Archive for August, 2010

The Great bathroom debate, part two: in defense of Jack of Kent

I’m sure I’ll get accused by some of being an apologist for a cisgendered world view for this post so I should state the following, mostly for my own benefit and not because I think it will alter others opinions of this piece: I believe I’m far more of the “we won’t put up with playing nice” world view of the stonewall rioters, rather than the more common trans mainstream “mustn’t upset the community or politicians” view of the early half of the last decade. Following this post some may view me otherwise. To some extent I’m playing devils advocate here, but I believe in the underlying message: I think Jack had a rough ride.

Firstly, let’s look at a recent concept I’m very keen on, Labour on Demand which whilst not initially that relevant does get turned on it’s head a little. I would say this unfortunately does apply when most people end up having the toilet debate as one just wants to carry on with ones employment or go to the toilet while out in public doing the shopping. But here Jack was engaged in a conversation with a member of the trans community before posting his entry and it’s not being forced down people’s throats for comment. Unlike the more mainstream LGB community, the language and identity politics of the trans community has not (yet?) entered the mainstream and twice in the last month I’ve found myself having to explain words and ideas we as activists now all take for granted like “transition”, “passing” and the more recent post-Whipping Girl concepts such as “cisgendered”. Once with a BBC reporter and once, to a lesser extent, to an LGB activist within a political party wanting to know more so that the party concerned can do the right thing when it comes to framing and debating policy. The key point here is I put myself up for it. I spent a year or so after the Toiletgate and S’onewall protests not doing much trans activism for various reasons and would not have needed to engage with this now, but I choose to do so and in that I hold some power, rather than having a demand made of me. Much of the followup debate has happened outside of Jack of Kent’s blog too, so there is reduced power in terms of “home turf” too.

For an outsider, getting involved in trans politics must often seem like walking into a minefield without realising it. As far as you’re concerned, you’re walking a nice safe path when boom – there’s a loud noise in you find, Blackadderesque, your credibility with the community being blown 200 feet into the air and scattered over a wide area. I gave the warning to the political activist I met with that no matter how careful you are, you’re likely to step on one of these landmines. Jack hit one of those landmines and I find it difficult to criticise his decision to back out of the minefield.

So, lets look at the specific critiques made of the question. Firstly, we have Sarah’s initial response, which can roughly be summarised as “This question is framed within a cisgendered world view”. That’s quite valid to my mind as it’s predominantly not an attack on the one asking the question but upon the society which creates the question – there are whole chapters in Social Science 101 texts devoted to the interaction between language and society. I for one am uncomfortable with the term “transsexual”, containing the word “sex” as it does and I’m far more likely to just write “trans”. Similarly, the community as a whole has now rejected the previously acceptable terms “genetic girl” and similar as being inaccurate and inherently transphobic.

But then we come to the word “choice”. This is a touchy word within the trans community because it’s often use to level the accusation that we chose to transition, in the same way people “choose” to be gay or of some ethnic minority, and thus should have to live with the consequences. However touchy that word may be, I do not believe it was used in a transphobic context. I’m not arguing intent here, but context – the specific phrase was “…use the toliet of their choice…” in the context of legal regulation. To my mind, that’s an entirely relevant debate to have because there may be situations where one might not want to use the “obvious” toilet but to choose the alternate one for some reason even if just because the obvious one is full. I don’t think the state has any business regulating that as we already have laws against rape, sexual assault and generally being a nuisance. Another example that springs to mind is the often overlooked group of neutrois folk who reject identifying with either gender. In an imperfect and inherently gendered world, they must make a choice about which bathrooms to use. That does not in any way imply in any way that their situation is a choice, merely that in the world we live in they will have to make choices about what they do.

The way the discussion on that point was put may not, at first reading, come across as a debate about the question but a rather more fundamentalist “using this word at all, in this debate, reveals you as at least partially transphobic”. Jack apologised – possibly mistakenly given the audience invoking the “intent” argument – but it was not the substance of his apology and unlike those who are our true enemies he took the time to apologise and said “look, I realise I had the wording wrong but I’m not comfortable with the implication of transphobia and worried I may not get it right in future so I’ll leave the topic alone, OK?”

He then basically gets told that by backing off, he’s being even more transphobic. Is the community not now guilty of the same thing we accuse others of, namely Labour on Demand? “Because you dared mention us, we demand that you stay here, engage with us while we pick apart your arguments and if you don’t you’re as bad as *insert bad person of the month here*”? Maybe he’s just having a bad day on this topic and doesn’t want to engage further, again something we struggle with ourselves. (Just because I explained some trans point to you yesterday, don’t expect me to spend time on it today when I’m tired or just been given a bunch of abuse, etc) I can see one might claim that there is an attempt to stifle debate here but looking at actions elsewhere that hardly seems to be the case – he’s taken the time to link to the debate from both twitter and his own blog, not the actions of someone with something to hide.

Another angle of attack is the (ironically named, given Jack’s avatar) white knight syndrome – that the majority knows best what’s good for the minority. Now, I hate it when this happens with a passion because the trans community is often excluded from gay debate, such as on marriage equality, on the basis that what’s good for them is good for us so we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads over it and they’ll sort it out for us. I don’t see much white knighting going on here but an opportunity for those who choose to do so to be given a platform to engage in some productive discussion in a largely friendly environment.

People then act surprised that he’s backing off even faster. “But I haven’t been that nasty, really!” No, individually it’s not been an issue but the sum of the whole is greater than the parts and having come in to the debate on the post late in the game and reading it all in one go, I think I get a different impression from those engaged in the debate blow-by-blow.

So what has happened is that a relatively liberal and influential blogger isn’t going to write about trans issues again, when he could well have been an important ally. I really can’t see that’s a victory for anyone except the more isolationist and pro-stealth elements of the trans community and I certainly don’t count myself amongst their ranks.

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More on the great bathroom debate, part one: Patriarchy

For those active in the trans community I’m coming into this debate late on with this blog post but I should explain the background to this for those coming in to this via Planet or LDV. There has long been an issue surrounding trans folk and toilets, usually along the lines of “OMGZ, men invading women’s spaces!” Oddly, it’s always about transwomen and never transmen. If anyone believes this is a purely theoretical debate, the Pride London “Toiletgate” scandal in 2008 demonstrates otherwise. (Synopsis: Pride London stewards refuse entry to transwoman to female toilets, police get the law wrong, another transwoman later sexually assaulted in male toilets) This debate restarted on Saturday following a Twitter exchange between Christine Burns, (@christineburns) veteran trans rights campaigner, and legal blogger Jack of Kent (@jackofkent) and resulted in Jack posting a question in his blog, “To what extent should the law regulate which toilet a transgendered person can use?”.

Firstly, my view on the topic. In this UK this is a timely debate following the news about Rachel Millington being fired apparently for being trans and the ever present elephant in the room, upcoming Equalities Act legislation making it legal to discriminate against trans people (Or anyone who appears to be trans) in a wide variety of situations.

It’s also an important debate in my mind, because toilets tend to be close to the “worst case” scenario, with female toilets and changing rooms tending to be regarded as safe spaces and havens from masculinity. Imagine the debate like a game of football – that we’re fighting so close to the other side’s goal line in this country is a positive point and to our benefit and denies those that would oppress us to shift the middle ground back to the “Should trans people be allowed to even exist” debate that’s all to present in other countries, even the USA. Sadly, it is a continuous fight at least for the moment and we took our eye off the ball long enough earlier this year to allow the Equalities Act to get through with all it’s problems.

As to the debate itself, in my experience there are two principle groups of people who are transphobic, namely second wave feminists and men. With the second wave feminists, we’re just inconvenient for their argument that gender is socialised and there must therefore be something “wrong” with us. Transmen on the other hand are accepted as they’re challenging this view by attacking the male gender. There’s something inherently misogynistic about this view because it presumes masculinity is somehow better so any “men” invading women’s space must only be doing to to assert their power.

Vocal as they are, and also generally high-profile skilled debaters, second wavers do not tend to be the ones calling the shots in toilet situations. It’s always “management” – of shopping centres, employers and so on. What do we know about “management”? Not always but it can tend to be very male in some companies and from comments I’ve seen in such cases (Referring to female employees/service users in the third person) that tends to follow through in cases of transphobic employers and management. (I believe both the steward and the police officer involved in the Toiletgate incidents were male) Post-transition and given other changes in employment history since, I’ve seen all to well what can happen when you get male-heavy management. It influences debate in quite a masculine-oriented way that’s not present in a more mixed or female-heavy management structure and thus, in a form of indirect sexual discrimination, tends to exclude women as being “unsuitable” for the organisational culture.

In such organisations, where masculine traits rule, what is the view of someone who sells out those masculine traits to transition? It’s not going to be positive, really. But they can’t say that the very concept of transwoman rejecting some of her masculine traits is an anathema to them, because that would reveal either their discomfort with their own masculinity or the inherent sexual discrimination within the company culture. Instead they find a more masculine way of projecting it: “We’re just protecting the women! Some of them might be uncomfortable!” It doesn’t matter if “some” women are uncomfortable or not, and I’m sure they’ll find one or two willing to state that they are but with the possible high-profile exception of Germaine Greer, one never hears of female employees getting uppity about management accepting a transwoman without question. Why not?

One sees this on the comments page of such publications as the Daily Mail too – male commenters who need to protect the women. In their world this is probably quite valid, because to them women are weak and need protecting. Because of that very weakness, no real man would ever want to be a woman so he must have some ulterior motive for trying to become one. Remove that argument and we’re left with a form of discrimination that can easily be countered, be it the toilet debate or the wider equality bills – substitute “gay” or some other minority and try to defend your policy then without looking like you’re stuck in the 1950s.

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Stonewall, Trans marriage rights and the Equality Act

It seems at least in the circles I move in that it’s quite the in thing to attack S’onewall and Ben Summerskill in particular. Well, just for the record I’m not jumping on the bandwagon because we helped give it a push start in 2008.

It may be that S’onewall haven’t forgiven the Trans community for upsetting their nice awards though. I noticed earlier this year that their mention of IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia strangely missed out the Transphobia. More recently I ran across their statement about their membership of the Equality and Diversity Forum which fails to mention Gender Identity, even though it’s present on the EDFs own website.

It concerns me that S’onewall are very good at publicity and education and thus are often consulted by public organisations when promoting and running equality campaigns, such as this example of an anti-Homophobia campaign by Gwent Police. Gwent Police’s portion of the press release fails to mention transphobia, although Gwent Crown Prosecution Service do manage to be more inclusive. Gwent Police no doubt think they’re doing the right thing and are to be applauded for that but I’ll hazard a guess that the beer mats being distributed, if S’onewall had anything to do with them, don’t cover transphobia at all. I’d encourage any organisation running any sort of LGBT equality event to also talk to GIRES who do excellent work on education. (As an aside, I’m still working on a Trans Action Group idea but I have some groundwork to do – GIRES don’t cover the same ground as they’re not political)

More bizarrely, Stonewall “declined” to take part in a Pink News article on Marriage Equality. All the other groups invited did submit their responses, although I’m concerned that only three of the eight organisations that replied thought it would be appropriate to mention, when replying to a request from probably the most Trans-friendly news service in the UK, the state-mandated divorce inflicted on transitioners. Of the three, two were unlikely champions – the Tories and the Christians.

And finally, I move on to one final Pink News story – Trans woman claims she lost her job after wearing women’s clothes. (Original Linconshire Echo story here – health warning, the comments include the usual kind of drivel you’d expect) Assuming the facts given are true, what’s the betting that a case like this would be defended in future using the provisions in the Equality Act 2010 because it made the clients she was working with “uncomfortable”? Luckily that can’t happen in this case as even if it doesn’t end up at tribunal for a while, the EA2010 isn’t yet in force.

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Identity and Passport Service on Gender Markers

And the second of my two FoI requests has also come back, this time from the IPS. Highlights – they don’t use the X unspecified gender marker and never have done and have consulted with the Trans community on this. I don’t know when that was, however – they say “recently” but that could be 10 years ago. They also confirmed only one pair of ID cards were ever issued under the transgender provisions. Text is below minus the usual stuff, I’ve also trimmed my questions down to make it more readable (You can see the full list on my earlier post) but the responses are in full. Their reference for this request was FOICR 15540/10.

Passports
These questions relate to ICAO Doc 9303, Part I, Volume I.1 Can you confirm:
1. Does the Identity & Passport Service follow Doc 9303 (Or a standard that refers to it, such as ISO/IEC 7501-1:2008) for passports.

I can confirm that UK passports do meet the specifications for passports set out in
Document 9303.

2. Section IV permits use of “X” to mean unspecified as a sex on Machine Readable Passports(MRP) within the Visual Inspection Zone (Page IV-11, field 11) and similarly “<” within the Machine Readable Zone. (Page IV-16, line 2, character position 21). Has the IPS ever issued an MRP with X/< specified as
sex… (Remainder of question 2 and questions 3 and 4 omitted)

ICAO standards do not mandate that the use of “X” as a gender identifier must be made available by passport issuing authorities. Currently, IPS does not use this identifier and has never done so in the past. The passport issuing system is not currently designed to include “X” as a gender identifier. Thus, no passports have been issued with the “X” gender identifier. This policy was recently reviewed and transgender community groups such as Press for Change were involved in consultation on this topic. However, as with all passport policy, we are happy to obtain feedback from members of the public which will be used to input to any future policy reviews.

Identity Cards
1. During discussion on the Identity Documents Bill, Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, implied that only one individual had has two identity cards issued under the provisions of The Identity Cards Act 2006 (Application and Issue of ID Card and Notification of Changes) Regulations 2009, section 7(2)(b). Can you confirm this figure is correct?

I can confirm that under the provisions of The Identity Cards Act 2006 (Application and Issue of ID Card and Notification of Changes) Regulations 2009, section 7(2)(b) only one set of ID cards have been issued under the Transgendered scheme.

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DVLA reply to FoI request on driving licence titles

I’ve received a reply to my Freedom of Information request to the DVLA – I’ve reproduced it minus the usual pre and postamble on such letters. Some quick highlights – I think they missed the point in that they talk about “recording” titles rather than their inclusion on the licence so I’ll probably resubmit the FoI request again, rewording the question to make it clearer. I’ve not received the attachment they mentioned, so perhaps that clarifies things somewhat. Secondly, one good point for many is you can basically put whatever title you want on the form or leave it blank if you don’t want one, regardless of gender. (Although I would guess for a change of name/title you may need to explicitly ask for the title to be removed or there’s a risk they’ll just re-include the old one)

If anyone is wanting to follow up on this on their own and reference this request, their reference number is FOIR2039.

1. It would appear that at least for the last 30 years, driving licences include title (Mrs, Miss) etc only where the holder is female or has an honorific title such as Dr., Lord etc. Can you confirm this is indeed current policy? Please supply a copy of the policy or guidelines issued to staff, if they exist.

Where a female applicant does not specify a title, then this field is left blank. Titles such as Doctor, Reverend, Lord and Lady are also included on driving licences. I can confirm that policy or guidance in this regard is not held. It is the responsibility of DVLA to accurately record information that has been provided to them by applicants for or holders of a driving licence. Where a female driver provides a title such as Miss or Mrs, DVLA will include the title on the individual’s driving licence.

However, guidance is available that instructs staff about the field codes to use when keying the information to be input on the driver’s record and I attach a copy for your information.

2. What is the reason for this policy, if it is not merely historical?

The Policy is historical and evolves over time in reaction to developing trends.

3. Has this policy been reviewed historically and if so, what were the results of that review, including minutes of meetings.

This information is not held. There have been no formal reviews of DVLA’s policy on recording titles. Of course where titles not previously identified are submitted by applicants then the matter will be reviewed as and when necessary.

4. Are there any current plans to review this policy?

Please see the answer to 3 above.

5. Would the DVLA issue a driving licence on request
a) without the title (to a woman)
b) with an alternative title such as “Ms”, (not indicating marital status) “Mx.” or “Mre.” (Gender-neutral form of Mr/Ms

The answer to both a) and b) is Yes.

6. If a licence would only be issued under one of the above only under certain conditions, what are those conditions (e.g. deed poll with the new title)

A deed poll would not be required for either title Ms, Mx or Mre.

7. In cases where the gender of the applicant is not obvious, how is this handled in terms of encoding the “gender marker” within the 7th character of the licence number? (For example, supporting documentation does not include it, the name and appearance of the applicant in the photograph is ambiguous and they have a non-gender specific title, such as Dr.)

DVLA would contact the applicant in circumstances where there was any uncertainty over their gender.

Update: I’ve now received the missing document on entering and handling title codes, which includes some rules on when you might need a Deed Poll. (If you want to call yourself something that implies a title, “Lord so-and-so” for example.)

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Have transsexuals become easy targets?

I’ve just posted the following comment in response to this BBC News story on the murder of Destiny Lauren. I have no idea if it’ll be published or not.

Yes, as a transwoman myself, I can say that transsexual people can be terribly vulnerable. It’s not just the “trans-panic” murders as appears to have happened with Andrea Waddell and the constant threat of day-to-day abuse if one doesn’t “pass”. It’s also that trans folk in general will often find themselves joining vulnerable groups in other ways, such as having to resort to sex work or living in dodgy areas because we’ve lost our jobs, our homes and our families.

When we do end up calling the police, it’s just as likely we’ll be arrested or discriminated against even when we’re the victims rather than helped so many people feel they simply can’t call for help. It’s the same with medical services – whilst the majority of doctors and nurses are genuinely helpful there are a few who are truly transphobic and will refuse to help. (This has been made worse by the Equalities Act 2010 as when it comes into force in October, it will be entirely legal to discriminate against anyone even suspected of being transsexual in the provision of services such as sheltered accommodation or rape councilling)

Those higher up the chains of command in such organisations also sometimes genuinely want to help, but even more so want to protect their staff. So far, I’ve not seen a single complaint against the police or health service that’s been upheld with more than promises of “further training” or “words of advice” if you’re lucky, which means the few bad apples know they can get away with not caring.

Some, such as myself, are luckier and kept our jobs and our support networks. But we still may end up having to work to pay off loans needed for medical treatment and spending time and effort explaining ourselves to or defending ourselves against the police, the health services and even supposed allies in the LGB community every time we need basic – even non-Trans-related – support.

Most of us would rather spend our efforts doing something more positive: Campaigning to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Edited: I was quoted in the main story linked to above, partially based on the above submission but also following a phone conversation with the BBC. My original comment was also included on a separate page.

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More inequality in the Equalities Act 2010

I had assumed it was just the provision of services bit of the Equalities Act 2010 that was the Trans-gotcha. A quick search of the act for the phrase transsexual reveals far worse. Sport is the first hit – section 195, or page 122 if you’re reading the PDF version.

A person does not contravene section 29, 33, 34 or 35, so far as relating to gender reassignment, only by doing anything in relation to the participation of a transsexual person as a competitor in a gender-affected activity if it is necessary to do so to secure in relation to the activity—
(a) fair competition, or
(b) the safety of competitors.

Fair competition? You’d think they’d at clear this one up in the explanatory notes but no:

It also makes it lawful to restrict participation of transsexual people in such competitions if this is necessary to uphold fair or safe competition, but not otherwise.

Nothing about having certain well established rules (Such as the International Olympic Committee ones) relating to transsexual people. Just “restrict participation”. As for safety… are we a threat to people? Really? Can anyone actually back that one up in the slightest without descending into the worst transphobic stereotypes possible?

Next up is schedule 9 on page 170. I wasn’t clear in my last post if you could be discriminated against because you might be trans even if you’re not. Well, it seems being a butch dyke or having a spot of facial hair due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is now something you can be discriminated against for when applying for jobs:

…the person to whom A applies the requirement does not meet it (or A has reasonable grounds for not being satisfied that the person meets it).

I can’t quite wrap my head around that one so I may have the interpretation wrong as it’s giving me a headache just trying. I’d appreciate someone with a legal background trying to unravel it. The same page also has a whole host of exclusions relating to sex, sexuality and gender identity if it’s a religious organisation that’s the employer, I think we all know about those ones already.

This one really annoys me as I thought the excellent work GIRES did put this one to bed:

A person does not contravene section 39(1)(a) or (c) or (2)(b) by applying in relation to service in the armed forces a relevant requirement if the person shows that the application is a proportionate means of ensuring the combat effectiveness of the armed forces. (2) A relevant requirement is… (b) a requirement not to be a transsexual person.

Right. Get this: I can’t speak for the other branches, but in order to get into and stay in the Army, you have to pass physical tests. Running up hills in the carrying insanely heavy backpacks with someone yelling at you telling you it’s “character building”. The physical fitness standards are (Outside of the infantry) Army-wide and laid down in stone so there’s no messing about if the Physical Training staff don’t like you. You’re either in, or you’re not. If someone is Trans and can pass the physical tests, why on earth would anyone give a rats arse if you’re Trans or not?

Now on to page 224, Communal Accommodation.

A person does not contravene this Act, so far as relating to sex discrimination or gender reassignment discrimination, only because of anything done in relation to… (a) the admission of persons to communal accommodation; (b) the provision of a benefit, facility or service linked to the accommodation.

So next time anyone suspect of looking a bit tranny turns up at a Youth Hostel they can expect to be turned away? Perhaps the NHS will have a new funding crisis due to the need to build special tranny wards. And you can forget sheltered accommodation. Been abused by a partner? Doesn’t matter, you’re a transsexual person now. No councilling, no sheltered accommodation.

So, let us turn to the explanatory notes to see if they clarify things at all. Here’s what’s quoted for section 16:

Example
A female to male transsexual person takes time off work to receive hormone treatment as part of his gender reassignment. His employer cannot discriminate against him because of his absence from work for this purpose.

Ah! Now we’re getting some clarity – whoever wrote this really hasn’t got a clue. I’m not sure how many transmen have needed to take time off work to go an inject themselves with T or change a patch but I’ll hazard a guess it’s not high up the list of worries of the average trans person. I can only guess they might mean going to see a doctor to get a repeat prescription but that’s no different from anyone else on HRT. Why not use the obvious example – surgery?

Further on there’s this gem:

733. A person with a full Gender Recognition Certificate acquired under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is able to marry someone of the opposite gender to his or her acquired gender. The Marriage Act 1949 imposes an obligation on clergyman in the Church of England or a clerk in Holy Orders of the Church in Wales to marry anyone residing in their parish, or who fits other stated connection criteria. However section 5B of that Act contains an exception where the clergyman or clerk reasonably believes one of the parties’ gender is acquired under the Gender Recognition Act.

There we go, another case of “it’s not good to look a bit trans”. I perhaps have some of this wrong as I don’t have much legal knowledge outside of IT and the Internet and this stuff is hard to read, but the explanatory notes seem to make it clear: Being out just might not be the smart thing any more. I honestly have no idea how this stuff got through parliament without someone noticing how bad it is. End of parliament wash up? More like a whitewash and a chance to push through some quite unwelcome legislation.

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Loopholes in the Equality Act 2010 – more reasons to be stealth

Anyone reading this will by now surely have read Zoe Brain’s post about the UK Equality Act 2010. I may have missed this but what I haven’t seen discussed yet is how this would would in practice. Bills pushed through in a hurry without proper scrutiny tend to make bad laws and this one may be no exception.

Lets have a look at the two examples given alongside the act:

A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.

So, someone looking a bit less than feminine – and there’s nothing like abuse to give you very unfeminine body language, can’t even begin to imagine what serious sexual assault would do – walks in to a counselling session in their stereotypical combat boots and ripped jeans and is told “Sorry, you can’t be here, you’re clearly transsexual”. What if they’re not? It’s impossible to prove one is cisgendered, so by doing this you’re basically discriminating not based on gender reassignment status but on appearance. In the case of someone who is a butch lesbian, it could be argued that you’re discriminating based on sexuality so you’ve broken the law.

The second example reads:

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

Same problem occurs here. If you don’t know someone is or isn’t trans, can you discriminate before you employ them? Not without discriminating against a significant portion of the LGB population, I suspect. After employing them, if you know but only because you saw a copy of their Gender Recognition Certificate, the Gender Recognition Act says you can’t out that person so you can’t say or do anything that would imply they’re trans. (No matter how obvious it might be)

Unless I’ve missed something, this may be an issue that will impact more LGB people than T people, so perhaps something we can enlist help campaigning on?

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A UK Trans(sexual) Action Group?

It’s become obvious that something is needed. That something is a successor to the older organisations that no longer seem active or have lost grass roots support over the last 2 or 3 years. There is a seed of doubt here, if it’s so obvious and so needed why hasn’t someone done it already?

But someone has to be first. Why not here, why not now?

Here’s the idea. A group of Trans folk and perhaps people who we might invite in to help, that can respond to consultations for parliament and other bodies, by going out there to the transsexual community and saying “hey, what do you think?”, putting all those responses into one place and giving them to the lawmakers. We saw it happen on a small scale with Dr. Julian Huppert’s piece on ID cards, but we can’t always expect politicians to come asking. The easier we make it for them, the more chance we have of being heard. There was nobody from the T community present at the recent Home Office chat about Civil Partnerships and I can’t help but suspect it’s because we’re just not loud enough right now. Plus, if you wanted in invite someone to represent the community right now, who would you ask? I can’t think of any good, willing candidates whom one can say have a grass roots mandate to do this work.

A group to put out press releases and publicise grass roots activism and protests, as happened with the S’onewall protests in 2008.

A group to nominate spokespeople to go to posh media events and help eat all those troublesome but sadly inevitable canapés.

A group to do all the usual publicity tricks that the establishment LGB has learnt to do over the past couple of decades. Don’t like a nomination for some 2011 award? Well, let’s have our own and nominate UK Trans Ally and Trans Villians of the year in 2011. We may not get the funding for a pink carpet and be able to hire out halls, but we can at least generate some press coverage.

In honesty, I don’t know how to get these things started, except one way – sheer momentum. Start it, get enough people interested and make enough noise in the right places and we’ll generate enough political awareness that issues will start to find us, rather than the other way round.

I already have a couple of things in the pipeline that will need some backing and discussion. So, if anyone wants to be involved or even just be kept informed, comment here and publicise this on Twitter, Facebook and in real life. Even if people don’t like this set of goals or think I’m not the right person to coordinate this, it will at least get interested people in one place with the will to do something and to do something now.

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