Archive for January, 2011

The internet is dead, long live the internet.

Within the last hour, the regional internet registry for the Asia Pacific region, APNIC, requested two more blocks of IP addresses. This will trigger the previously agreed-upon final distribution of IPv4 addresses to the regional registries.

Immediately, we will probably see very little technically from this although it will no doubt gain significant media coverage. Everything will keep working, despite some rather silly prophecies to the contrary. The regional registries will have enough space to keep on allocating IPv4 blocks to ISPs for a few months.

But the clock is very much ticking and any service providers not already working on IPv6 has merely been hitting the snooze button. End users are not going to notice for a while, perhaps not for years and if service providers get it right hopefully never. But providers that do not have IPv6 up and running by the time they run out of IPv4 address space are suddenly going to find themselves in a world of pain.


New Police rules on searching Trans folk

I’ve just been pointed at the new Police and Criminal Act Code of Practice and the Home Office have (I think without consultation with the community but I’m trying to verify that) produced new rules on searching Trans folk. This isn’t in force yet and the document is still a “Final Draft”, but my understanding is that it’s probably too late to do much to change it. As it stands, they’ll probably come in to force later this year, although they did reach me via the political process so perhaps there is room to exert some influence.

Actually, the rules apply to anyone whose gender isn’t clear but it’s clearly been written with Trans people in mind. I predict problems when searching cis people who look “a bit odd”!

In one respect, the rules are possibly a good thing given that at the moment it would (I assume) be down to the officers discretion at the time. This is currently open to more opportunity for massive failure and prejudice than after these rules come into force.

The original document is available online and it’s Annex F on page 26 that’s Trans-related. To save you opening the PDF, I’ve reproduced it, slightly edited for brevity, at the end of this post.

My first reaction, and the reaction of a couple of other trans folk who have seen this, is that the GRC mention may be problematic. They do need to cover this as it’s important that if someone does have a GRC they must be treated as their acquired gender. However, I’m not a fan of the phrasing, which is just going to cause police to ask folk on the street for a copy of their GRC, as happened with the Toiletgate 2008 incident. I would suggest that gender markers on other official documents (which of course, people are not obliged to either carry or produce!) should be sufficient here.

It’s not awful – there are far worse things out there such as the prison service guidelines – but it’s a bit clunky and I’m really not sure what the objective of it was when writing it, so it’s hard to formulate a quick response beyond “Huh?”. There’s mention of “causing embarrassment” presumably to the officer doing the searching, so I do wonder if they’re concerned about the contents of someone’s underwear more than anything else. (Something that is of course unrelated to the gender specified on one’s ID)

Another point that came up was that it does assume a binary approach to gender which isn’t ideal, but the other sections upon which the code is based (“searches…may only be carried out by, or in the presence of, persons of the same sex“) mean that it would probably be futile trying to fix this here.

P.S. I’ve heard from elsewhere just as I post this that at least some police forces training on Trans issues is not to ask for a GRC – so PACE may now conflict with that.

1. Certain provisions of this and other Codes explicitly state that searches and other procedures may only be carried out by, or in the presence of, persons of the same sex as the person subject to the search or other procedure.
2. All searches should be carried out with courtesy, consideration and respect for the person concerned. Police officers should show particular sensitivity when dealing with transsexual or transvestite persons. The following approach is designed to minimise embarrassment and secure the co-operation of the person subject to the search.
3. At law, the gender of an individual is their gender as registered at birth unless they possess a gender recognition certificate as issued under section 9 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, in which case the person’s gender is the acquired gender.
(a) If there is no doubt as to the sex of a person, or there is no reason to suspect that the person is not the sex that they appear to be, they should be dealt with as that sex.
(b) A person who possesses a gender recognition certificate must be treated as their acquired gender.
(c) If the police are not satisfied that the person possesses a gender recognition certificate and there is doubt as to a person’s gender, the person should be asked what gender they consider themselves to be. If the person expresses a preference to be dealt with as a particular gender, they should be asked to sign the search record, the officer’s notebook or, if applicable, their custody record, to indicate and confirm their preference. If appropriate, the person should be treated as being that gender.
(d) If a person is unwilling to make such an election, efforts should be made to determine the predominant lifestyle of the person. For example, if they appear to live predominantly as a woman, they should be treated as such.
(e) If there is still doubt, the person should be dealt with according to the sex that they were born.
5. Once a decision has been made about which gender an individual is to be treated as, where possible before an officer searches that person, the officer should be advised of the doubt as to the person’s gender. This is important so as to maintain the dignity of the officer(s) concerned.


In defence of Vodafone: I am an engineer, not a martyr

As I sit here, from my nice safe desk in an anonymous building somewhere in Essex, I can see the internet. Not just Twitter, not Facebook, not any of a million other websites but the “routes” that tell service providers how to reach each other.

There’s a hole in those routes right now, where Egypt used to be. I can see one small bit, Noor Group, is still online but that’s it.

This isn’t good and neither is the violence but it’s not what I wanted to write about. I want to write about Vodafone.

There’s been criticism levelled at Vodafone for bowing to Egyptian government pressure in turning off the mobile phone network. I don’t believe they had any choice, not because of government political pressure but because otherwise they’d be asking their engineers to put their lives on the line.

Almost all networks are terribly, terribly vulnerable to anyone with enough internal knowledge. If you know physically where certain bits of equipment are (HLRs, if you’re into mobile phones) you can shut them down and bring the whole network down. There’s probably only a few locations – maybe only two, perhaps as many as a dozen or so – where these devices are held.

It only takes one engineer to tell the authorities where those locations are.

What then? Are you asking engineers to barricade themselves inside data centres until either the generators run out of fuel or the authorities break in? People have been beaten and shot there, so you’re asking the engineers to potentially martyr themselves just to buy a few days or even hours of mobile network coverage.

And if the engineers and managers and everyone else all refuse to say?

I have kids. Someone holds a gun to their head and I’m going to sing like a canary and I would tell them where those locations are and shut them down myself if necessary.

Sorry, but that’s the way it is. I expect no more of my colleagues in Egypt than I expect of myself.

I’m an engineer, not a martyr.


“Wanted: pre-op transsexual”. Also required: clue?

This casting call for a new Sky Atlantic HD series, “Hit and Miss”, worries me. To summarise: They’re after someone to play the leading role, a trans woman, in a new TV series.

No problem?

Well, yes, they actually want “a male to female pre-op transsexual” to play the leading role. I’m confused.

Are they going to have a genital check at the casting to make sure someone is pre-op?

How will they actually know someone is transsexual?

Will anyone explain to them the difference between a noun and an adjective?

For the answer to these and other exiting questions, tune in next week…

Transamerica was successful in part I think because they didn’t try to get a trans woman or worse, a male actor to play the role. Instead, they just picked a good actress. Yes, I know Transamerica had problems, I winced at the “genuine girl” bit, but it shows you don’t need a trans woman to play a trans woman any more than you need to be heterosexual to play a straight person.

I can’t see that the pre-op stipulation matters unless they’re actually making transsexual pornography. (Oh boy, typing that is going to get me some serious comment spam…) Even in Transamerica, we saw Felicity’s “genitals” on screen.

There may be more to this than we know.

We only have the casting call to go on. Perhaps they are in fact looking around elsewhere too for cis women to play the leading role. But it’s still enough to make me concerned that they don’t really understand what they’re doing. And if they don’t, what are the chances that the final “huge and exciting British drama specially commissioned for [Sky Atlantic]” that will no doubt attract a significant amount of publicity will cater to all the usual harmful stereotypes?


First thoughts on the terrorism and control orders changes

There are several things I like in today’s announcement on counter-terrorism.

The first two things we already had, but it’s been confirmed there is no intention to reintroduce them. Firstly, 28 day detention is out the window, down to 14 days as the previous legislation had a sunset clause in it that had lapsed. The government is drafting legislation to increase this to 28 days but not actually introducing it, basically reserving parliaments right to change it’s mind in future. (Which seems reasonable)

Secondly, section 44 stop-and-search powers were already gone as they were ruled a breach of Human Rights. (Although a photographer was stopped under these powers recently, apparently illegally. It’s being reworked but requires the consent of a “senior officer” where necessary, over a small geographic area and only for 14 days at a time.

Given that section 44 is effectively dead already, it seems trying to rework it so that it can be reintroduced is a backwards step. There doesn’t seem to be anything stopping the “senior officer” just renewing the consent every 14 days and there’s no change in the photography rules. “Guidelines” will be reworked, but that doesn’t stop front-line officers harassing photographers so I’m not convinced this will help. It depends on how tightly worded the new legislation is.

I’m cynical on this point because the review mentions “critical national infrastructure”. In my role as an ISP I’ve had various things inflicted upon me in the name of protecting this infrastructure and in general, they seem counterproductive.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers – Local government will need a magistrate to approve surveillance, interception or obtaining communications data. This is a big plus as although I haven’t seen any particularly hideous abuses to date, tapping lines and getting access to peoples email and phone records seems quite a major power for a city council who might just be investigating fly tipping.

The headline-grabber is control orders. It’s more liberal than the current system and as such should be recognised as a step in the right direction. But I don’t welcome it enthusiastically as it still mean there exists a system of punishing someone without even letting them know what they’ve done wrong, which I’m firmly against.

The recommendations seem like a reasonably light touch, sounding like a tough version of an ASBO – curfew, restrictions on going to some specified places, ban on overseas travel and restrictions on the use of the internet.

But it’s what isn’t in there that worries me. The restrictions on use of the internet effectively ban ownership of many electronic devices such as XBoxes, PS3s, iPhones etc and there are other “limited restrictions” on communication which could be anything. There’s also a maximum restriction of 2 years, unless someone does something again that indicates a possible terrorist connection which torpedos the whole point of putting a limit on it. Given that someone under a control order hasn’t been told what action they took made them subject to the order in the first case, how can they avoid doing it again?

And the home secretary only needs to “reasonably believe” – with no chance for anyone to present contrary evidence – that someone poses a threat. That’s a lower than the civil court when suing someone, “balance of probabilities” and it’s well short of the “beyond reasonable doubt” required to jail someone.

Better hope that you’re never in the wrong place at the wrong time. Someone might reasonably believe you’re a terrorist and you won’t even know why you’re suddenly subject to curfews and not allowed on the internet.


Exorcism, Gender Dysphoria and NHS funding

An anonymous commenter just put the following on the Livejournal copy of my blog. I thought it was worth sharing and probably doesn’t need much comment…

Thank you for this post. There is, however, at least one psychiatrist, Dr Alan Sanderson, who argues that exorcism or “spirit release therapy” is “crying for funded research on the NHS” in cases of “gender dyphoria”.

The following “paper” is hosted on the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (PDF link) and it is some comfort that he found some resistance to performing NHS exorcisms.

The relevant case study, “Roger the Physician” shows how it isn’t just politicians who are clueless.

And here’s an extract from the case study:

An internationally known 41-year-old physician with severe gender dysphoria, Roger was already being prepared for surgical gender re-assignment. He came at the insistence of his wife, who had read Fiore’s book.

…Three years later, Roger’s orientation was fully heterosexual. His marriage was happier than for years…

Gender dysphoria is a condition of particular interest for the assessment of spirit release therapy, since there is no known curative treatment. Surgery is the only available treatment in severe cases. The situation cries out for funded research within the NHS.

The paper is from 2003 and cites a 1977 paper co-authored by Blanchard, titled Gender identity change in a transsexual: an exorcism. It’s cited in turn by two other papers, but it appears that NHS funding for this research was not forthcoming.

Edited to add: Zoe Brain points out that it’s not the same Blanchard as the Bailey-Blanchard-Lawrence one.


Roger Helmer MEP now threatening bloggers

I think this deserves some more attention – I’ve not seen it on Twitter, so I suspect few people know about it. Blogger Debbie Davies was considering reporting Roger Helmer to the police over his Tweet and also wrote to him requesting a meeting.

I don’t know Debbie as I found this via Google but she appears far from clueless when it comes to the police as she is involved in and gives speeches at police advisory groups.

But rather than let the law do it’s thing, Roger chose to reply accusing her of having a “hostile attitude” (Really Roger? Debbie isn’t the one with the problem) and saying he thought she was wasting police time, and that she could be facing six months in jail and/or a fine if she reported him!

Anyone think this is reasonable behaviour from an elected politician?


Gender equality at the very top of the UK

I haven’t seen the text of this as 10-minute bills don’t get printed until their second reading, but from the title and debate alone it seems to me like Labour’s Keith Vaz is on to a good thing with this, the “Succession to the Crown Bill”. Although the debate is available online, there don’t seem to be any nice soundbites in it. Instead, I’ll just give you the bill summary that I believe says all that’s needed:” A Bill to remove any distinction between the sexes in determining the succession to the Crown.

Hopefully the idea will go somewhere. Get those at the top so set the best example and all that. Sadly, random Wikipediaing the other day about the abdication of Edward taught me that the Statute of Westminster (1931) states that (sensibly) the line of succession must remain the same throughout the entire British Commonwealth.

There’s a whole host of nations in the commonwealth that are not exactly at the forefront of equality so this initiative may be doomed, but I still think it’s a good thing to at least try.


Roger Helmer! And some transphobia.

Roger Helmer (Photo by Berchemboy at Helmer!

There, now I’ve got your attention. No, that wasn’t an expletive although it could well be – Roger Helmer is a Tory MEP who is in the new recently for his Tweet:

Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex-change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to “turn” a consenting homosexual?

I wasn’t going to blog about this as although it’s annoyed me, it’s been handled elsewhere, by several people.

But two things have made me change my mind. Firstly, the mainstream coverage such as the BBC and the Guardian is reporting heavily on the homophobic angle complete with quotes from Stonewall but completely ignoring the Transphobia. (Yes, this is one of those instances where it is an LGB and T issue)

And for some commenters on other sites who have the wrong end of the stick (I’ve seen this in a couple of places) – Trans surgery is not just a society/body image issue. Fixing society isn’t going to mean surgery isn’t required, as having the wrong kind of sex hormone causes depression. Our fate as a group will be entwined with the medical profession for the foreseeable future, at least until some Iain-M-Banksian utopic future where one can change physical sex by just thinking about it. (It still takes about a year!)

But back on topic, it appears that having stuck his foot in it in a way that one might generously claim could have been misinterpreted, Roger is keen to make his position clear in a very “I’m not Homophobic/Transphobic, but…” way with the following wonderful quote:

I am making a comparison between a lifestyle choice of a homosexual who would prefer not to be a homosexual and a lifestyle choice of a woman who would prefer to be a man …

It seems to me that in both cases it is what they call a valid lifestyle choice.

Foot meet mouth. But he does seem to be confused:

I am not a medical person. I know that there is a number of practitioners, admittedly a minority, who think [reparative therapy] does work.

Yes, and there are many people who think that an exorcism will cure all sorts of things. But you don’t go to your GP and expect them to be able to provide an exorcism as they’d quite rightly get hauled up in front of the GMC for offering treatment with no provable benefit. Registered psychologists are held to the same standards, so if they offer a discredited treatment they can expect to be censured.

But the subtleties of this seem to be lost of poor Roger.

On the plus side the Conservative party themselves seem pretty wound up with him, particularly LGBTory. I’d hope he’s in for a nice chat with his Whips real soon now with strict instructions to sit down, shut up and do the right thing for once.

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A plug for the Orwell Prize

I think most people that read this probably also follow me on Twitter, but for those that don’t I’ve been asked by one of the Judges – David Allen Green – to put in a mention for The Orwell Prize.

In particular, he’s asked me to encourage anyone with a Trans-related blog to enter. So if you have one and you’re based in the UK, why not enter? It’s self-nominating only and the deadline is tomorrow. The only hard part is selecting which ten posts to put forward.

As David himself puts it, political blogs include any “by those on whom policy is inflicted“. I would say that anyone Transgender has probably had extensive experience of having policy inflicted upon them.

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