From The Archives: TranphobiaAtPride

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.

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