
It is deeply regretted by the MPS and PrideLondon, that Trans community members were denied access to these facilities.
It is the firm view of both organisations that the Trans woman involved should never have been denied access to the women’s toilets, and members of the Trans community should have been able to attend this event and feel supported by diverse communities who they are close to.
The MPS and PrideLondon recognise the depth of hurt, and frustration felt by the Trans community around this incident, and both organisations took immediate action to ascertain what had occurred.
The welfare and reputation of the MPS LGBT Liaison Officer with over 8 years of examplary deployment has also been of key importance to the organisation and throughout their internal review, the MPS have ensured that enquiries were thorough and transparent but conducted with sensitivity to the position he had now found himself placed in.
The MPS also felt it was of the utmost importance for their organisation and other multi agency stakeholders, including the Gay Police Association, PrideLondon executives and trans community representatives to meet at the earliest opportunity which was chaired by Steve Allen, the borough commander for the City of Westminster.
The meeting provided opportunity for respective findings to be shared and to discuss proposals for a united approach that would support the regaining of trust by our trans communities and further reflect our continued desire for transphobic incidents of this nature being prevented from happening again.
The meeting on Wednesday 9th July 08 supported the proposal for a public open forum hosted by Commander Steve Allen being held. Invitations for this event would be extended to trans community members, trans support agencies and wide ranging multi agency LGBT representatives.
Details of the proposed meeting date and time will be advised via separate communication within the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the MPS and PrideLondon continue in their ongoing day-to-day work that both engages our trans communities and respectively continues to learn from their diversity.

In addition to this, Commander Allen of Westminster police has issued the following letter:

Last Saturday it was my privilege to take part in the Pride march at the head of the police officers and staff representing the Metropolitan Police Service. We were alongside colleagues from other emergency services, from the army, the navy and the air force. I am proud that the MPS is the uniformed service with the longest history of participation in this event since I believe it is a sign of the progress over some time now that my organisation has been making.
Having regarded my day so positively I was greatly disappointed to learn that events on Trafalgar Square had caused such anger and inflicted damage on what we all acknowledge is a fragile relationship between transgender people and the police. The details of that incident have been examined and I think there is finally clarity about what happened and who played what part. It is clear to me that the motivation and actions of the police officer involved were positive and he has my full support. We expect extraordinary things from our officers and I am pleased that although off duty, he regarded it as his duty to become involved where he saw a situation developing.
The events of the day are being addressed by the various organisations involved. Clearly inappropriate decisions were made and inappropriate words said. Those specifics are being or have already been addressed.
The issue at the heart of events over the last few days is much wider. That issue is about the nature and quality of relationships and engagement between police and transgender people. There is no doubt that we are at the early stages of the journey. The aim must be to get to a point where the relationship is sufficiently robust that it can survive the setbacks that will inevitably occur. The vision is getting to a position where policing services are delivered to victims, witnesses, suspects and every other member of our communities in a way that is fair, just, professional, compassionate and respectful of the particular needs of individuals. For members of our communities, this must be the case because that is what you have a right to expect. For the MPS this must be the case because we can only succeed if we have the trust and the confidence of the people we work for.
My organisation is committed to doing the right thing but we know we need help along the way. We know that we have to have a dialogue where we can hear and respond to the needs identified by transgender people so that we get it right. We also need to be able to explain the limitations on our powers and resources so that the expectations are informed and realistic.
I hope that we can use the events of last weekend in a positive way – as a catalyst for progress. At the Gold Group I chaired on 9 July (consisting of a wide range of people, not just police) it was agreed that I should extend an invitation to an open discussion of how and what we need to consider to make effective progress on transgender matters. A meeting wont solve all the problems but will at least open another channel of communication. Details will be made available in due course but please be assured I am up for the discussion.

Those of us who were involved in the incident do not agree with some of the facts as presented in these documents, and we’ll be taking this up with the police. We’ll update you all on the outcome when we have news. In the meantime we’d really encourage you all to attend the public meeting with the police and use this as a chance to have your say.

We are working with GALOP on this.

The meeting referred to will take place on the 29th of July from 6-8pm, at:
Main Conference Centre
Abbey Centre
34 Great Smith St
London SW1
Anyone wishing to attend should email Diversitydirectorate-DCC4@met.police.uk to register.


Update: The meeting mentioned above has now taken place, and was well attended by transpeople, allies and representatives from the Metropolitan Police. As a result of that meeting, Commander Allen has issues this letter:

8th August 2008
On Tuesday evening, 29th July, I together with other MPS colleagues, met with a number of people from the transgender communities in an open meeting in Westminster. This meeting came about as a consequence of events during Pride celebrations on 5 July.
The meeting generated a lively and helpful discussion about a range of issues covering the relevant incidents and wider issues of trust and confidence between the police and trans people. There were a number of areas talked about where I believe the MPS can now make further progress as a result.
The point was made, a number of times during the evening, about the need for us all to listen to and learn from each other.
Part of the learning has been about the impact on the trans communities of early responses from the MPS. In particular, it is clear that my “open letter” had a very different impact from the one I intended. My intention was to provide reassurance that a senior officer had taken ownership and was determined to learn the organisational lessons that would undoubtedly emerge.
I offer my personal and sincerest apology that my letter did not have the effect I had intended and upon closer reflection I can see why this caused deep upset to some of the trans communities. It was never my intention to suggest that my officer’s actions would not be investigated or that there would be no need to offer advice and improved training to him and his colleagues.
It is clear that members of the trans communities and the officer found themselves involved in a set of circumstances for which the trans communities were not responsible. They were clearly the victims. It has been claimed that the demonstrators assaulted stewards – examination of CCTV evidence demonstrates that these claims are mistaken. Despite the best endeavours and intentions of the officer, these obviously came across in a way, which caused misinterpretation, confusion and hurt.
I hope that the response of the MPS speaks more loudly than my initial choice of words. We have taken ownership of the issues at a very senior level; we have circulated advice about the GRA to our officers; we have resolved the complaint against the police officer to the satisfaction of the party involved and continue to investigate with full vigour a number of criminal offences connected with these events. We have also, of course, held an open meeting to maintain dialogue with the community.
I have asked the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate to hold a de-brief of these events with MPS practitioners to ensure we get the maximum learning from them. I know that a significant issue to be taken forward is the raising of awareness and training of our staff and the Diversity & Citizen Focus Directorate are now looking at options that further expand our developing partnerships with our transgender support associations who can assist us with our continued learning of this complex arena of diversity.
We have to start from where we are, not where we would like to be. Mistakes have been made and I and certainly my colleagues within the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate are aware of the disappointment and anxieties the trans communities have felt over this highly regrettable incident. We have for some years striven to understand the many issues, which beset the trans communities and in so many ways we have succeeded in listening and responding.
Obviously the MPS has let you down on this occasion for which we have to double our efforts to repair and restore the much needed trust and confidence which can enable us to progress these issues in order to deliver very real and meaningful change.

Regards
Steve Allen
Commander

Trans@Pride welcome this important first step in building trust and understanding between the Police authorities and the trans community in London. We are pleased that it acknowledges that the trans group protesting at the exclusionary policy were non-violent, and that transpeople involved in this incident were victims, and not the perpetrators of any aggression. We welcome the commitment to increased diversity training and awareness of the scope of the Gender Recognition Act within the MPS.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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