(Warning: All the news stories linked in here are highly transphobic, with references to acquired genders being a “pretence” or “fake”)

It looks like we have another case of someone trans being prosecuted for “obtaining sex by deception“. I am always wary of mainstream press coverage of cases involving trans people, because the facts can so easily be distorted either through ignorance or, in the case of The Sun’s article on this incident which I’m not going to link to, maliciously.

However, what has been widely reported seems to indicate that in this case, the person being prosecuted was definitely a trans man – they had presented as male for many years, with the STV coverage specifically using the word transsexual and they were already seeing a counsellor. One report also mentions they are on a gender reassignment programme, presumably a reference to a Gender Identity Clinic.

In summary, Wilson plead guilty to two counts of “obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud”. In the first case, this sexual intimacy apparently went no further than kissing and cuddling, with Wilson refusing to engage in anything more.

The second, later case is problematic in that actual intercourse took place and their partner was underage at the time, having mislead Wilson about their age. There was no prosecution for that mentioned however, so it would appear that Wilson’s actions in immediately terminating the relationship and refusing to see her any more when this was revealed were the correct course of action here.

This case makes it clear that the police and courts in Scotland regard failing to disclose trans status prior to kissing/cuddling someone as a criminal offense. Proving you told someone is of course tricky, so unless you’re very “out” there could be trouble ahead.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceWilson has ended up on the sex offender’s register as a result. Full sentencing has not yet taken place.

Edited 1315, 8th March: From the Scottish Transgender Alliance:
In partnership with Trans Media Watch, we have just received advice to the effect that the charge of sex by fraud in this case does not relate to Wilson presenting as male but instead relates to the use of a substitute object under the pretence that it was a penis and therefore without consent. This means that reporting that states Wilson is in trouble over gender presentation is inaccurate. Please help us to raise awareness of this. We need as many of you as possible to write to the newspapers (and any other media outlets covering this) and explain.

Edited 1800, 8th March: Initial assurances that the conviction was related to the “use of a substitute object” were incorrect – it has now been confirmed the prosecution was related to identity.

A number of amendments for trans people have been submitted formally in parliament, but unless you’re a legal whiz with some spare time to hand it’s not immediately obvious what they are. So, here’s a quick guide to what the relevant ones do…

Amendment 4 – Prevent voiding of marriages with a trans person

At the moment, a spouse can have a marriage voided (As if it had never happened) by claiming they did not know that their partner had a gender recognition certificate at the time they married, and this amendment removes this. There is no similar provision covering, for example, religion or similar and creates a situation whereby a spouse who does know about their partner’s history later claims ignorance if their partner is not very publicly “out”.

Amendment 5 – Remove spousal veto of legal recognition of gender

Because a marriage would, under the existing system, need to be converted to or from a civil partnership on one partner transitioning, there is a requirement for an interim Gender Recognition Certificate to be issued and the existing partnership be annulled prior to full recognition of legal rights. This was done to prevent a spouse being forcibly re-entered into a new relationship (Civil partnership or Marriage) they didn’t want and could not get out of due to the one-year minimum term before divorce can be applied for in a new relationship.

This is no longer the case, but the bill did not reflect that fully. Instead, it allowed a partner to delay or potentially block someone getting full legal rights in their acquired gender by refusing to give consent, a situation that would also incur additional costs for the trans person by forcing them to use the interim GRC process.

The amendment levels the playing field by only issuing an interim GRC if both parties request it, rather than simply if the spouse refuses consent. (As it stands, it also causes an Interim GRC to be issued in the case of a civil partnership, because the current bill does not allow for mixed-sex civil partnerships)

It takes 2 years post-transition to get a GRC, so an unhappy spouse still has plenty of time to apply for divorce.

Amendment 6 is tidy-up related to amendment 5, removing clauses that are no longer relevant.

Amendment 7 – Restoration of lost marriages

This simply allows marriages that had to be annulled so that someone could get legal recognition to be reinstated as if they had never been broken. If you want to know more, Sarah wrote about this for the Huffington Post.

Amendment 8 – Reissue of marriage and birth certificates

The bill did not make reissue of marriage certificates explicit, but this amendment does. It allow allows birth certificates to be reissued, with consent of all concerned. (The other named parent if the child is under 16, otherwise the child themselves)

There is still more we’d like to get done (Fixing pensions issues and swapping gendered terms like husband/wife for gender-neutral and non-binary terms like partner) but time is limited! Hopefully they’ll get in too eventually.

Of course, tabling amendments doesn’t mean they will pass but it does mean we are well on the way.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceAnd finally, many thanks to Dr Julian Huppert MP for his help getting the amendments tabled.

It seems David Batty, Guardian “journalist”, has come out of his self-imposed retirement on writing about Trans issues to produce a rather obviously spun story on Doctor Richard Curtis, a private doctor who practices in London.

For those not aware of the history, David Batty has a history of attacking anyone or anything involve in Trans healthcare, including articles about Russel Reid’s GMC hearing, a matter that is now regarded by much of the community as a witch-hunt against him by other doctors. I don’t have many details of the latest complaint beyond what was in the Guardian article, but it has been confirmed that one of the complainants is Dr Barrett. Yes, the same Dr. Barrett who was involved in the complaint against Russell Reid many years ago.

So with that background, let’s have a look at today’s article. Here’s what he’s detailed the complaints as, and I’ll deal with them point by point with reference to the WPATH Standards of Care (PDF Link).

Commencing hormone treatment in complex cases without referring the patient for a second opinion or before they had undergone counselling

There is no requirement for a second opinion or counseling prior to prescribing hormones, despite the attempt to insinuate that there is. The requirements are persistent gender dysphoria, capacity to give informed consent, being an adult (Kids have different rules) and other medical or mental concerns being “reasonably well-controlled.” (Page 104)

Administering hormone treatment at patients’ first appointments

See the above list of requirements for HRT. There is no reason not to prescribe hormones if the persistent gender dysphoria is well documented. (For example, the patient may already have transitioned, may have seen other doctors before going private or may have been on NHS waiting lists for an extended period of time)

Referring patients for surgery before they had lived in their desired gender role for a year, as international guidelines recommend

This is routine, as for transwomen genital electrolysis (Hair removal) cannot be rushed due to the growth cycle of hair, meaning some months of advanced planning is needed. The international guidelines (I.e. the WPATH SoC) state you cannot have surgery prior to the 12 month point (Pages 105-106) but make no mention of referrals.

I am assuming this is referring to genital surgery. For top surgery (Either breast enlargement or removal, depending on which way someone is transitioning) the requirements are less strict. (Page 105)

With one patient allegedly undergoing surgery within 12 months of their first appointment

There is no minimum treatment period, only a minimum period of documented real life experience which does not need to be under the care of a doctor. If there was a violation, why isn’t the surgeon concerned also be under investigation by the GMC, or the doctor who issued the second required signature for surgery?

He is also accused of administering hormones to patients aged under 18 without an adequate assessment

There is also a later reference to referring to prescribing at 16 and probably the point of greatest concern, but it’s not clear where the cutoff between adolescent and adult care begins. In terms of the WPATH SoC, it simply states the “age of majority in the country concerned” as being the cutoff between adolescent and adult provisions. The is no clear age of majority in the UK, and even the General Medical Council’s own guidance isn’t clear if it’s at 16 or 18 (Or younger) for medical purposes.


Wrongly stating that a patient seeking gender reassignment had changed their name.

If we’re having to drag what sounds like an administrative error (And this happens more often in the NHS than private practice) then we’re really grasping at straws.

He goes on:

One of the most serious cases concerns a female patient who regrets switching to a male role. She underwent hormone treatment and had her breasts removed. The woman is one of the complainants in the current GMC investigation.

There’s nothing in here to suggest malpractice. Just a statement that someone regretted transition. Of course, there are those who will be horrified that someone had their “breasts removed” and no doubt this paragraph is designed to stoke the emotions of such readers.

Of course, Batty knows what is and isn’t acceptable and is no doubt aware of these holes in his character assassination of Dr. Curtis. He’s been after us for long enough and knows about the WPATH Standards of Care. He even quotes them later on in the article, despite the fact they indicate many of the “complaints” he lists are not themselves malpractice but rather a list of potentially routine tems that those with no knowledge of the topic might see and an example of why Trans healthcare, either NHS or Private, is fundamentally Evil.

Is all this noise significant? At this stage we don’t know. Even Batty may not know, because I’m sure if he had hard examples of WPATH SoC guidelines, he would have published them with glee. A sentence later on in the article revels that the council still have to even decide “if there is a case to answer” so really we just don’t know yet.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceWhatever happens, there needs to be a mechanism for resolving what is acceptable care that does not jeopardize careers, reinforce outdated and harmful practice, facilitate witch hunts and damage access to healthcare for the whole Trans community.

Last week, a government committee produced what was a switched-on report on Internet filtering. (PDF link) In it, they rejected calls for a default-on internet filter, pointing out that “default filtering can create a false sense of security” and that “there was no great appetite amongst parents for the introduction of default filtering“.

Personally, I’ve always preferred the educational approach to keeping kids safe online. In our house, the computers are all kept in public areas so when they were younger, before they had smart phones, we had some idea what they’re up to. (Which mostly consists of doing their homework and looking at videos of Ponies, Minecraft and cute cats on YouTube) The trouble with blocking is that parents and carers assume it will work, but it doesn’t. It will block the obvious sites, but might fail to find more obscure items. And if there is one thing kids are good at it’s finding obscure sites.

Oh, actually, there are two things kids are good at with computers. The second thing is bypassing blocks put in place by parents and ISPs. There’s even a project part-funded by the US Military to allow people to bypass such filters, often used by those in oppressive regimes such as China or, uh, the UK.

On filtering, the government report stated they “work to filter out certain kinds of internet content but do not prevent… online bulling… sharing personal sexual content… online grooming… sharing personal information online“. There is also the risk of blocking positive content, such as help sites for LGBT+ youth or even content for other adults in the house who are being emotionally or physically abused.

Sadly, the evidence that blocking is unhelpful isn’t enough to deter Claire Perry MP and the Daily Mail from their “WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN” campaign. Potentially increasing risk to children isn’t enough reason to stop such campaigns of course. It appears they’ve dragged David Cameron along with them. He’s announced today that publicity-seeking Claire Perry is to be put in charge of plans to create internet filters, which contrary to the recommendations in the report parents will be forced to choose between.

Well, I say parents. Actually, it will be whoever sets up the computer. Because nobody will ever give their 13 year old the new X-Box to set up on Christmas Day, will they? Vague plans that people will need to prove their age to be able to configure these things do make me wonder if anyone involved has even even been online.

Are you 18 or over? Please click “Yes, honestly, I’d never lie to you” or “No”.

The Prime Minister’s announcement was very motherhood-and-apple-pie, even containing the statement “These should be distinct and precious years, full of security and love, untainted by the worries and complexities of adulthood.“. How much engagement do Tory MPs have with their kids if they think you can protect a 13 or 14 year old from “the worries and complexities of adulthood”. That’s exactly when you do need to deal with such issues if you want to become a healthy, well-adjusted adult.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceBut I guess life is easier for non-LGBT+ and non-queer youth.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoicePredictably, because of the Olympics, there has been much discussion recently over funding of sports in the UK – including school PE.

David Cameron caused a fuss because he wants to cut the 2 hours a week of compulsory school PE, stating that Indian Dance is something “you and I probably wouldn’t think of as sport”.

Zoe on a Via Ferrata

Probably not what David Cameron would call “Sport”

It’s called PE. Physical Education – not “Sport”. This is the problem faced by the (And yes, I’m banging my usual drum here) male and pale crowd who probably did well in competitive sports at school – Boris Johnson and John Prescott also waded in on the side of school sport.

But ask on Twitter or elsewhere amongst the type of people in their 30s or older, particularly women, who engage in healthy physical activity and what to you find? Generally people who were put off by being pushed in the mud during school PE and regarded the whole thing as just an excuse for the bigger kids to have a go at the smaller ones. Many people, including myself, only rediscovered physical activity when they were older.

Despite being pretty fit (and I think being able to easily pass British Army fitness tests I can claim that easily) I simply do not like the kind of sports that are taught at school. I run, but I compete only against my own personal best. I climb and do Via Ferratas, but they are not competitive sports at my level. And I ride horses, which is rather more energetic than it sounds. Did you see any overweight riders winning medals in the equestrian events?

My kids are the same. They enjoy outdoor physical activities despite, not because of, school PE.

We need to continue to fund Physical Education at Schools, and make time for it but not on either David Cameron or Boris Johnson’s terms. Indian Dance is exactly the sort of thing we should be getting kids to do. Give people enough of a sampling of different activities that don’t involve having a ball kicked at their head and they’re more likely to find something they like and will carry on with in later life.

But please, not more “Sport”. I hated it, many others did too and we’re putting off the very people that need the most encouragement.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceYesterday, the first set of evidence into the Home Office’s controversial interception plans was heard in front of the special committee established to look at the draft bill and you can watch the Video on Parliament’s web site. (More is scheduled for this afternoon).

We learnt a few things about what’s being planned as a result of the evidence given, which was predominantly given by Charles Farr, ex-MI6 man and Director of the Office for Security & Counter-Terrorism.

Firstly, the existing Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and Data Retention Directive are allowing police and security services to get access to around 75% of the data they are after. It’s envisaged that the wide-scale interception of communications data would increase that to 85% – so by only 10%, which seems a huge cost in both monetary and civil liberties terms for a relatively small increase. The existing shortfall was attributed in part to “ambiguities” in the EU Data Retention Directive as it’s implemented in the UK.

Secondly, when asked about their ability to break cryptography they Home Office mandarins ducked the question, instead saying that their preferred method was to “co-operate” with (I.e. coerce) service providers. This would be the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter, both UK-based and foreign, so that they stored the communications data themselves.

They were quite clear on this point when asked about “black boxes” too and not just crypto – even though interception is the very first clause in the draft bill, they claim the main thrust is retaining data at the service provider.

A big hole in their argument as a result is that they have not made clear why altering the existing Data Retention Directive to allow this isn’t enough. There is a big difference in liberal terms between being asked to retain data you already have and actually listening in to obtain data.

The issue that remains is foreign non-cooperative service providers who cannot be coerced and the Home Office seems to imagine only intercepting communications as it enters and leaves the UK, and not widespread interception within the UK. This approach will cut the number of boxes they need. They may not even need to talk to big household-name service providers to do this, instead targeting the lesser-known (To the public) fibre providers who offer the bits of glass that go under the oceans, seas and English Channel.

This has the side effect of also intercepting private (Non-internet) traffic and communications transiting the UK from, say, the US to Germany. I’m sure this point hasn’t been lost on those pushing for it.

In terms of capability, the spooks believe it will be nearly impossible to remain anonymous with the volume of data they are able to collect, something that has sinister overtones for anyone with a genuine need to speak out against the establishment or against the police. You don’t even need to look as far as China to see this in action, as it would be the police justifying the use of interception and there is far from universal trust of the police to regulate themselves in this country.

On the topic of the police self-justifying their use of powers, requiring warrants to obtain data for lesser needs (e.g. Harassment and Non-payment of fines) was discussed and the Home Office did not seem to have a good reason why this shouldn’t be the case. Their argument in favour of allowing minor offences to be included is that they might escalate into more serious offences, and that’s OK because they don’t (ab)use these powers much. (Yet…)

Finally, they were asked by one MP if they could rule out “fishing” expeditions where they would obtain the data from hundreds of users but they were not able to do this. The example given was if they know a suspect was at a certain place, they might pull the communications data for everyone in that area at that time.

For those interested in this, there is also an ongoing consultation where you can submit evidence direct to the committee.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceThe draft Communications Data Bill has, at last, been published. We can finally debate what has been written down, rather than what the Home Office have been telling people in off-the-record briefings. Julian Huppert MP has an excellent post on safeguards which might be worth a look first, as those are the principles I would like to see in the Bill. Sadly, the draft bill falls down on several counts.

Firstly, we did point out quite forcefully in early debate that the police and security services were asking for powers that they did not have over the postal service. They’ve fixed that in the draft… by granting themselves powers over post too. Under the draft bill, the Royal Mail would need to scan and store the outside of every envelope that goes through the postal system if the Secretary of State asked them to.

Secondly, the vast majority of requests would still not require any form of judicial warrant. Instead, the police would still retain the ability to authorised themselves to go after communications data.

Finally, (for the major concerns), clause 1 which places the obligations on ISPs to collect data is still far too broad. “Interception” is not allowed, but that would seem to only rule out real-time monitoring as it uses the previous RIPA definition. ISPs could still be mandated to look at the content of all traffic to try to drag out “communications data”.

Internet traffic is not like the post, with the addressee neatly written on the outside. Instead, the outer envelope (IP) contains another envelope (TCP). You need to collect together all the IP envelopes in order to make sense of the TCP conversation. Once you have that, you need to open the TCP envelopes to see if they contain little Instant Message, Club Penguin, World of Warcraft or Facebook envelopes. Then, we need to read the data off that envelope, no mean feat given that World of Warcraft envelopes will be written in whatever language makes sense to them, not to us as service providers.

By the time you’ve built this system, even assuming you figure out how, you have something that is required to read the entire content of everyone’s communication to figure out where the envelopes stop and the letters start.

All this is before anyone puts wax seals on their envelopes encrypts their data, which I suspect will start happening quite widely should this bill pass.

How are the Home Office going to do this anyway? Black Boxes. Clause 1(2) allows the Home Office to impose “requirements for telecommunications operators… to acquire, use or maintain specified equipment or systems“. The Home Office might not operate the black boxes, but by mandating the supplier they’re not far off having complete control. I rather suspect ISPs will have very limited information on or access to any mandated systems, which will limit technical oversight.

Even then, Labour’s original “central database” idea isn’t far off, courtesy of clauses 14 to 16 which talk about “filtering” systems operated not by service providers but by the Home Office. There are no safeguards proposed to stop the Home Office from simply demanding all data held by an ISP as part of a trawl for interesting information.

There are a few other holes that need addressing too, but I would expect them to be tightened up in the usual course of events. For example, if you’re given a notice saying your data might be needed for a court case, you have to keep it until you are told it is no longer needed. However, there is no provision, requirement or obligation for the scope of the retention to be limited. Given how long court cases can take, this could mean that an ISP ends up storing all of it’s communications data for years.

It still needs a little more scrutiny. I notice they’ve slipped in powers to allow snooping to collect unpaid fines and taxes, but I forget if that’s still in RIPA. No doubt as people pour over this more, we’ll get better and better breakdowns of what it all means.

I have not seen last night’s episode – I’ll watch it tonight – but I understand that there was a scene in My Transsexual Summer that some people have expressed surprise at where Drew is refused employment in a Bridalwear shop on account of being a Transwoman.

Unfortunately, this is not only permitted under the Equality Act (EA2010), it’s one area where Trans folk had rights stripped away as a result of the new legislation. Prior to the EA2010, if someone had a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) then they could not – except for a tightly defined set of circumstances involving intimate searches and the like – be discriminated against. This came from the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA2004) amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The explanatory notes from the GRA2004 say:

If, for example, the nature of the job requires a woman, it is open to the employer to show that it is reasonable to treat a male to female transsexual person as being unsuitable for that job. The amendments made by Schedule 6 mean that these exceptions will not be available once a person has been recognised in the acquired gender

I don’t know if Drew has a GRC or not, but it’s now irrelevant. The EA2010 removed this rule regarding having a GRC, such that it’s just as legal to discriminate against someone just because you think they might be Trans. (They do not actually have to be Trans, you just have to have “reasonable grounds” to believe they might not be cisgendered)

To add insult to injury, there’s a “passing clause” in the guidelines issued by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. If you’re “visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from a non-transseuxal person of that gender” then it’s much harder, almost impossible, to justify discrimination.

Paradoxically, every other protected characteristic allows you to employ a person with that characteristic – you can insist someone is from a certain ethnic background for example, if you can show that it’s needed to do the job. It’s reversed for Gender Reassignment in that you can insist someone is cisgendered, (Not Transgendered) such as in this case. You can not however insist that someone is Transgendered, no matter how relevant that is to the job as that would be unlawful discrimination.

There’s possibly some room for debate on if being cisgendered might be a “Genuine Occupational Qualification” in this case. It’s arguable that it’s not, but as Sarah put it, “I wouldn’t want to take that one on as a test case”. There’s a strong possibility you’d be having to stuff people into tight-fitting wedding dresses and wield the tape measure, so it’s a step up from just the “changing room problem”.

For more background, I’ve tagged earlier posts that relate to the EA2010. Particularly relevant are “Some Equality Act Clarifications and Good, Bad and Ugly, both from October 2010.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice(Edited at 1345: I’m told it was Drew that encountered this, not Donna as I originally stated)

According to a study reported in Pink News, Bi women are more likely to get depressed. (They actually studied teenagers it seems.

This might explain why I’m feeling rather down at the moment, although I’m hoping it’s just Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. “It’s wet, cold, dark and depressing outside, isn’t it?”) and a stupid amount of money spent on some hopefully-not-snake-oil “daylight” lamp might fix it.

Alternatively, someone needs to produce some good Science Fiction TV for me to watch, or something nice and shiny for me to buy. (Or at least covet, if it’s expensive)

I never said I wasn’t shallow, did I?

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceDear Nick,

I hear you’re having problems disagreeing with Cameron. So, I thought I’d prepare this handy list of ten items where quite a few people I know who are also Liberal Democrats do not agree with the Conservatives. Hopefully this should be enough to help you in the TV debates in 2015 or, perhaps, a little before then.

  1. Fairer votes
  2. Tuition fees
  3. Trident
  4. Prisoner votes
  5. Europe
  6. The NHS
  7. Control Orders
  8. Multiculturalism
  9. Eric Pickles
  10. Immigration caps

Perhaps you could print this letter out and keep it with you, in case you need reminding? If you need any of these explaining to you, drop me a line. I’d be happy to help.