The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill was published yesterday, along with a couple of supporting documents, but it is still unclear exactly what data the Home Office is proposing to retain.

There is a need for the government to clarify the language in the bill and supporting documents, because it will be difficult to have a debate about security vs. freedom without this information. (We would really have to assume the worse case option, numbers 2 & 3 below combined) It may also result in legal wrangling if a service provider objects at a later stage to the information they are being asked to collect.

There are three likely interpretations of the bill:

  1. They want to keep:

    • account-to-IP address mappings for broadband
    • source IP address and port for NAT on mobile and cloud networks
    • MAC addresses on cloud WiFi networks.

    Although the data does not seem particularly useful and would thus query the price tag, the civil liberties implications seem minor, given that this data may be being kept by the ISPs in many cases already.

  2. As (1), but also collecting data such as MAC addresses from end-user equipment where it is operated by an ISP. (E.g. BT Home Hub) This is troubling, as people will not expect that equipment in their own homes would be spying on them.
  3. As (1) or (2), but also keeping some element of destination information to allow matching with destination server logs – e.g. destination IP address and port. Although in many cases an IP address/port combination is ambiguous when it comes to what site is being visited that is not always the case. Collecting this data strays into the same territory as with the Communications Data Bill.

It has been suggested that there may be a provision somewhere to also require CSPs (Facebook, Twitter etc) to keep source port information in server logs, which would make the data from (1) more useful if the source and destination is also in the UK.

If they could also publish how many additional RIPA requests they would expect to be able to get a positive result from due to this bill, that would also be useful information.

(It’s also worth reading the Impact Assessment if you are researching all this)

Yesterday saw the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee report into the events leading up to the murder of Lee Rigby. On reading it, one gets a sense of naivety from the members of the committee on how the Internet works, particularly when it comes to international jurisdictions. (Communications data is p139 onwards)

Notably, the committee seemed surprised that wholly US companies did not consider themselves to be subject to UK laws. To emphasise that, here’s an extract.

242. The UK Government has always asserted that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) has implicit extra-territorial jurisdiction. The problem is that, whereas UK Communications Service Providers (CSPs – Facebook, Twitter and so on) accept that they are legally obliged to provide access to the communications of individuals, most CSPs based outside the UK do not accept that the UK legislation applies to them.

Many in the UK would be shocked if random foreign laws suddenly applied to them, so it’s a little concerning that the Home Office think the reverse might be true.

It continues:

The Home Office has explained the argument the US CSPs have made: “RIPA lacks explicit extraterritorial jurisdiction and cannot be argued to place any obligations onto CSPs based outside of the UK.

The Home Office explained the particular issue US CSPs have raised, that: “complying with RIPA would leave US companies in breach of US legislation (including the Wiretap Act in relation to lawful interception)

So the problem is not just that the Home Office believes it can pass UK laws compelling people in foreign countries to hand over data, but that it thinks UK law can compel people to break their own local laws. I usually only see that level of “we’re a world power” arrogance in Americans from particularly red states these days.

Even if we restrict the “our data laws should apply in your country” principle to US-UK relations and ignore countries like China or Russia, it quickly becomes clear that this would cause all sort of problems in areas where we do not agree on policy.

The section of the report that has been most covered is the part that blames an unnamed site, since revealed to be Facebook, for not alerting the security services to an exchange between one of the attackers and an associate. The whole analysis suggests a lack of knowledge of how the internet and social media works:

  1. Firstly, there is an assumption without discussion that Facebook has a “moral duty” to search all member communications for suspicious content. This assumption conveniently ignores:
    • That it’s possibly illegal under US Wiretap laws mentioned earlier
    • The huge problems associated with appointing a US company guardian of international morals (I am hoping that the ISC does not expect Facebook to examine content on the basis of the laws of the country the end-users are in, unless it thinks social media sites should be reporting LGBT people to the authorities in countries where that is illegal)
    • The rather robust freedom of speech the US has
  2. There is also an assumption that Facebook could have detected the exchange via automation. This is based on the closure of several other accounts for various reasons, some of them unconnected with terrorism even though the account the exchange took place in was not closed. It is not clear if the “automatically” closed accounts were due to a large volume of uncontested end-user complaints, because that sort of quasi-automation of complaints triggering account closures on social media will not help with private chat between individuals. What the US regards as terrorists another state might regard as freedom fighters, which also puts Facebook in a sticky situation deciding who to report.
  3. That determining which security service to tell is not easy. If a US citizen is on holiday in the UK and messages suspect content, do you tell the US or UK authorities? The Home Office expressed reluctance in it’s MLAT discussion to go via US authorities, but is it expecting Facebook to report everyone to UK police when it doesn’t have any way of knowing their nationality? The US government may not be too happy about that, given it would mean allowing the UK to spy on US citizens here on holiday or business.
  4. That blanket trawls for data can produce quite unjust outcomes, such as the Robin Hood airport case.
  5. That the information needs to get to the UK somehow when as noted earlier, this may be illegal under US Wiretap law.
  6. And that the UK security services would need to find time to look at a potentially huge amount of data, when the report already highlights the amount of data they have to sift through is more than they can handle

Fortunately, the committee did not entirely side with the Home Office.

The report includes a discussion on existing routes that UK security services can use to obtain data using US laws and the committee quizzed the Home Office on why the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) was insufficient for data collection. The Home Office response included the following:

…the MLAT process would require the release of sensitive data to the US authorities, since “the intelligence case underpinning the warrant application [would have] to be considered by US authorities”. In addition, the US legal process would mean that the Secretary of State’s decision (i.e. the warrant) would be exposed to scrutiny by a US court. This would be at odds with RIPA which prohibits the disclosure of the existence of an interception warrant

The ISC did not have much time for the Home Office’s “we can’t be bothered with any of that due process stuff unless it’s not our process” response and suggested instead that MLAT was probably exactly the route we should be using.

Due to the tone of the report, I took some time to dig into the backgrounds of those MPs and Lords who sit on the committee. Shockingly, it is terribly unrepresentative even by parliamentary standards – five of the nine members are lawyers, one was a civil servant for his entire career and one appears to have never had a non-political job. Of the remaining two, one was a teacher and the other was very briefly an engineer back in the late 1960s/early 1970s before becoming a lecturer. The average age is 65 and none have any IT or Intelligence background that I can see.

This does not seem like an appropriate group of people to be scrutinising intelligence work in an increasingly digital world.

And as a parting note, I shall point out that there is nothing anywhere in the report that suggests increasing UK communication interception laws would have prevented the murder of Lee Rigby.

According to the Open Rights Group, (ORG) who are often right on soon-to-be-published legislation, the forthcoming bill on “IP Address Matching” is about mobile networks performing NAT.

There are probably a few reading this whose eyes have already started to glaze over, given the first paragraph mentions a three letter acronym. It is likely that a few civil servants and ministers suffered from the same. That is worrying because it is entirely possible that this bill may, if ORG are correct, involve collection of communications data – here’s why:

Network Address Translation (NAT) is a way of hiding many computers behind a single Internet address. It was invented because under the system of addressing currently in use in much of the world, there are not enough addresses for every computer to connect at once. Using the analogy of a telephone system, it is like a company having a few well-publicised phone numbers for their major services but hiding all their other staff behind a single generic phone number whenever they make an outbound call.

If someone is making nuisance calls that you are trying to trace, being told that the call came from your generic phone number is not much use. As with IP addresses hidden behind NAT, there could have been tens of thousands of phone calls being made outbound from that phone number at any point in time. You can only trace who made the call if you also logged which number each handset dialed.

Now, the internet also uses port numbers. They are fixed for servers (web servers typically run on port 80 or 443) but randomly assigned for outbound connections, so that the address and port will be unique for anyone talking to a particular service. This makes it theoretically possible to trace a user using both the address and port if you already know which service they were talking to.

Unfortunately for that approach, servers in the internet generally only record source addresses and not source ports.

If the Home Office want the data they are collecting to be useful, this means they will likely also be asking service providers to be storing destination addresses, which brings us back to having to store communications data. It would allow security services, police or even an anti-piracy company with a court order to ask a service provider questions such as “tell me everyone who accessed in the last 12 months”.

Hopefully I’m wrong.

(Some further reading for the more technically inclined is over at ISPReview. The comments are also worth a read.)

User data requests per country (Population adjusted)

I have been looking at transparency report data again recently, a task that is long overdue. The big change is that more data is available on government and law enforcement requests than used to be the case, when Google were the only company producing reports.

The most interesting category is, for me, social media networks. Unfortunately, only four major networks produce data that is independent – Facebook (Including Instagram), Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr. (Google+ comes under Google and Skype under Microsoft) So, which network is receiving the most queries for data per user? Before running the numbers, I would have expected networks to receive requests proportional to their size but this is far from true – the graph below is adjusted to take into account the number of users each site has and is based on requests from July 2013 to June 2014.

Social Media Networks - Data Requests
(Interactive version)

This discrepancy may be because of the kind of requests law enforcement is issuing. Although Twitter is far more political than Facebook, most serious crime is not political or terrorist – it’s run-of-the-mill violence. The bulk of (Non-piracy-related) requests received by Internet and Telephony Service Providers relate to people who had been assaulted, and the police were attempting to find out who the victim has communicated with recently. Although quite nasty threats are far too common on Twitter, Facebook “friends” are the kind of people who will be close enough to actually carry out threats, so will likely be the first port of call for police.

For the usual analysis of data requests per-country, Facebook alongside Microsoft and Google, but dropped Twitter due to their small size.

Sadly, many of the smaller companies are only permitted to release very vague figures by the US government which makes them all but useless – it is not particularly helpful to know that a network received some requests in a six month period, but that it was less than 1,000 requests.

The charts below are based on the first half of 2014 and adjusted for population size, and countries with a population below 2,000,000 (Where a handful of requests can skew the results) have been excluded.

User data requests per country (Population adjusted)
(Interactive version)

User data requests per country (Population adjusted, bar graph)
(Interactive version)

The UK is still an unenviable fourth in the league tables of most-snooped-on population, although we have dropped below Germany and France. (Malta and Luxembourg have been excluded this time as smaller countries, but did appear on the 2013 charts) The surprise first place, having not had a particularly bad data request rate in the past, is Singapore who have added

Mail on Sunday survey results

The Mail on Sunday have published a new survey into, amongst other things, who people would like to see leading a coalition government.

The article is relentlessly pro-UKIP, but includes a result similar to one already seen with Ashcroft polling in Cambridge if you look closely at the numbers: Liberal Democrats are popular as a coalition choice.

The raw numbers published by the Mail on Sunday list the combinations as Cameron/Farage 26%, Cameron/Clegg 23%, Miliband/Clegg 20%, Miliband/Farage 14%. (17% don’t knows) Converting them into ratings for individuals, we get:

Mail on Sunday survey results

  • Cameron: 49%
  • Clegg: 43%
  • Farage: 40%
  • Miliband: 34%

Worrying news indeed for Ed Miliband.

Equalities Speech

For the last year I’ve had the good fortune to be able to serve as a member of the Liberal Democrat Equality Policy Working Group, and yesterday conference accepted the motion that came out of that, making it official party policy.

Equalities SpeechThere is lots of good stuff in there, but I did want to highlight the LGBT and marriage sections in particular. We heard much evidence from other groups too, and some of the awful statistics relating to education and stop-and-search for young Afro-Caribbean men in particular stick in my mind – but others deserve the credit for campaigning on those areas, so I’ll let them talk about them.

Remember, these are now official party policy. They are not just policy of the LGBT group or aspirational aims of a subgroup. Actual official party policy. (Some of these items were already party policy, but were restated in the policy document for clarity)

LGB and LGBT issues

  • Review the Blood Ban. We’re currently in the ridiculous situation where a man who has sex with other men, even safe sex, is banned from giving blood for 12 months. However, it doesn’t matter how many unsafe sexual relationships anyone else has as they can still give blood. Even more confusingly, if you are a woman married to (And having sex with) a bisexual man who has ever had sex with another man, you can not give blood ever. Even if your husband can.
  • An evidence-based approach to tackling *phobic bullying in schools. There is an evidence-gathering programme, started by LibDem Equalities Minister Jo Swinson MP, that will report back on how we can bet do this.
  • …mainstream discourses should consider more authentic ‘inclusive sexualities’ in advertising, media, and sport to help break down prejudice. and more specifically later on positive images of transgender individuals in central government publications. Hopefully self-explanatory!

Trans issues

  • ‘X’ (Unspecified) gender markers on passports. A big benefit for the non-binary community if we can make it a reality, but this is good for all trans and intersex people and society in general. There is no particular reason the state needs to concern itself with gender in the vasy majority of situations, especially when it comes to official ID. For example, did you know about the very patriarchal approach of the DVLA, which includes titles on women’s driving licenses but not men’s?
  • Ending the Spousal Veto. If you don’t know what the Spousal Veto is, Sarah Brown has an excellent primer here. In short, the veto was introduced by the Same-Sex Marriage Act and allows a partner to block legal gender recognition of a spouse who has transitioned and prevent them obtaining potection from employment discrimination, even after the two year wait required for the legal process.
  • Restoring stolen trans marriages. Under the pre-same-sex-marriage regime, even if a couple stayed together they were required to have their marriage annulled if one partner wanted to fully transition.
  • Removing the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to obtain legal gender recognition. This would further reduce unwelcome medical gatekeeping when it comes to people’s identities, and also fix the mess that intersex people find themselves in. Currently, if you have an intersex condition and potentially had your legal gender assigned arbitrarily by a doctor at birth, you are unable to obtain a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (It’s a different diagnosis) and thus can not obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate.

Non-LGBT marriage issues

  • Allow the Church of England to decide itself if it wants to carry out same-sex marriage. At the moment, the Church of England is prohibited by law from carrying out same-sex marriage, but with the way things are going I can well see that changing in the not too distant future.
  • Allow Non-religious (Humanist) marriage ceremonies. Already permitted in Scotland, we would like to see this introduced in the rest of the UK.
  • Include both parent’s names on marriage certificates. Current certificates only list the father, which is a very outdated patriarchal approach.

You can download the full policy paper, in .docx format, here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historically, this has caused problems.

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

What the meeting was not

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

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

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

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

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

The options

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

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

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

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

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

Where the meeting went

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

accept = 443
connect =
transparent = source

From default.vcl:
import std;

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

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

set req.http.X-Forwarded-For = client.ip;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

This raises a number of troubling issues:

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

UPDATE: Pride London have issued the following statement:

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

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

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

The Metropolitan Police have issued the following statement:

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

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

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

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

We are working with GALOP on this.

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

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

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

Steve Allen

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