Having run through the history of trans politicians in the UK in three parts – pre-2000, 2001-2009 and post-2010, it’s back to the usual routine and time to report who is standing in next month’s elections.

As a recap, we currently have four openly trans people elected to local government – many people will be aware of the first three, and news emerged last year of a fourth councillor, for UKIP, in Thanet. This is, as far as we are aware, a record high in trans representation in local government – but to put it into context, there are 20,830 seats on principal councils in the UK so the four of us represent just 0.02% of the total number of councillors. For comparison, figures for the number of trans people in the UK usually result in a number an order of magnitude higher, at around 0.1-0.2%.

Here’s the current, complete, list:

Liberal Democrats Zoë O’Connell
Cambridge City Council, Trumpington Ward

Elected 2015 with 29.9% of the vote, 2.6% majority.
Conservatives Zoë Kirk-Robinson
Bolton City Council, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor Ward
Elected 2015 with 41.3% of the vote, 2.7% majority.
Sarah Larkins
Thanet District Council, Eastcliff Ward
Elected 2015 with 33.5% of the vote, 4.3% majority.
Labour Anwen Muston
Wolverhampton, East Park Ward
Elected 2016 with 43.4% of the vote, 12.8% majority.

There is also one election result to report – Ellen Murry stood again as the Green Party’s candidate in the sudden Northern Ireland Assembly election earlier this year:

Green Party Northern Ireland Ellen Murray
West Belfast (Party list)
Not elected. Round one result: 0.6%, change: -0.3%

And now onto the main feature: candidates in 2017. It is slim pickings this year, with only twothree candidates known of so far. I often receive news of more after the initial list is posted and anyone I hear of will be added here. At this point in the four-year local council electoral cycle, it is mostly county councils up for grabs. The job of a county councillor is typically more time consuming than at city/district level, and although I have not seen any evidence on the topic it does seem to favour those who are retired, self-employed and doing well or otherwise better off – which will tend to work against trans people in general. With an increasing number of trans people also holding office and Helen Belcher being the LibDem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chippenham, there is also a smaller pool of people willing to stand for election!

Labour Sam Feeney
Cambridgeshire, St Ives North & Wyton
Mridul Wadhwa
Edinburgh, Craigentinny/Duddingston
Alex Bear
Derbyshire, Ripley East and Codnor

And finally, one honorary mention. Lily, co-founder of Britain Elects, should have been the candidate for Uplands, Swansea next month. Sadly, she died late last year.

Labour Lily Summers
Swansea, Uplands

Happy Local Election Nomination Deadline Day! If you are planning on standing for election on May 4th, you have until 4pm today to get your nomination papers in. As I expect to be posting the 2017 candidate list in the next few days, it is an appropriate day to post the final part of the series on openly trans politicians in the UK, which started as part of LGBT History Month. (For earlier years, see part one covering 1986-1999 and part two, 2000-2010) LGBT History Month is now long past, but as a result of the first two parts I received a number of new leads to chase down on candidates who stood – most turned out to be people who didn’t come out until after they had left office, but many thanks to those who sent them in.

2010 was, in mainstream political terms, when it all kicked off for openly trans representation in the UK – going from one elected councillor in May 2010 up to a record three elected councillors and 9 other candidates in May 2016. It’s notable enough that a trans person standing for election might warrant a short and usually positive human interest piece in the local press, but at least for local election candidates it no longer generates the kind of mock-outrage by tabloid commentators that was previously common. The sheer number of people standing makes it difficult to write a biography for everyone, so only brief details are given on those elected.

The emphasis above is on “openly” above, as there are a number of trans politicians in the UK at local election level who are not out. At least some of the recent increase in numbers can be attributed not just to the increased number of trans candidates standing, but also the increased likelihood of people being out. Records prior to about 2010 are also sketchy, and it is likely some earlier candidates have been missed.

There are two known out Candidates who are now out, but are not listed below as it has not been able to confirm were out at the time of election: Sarah Larkins (UKIP, 2015) and Lee-Anne Lawrance. (Green, 2016)

If you have not been included in this list and believe you should be, please drop me a line. If I know you and have not included you here, it is because I believe you are not out.


Sarah Brown (Liberal Democrats)
2010-2014: Cambridge, Petersfield

Appeared on the Independent on Sunday “Pink List” (later called the “Rainbow List”) of top 100 most influential LGBT people in the UK from 2011 to 2015. Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for Community Services 2013-2014.

Herbert, Ian. The IoS Pink List 2011 Independent on Sunday. 22nd October 2011
Barkham, Patrick. ‘Why three in a bed isn’t a crowd’ – the polyamorous trio The Guardian. 20th April 2013
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates A – B
Sarah Brown (politician) Wikipedia
Councillor details – Councillor Sarah Brown Cambridge City Council


Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats), Charley Hasted (Liberal Democrats)


Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)

No known candidates

2014 candidates list
2014 results list

Unsuccessful European Parliament Candidates: Nikki Sinclaire (We Demand a Referendum)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Anna May Booth (Labour), Sarah Brown (Liberal Democrats), Alice Chapman (Liberal Democrats), Zoe Kirk-Robinson (Conservatives), Charlie Kiss (Green), Anwen Muston (Labour), Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)

2015 candidates/results list

Zoë O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)
Cambridge, Trumpington (Term expires 2019)

Deputy Leader of the opposition on Cambridge City Council since 2016, Vice-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference Committee and the author of this blog.

Barkham, Patrick. ‘Why three in a bed isn’t a crowd’ – the polyamorous trio The Guardian. 20th April 2013
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates L – O
Councillor details – Councillor Zoe O’Connell Cambridge City Council

Zoe Kirk-Robinson (Conservatives)
Bolton, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor (Term expires 2019)

Councillor details – Zoe Kirk-Robinson

Sarah Larkins (UKIP)
Thanet, Eastcliffe (Term expires 2019)

Councillor details – Sarah Larkins

Unsuccessful Westminster Candidates: Emily Brothers (Labour), Stella Gardiner (Green), Charlie Kiss (Green), Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Kirsten Ruth Bayes (Liberal Democrats), Anna May Booth (Labour), Alice Chapman (Liberal Democrats), Rachel Lawson (Green), Anwen Muston (Labour)

2016 candidates list
2016 results list

Anwen Muston (Labour)
Wolverhampton, Eask Park (Term expires 2020)
Councillor details – Anwen Muston

Unsuccessful Regional/Metro Assembly Candidates: Brothers (Labour, London Assembly), Crow (Green, Scottish Parliament), Murray (Green, NI Assembly)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Kirsten Ruth Bayes (Liberal Democrats), Helen Belcher (Liberal Democrats), Aimee Challenor (Green), Jane Fae (Liberal Democrats), Henry Foulds (Liberal Democrats), Jennifer Kirk (Conservatives), Maria Munir (Liberal Democrats) Lee-Anne Lawrence (Green)

As part of LGBT History Month, I have been researching the history of openly trans politicians in the UK and I will be posting these over the next few days. You can read part one of this mini-series here and part two, covering 2010 to 2016, here.

Jennifer Liddle (Liberal Democrats)
1999: City Council Candidate for East Chesterton Ward, Cambridge
2000-2007: Cambridge, East Chesterton (Reelected 2004)
2008-2010: Cambridge, East Chesterton

Jenny Bailey (Liberal Democrats)
2002-2008: Cambridge, East Chesterton (Releected 2004)
2007-2008: Mayor of Cambridge

There is a question as to exactly where in the timeline Liddle and Bailey – partners who represented the same ward on Cambridge City Council at the same time – should appear in the narrative. Liddle first stood in 1999 before being elected in 2000, but there was little or no media coverage at the time. Liddle herself has described their trans status as “the worst-kept secret in Cambridge” and then County Councillor for the same ward, Julian Huppert, says that “there were certainly voters who knew … it did come up occasionally on doorsteps. Not, sadly, in a positive light*

They did not receive widespread coverage until 2007, shortly before Bailey was sworn in as Mayor of Cambridge which, as far as is known, makes Bailey the first and to date only trans mayor in the UK. The publicity didn’t seem to hurt Liddle’s election when she re-stood in 2008, gaining 38.4% of the boat, versus 38.3% in 2004.

Regardless of where chronologically their entry should appear, Liddle and Bailey began a near-continuous run of openly trans representation on Cambridge City Council, broken only for one 12 month period in 2014-2015.

Sources and further reading:
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates A – B
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates O – L
First sex-swap mayor is sworn in. BBC News, 24th May 2007
Transsexual Becomes Mayor in Cambridge, England. Fox News, 25th May 2007
* In conversation with the author

Rebecca Baty (Conservatives)
2002: Council Candidate for Bruce Grove ward, Haringey

Relatively little is documented about Baty, who stood for election as a Tory candidate in London in 2002. This was a no-hope seat for the Conservative party, and despite being the top-placed candidate from her party Baty managed less than a quarter of the number of votes of the lowest-placed Labour candidate. Despite this, she received some press coverage. In 2002, merely being a candidate whilst out as trans was notable enough to be newsworthy.

Baty also stood in 1998 in the Quadrant Ward of Islington, but does not appear to have been out at the time as no press coverage of her from that election has been located.

Although non-principal council results have not been included, it’s worth noting that in 2009 Baty also stood unsuccessfully for Ramsgate Parish council, in the same ward that in 2015 saw UKIPs only known trans councillor, Sarah Larkin, secure a seat.

Sources and further reading:
London Borough Council Elections, 7th May 1998
London Borough Council Elections, 2nd May 2002
McGowan, Patrick. Tories to field first transsexual. Evening Standard 14th March 2002
Sex change Tory hopeful says she should be judged on her merits. Scotsman 15th March 2002
Allen, Peter. The Lady Who Turned Is to Stand for Tories. Daily Mail. 15th March 2002.
Parish of Ramsgate Election – Thursday, 4th June, 2009

Krystyna Haywood
2002: Council Candidate for Park, Sheffield (Liberal Democrats)
2007: Council Candidate for Arbourthorne, Sheffield (Green)

Sources and further reading:
Norton, Cherry. The pressure and confusion are terrible. Independent 29th July 1999.
Local Elections Archive Project – Sheffield City Council Election Results 2002
Local Elections Archive Project – Sheffield City Council Election Results 2007

Stephanie Dearden (Liberal Democrats)
2005: Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Tooting
2006, 2010, 2014: Council Candidate for Graveney, Wandsworth

It’s not clear if Dearden was already “out” before the Leicester South by-election in 2004, but an unattributed attack leaflet distributed during the run-up to polling day put her name in the public domain and, according to subsequent interviews during the election campaign, Dearden’s own web site initially made mention of it. As with MacRae back in 1992, being a candidate only likely to secure third-place didn’t stop interest from the Daily Mail, which briefly interviewed her in the weeks prior to the election.

Dearden is still involved in politics, having unsuccessfully stood for election to the same area three times – in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

Sources and further reading:
Cohen, Nick. The ghost of Enoch. The Guardian 22nd August 2004.
Letts, Quentin. Not Hattie Jacques, but the ladies are no pushover Mail Online. 8th April 2005
Bain, Charlie. Lib-Dem Lady Who Was a Man Mail on Sunday. 1st May 2005
UK General Election result for Tooting, 2005
Wandsworth Council election results 2006
Wandsworth Council election results for Graveney Ward 2010
Wandsworth Council election results 2014

Ailsa Spindler (Scottish Greens)
2005: Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Edinburgh West

Although she did not make it into the collective memory of the trans community or LGBT politicians in the same way as Dearden did, possibly due to being a member of the smaller Scottish Green Party, Spindler stood in the same General Election. Public knowledge of her trans status appears to have been entirely at her own initiative – multiple sources published on the same day give the same quotes, suggesting a press release simuntaneously sent to multiple outlets.

Sources and further reading:
UK General Election result for Edinburgh West, 2005
Green Party candidate says sex change is not an election issue Scotsman. 23rd April 2005
Stokes, Christina. The Sex-Change Green Who Wants Voters to Swing Her Way in May Daily Mail. 23rd April 2005
Stokes, Christina. Sex Swop Boxer Bids to Land Knockout Blow for the Green Party The Mirror. 25th April 2005

As part of LGBT History Month, I have been researching the history of openly trans politicians in the UK and I will be posting these over the next few days.

Our history is often confused by the media’s need for sensationalism and they will often latch on to the idea that someone might be “first” at something to make another otherwise run-of-the-mill human-interest story about someone seem more interesting. Sometimes politicians reuse these stories themselves, not realising that the media have not bothered to fact-check their claims. This does not help trans representation in the long run, because it makes people feel as if being elected in politics is something remote and unobtainable for trans people rather than something that is quite achievable.

For those interested in the topic, it’s worth checking out this excellent report from the University of North Carolina’s LGBTQ representation and rights research initiative which covers the global situation.

More information is always welcome, as I will certainly have missed people prior to 2014, when I started compiling lists of known trans candidates at principle authority level or above each year. However, I will state my usual caveat here – I am aware of a number of trans people who hold or have held public office but are not out. I am not in the business of outing people, so I will only include those who are publicly out or have already been outed by the media.

Finally, if any historians would like to work on turning this series into a more formal paper for publication please do get in touch. I would like to be able to get this information recorded in a format more amenable to citation by future generations of activists.

Part two of this series covers 1999-2009, and part three 2010-2016.

Rachael Terri Webb (Labour)
1986-1990: Councillor for Ferndale Ward, Lambeth
1990-1994: Councillor for Gipsy Hill Ward, Lambeth

The history of successful trans politicians stretches back surprisingly far – to the mid 1980s. This was a time not just before the Gender Recognition Act was passed but before the campaign group that fought for that legislation, Press for Change, was formed. The trailblazer was Rachael Terri Webb who was, as far as anyone has been able to establish, not only the first openly trans person to have been a candidate in a UK election, but the first to have been elected.

Webb stood for Lambeth council in 1986 to the safe Labour ward of Ferndale, serving there until 1990. She then stood in Gipsy Hill in 1990, until retiring in 1994.

As with many people, it is difficult to establish the extent to which Webb’s history was known prior to her first election as the media rarely gives much coverage to candidates for local councils. More recent articles suggest she was outed by the tabloid press in 1983 as a result of using a loan available to all council employees to pay for surgery, but it has not been possible to locate the original articles yet. However, her position as the earliest known out trans politician and the first to win an election is secure, as there are references in the 1987 book “Bodyshock: The Truth about Changing Sex” as well as other sources prior to her re-election. She was also known to the wider trans community, presenting on the topic of “Transsexuals and Local Authority Equal Opportunities Policies” to the GENDYS conference in 1990.

Looking at the election results, it is notable that although elected comfortably Webb placed third of all three Labour councillors in both elections. That difference is most pronounced in the 1990 Gipsy Hill results, in which she polled 8% lower than the other two Labour candidates in an election that otherwise seems to have seen people voting a straight party ticket, with little or no difference in the votes between candidates of the same party. Concerning though this difference might be, it is entirely possible this difference in votes was for entirely political reasons. She was apparently well known and referenced in a number of articles and books in the late 80’s and early 90’s. These sources typically do not mention her as a trans woman, but do focus on her history as an outspoken member of Militant, on the left wing of the Labour party during a period that saw internal party disagreement on a par with today’s troubles.

Webb sadly died in 2009.

Sources and further reading:
London Borough Council Elections, 8th May 1986
London Borough Council Elections, 3rd May 1990
Hodgkinson, Liz (1987), Bodyshock: The Truth about Changing Sex. Columbus Books.
Ekins R, King D (2002), Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex Changing. Routledge
International gender dysphoria conference 1990. Beaumont Trust
Zagria, A Gender Variance Who’s Who – Rachael Webb (1940 – 2009)
Webb, Rachael. Letters to the Editor. The Guardian. 2nd October 1990

Alexandra “Sandra” MacRae (SNP)
1992: Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Glasgow Provan

MacRae has been in the headlines well before she became a candidate for the SNP, having been outed in 1981 by the News of the World in a story described by the Press Council as “distasteful” – it appears the Scottish Daily Record also ran less-than-positive stories during the election. Despite this, she appears willing to talk about her background publicly as a Herald Scotland article repeats by then historical quotes from her General Election campaign in 1992 where she talks about her transition. Coverage of her candidature is sparser than might be expected – the SNP then were less prominent than today, and MacRae was not expected to win. She placed second on 21.7%, with Labour comfortably holding the seat with 66.5% of the vote.

MacRae was no stranger to elections, having stood at least four times prior to transition, in Edinburgh Central (Feb & Oct 1974), Edinburgh Pentlands (1970) and Midlothian. (1966) Unfortunately, most sources about MacRae are from 1997 when she hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons following a conviction for fraud. According to media reports, she was the first trans woman to be housed in a female prison but as with most media claims about “firsts”, this is tricky to verify.

Sources and further reading:
‘News of the World’ censured. The Observer. 9th August 1981, page 5
Lawyer stole #16,000 from clients, Prisons face dilemma of sex-change embezzler. The Herald. 10th December 1997
Transsexual man jailed in women’s prison. BBC News. 1st September 1998
UK General Elections since 1832
Zagria, A Gender Variance Who’s Who – Sandra MacRae (1942–) solicitor, SNP candidate

Mark Rees (Liberal Democrats)
1994-1998: Councillor for Rusthall Ward, Tunbridge Wells

Mark Rees is perhaps better known as co-founder of Press for Change and a prominent campaigner for gender recognition which resulted in the passage of the Gender Recognition Act in 2004 – a journey which began with a European Court hearing as far back as 1986, the same year that Webb was first elected. In the middle of this period, Rees had served four years as a councillor in Tunbridge Wells, standing in Rusthall Ward first in 1991 before going on to win in 1994. Although he re-stood in 1998, he was not successful.

There are many excellent resources about Rees’ life online, and rather than try to summarise them here, anyone interested should read the articles published by either LGBT History Month or Zagria. Christine Burns’ eBooks, Pressing Matters also cover the story of the campaigning group, Press for Change.

As well as being the first, to date, Mark remains the only openly trans man known to have been elected to public office in the UK.

Sources and further reading:
Rees v. The United Kingdom – 9532/81 [1986] ECHR 11. 17 October 1986.
Burns, Christine (2013) Pressing Matters (Vol 1)
Famous and Inspirational Trans People: Mark Rees. LGBT History Month
Zagria, Mark Rees (1942 – ) Part II: activist, councillor
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Election Results 1973-2012

Rosalind Mitchell (Labour)
1997-1999: Councillor for Redland Ward, Bristol

Mitchell was not out when first elected to Bristol Council. In fact, she didn’t transition until 6 months after her election, meaning she can lay claim to being the first trans person known to have transitioned whilst holding public office in the UK. She was in office for a relatively brief period, and her tenure appears to have not been trouble-free as although apparently accepted by the Labour Group on the council she was refused entry to a Labour Women’s group and did not restand when her term expired in 1999.

Sources and further reading:
Election results for Redland, Bristol, 1997 (Election data has been updated by Bristol Council to refer to Mitchell’s current name. It is clear from other sources that she did not transition until November 1997)
Burns, Christine (2013) Pressing Matters (Vol 1)
Burns, Christine. The Rosalind Mitchell Story, Press For Change. 21st September 1997, archived from the original.
Dyer, Clare. Labour transsexual comes out. The Guardian. 22nd September 1997, page 6.
Winkler, Elisabeth. The year that changed my life, The Independent. 27th December 1998
New Labour, New Woman, part of the Home Ground series. BBC. 7th July 1998
Dyer, Clare. Labour Group Throws out Sex Change Woman. The Guardian. 19th March 1998, page 4.
Sex objection to Bristol Woman. Local Government Chronicle. 31st March 1998.

There was hand-wringing piece in the Independent yesterday about an Essex pharmacy that provided a journalist with HRT. It’s so bad and on so many levels that I felt it worthy of mentioning here specifically. However, this is hardly an isolated incident – the media have a very long history of trying to scupper trans healthcare, including David Batty’s persecution of doctors practicing trans medicine and past efforts by the BBC, similar to this one, to shut down entirely legal sources of medicine.

Turning back to the Indy piece, sources such as the pharmacy they mention are often a lifeline for people who can’t get medication in any other way. Even having had to wait, sometiems years, to get help many people subsequently find their GPs refuse to prescribe drugs because it goes against their religion, even when recommended by a specialist. Or they live somewhere where they can’t access specialist care without long journeys – there is no Gender Identity Clinic anywhere in Wales, for example. (Fortunately, there are moves afoot to remedy that particular problem)

This isn’t due to a lack of evidence of the effectiveness of health care – research has shown that blocking health care for those seeing transition is extremely dangerous, with the suicide attempt rate for those unable to access services at around 50%.

The Indy also plays up the risks of HRT, which if you believe the tone of the article must be incredibly dangerous, and state that it shouldn’t be “used unmonitored”. However, amongst the long-term-transitioned trans women I know of who have been able to find a stable supply via cooperative and responsible GPs, none are being monitored – because the real world risk for most people is not high enough to make it worth the GP’s time. Progynova is even an over-the-counter medicine in some countries, such as Spain.

In case you’re wondering, the side effects list of an over-the-counter drug in the UK such as Ibuprofen includes difficulty breathing, vomiting blood, stroke, liver failure, heart failure and heart attacks. If there’s a lesson here, it’s “don’t read the side effects list on the leaflets”.

Finally, the headline cites “Fears of ‘DIY transitioning’“. DIY transitioning is exactly what people have been doing for decades because the press and medical establishments have a long history of making it as hard as possible to access treatment.

To be clear, having to defend grey market medication is a far from ideal situation to be in. But it is disingenuous to harp on about the “dangers” of these sources, while ignoring the effects of cutting off that supply. And trawling forums for “exclusives” like this is terribly dangerous and will just force desperate people further and further underground, where they’ll end up being taken advantage of or finding sources of supply that are really dangerous. I imagine many people will be wary of asking for help on that particular Reddit forum after it was cited by the paper.

The NSPCC have now announced the cancellation of the debate into the care of trans kids. At first, this seems like good news, given one of the speakers was to have been Sarah Ditum – known for her support of those practising conversion therapy.

However, I am quite annoyed by the tone of their response which is at best disingenuous. Here is what they said: (I received the same text via email in response to my letter)

However, the trans community have raised concerns and told us that they don’t support the NSPCC hosting this discussion. We have listened, and following the withdrawal of a keynote speaker, we are no longer hosting this event.

To be fair, getting a press release like this right in a way that doesn’t cause repercussions is hard. However, I would expect a withdrawal from an organisation with a competent press department to use phrases like “Having considered the background of the speakers, we can understand why this would upset members of the trans communities“. Some people might regard these as “weasel words”, but they’re there to indicate that they don’t blame those who protested, that they can see both sides of the argument and they really just don’t want a fight. Instead, we’re treated to a spin on the facts stating that trans people don’t want the NSPCC to discuss this issue. We do, because we think this is an important issue and I said as much in my letter to them. We just don’t think it’s appropriate for the debate to involve someone supporting those engaged in child abuse.

I expect we’ll see a concern-trolling New Statesman rant by Sarah Ditum about how her right to freeze peach has been violated soon. As always, it hasn’t.

Following the news that the NSPCC had invited Sarah Ditum to a debate on trans kids, I sent them the note below regarding Ditum’s support for those advocating conversion therapy against kids. Since I wrote this yesterday evening, Kellie Maloney (also an odd choice for this debate) has pulled out which means it may not go ahead, although Kellie’s withdrawal appears to be because of concerns about personal attacks from Ditum rather than due to her controversial views on trans people.


I would like to thank the NSPCC for giving time to discuss the issue of treatment of trans children. As I am sure you are aware, this is an important but often overlooked topic in an area in which many involved in setting policy, including teachers, social workers, clinicians and politicians, are unaware of the facts and of the desperate need for more resources.

However, the as someone who had until now held the NSPCC in high regard, I was appalled to learn that you had selected speakers who will harm rather than help this issue. Sarah Ditum’s position on trans issues in general is controversial and well-documented, but I would particularly like to highlight to you two specific incidents regarding Ditum’s support for those practising conversion therapy.

Firstly, in 2014, Sarah Ditum wrote an article for the New Statesman, best characterised as “concern trolling”, regarding the suicide of Leelah Alcorn. (“If you believe trans lives matter, don’t share Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note on social media“) Leelah was a trans teenager who had been cut off from her peers and subjected to conversion therapy by her parents. After 5 months of this, Leelah posted a public suicide note on the social media site Tumblr in which she was highly critical of her parents, before stepping into traffic on Interstate 71. Despite this, Ditum wrote an article for the New Stateman in which she was highly critical of the media coverage highlighting the dangers of conversion therapy, downplayed the significance of the abuse and expressed support for Leelah’s parents. (She has not written similar articles concerning other events that do not feature trans people)

More recently, in May 2016 another article appeared in the New Statesman by Ditum (“What is gender, anyway?“) in which she supported clinicians practising conversion therapy on children, including Susan Bradley and Kenneth Zucker. Conversion therapy (sometimes also known as reparative therapy) is now widely abhorred by the medical community as not just ineffective but dangerous and cruel. It is banned in some Canadian provinces and US states and, in the UK, LGB conversion therapy has been condemned by all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies as well as the NHS. Zucker’s clinic in Canada was shut down after Ontario banned the practice of conversion therapy – Susan Bradley also campaigned against the ban. The centre hosting the clinic later issued a public apology for the practice as a result of an external audit, but Ditum dismisses this in her article as being “attacked for not conforming to the current trans political line” and Zucker being “ultimately forced from his job”.

It should not be the case that, in 2016, a children’s charity proposes to host a “debate” in which one of the panellists supports treatment that is now banned in many parts of the world as child abuse. Your supporters would be horrified if you hosted a debate with those advocating other forms of child abuse – please do not let trans kids be the exception.

I urge the NSPCC to reconsider the ethical implications of allowing this debate to proceed.

Kind Regards,

Councillor Zoe O’Connell
Cambridge City Council

Without any pre-announcement – a move that, judging by some tweets, annoyed even the Women & Equalities Select Committee – the government released it’s overdue response to the trans inquiry. Once could be forgiven for thinking that the sudden, unannounced arrival of a report in the middle of the largest political crises the UK has seen for decades was an attempt to bury bad news. Despite some oddly positive press coverage suggests the report is promising things it doesn’t, reading the report does little to put those suspicions to rest.

By way of explanation, I should say that there are some well tried and tested methods of dealing with troublesome reports that politicians and civil servants will use. These tactics are not as lavish as Sir Humphrey Appleby, but they work if nobody is paying too much attention.

If you want to genuinely do something about an issue, a response will say something like “We welcome the suggestions made by the inquiry. The Ministry of Silly Walks will publish a green paper later this year, with a view to introducing legislation on the promotion of especially silly walks in public life during the next session of parliament”. This has someone who is responsible (the Ministry of Silly Walks) for doing something concrete (a green paper) by a given date (the end of the year) with a clearly defined end goal. (new legislation with a defined scope)

Conversely, you might not want to do something. In which case there are several tactics:

  • (1) State that existing legislation adequately promotes especially silly walks in public life.
  • (2) In response to calls to do more on a topic, give a long list of positive things you’re already doing to promote silly walks, but try to hide the fact you were already doing them.
  • (3) State that more evidence about the need for silly walks is needed. Don’t do anything to encourage evidence, so you can state later that nobody sent any in.
  • (4) Promise a review of silly walks. If you don’t actually want to commit to anything, don’t give any details of the remit, don’t say which group is doing the review and give any details about timescale. This makes chasing the results nearly impossible, because you can keep saying it’s still a work in progress.
  • (5) If it’s nothing too harmful, publish a report into silly walks at some unspecified future date. Try to avoid giving the scope of the report, which allows you to neatly forget about any inconvenient issues when you get round to publishing it
  • (6) If you really must be seen to do something promise “training” on how to develop a silly walk. Don’t give any further commitments and definitely don’t commit any money to it.
  • (7) Confuse two unrelated or barely related situations to construct a straw-man argument you can dismiss as unworkable.

It’s usually considered polite to promise to “continue to monitor the issue” .

So, with all that in mind, I’ve gone through all the responses given by the government and scored them on how well the government addresses the requests from the original inquiry. I’ll warn you now, this is long (although not as long as the original report) and few areas outside the NHS score above 2/10. Most areas give excuses for inaction covered by the list above, and I don’t believe that it’s any coincidence that the areas that show some glacially slow progress in the right direction – i.e. the NHS – are being delivered by NHS England, not central government.

The original recommendations of the committee are given in italics, followed by the government’s response.

Cross-government strategy

Within the next 6 months, the Government must agree a new strategy
It must also draw up a balance sheet of the previous transgender action plan, confirm those actions which have been completed and agree a new strategy to tackle those issues which remain unaddressed. This must be done within the next 6 months.

Government’s response: “We are monitoring the remaining commitments and will publish an update report on both the existing Transgender Action Plan and the 2011 LGB&T Action Plan”

Score: 2/10. A number (5) from the fob-off tactics list. At least they’ve said something, but it’s already been 6 months since the inquiry report, and this gives no timeline for when they will publish the report.


The Government must also make a clear commitment to abide by the Yogyakarta Principles (setting out various protections for LGB&T people) and Resolution 2048 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe“. (Calls for various protections for trans people, including self-determination of gender and non-binary recognition)

Government’s response: “We have noted the ideals set out in the Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048… we believe that existing international and domestic legislation provides adequate protection for transgender people, and that those mechanisms already in place for ensuring effective implementation are adequate.”

Score: 0/10. A number (1) from the fob-off list. Short of outright denouncing the Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048, it’s hard to see how the government could be more dismissive. They simply note that they are non-binding and go on at length saying little more than “we’re already doing OK, so why try harder”. However, there is no explanation of which bits of the principles or resolution they disagree with.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Government must bring forward proposals to update the GRA, in line with the principles of gender self-declaration
The Government must look into the need to create a legal category for those people with a gender identity outside that which is binary
We recommend that provision should be made to allow 16/17-year-olds, to apply for gender recognition

Government’s response: “We will keep these issues under consideration. The Government will review the GRA to determine whether changes can be made to improve it in order to streamline and de-medicalise the gender recognition process. We would like to see more evidence on the case for change and the implications of altering the minimum age, moving to a self-declaration process and extending legal recognition to non-binary gender identities. We will therefore monitor the implementation of alternative gender recognition processes in other jurisdictions and we will analyse the evidence placed before the Committee to inform our work.”

Score: 1/10. A number (3). I’m encouraged that the public statements made on this might mean we get some tinkering with the GRA to remove some of the more onerous medical requirements, hence not scoring this zero. However, this is essentially “We don’t really intend to do anything much”. If they haven’t seen enough evidence by now, the implication is they are unlikely to ever be convinced by the case for change.

Spousal Veto

We do take very seriously the evidence that we have heard regarding the scope that the spousal-consent provision gives for married trans people to be victimised by spouses with malicious intent. … The Government must ensure that it is informed about the extent of this and ways of addressing the problem.

Government’s response: “We will continue to monitor this issue.”

Score: 0/10. Not even bothering to pick a brush-off from the list. I’d rate this negative if I could, this is the civil service equivalent of Arkell v. Pressdram. I have no idea why the 74 married trans people who gained a GRC are worth quoting here stripped of any context, given they don’t report how many people have been blocked or delayed.

Data Protection

“We note that not a single prosecution has yet been brought under [section 22]. (Protection against outing) The MoJ must investigate why there have not been any prosecutions and take action to address this. It must also work with the courts to tackle the issue of trans people being inappropriately “outed” in court proceedings.

Government’s response: “We would like to assure the Committee that the MoJ has commenced discussions to ascertain why there have not been any prosecutions under Section 22. All HM Courts and Tribunals Service staff are obliged to undertake equality and diversity training, which includes an overview of legal responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. Similarly, equality guidance provided to the judiciary specifically addresses the issue of gender reassignment, and provides advice on how to prevent transgender people from being ‘outed’ in court proceedings.”

Score: 2/10. Looking into the reasons why section 22 isn’t being used, which is positive – no dates but this one is my it’s nature a little more open-ended and at least lists who they’re talking to, so I’m willing to cut them some slack. The issue of people being outed however is effectively ignored with a variation on number 6 – “but we already train them” – passing the buck on to staff and judges.

Gender reassignment as a protected characteristic

The protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of gender identity

Government’s response: “The provision of a protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” in the Act is fully compliant with our obligations under the Equal Treatment Directive… We will keep this under review and will continue to listen to and monitor people’s experiences of discrimination, harassment or victimisation.”

Score: 0/10. Quite a strong number (1), ie “no, we disagree with you and we’re not going to do it”.


The Equality and Human Rights Commission must be able to investigate complaints of discrimination raised by children and adolescents without the requirement to have their parents’ consent

Government’s response: “No such restriction exists on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC’s) power to investigate complaints of discrimination.”

Score: ?. Looks like the Trans Inquiry got the wrong end of the stick on this one.

Exemptions in respect of trans people

We recommend that the Equality Act be amended so that the occupational requirements provision and / or the single-sex / separate services provision shall not apply in relation to discrimination against a person whose acquired gender has been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Government’s response: “We are keen to receive further representations and evidence on the availability and use of the exceptions in the Equality Act 2010 from all affected parties to take into account for future policy discussions.”

Score: 1/10. This starts off really well, with a statement that the government “agrees with the principle of this recommendation” but then spends two paragraphs talking about recently published guidance before kicking it into the long grass with a number 3, asking for further representations.

Separate-gender sport

We recommend that the Government work with Sport England to produce guidance which help sporting groups realise that there are likely to be few occasions where exclusions are justified to ensure fair competition or the safety of competitors

Government’s response: “We have established a review of the Duty of Care of sports participants at all levels, and this will include mental wellbeing. Led by Baroness Grey-Thompson, the review is establishing a number of focus groups examining equality issues for all groups, including LGB&T. The Duty of Care Review will publish its findings by the end of 2016.”

Score: 8/10. The government are delivering pretty close to what the Inquiry asked for, even if it’s probably considered too small a step by most people. And they’ve given a date for the group to publish their report. I’m docking them one point for the mention of “mental wellbeing” and because this is almost certainly something that was going to happen anyway, even without the Trans Inquiry.

NHS services

Score: 4/10. This is a narrative section and doesn’t go head-to-head with inquiry recommendations. Some parts of it are very weak, mentioning that a Parliamentary Undersecretary of State spoke at a trans health conference and that they’re planning a symposium on the issue – most trans activists are suffering from consultation fatigue as the trans voluntary sector just doesn’t have the resources to keep plugging away at this year after year. The report does recognise some of the real problems with training doctors and turning around an organisation as large as the NHS, where decision making is often devolved rather than centrally managed. I don’t want to be too critical here as things are genuinely heading in vaguely the right direction, it just needs more momentum.

Professional regulation of doctors

The NHS is failing in its legal duty under the Equality Act…A root-and-branch review of this matter must be conducted, completed and published within the next six months

Government’s response: “NHS England is considering how to strengthen current governance arrangements to deliver this recommendation within the timescale set by the Committee.”

Score: 1/10. I had to triple check my calendar when I saw this. The inquiry report was published in January and it’s now July, which means it has already been six months. And they were only asking for a review in the first place.

Treatment protocols

We are concerned that Gender Identity Services continue to be provided as part of mental-health services… Consideration must be given to the transfer of these services to some other relevant area of clinical specialism

Government’s response: “We are supportive in looking at how this recommendation can be achieved. Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness.”

Score: 4/10. There’s some credit due here in that the government is looking into the transfer of services, even if it’s been driven by the clinicians at Charing Cross wanting to get away from West London Mental Health Trust. It’s also really something that it’s not realistic to expect a timetable on. This section also annoys me because the statement that “Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness” has inexplicably attracted positive press as if this is a groundbreaking statement for a government to make, rather than a restatement of the obvious. I’m not sure that whoever wrote the report really intended this to be a headline phrase.


The issues that exist around clinical protocols must instead be addressed through the consistent application of clear and appropriate standards across 19 the Gender Identity Clinics.
The requirement to undergo “Real-Life Experience” prior to GRS must not entail conforming to externally imposed and arbitrary (binary) preconceptions about gender identity and presentation.

Government’s response: “The NHS England Specialised Commissioning Team is leading to review the service specification for adult gender identity services. This will be a significant piece of work but there is a commitment by NHS England to deliver recommendations in 2016. Once the specification is agreed, its implementation will drive consistent application of clear and appropriate standards across all the Gender Identity Clinics.

Score: 6/10. This is all about GICs with archaic and at times barbaic practices – the kind of institutions that would insist you divorced and wore a makeup and skirt to every meeting before even considering treatmnet. It might only be a review at this stage, but is has a date on it and a clear idea of how the problem will be solved. Only 6/10 because it’s possible the review will drag the more progressive GICs backwards by having to conform to outdated ideas.

The Tavistock Clinic (children and adolescents)

Consideration be given to reducing the amount of time required for the assessment that service-users must undergo before puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones can be prescribed.

Government’s response: “NHS England will consider the outcome of public consultation before making a final decision on the service specification and clinical commissioning policy, which is planned to be by July 2016.”

Score: 9/10. They asked for consideration, a review and consultation has taken place and will publish on or around a given date. Something firmer would be nice, but it’s clinical practice so not something that can be pre-judged by civil servants or ministers. This is what a good response should look like.

Hate crime legislation

The MoJ must ensure that it consults fully with the trans community in developing the Government’s new hate-crime action plan… This plan must include mandatory national transphobic hate-crime training for police officers and the promotion of third-party reporting.
The Government should introduce new hate-crime legislation which extends the existing provisions on aggravated offences and stirring up hatred so that they apply to all protected characteristics

Government’s response: “The Government continues to carefully consider options for taking forward a review of hate crime legislation. The College of Policing is currently undertaking action to improve the level of police knowledge and training around hate crime.”

Score: 1/10. A weak number 4. Not even a promise of a review, merely a hint that they’re considering it.

Recording names and gender identities

The Government must take the lead by ensuring public services have clear and appropriate policies regarding the recording of individuals’ names and genders

Government’s response: “We will carry out an internal review of gender markers in official documents to find ways to reduce unnecessary demands for such markers”

Score: 1/10 on the basis of evidence presented here, likely a number 4. Internal reviews don’t report publicly, so there is no way to know if this might bear fruit.


The UK must follow Australia’s lead in introducing an option to record gender as “X” on a passport.
The Government should be moving towards “non-gendering” official records as a general principle and only recording gender where it is a relevant piece of information.

Government’s response: “…”

Score: 2/10. Number 7. I’ve struggled to pick some useful details out of the response, but it’s lacking. It appears from irrelevant discussion of biometrics and statements like “The removal of any gender marking on the passport is not currently an option under ICAO standards” (The inquiry doesn’t ask for that) that the government is trying to fudge and confuse the issue by merging together three separate inquiry recommendations. The promise to “conduct a survey with member states on gender and passport markings” is helpful and names specific groups tasked with the work alongside reporting dates. This might well produce evidence useful for campaigning not just in the UK but worldwide, so I’m giving them some credit for that even if they close with the statement “We maintain the need for gender to be gathered at the point of application and included in the passport chip to assist law enforcement and border agencies.”

Prison and Probation services

The MoJ, National Offender Management Service and National Probation Service must urgently clarify what the situation is pending the publication of the new [Prison Service] Instruction.

Government’s response: “An MoJ review… concluded that treating offenders in the gender which they identify with is the most effective starting point for safety and reducing reoffending… The NOMS is working to make sure that a new instruction on transgender prisoners will follow the conclusions of the review. To ensure that any new operational policy is fit for purpose and being correctly implemented, an advisory group is proposed, initially for three years.”

Score: 0/10. The Inquiry didn’t ask for much, so a zero score might seem harsh – however, whilst harm to trans people in some of the other areas covered by the inquiry might be regarded as more remote there is clear evidence that the current policy is directly contributing to the preventable deaths of trans people in prison. Three years will cost lives.

Online services

Government’s desire to work with online service providers rather than further regulate them must not be an excuse for inaction. The Government must keep the situation under close review and work proactively with providers to ensure that they take their responsibilities seriously.

Government’s response: “Government is committed to making the Internet a safe place for all.”

Score: 9/10. The inquiry asked for nothing substantial, the government delivered nothing substantial. Can’t argue with that. Docking one point for the mention of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, which isn’t relevant except that it tends towards being pro-censorship. This hurts rather than helps by causing LGBT resources for youth to become inaccessible to those most in need.


More needs to be done to ensure that gender-variant young people and their families get sufficient support at school

Government’s response: A list of generic LGB&T things that were already being done.

Score: 0/10. Number 2: “Look at all the nice things we’re doing”. Most of these were already in place before the trans inquiry report said more was required, and none of it is trans-specific.


Trans issues (and gender issues generally) should be taught as part of Personal, Social and Health Education

Government’s response: “We trust schools and head teachers to know how best to meet the needs of their pupils in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner, and trust them to decide what specific issues they cover in line with the needs of their pupils.”

Score: 0/10. This isn’t a fob-off, it’s an outright refusal. Printing just “No” would have saved some ink.


The levels of bullying and harassment experienced by trans students in further and higher education are unacceptable.
The Government should also take steps to ensure all further education and university staff receive gender identity awareness training.

Government’s response: “Nick Boles, Minister for Skills, who writes to all further education (FE) college governing bodies, college principals and training providers on a termly basis, will reference the importance of providers being proactive on this issue in his next letter. For higher education, Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, will write to Universities UK, the umbrella body for universities, to highlight the need for transgender equality.”

Score: 1/10. A variation on number 6, only with letter writing rather than training. One point for persuading universities to set up a “task force”, although that’s possibly veering into a number 4.

Social care for young people

We have heard worrying evidence about some social workers’ lack of knowledge on gender variance… The Government should seek to address this through formal training as a matter of urgency.

Government’s response: “Government will commission a study to ascertain the adequacy and consistency of knowledge on gender variance in initial social work training and continuous professional development (CPD). It will use the findings to decide whether additional training materials should be made available.”

Score: 1/10. Number 4. A study, a review… all much the same. No dates or departments given.

A key theme running through this chapter has been lack of sufficient understanding of transgender issues by professionals in the public sector… Appropriate training of public sector professionals on gender identity issues must be a key part of this new strategy.

Government’s response: “We will write to all relevant heads of profession to highlight the need for training on transgender issues for their profession, asking them to introduce training if not already available, and to monitor effectiveness of the training provided.”

Score: 1/10. Another letter-writing variation on a number 6.

Cambridge City Council today debates a motion supporting the European Union – you can read the full motion on the council’s web site. My contribution to the debate is below – the debate is still ongoing but the balance of speeches so far suggests the motion should pass comfortably.

Mr Mayor,

Like many others in this chamber, I appreciate the hard-won advances in equality that have been secured by the UK’s membership of the EU. Advances such as Equal Pay for women and men; employment protection on the basis of religion, belief, sexual orientation and age; and vital progress towards ending human trafficking.

These have been won not just for people of Cambridge, nor for just the population of the United Kingdom, but for over 700 million people across the EU member states.

And the biggest advance of all: Seventy years of relative peace. It is always those who find themselves most unfortunately at the bottom of society who, despite having so little already, stand the most to lose from war and conflict.

But I share concern expressed by many about the direction of debate. A debate that has to date been dominated by men such as David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and has seen twice as many women as men respond in polls that they do not know how they will vote.

Although politics across the board has performed poorly in gaining representation from BAME people, in other respects the city council has, on all sides, avoided becoming dominated by any one group, be it gender or any other protected characteristic. I believe that a strong pro-European-Union message from us here today – that we recognise and appreciate that progress towards equality – will help to reengage people who feel left out of the debate so far and who stand to benefit most from this work.

The results are all finally in! Of the 10 trans & non-binary candidates who stood, one – Anwen Muston – has been elected. This brings the total number of openly trans elected politicians to an all-time high of three, or approximately 1 in 6000 councillors in England. (There are none in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland that we know of)

Congratulations to Councillor Anwen Muston and commiserations to all those who were not successful this time. I hope I will be able to include many of in next years’ reporting!

Whilst the increasing number of candidates standing is good news and 1 in 6000 is close to the estimates for the trans population of England, trans people are far more likely to be politically active and a success rate of one in ten is, unfortunately, quite poor. This suggests that out, trans and non-binary candidates are still not being given winnable seats to fight in local elections. However, it is only since 2013 or 2014 that trans people have been standing in any significant numbers and few people are successful at their first attempt, so this will hopefully improve over time.

(Binary, or predominantly IDs as such)
Northern Ireland Assembly
Green Party Northern Ireland Ellen Murray
West Belfast party list, sole GPNI candidate
11th place on first preference votes: 0.9%, change: +0.9% [source]
London Assembly
Labour Emily Brothers
London-wide party list, 9th of 11
3 party list candidates elected: 39.9%, change: -1.2%
Principal Local Authority
Labour Anwen Muston
Wolverhampton, East Park Ward
Elected: 56.4%, change: +4.5% [source]
Liberal Democrats Helen Belcher
Wokingham Borough Council, Evendons Ward
2nd place: 38.2%, change +17.8%. (1st Place: 43.2%) [source]
Conservatives Jennifer Kirk
Bolton City Council, Tonge with the Haulgh Ward
3rd place: 14.5%, change: -3.8% [source]
Liberal Democrats Jane Fae
North Hertfordshire District Council, Letchworth East Ward
6th place: 6.6%, change +6.6% [source]
Green Party Aimee Challenor
Coventry City Council, St Michael’s Ward
4th place: 5.5%, change -0.9% [source]
Scottish Parliament
Scottish Greens Anna Crow
Glasgow party list, 9th of 9
1 of 9 elected: 9.4%, change: +3.5% [source]
Principal Local Authority
Liberal Democrats Henry Foulds
Amber Valley Borough Council, Alfreton Ward
4th place: 5.0%, change: +1.6% [source]
Liberal Democrats Maria Munir
Watford Borough Council, Vicarage Ward
2nd place: ~13.7%, change ~-1.0% (Turnout figures for the all-up election have not yet been published, so this is an estimate)[source]