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 (email@example.com). 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.
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 MP|
Member of Parliament for York Central
|Cllr 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
“…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
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
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
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 MP|
Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion
|Kerry McCarthy MP|
Member of Parliament for Bristol East, Shadow Foreign Office Minister
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…
— PinkNews (@pinknews) October 24, 2013
(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.
The latest possibly-not-that-well-thought-out idea in the debate about protecting children online comes from the little-known QUANGO The Authority for Television On Demand, or ATVOD for short. As the catchy name suggests, ATVOD has a responsibility for regulating on-demand video programming in the UK, a large portion of which will be delivered by internet or internet-like connections. One of their regulations prohibits the hosting of many forms of pornography unless behind a paywall or similar to prevent access by under-18s1, i.e. no free samples.
But it appears ATVOD have decided to exceed their remit of regulating UK content in the name of WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN! They’ve spotted a problem in that non-UK internet sites do not need to follow UK rules (Surprise, surprise) and that many sites offer free samples before paying. Being powerless to intervene directly and enforce UK rules on them, ATVOD decided to follow the money instead and have asked the banks to block payments to these sites. Whoever came up with this idea clearly hasn’t spent enough time on the internet (Or talking to politicians) for several reasons.
First, ATVOD and the banks are arbitrarily deciding what is right and wrong with no democratic oversight. That the banks might acquiesce to this request is in itself worrying, although we only have ATVOD’s word on it that they are thinking of doing so. There were many statements from the Home Office indicating that ISPs were going to introduce a default-block on porn on the internet, which turned out to be fibs…
Secondly, we are not the world’s police and our laws are different from other countries. What is illegal to access until you are 18 in this country might be quite legal at 16 in another, or might be totally unlawful regardless of age. The UK is a small part of the internet as a whole2 and it does not seem likely that the majority of foreign providers will want to pay a UK regulator and have to work with UK standards. By extension, they would also need to work with and pay money to the other 205 sovereign states of the world.
Unless you happen to be America, a single government does not carry anywhere near enough influence to alter de-facto internet standards like that. Even if you are America, it usually doesn’t work.
And finally, the attempt to block money appears to be born entirely of spite, or perhaps protectionism for the UK VoD industry. The majority of foreign content providers are not going to care enough about the UK market to do anything. That means the content ATVOD is so worried about – the free samples of pornography that is not behind a paywall – will continue to be accessible.
There are better ways to do this. Reputable adult sites in general do not want kids accessing them, as it is bad publicity and kids generally do not have the money to pay for anything so there is little point. Voluntary systems existed such as ICRA, but that system failed due to lack of takeup. Perhaps if organisations like ATVOD cooperated internationally to promote such voluntary systems rather than trying to force their own rules on everyone else, we might make some progress.
1. In practice, a paywall that requires a credit card to prove you are 18. Rules on credit cards will differ between countries, so this is another area that would need country-specific handling.
2. About 2%, based on Wikipedia.
In what appears to have been a colossally mis-judged own goal, an article published today in the Guardian and written by Stonewall UK’s media manager endorses the use of transphobia if it helps further their anti-homophobic campaign.
The trouble stems from an advertising campaign featuring run by Paddy Power in early 2012 that the Advertising Standards Authority banned, branding the campaign “likely to cause serious offense” and “irresponsible”. When it was announced that Stonewall were teaming up with Paddy Power with a rainbow laces campaign, it was met with some grumbling from trans activists, but given Stonewall’s long history of working with transphobes it was hardly news.
However, today’s article appears to be the first time Stonewall UK have said the transphobic actions of someone else are actually helpful in working against homophobia:
It was clear from the very start of the campaign that working with an organisation like Paddy Power would allow us to communicate directly with fans, players and clubs in a way we simply wouldn’t have been able to had we worked alone. This, coupled with Paddy Power’s reputation for eye-catching, and yes, at times risqué campaigns would allow us to draw attention to the issue of homophobia in football.
Just in case the reader was in any doubt what was meant by “risqué campaigns”, the link (Yes, that’s in the original article) points to another article discussing the banning of the transphobic Paddy Power adverts.
Looks like Stonewall UK are back to being S’onewall again.
Update: The author of the original article has now “unambiguously condemned” the Paddy Power transphobic campaign, stating that the link to stories about it was added by the Guardian after the article was written.
@auntysarah Hi Sarah, we've said 100% that Ladies Day ad was wrong. Guardian has added that hyperlink to the word risqué without permission.
— Richard Lane (@Politicana) October 17, 2013
@auntysarah I was trying to refer to PP general reputation. I unambiguously condemn the ad. V sorry this is now not clear.
— Richard Lane (@Politicana) October 17, 2013
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.
It appears Norman Baker’s arrival at the Home Office in the latest reshuffle has come just in time, given the latest policy to arrive on the public’s doormat. Notably, they got this one out before he had a chance to get his feet under the desk, and in the gap just after Jeremy Browne left. I doubt that’s a coincidence. The policy is one called “Sexual Risk Orders” and I’ll give you the government’s own line on what they involve… (Emphasis mine)
Sexual Risk Orders can be applied to any individual who poses a risk of sexual harm in the UK or abroad, even if they have never been convicted.
In other words, you can have one of these orders slapped on you because the police don’t like you. The restrictions on the person who is unfortunate to receive such an order are quite severe. That’s particularly true in this day and age of the internet use clause as it’s not even possible to claim some benefits without internet access.
…a range of restrictions on individuals depending on the nature of the case, such as limiting their internet use, preventing them from being alone with a child under 16, or preventing travel abroad.
No doubt such an order, or having had such an order in the past, would show up on any checks for future employment as well. Finally, the “safeguards” against such an order are…
The Sexual Risk Order can be made if the police or NCA apply to a magistrates’ court regarding a person who poses a risk of sexual harm. It lasts a minimum of two years and has no maximum duration.
Not exactly encouraging. But unsurprising, given the groups who were consulted in constructing the orders:
There has also been consultation with front-line professionals including the police, the courts, and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
And it should go without saying that no government press release with undertones of “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” can end without a ministerial quote alone the lines of “We’re already far more draconian than anyone else, but we won’t stop until you have no freedom left”.
The UK has some of the toughest powers in the world to deal with sex offenders. Today, we are going even further by giving police and National Crime Agency officers the power to place greater restrictions on any person they judge to be a risk.
It probably goes without saying that likely targets of such orders include sex workers, those involved in consensual BDSM and anyone trans. (Particularly in the wake of McNally – imagine a “You must out yourself to anyone you meet” order) This would apply even if the activities you engage in would not be considered unlawful by a jury, because the police only need to convince a magistrate you might pose a risk.
Basically, round up the usual suspects.
The motion calling for internet filtering was defeated overwhelmingly via a reference back earlier today. I was not called to speak – apparently, there was a “huge stack” of cards put in to speak, “most on one side of the debate”.
But if I had been called to speak, here’s what I would have said.
I am what many of you might regard as a geek. I have worked in IT for many years, including over a decade of experience working for Internet Service Providers.
But that is not why I am up here today.
I am also a parent. I have three school-aged children and I am opposed to this motion because it does not do what it says on the tin. Where filtering is in widespread use, we already see issues with overly aggressive blocking. Undesirable content is in the eye of the beholder, and to avoid complaints companies will block first and ask questions later.
We see blocking of support sites for mental health issues such as anorexia and body image issues.
Blocking of support sites for sexuality and gender issues.
Blocking of support sites for bullying.
The British Library even blocks Hamlet on it’s own wireless internet access, because it contains violent content. It’s simply not possible to get this right. The people who are pushing for the filters will be campaigning to make them stricter. Imagine the headlines if just one web site the Daily Mail deem to be questionable slipped through the ‘net.
There is no appeal if you are blocked, because the decision on what to block is left to private companies. Do we want private corporations censoring our internet? Who decides what sites are acceptable? The logical extension of such a policy is a British Board of Internet Censorship, a terribly draconian and unwelcome idea.
Senior Talk Talk staff once came to talk to me, when I had expressed concern about their filters. They assured me that it was not possible to bypass their filters and offered a trial – but they never made good on their promise to let us test it. Why not?
Software exists to bypass such filters, that’s why. Tor is one such mechanism and is part-funded by the US Government to allow people to bypass filtering, for the benefit of those living in oppressive regimes…!
As a parent, I do worry about my children online. But I am more worried about cyber-bullying and stalking, which filtering does nothing to prevent. Reliance on technology gives a false sense of security, something we must avoid. The best solution all round is Education, Education, Education – of both parents and children.
And that’s a view with widespread support in the party. A Liberal Democrat Voice survey published in the last 24 hours shows that a whopping 81% of party do not support the form of filtering described in this motion.
There is an amendment to this motion, but it does not do enough to address these issues and I cannot support it. But we do want a policy, because we know this is an important issue. Conference, I would urge you to vote to refer this motion back so that these issues can be addressed properly and a new, more robust policy bought to a future conference.
But if that fails, please vote against the motion.
In terms of internal party discussion, one of the more controversial points at the current Liberal Democrat Conference is motion F17, “Protecting Children from Online Pornography“. This calls for opt-out filtering of the internet to protect children from “porn”, something I’m quite opposed to. It’s attracted criticism from mainstream internal groups as well as anti-internet-censorship campaigners – a conference update mailing from Liberal Reform supported calls to vote against this illiberal policy.
Thus was spawned the Talk Not Tech campaign against this motion. And in a survey out today, 81% of Liberal Democrat members agree: only 16% are for opt-out internet filters.
There is an amendment to the motion that would seem to support the most popular option, opt-in filters, but this amendment also calls for pop-up messages if you visit a “bad” site. (For some value of bad that usually includes news, support and political sites on issues surrounding mental health, sexuality and gender) A widely-supported motion that was more liberal in nature was unfortunately rejected by Federal Conference Committee.
As a result, we are asking for delegates to vote to refer the motion back. This is a little bit procedural, but we believe sends a better public message than rejecting the motion overall. We do want policy in this area, just not this policy.
If you are a voting representative, please head to the main hall for 5pm today (Sunday) for this important debate.
(The full breakdown of survey results: 16% opt-out filtering, 39% opt-in, 33% for education instead of filtering, 9% didn’t believe any change was needed, 2% don’t know)
It seems simple enough – a high profile campaigner gets some publicity and starts receiving some pretty horrible abuse online as a result. Twitter should therefore install a magic “report abuse” button that will make all this go away.
As with many simple solutions, it’s also wrong. And unfortunately not just slightly wrong but dangerously so for those most in need of protection.
The scale of the problem
What’s being asked for is a single button to report an abusive tweet, rather than the existing web form. However, one of the issues in this case was complaints that Twitter took too long to respond. I’m not clear on how having a button rather than a form that will inevitably attract more complaints, because it’s easier to click is supposed to speed things up.
There are over quarter of a million tweets per minute. If one in a hundred thousand tweets are abusive enough that someone clicks a button, that’s about three tweets every minute that need looking at.
If you need a quick response, you need someone at their desk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To allow for training, holidays and sick cover you need five full time employees for one person on shift at all times. Finally, assume that twitter are immensely generous by service provider standards and will dedicate 5% of their staff (20 people) to just handling abuse reported via this button. Four people on shift at any one time, dealing with three tweets a minute. Each person is having to evaluate an abusive tweet and come up with an appropriate response in 80 seconds if they do nothing else for their entire shift on duty, with generous assumptions about staffing levels and number of reported abusive tweets.
Oh, I’ve conveniently ignored all the problems associated with differing cultures and languages in use worldwide.
Unless you can somehow reduce the volume of complaints massively – to below one in a million tweets, giving a “generous” 5 minutes to assess each complaint with a very well funded department – this just doesn’t work.
Some sort of automated filtering is required, perhaps looking at volume of complaints as a threshold for action.
…and then it starts to backfire…
We’ve seen this before. A large portion of my timeline on twitter is taken up by members of marginalised communities that are subject to fairly routine, day to day abuse and know what works and what does not. People are quite vocal in their opposition to the twitter abuse button idea, because we know how it will pan out in practice.
The original article has Caroline Criado-Perez expressing concern about “victims without a high profile” getting help, whilst apparently ignoring those same victims saying this is a bad idea.
If you are a high profile individual with contacts, you can get lots of your followers to complain about tweets directed at you. This will attract enough attention that you get some response – but you could have just gone to the police in the first place if you have that much influence and it’s actionable abuse. (I have complained about death threats online in the past and getting much more than a crime reference number and a short appeasement visit from your local bobby is quite some achievement)
But the flip side of this is that it’s not just the good guys that can raise large numbers of reports. Any group seeking to silence an individual or community can just as easily rally the troops to try to get people kicked off. Either adopt a scatter-gun approach, complaining about anything and everything, or find one tweet that, taken out of context by someone with only a few minutes to assess the situation and take action, might be considered abusive.
Potentially, small groups or even one determined individual can create enough accounts to appear to amount to a significant number of unique complaints. In this age of near-ubiquitous free webmail, WiFi hotspots, 3G internet access and cyber cafes it’s impossible to conclusively tie multiple online identities together quickly without access to the kinds of legal resources only available to major police investigations.
How are genuine victims without a high profile supposed to generate enough noise to get any useful response, often to tweets that individually amount to little but constitute a clear pattern of abuse if you know the background? About the only option is to publicise the matter to try to make it high profile. But if you try this without already being popular, you’ll likely be accused of being one of those people engaging in the exact same silencing behavior I’ve just described. Which is what happened with the Burchill/Moore saga.
Unsurprisingly, Suzanne Moore is one of those backing the Twitter abuse button idea.
To tidy up a few loose ends, now that the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 is an Act and not merely a Bill, here is a summary of its effects on the trans community.
None of this takes effect until the necessary procedures are put in place and the Secretary of State gives it the green light to go ahead – that’s not currently expected to happen for at least a year. As things stand, the first same-sex marriages will happen before the trans-related provisions are put into effect. It is also possible that procedures in practice will differ slightly from what’s intended from the legislation for practical or other reasons. We saw this happen with the Gender Recognition Act 2003.
Applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate
If you are applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate and you…
- Transitioned after 2008 & are not married or civil partnered then there is no change.
- Transitioned before 2008 & are married at the time of application, then you may be able to use the “Fast Track” procedure. The date is set at 6 years prior to the commencement of the relevant section and we don’t know when it will come into force yet, so it may end up being a cutoff date in 2009 if commencement doesn’t happen until 2015. The caveats for this are:
- Your marital status at the time of transition makes no difference. If you transitioned a decade ago but didn’t get a GRC because you were married but have subsequently been widowed, you can not use the Fast Track process. Conversely, you do not need to have been married at the time of transition and could get married for the sole purpose of obtaining a Fast Track GRC
- You must be “ordinarily resident” in Great Britain, i.e. excluding Northern Ireland. This appears to have been put in place to avoid complications with Northern Ireland but unfortunately rules out anyone born in this country and living abroad.
- “Fast Track” isn’t any faster from the Gender Recognition Panel’s point of view, it is a reduced documentary requirement – evidence of surgery or a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. I do not know if anyone tried this under the old Fast Track system when the GRA2003 first came into force, but it would appear that the surgery does not need to have been as an adult. This potentially allows someone with an intersex condition who is married to obtain Gender Recognition, something they were previously unable to do due to the lack of a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
- The spousal veto still applies to fast track applications, regardless of how long you have been transitioned for.
- Are married at the time of application, then you can apply for Gender Recognition and remain married. Recognition would be subject to the Spousal Veto. If the spouse does not consent, then the old process applies which can take some time and is more expensive – apply for an Interim Gender Recognition Certificate, initiate annulment proceedings and hope your spouse isn’t looking to drag things out.
Interim GRCs do not grant any rights beyond the ability to apply for annulment of a marriage. It is likely quicker to apply for a normal divorce as that can be done without needing to wait to become eligible for a GRC. The intent of the Interim Gender Recognition Certificate was largely to allow couples to remain together after transition, as you cannot apply for a normal divorce if still living together.
- Are civil partnered then you need to convert your civil partnership to a marriage first, then apply for gender recognition as above. If you do not wish to convert to a marriage and remain together as a couple the only option is the Interim Gender Recognition Certificate and annul the Civil Partnership.
This is a consequence of mixed-sex civil partnerships being unavailable.
After obtaining Gender Recognition
- If you gave up your marriage and potentially pension rights under the old system by getting an Interim Gender Recognition Certificate and annulling the existing marriage/CP and were re-married/CPed, there is no mechanism for restoring that relationship or pensions.
- The situation for a wife of a trans woman (And only in that specific combination) is improved in the case where the trans person dies first and the wife is left with a survivors pension.
- Sections 12(h) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the civil partnership equivalent, section 50(e) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 remain in force – if you acquired gender recognition prior to getting married/civil partnered and your partner claims they did not know this, they may be able to get the marriage or civil partnership voided.
- The wording to be used in marriage ceremonies abd on marriage and birth certificates is, at this moment, unchanged. There is likely to be some further work in this area with post-enactment secondary legislation.