Archive for category Equality

The Other Spousal Veto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equal marriage? I wish.


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Passport Office’s sham review into “unspecified” gender markers on passports

For those who have not followed the long-running saga of this, there has been pressure on the passport office for some time to consider allowing the use of X (Unspecified) in place of M or F for the gender marker on passports. This is of benefit to quite a few people, as society becomes more accepting of people who do not fit within the gender binary and a number of countries already permit this. It is also of potential use for someone who might travel under one gender but work under a different one, for example.

X as a marker is part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standard for passports, although it was originally intended for the handling of refugees where a large number of passports needed to be issued in a short space of time by someone who was not familiar with the gender of names in use in a culture. That’s less of an issue now than it used to be in the 1950s, but the standard remains.

Back in 2011, the Home Office and Passport Office promised to look into issuing UK passports with an X marker on them as part of the transgender action plan and partially in response to Australia doing the same. The resulting report was suppressed by the Passport Office for some time, but as a result of questions in the House of Commons last week and this week by Hugh Bayley, Julie Hilling and Stephen Doughty it’s now been released.

For some reason, the document is not on the online listing at the time of writing, but you can email the House of Commons Library to ask for a copy – I have uploaded a copy of the report here. (PDF link)

It is clear on reading the report why the Passport Office did not want it released, as it is written with little critical thought and with the obvious intention of trying to justify existing policy rather than explore new options.

Let’s skip ahead in the report to the most damning section first, option 5 on page 7 which gives the reasons they don’t want to allow X markers. Taking each point in order, we can quickly demolish the entire argument:

  • Mother-knows-best, because X markers would single out individuals (correctly) as having “no gender” and thus cause offense. It would appear the Passport Office are worried that people will be offended if they are treated appropriately.
  • People filling out forms are stupid, and might get it wrong. This is the same argument used to justify erasing poly households in the census when if it happens it really just suggests the form was poorly designed.
  • If someone’s gender is not obvious, they don’t know who should search a person at the border. The police already figured out how to handle this and the solution may shock you: They ask who you’d prefer to be searched by if it’s not obvious.
  • Apparently it’s expensive, although this is only an argument why it should be delayed until computer system changes are happening anyway rather than why it should not happen at all.
  • Other customers may request ‘X’ in their passports or in fact question whether HMPO should be asking what their gender is at all for the purpose of passport issuance and whether this is proportional“, i.e. if we allow unspecified as a marker then people might realise putting gender on passports really isn’t necessary. This phrase alone makes me fairly sure the document was not intended for public release.
  • Trans or non-binary folk might require “additional consular assistance” if they are stopped in certain countries. Like this doesn’t happen already if you visit the wrong place.
  • Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 prohibits them from outing trans folk. This is an argument against forcing people to have an X marker, not an argument against requesting an X marker.
  • Evidence of gender diversity needed for an applicant to be able to select ‘X’ as a gender marker would be difficult to produce“. This is only the case because the civil service wants to make it hard to produce and they say themselves (Without justification) that “self-identification would not be appropriate”. A simple ticky box on a form to select unspecified gender would be sufficient, or a statutory declaration of some form if they want to make things complicated. This is what GIRES suggested.

What follows is a fairly detailed deconstruction of the remaining points, which you may like to skip if you are not interested in the minutiae.

Section 1, page 2 is just a recap of existing policy, but as soon as we get on to paragraph 2.1 and 2.2 (Calls for change and petition) it becomes clear whoever wrote the report was poorly briefed. Both paragraphs talk about the old Identity Cards scheme allowing trans folk to have two passports, one per gender, which is not the same as having one passport with an unspecified gender marker on.

We do start to get a hint of another theme that runs through the document in 2.2(c), however, as the Passport Service adopts a mother-knows-best approach and apparently is a better judge than the trans and non-binary communities what would be in their best interest: The Identity Card Scheme provided for a transgendered person to have two ID cards…it may also create difficulties for the individual and may increase the potential for their involuntary outing.

According to section 2.3, the Passport Office “sought to speak to key stakeholder groups and to relevant parts of Government“. They did not seem to try very hard, given they only spoke to one internal civil service group, one campaigner (Christie Elan-Cane) and one external organisation. (GIRES) They completely forget to mention that it was included in the transgender action plan by the Government Equalities Office.

The next section, 2.4, points out “there are no outstanding applications in which the applicant has sought either change to the process of considering applications from transgendered people or of changing the passport itself with the gender marking“. Quite apart from being an appalling piece of English and nearly incomprehensible, what it appears to be saying is that nobody has applied for a gender-non-binary passport. This might be because, I don’t know, the forms don’t give you an option to apply for it?

And section 2.5, we’re back to mother-knows-best: “We remain open to suggestions for change but such a change would be on the basis that it was either required by law or that it provided additional benefits to the applicant. Choice is an important factor but we have received feedback that would suggest that enabling that choice may be more detrimental than beneficial.” It is not clear what feedback they are referring to, given the lack of scope of their consultation.

Just to be clear, there is quite a bit of emphasis in section 2.6 on the fact that because they have not been listening they have not heard the calls for X markers: “There have been very little public calls for the ‘X’ provision in the passport. … There are no calls for change from gender representative groups or civil liberties groups.” Even ignoring the political pressure to change, yhe only external group they consulted, GIRES, also asked them to change the current system. It is not clear why they make reference to “civil liberties groups”.

Section 3 is a worrying graph on “Gender in the life of a passport” that repeatedly asserts that any mismatch in apparent gender presentation could indicate potential fraud. It has clearly not occurred to the passport office that they are actually arguing against their own position here: If someone has a non-binary gender or variable gender presentation, then without an “X” marker they are more likely to face problems due to their appearance being taken as fraudulent.

They also miss the obvious point that is frequently raised in such situations that gender is at best a 50/50 discriminator and thus not particularly powerful. They even note elsewhere in the document that not all government-issued ID in the UK has a gender marker on it.

Section 4 covers legislative issues. They should probably have left this well alone, given it goes a long way to arguing against their position.

Firstly, (section 4.1), they state “legislation in other areas recognises only the genders Male and Female“. Whilst this might be true, there is an increasing move towards removing gender from legislation as it just gets messy when you start dealing with same-sex marriage, people transitioning and anyone who does not fit nearly into a male/female binary world view. A good example of this would be amendments to sexual offenses legislation which now defines rape not by the gender of the attacker but by use of a penis.

Section 4.3 talks about nationality, adoption and how nationality can only be passed on by a mother or father or, in certain cases, by the father. This is already complicated by same-sex marriage and the ability of people to transition. I am more than comfortable with the ability of the courts to quite simply handle what the Passport Office call “a complex undertaking”.

Section 4.4 talks about banks establishing identity. This really isn’t the Passport Office’s problem, but if it is then the same point as in section 3 stands: If someone has a non-binary or variable presentation, having the X marker on a passport helps rather than hinders.

Section 4.5 uses the phrase “third gender”. I am not comfortable with this language, as turns gender from binary to trinary. The whole point of this is that gender is fluid and on a spectrum, and not subject to being placed into little pots. Some people may identify as third gender, but not everyone. Both this and the following section, 4.6 start talking about issues outside the scope of the Passport Office.

Section 4.7 claims that a passport bearing an X gender marker might not be “recognised by other parts of government of wider UK society“. This implies that existing legitimate passports bearing an X gender marker, either because it is an old passport belonging to a refugee or because it is from a country that does issue them would not be accepted. I find this surprising, especially given that failure to accept such a passport would be a clear-cut violation of the Equalities Act 2010.

Section 5 details their options. Mostly, these cover choices not being campaigned for such as multiple passports with different gender markers so are not relevant, but there are enough egregious errors that it’s worth pointing some of them out:

Option 2, issuing two passports, mentions “One passport, one person“. This is not a strict rule, as many frequent travelers hold two passports. Typically, this is because they are traveling in parts of the world where it is not a good idea to reveal who else you have been visiting in the region and thus they can choose to use a passport without any incriminating entry/exit or visa stamps. The argument about creating two identities could apply to anyone changing their name (e.g. through marriage) or gender, and could happen anyway if someone obtains a new passport and retains their old one. Some parts of government remain obsessed with the idea that people transition just to commit fraud.

Options 3 and 4, removing gender from passports, gets hung up on the idea of violating international standards by removing the field and overlooks the obvious choice of simply replacing gender markers on all passports with X. It also goes on about it being a “security risk” for unsubstantiated reasons and makes the bizarre observation that might still ask for it on the forms, even if it is not on the passports.

I’ve covered option 5 above and I won’t get into section 6, costs, save to say that they are at best giving justification for not doing this now, rather than justification for not doing this in future. Forms will be reprinted and redesigned at some point anyway, as will computer systems, and the costs will be much lower if rolled into the normal update cycle of such things rather than being done immediately.

Section 7 covers notes in the informal discussions they held on the issue. The internal discussion with a:gender appears to have actually taken place with Sarah Rapson, the ex-Chief Executive of the Passport Office but this may be an error.

Section 8 covers the situation in other countries, although is of little real relevance. It mentions some countries are not safe for trans folk to travel to (This is not news, and is the case regardless of gender markers) but I did find it interesting that Argentina allows people to have an X marker on their passports simply by requesting it, with no other documentation required. Malaysia are reported to be considering removing gender from all passports, allegedly in violation of ICAO standards although it would be easy to just put X for everyone as I’ve noted. Oddly, the report does not mention that India is technically violating standards by using “E” (Eunuch) to identify Hijira on their passports. I find this omission odd because if anyone is going to have found problems with unusual gender markers on passports, it is going to be India, given the hijra community is estimated at being 5 million. (The number is not that surprising given the size of India – 5 million people is only around 0.4% of their population)



More on the relationship between Stonewall and the trans communities

The departure of Ben Summerskill from Stonewall has renewed the age-old discussion about the relationship Stonewall has with trans folk. This is partially because the acting Chief Executive, Ruth Hunt, is known to be more trans-friendly but also due to an article written by Sarah Brown for Pink News. I’ve seen a few responses to this from the gay community, some of which are in the comments to the Pink News post – such as one person saying including the T in Stonewall would be “like having a blind man in a deaf support group“. The letter that Sarah published from a “Mr. W” is a good summary of the issues as seen from a gay cis (i.e. non-trans) male standpoint, so I’ll use that as a framework.

Firstly, who are Stonewall in this context? They are not the same organisation as Stonewall Housing or Stonewall Scotland, both of whom are trans-inclusive. The reason for the common name is that several organisations have named themselves after the Stonewall riots of 1969. Most narratives have the riots being started as a result of police harassment of trans women and cross-dressers, so the fact Stonewall use that name but don’t include trans issues generates friction from the outset.

It really should not be surprising then that there was the 2008 protest outside the Stonewall awards when noted transphobe Julie Bindel was up for an award: She was being nominated for an award in the name of riots started due to oppression of trans folk.

What Stonewall do campaign for is same-sex relationships, i.e. mostly focused on gay and lesbian issues, although bisexual folk such as myself do get a look-in as long as we’re in a same-sex relationship.

So, on to the letter Sarah published:

As far as I am aware from speaking to some of my trans friends, most believe that they are the sex that they wish to be transitioned to and they want usually to date people of the opposite sex. Its rare a man changes to woman and then dates a woman and the same goes for women wishing to do the same. Most trans people do not believe that they are gay and therefor I fail to see what the gay scene can offer them.

Research suggests that less than half of trans folk are heterosexual post-transition – some people are simply asexual, but there are as many people that identify as bisexual or homosexual post-transition as straight. It’s a common enough misconception though, because trans folk needed to fit a certain erroneous narrative in days gone by in order to access medical care but those dark days are now mostly behind us.

Regardless, there has always been a huge crossover. Many straight trans women started out as effeminate gay men or as cross-dressers, and many trans men started off within the lesbian scene. People’s identities may change, but they will still retain links with activist groups they used to be or continue to be members of. And homophobia, biphobia and transphobia all have common roots: “We don’t like people who transgress gender norms.”

There are some people who may never have identified with the LGB community in any way – either because they are straight and transitioned young before sexuality was an issue, or went from being heterosexual pre-transition to being heterosexual post-transition. But this is rare.

It is about time some one with your influence created an established advice line for trans people run by trans people, so that the right information can be given and when problems need to be talked over there is an adviser who will understand more closely what experiences the person have been through.

Stonewall and other gay charities raise most of the money through the gay, lesbian and bi volunteers collecting money and in this austere time it does not go far, they need that money for its intended purpose i.e to counsel and advise people in same sex relationships and safer sex.

…and this is really the big issue. Stonewall and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation soak up the lion’s share of funding aimed at the LGBT+ community, and until recently the lion’s share of lobbying time. Despite Stonewall being quite clear they don’t cover trans issues, people feel by consulting with or funding Stonewall in particular that they’ve “ticked the boxes” for the LGBT community and move on to other things. Even the Court of Appeal make this mistake: a judgement published just today on the “gay cure” bus adverts refers to “Stonewall, an organisation that works for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender individuals.

This leaves trans helplines, of which there have been a few, with little funding and even less access to publicity. This isn’t Stonewall’s fault, it’s a genuine misunderstanding on their part, but more needs to be done to ensure bisexual and trans campaigners and support groups get publicity.

As an aside, I’ll note the trans community isn’t immune from criticism in this regard. As I understand it, trans lobbyists pointed out to the Civil Service that the Gender Recognition Act 2004 would have a negative impact on intersex individuals but the Civil Service failed to actually talk to anyone suitable because it wasn’t pushed hard enough. When dealing with slow, bureaucratic organisations there is a tricky balance to be struck between being too passive and saying simply “we don’t do this” and inappropriate “white knighting”, i.e. speaking on behalf of people you shouldn’t.

Historically, Stonewall have managed to end up heavily on whichever side of that balance is worst for the trans community at that moment in time, but I am hopeful that will change.


“X” gender markers on passports (Again)

Long term readers may remember I have written before about the possibility of X (“Unspecified”) gender markers on passports. It looked like we were getting somewhere on this, until in the middle of last year the Identity and Passport Service decided it was too difficult, and refused.

Thanks to the work of Christie Elan-Cane, the issue is not dead yet. There is an Early Day Motion doing the rounds on this topic, number 907.

If your MP hasn’t signed yet, why not ask them to put their name to it?

You can use WriteToThem to find out who your MP is and contact them directly from the web site.

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Politican of the year results

The results are in!

There was a strong showing by Sarah Brown, who was in the lead early on and was two votes shy of winning. Lynne Featherstone was also not far behind. However, we can announce that the person whom the trans community feels has made the most difference in the last year is…

Julian Huppert MP
“Can’t remember any other politician speaking so forcefully on issues affecting T* people”
“…for good work re marriage plus support shown to non-binary people”
Julian Huppert MP

Congratulations Julian, and keep up the good work.

(For those wondering about the delay in publishing results – it did not seem appropriate to post this last week, given TDoR events were ongoing for most of the week)

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Politician of the Year voting

The nominations are in, and voting for Politician of the Year is now open! The ballot will run until Friday 15th November and is an Instant Runoff Ballot, so you should rank as many people as you are able to express a preference for, based on positive work done for trans people in the UK over the last couple of years.

Below the voting form is a brief biography and photograph (Where available) of each nomination. Posts run in multiple locations, as long as you can see the Opavote form below then you can vote here. If you cannot see the form, it is also accessible on the Opavote web site.

Voting is open to anyone who identifies as trans*.

Voting has now closed

Baroness Barker
Openly lesbian, spoke in defence of trans rights during the passage of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill through the House of Lords.
Baroness Barker Hugh Bayley MP Hugh Bayley MP
Member of Parliament for York Central, long time campaigner for trans rights, has raised pensions issues in Commons debates
Cllr Sarah Brown
Only out transgender politician elected to public office in the UK. Executive Councillor for Community Well-Being on Cambridge City Council.
Cllr Sarah Brown Michael Cashman MEP Michael Cashman MEP
“…who said “We have to start saying Trans before we say LGB” at Work Place Pride this year, particularly relevant in light of @pinknews awards” – @natachakennedy
Lynne Featherstone MP
“…launched the consultation by the UK government on introducing equal marriage and was the first politician to take part in the Out4Marriage campaign.” – Independent on Sunday Pink List
Lynne Featherstone MP   Mike Freer MP
“…made one of the more moving speeches in the debate… “I’m not asking for special treatment, I am simply asking for equal treatment.”” – Independent on Sunday Pink List
Baroness Gould
Chair of the Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity. Spoke in defence of trans rights during the passage of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill through the House of Lords.
    Kate Green MP
Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston, worked hard on removing spousal veto. Also concerned about press coverage.
Julian Huppert MP
“Can’t remember any other politician speaking so forcefully on issues affecting T* people”
“…for good work re marriage plus support shown to non-binary people”
Julian Huppert MP Caroline_Lucas Caroline Lucas MP
Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, raised trans-supportive issues in Commons debates on same sex marriage and sponsored EDMs on press coverage
Kerry McCarthy MP
Member of Parliament for Bristol East, met with trans groups throughout the year and attended vigil for Lucy Meadows outside the Daily Mail.

Additional information on politicians with short bios above welcome. Photos (If creative commons licensed) particularly welcome.

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RCPsych Gender Dysphoria guidelines released

Some may recall the somewhat controversial history of the Royal College of Psychiatrists when it comes to transgender issues, and the decade-long wait for their guidelines for treatment of Gender Dysphoria.

Well, the wait is finally over and the guidelines were finally published last week. Given how potentially catastrophic they could have been, the positive nature of the final version is welcome and this is reflected in the long list of endorsements from trusted organisations.

The document is broadly in line with the latest WPATH Standards of Care, and positive points include: (These are mostly clustered around pages 15-16 and 21-23)

  • For HRT prescription, transition is explicitly not required. There appears to be an implicit acceptance that HRT without social transition (i.e. without “going full time”) is sufficient for many people with Gender Dysphoria, as it also states no commitment to transition should be expected.
  • If a patient turns up already on HRT (E.g, having obtained it online) then as a harm reduction measure, GPs are permitted to prescribe a “bridging prescription”.
  • Genital surgery is permitted one year (Rather than the 2 years commonly usually used by the NHS) after transition and starting HRT.
  • Revisions required from surgery or other complications should be referred directly to the appropriate healthcare provider and not result in a GIC referral.
  • Hair removal should be provided. (Either for surgery or facial)
  • The requirements for HRT and surgery are regardless of the direction of transition. The exception is top surgery for trans men which is permitted at the time of transition, noting that binding can potentially be harmful.
  • Anyone with an intersex condition should have equal access to gender services.
  • On an administrative front, all GP etc records should be fully updated from the moment someone transitions, including name and title, and this does not require a deed poll or statutory declaration. Information that a patient has gender dysphoria or has transitioned should never be disclosed to other healthcare professionals unless strictly necessary.

The document has a brief discussion of, but does not fully address, treatment of adolescents with Gender Dysphoria. It also does not attempt to set any age limit at which “adult” services should be accessible which will disappoint some people.

Of course, it’s impossible to compile a guidance document like this without some areas which people will feel are negative, or do not go far enough. Some of the more obvious ones include:

  • A full physical exam, to include a genital exam (Which may be refused) is recommended when a patient first approaches to a GP. No evidence is presented as to why this should be clinically helpful and given the distress such procedures can cause, it’s inclusion here is somewhat surprising and is likely to put people off approaching their doctors. Inappropriate handling of physical exams were the source of some of the most serious complaints in the recent #transdocfail saga, so this advice may be as harmful for GPs as it is for trans folk.
  • Discussion of non-binary/genderqueer identities is lacking. There is more on this on the forums.
  • Some very odd language around “certificated” men and women, meaning holders of GRCs.

Finally, two points that appear to be older portions of the document from it’s original decade-old draft incarnation that were missed in later updates:

  • An uncited line on page 40 states “progesterone is not usually indicated since no biologically
    significant progesterone receptor sites exist for biological males
    “. This is inaccurate, as well as misusing the term “biological males”. The line appears to have been lifted from another paper coauthored by Wylie, who chaired the working group that produced the RCPsych guidelines.
  • The section on male-to-female genital surgery is somewhat gloomy and does not reflect the current state of the art.

Overall, it’s a welcome document and certainly one that can be used by those in the process of medical transition to persuade their GPs and other medical and administrative staff to do the right thing.


Politician of the Year nominations

In light of recent events, it would seem a good time for the trans* communities to try to recognise some of the work done to champion trans rights over the last few years.

The rules are simple. Nominations are open for any politician elected to public office, who people feel have made a positive difference to the lives of trans people, covering the whole period of the equal marriage consultation and subsequent legislation. Initially, nominations were to be restricted to allies only as otherwise it could end up being divisive, but after discussion on twitter nominations will be allowed for anyone. Unless someone else feels like coming out, this is a very short list.

Nominations will be open until 5pm on Friday, 1st November and can be made by commenting below, via twitter (@zoeimogen) or EMail ( Nominations may be anonymous – please indicate if this is the case – and you may nominate more than one person. “Trans” in this context is as people self-identify.

Shortly after nominations close, the final result will be decided by public vote. You can not vote yet.

Below is a list of the nominations as received so far.

Baroness BarkerBaroness Barker
Openly lesbian, spoke in defence of trans rights during the passage of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill through the House of Lords.
Hugh Bayley MPHugh Bayley MP
Member of Parliament for York Central
Cllr Sarah BrownCllr Sarah Brown
“The Cambridge Councillor is the only out transgender politician in Britain. Representing the Liberal Democrats for the Petersfield Ward, Brown has been made the Executive Councillor for Community Well-Being this year. A member of the LGBT and Liberal Democrats Executive, she is also an advocate for equal marriage.” – Independent on Sunday Pink List
Michael Cashman MEP
Michael Cashman MEP
“…who said “We have to start saying Trans before we say LGB” at Work Place Pride this year, particularly relevant in light of @pinknews awards” – @natachakennedy

“Founder of Stonewall, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Patron of The Food Chain, a London-based HIV charity.” – Wikipedia

Lynne Featherstone MP
Lynne Featherstone MP
Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green, Former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Equalities

“The Lib Dem MP launched the consultation by the UK government on introducing equal marriage and was the first politician to take part in the Out4Marriage campaign.” – Independent on Sunday Pink List

Mike Freer MP
“Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Margaret Thatcher’s old seat, Golders Green and East Finchley, made one of the more moving speeches in the debate. He said that he was proud of his civil partnership, but wanted to be married like other people: “Many argue that we should be content with our civil partnership – after all it affords all of the same legal protections as marriage – but I ask my married colleagues, did you get married for legal protections it afforded you?” He concluded: “I’m not asking for special treatment, I am simply asking for equal treatment.”” – Independent on Sunday Pink List
Baroness Gould
Chair of the Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity. Spoke very effectively in defence of trans rights during the passage of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill through the House of Lords.
Kate Green MP
Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston, Shadow Minister of State for Equalities
Julian Huppert MP
Julian Huppert MP
Member of Parliament for Cambridge

“Can’t remember any other politician speaking so forcefully on issues affecting T* people” – @annajayne

“…for good work re marriage plus support shown to on-binary people” – @jennie_kermode

“…for the non-binary stuff, but also for just general “getting” of the topic” – @loyaultemelie

Caroline Lucas MPCaroline_Lucas
Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion
Kerry McCarthy MPKerry_McCarthy
Member of Parliament for Bristol East, Shadow Foreign Office Minister

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Another LGBT+ awards controversy: Pink News and Baroness Stowell

There does seem to be something about the LGb(t) community and awards, doesn’t there?

Pink News have played a blinder by giving their “parliamentarian of the year” award to Baroness Stowell. Yes, that’s the same Baroness Stowell that will cause hardened trans veterans of the same-sex marriage bill to wince when they hear her name, for it was her who gallantly defended the spousal veto as the bill passed through the House of Lords, shooting down every suggestion and compromise proposed on this and other trans-related topics.

It perhaps should not be too surprising that many people, both trans folk and allies, are somewhat miffed this morning at the news. At the time of writing, the only defence Pink News have put up is that it was an “independent panel of judges, although there would have been nothing to stop them shortlisting her in the first place…

(The award was shared with Yvette Cooper, although it is not clear what in particular Yvette Cooper was singled out for an award when there were many people on all sides of the house who engaged far more above and beyond)

The trouble with these awards is that it is often a small panel, with perhaps one trans person on. Unless you’re very careful picking that person then they’re unlikely to have the breath of knowledge to avoid obvious (To us) SNAFUs such as this one. In this case, a non-politician from the trans community was asked to vote on the award and didn’t have the background knowledge (And would not have been expected to!) to brief others accordingly.

The fix is to ensure proper representation of trans folk within ostensibly LGBT+ organisations, for when the nominations are initially put together and on panels. Given how much more politically active out trans folk are compared to the wider out community, it is not sufficient to have just one trans person on a panel of ten. (Around one third of the elected LGBT+LibDems executive is non-cis – I don’t know the figures for other parties) Even if you base a panel on population numbers, remember the huge numbers of not-out, non-transitioning or pre-transition trans folk – up to 1% of the UK population, with a wide enough definition.


Updated CPS guidance on sex-by-deception cases

The Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales has in the last few weeks1 updated it’s published guidance on sex-by-deception and other cases on what it calls “conditional” consent. The new guidance is available on the CPS web site.

There is not much to report in terms of the guidance itself. The first two cases discuss more explicit “conditional consent”, namely Assange (Consent only valid if a condom used) and another case, where consent was given conditional on withdrawal. McNally is highlighted as being different, hinging on implied rather than explicit consent. Whilst I do not like the language used in the guidance, which repeatedly refers to gender as a “deception”, that is unfortunately in line with the wording used by the court itself.

What is more interesting is that any cases depending on conditional consent must be referred to the Principle Legal Adviser (I.e. CPS HQ) before any decision is taken. For better or worse, that should introduce some degree of consistency in terms of prosecutions. It is worth pointing out at this point that even if the CPS decline to prosecute, the police will still retain a whole host of other measures that could be used (or abused) against someone whose gender is seen as deceptive.

Although not proactively published, older guidance from the CPS has been obtained via Freedom of Information2 which indicates the issue of someone’s trans status being directly relevant to the case with them as a defendant have never really been considered before. The currently-in-force guidance that would have applied in the McNally and earlier cases, which the CPS did take pains to point out was “notably out of date”, only considers old-naming of a defendant who has a criminal record prior to transition and the need to carry on with medication. The current draft version of the guidance merely expands on this and corrects some errors.

It can be seen from minutes of the relevant group meetings (20120925, 20121120, 20130121) that the McNally, Wilson etc cases were not discussed. Whilst the group did not exist at the time of the McNally appeal judgement, it was meeting after the initial judgement and after the Barker and Wilson cases so the issue was already on the radar.

It has been stated online that some members of the group met with the CPS after the McNally appeal result, but the content of that meeting and the outcome has not been made public as confidential details of cases were discussed.

1. There is no publication date, but the Wayback Machine shows the previous page not including the new guidance from the 8th September, so it is within the last five weeks.

2. The oldest CPS guidance document came with a note saying that the contacts page had been removed as it contained personal information. Of the others, all have been edited prior to uploading to this blog. The original response from the CPS included names redacted via a black marker, but were still visible on the scanned documents. No content has been edited besides blanking out names fully.

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