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Anti trans activists, cis-sexism and the Gender Recognition Act

Recently I’ve been drawn into analysing the current state of politics about trans people because of the reforms proposed to the Gender Recognition Act. These proposals, put forward by Justine Greening (MP) would allow applicants to achieve legal recognition of a gender status on their birth-certificate that accorded with their gender identity by a simplified process, rather than having to go through a costly, stressful, dehumanising process. This would involve sending money, reams of evidence of your life “proving” that you live your life as either male or female including letters from psychiatrists and, if applicable, surgeons delving deep into a persons private life for a panel to scrutinise and decide if you were “man” or “woman” enough for them. Often trans people do this at the end of their transition having gone through the arduous journeys of outing themselves, seeking (often difficult to get) healthcare, and having numerous psychiatric evaluations (and waiting a long time for them, upwards of two years from start to finish).

Not only is it an arduous process but it excludes people whose gender identity is neither male nor female. Such people may or may not have hormone replacement therapies and surgeries to feel more congruent with their sense of self, and may feel isolated and rejected by a society built around a western concept of binary gender and binary sex. So much so have we enforced these gender norms that, historically, anyone born outside of this sex/gender criteria have been both surgically modified (sometimes with disastrous results) or forced / socially coerced into performing gender to strict binary standards. There is increasing evidence that being trans has a genetic link, and as such is a normal variation in the human population. Furthermore being transgender is to be moved out of its present location under Mental and Behavioural Disorders in the International Classification of Diseases, into a non-psychopathological section.

Sex essentialists deny the biological reality that sex and gender are much more nuanced and variable than was once thought, and has been perpetuated by a flawed education system. Evidence suggests not only that trans, intersex and non-binary people exist, but also that they have existed throughout time, from all around the world in different races and cultures. Some “feminists” – more accurately described as “anti-trans activists” (because modern feminism is trans inclusive despite its chequered history) support this sex-essentialism, and seek to separate trans women from other women, including shelters and crisis centers. This kind of view, that trans identities are somehow less real, is cis-sexism.Modern feminism recognises the intersections of trans and misogyny.

‘if feminism has a purpose, then that purpose is to represent, support and provide shelter and community to those whom the patriarchy oppresses’.

Lemert, C. (2013) Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings, 5th Edition.

Despite this, second wave sex essentialists and anti trans activists work to maintain artificial and cultural boundaries related to sex and gender, opposing changes to the GRA and thereby policing and enforcing sex/gender boundaries which are shown to be a product of artifice and of patriarchy. This is happening in the UK today, where feminism has been co-opted as a vehicle for oppression, not only by prominent feminists such as Greer and Bellos, organising and speaking at groups such as “A womans place“, and taking over spaces such as mumsnet to police and enforce a binary culture based on a binary sex model, cis-sexism, and transmisogyny – which is dangerous for all women.

Many old fashioned “gender critical” people have based their careers around “sex based oppression” and are unwilling (or unable) to see past this myopic view. Some have a visceral dislike of women who are different to them in some way. It isn’t beyond human culture to want to exclude people who are different to them. But it goes far beyond this. These people paint trans women as predators, dangerous to women and children, mentally ill (it’s coming out of the ICD) and believe so much that they are right – that when a woman was involved in gun crime, they even claim that she’s trans – because it doesn’t fit with their sex/gender essentialist schema. They join the cooky ranks of professors in Kerela.

So where does this leave the current “discussion” around including non-binary people and making it easier for trans people to have civil ceremonies, have their gender recognised on their death certificates and get married? Well contrary to what anti trans activists would have you believe, it doesn’t open the doors to sex based violence. And it doesn’t mean that it opens the doors of the women’s loos to predatory men.

Further reading:

International Transgender Day of Visibility as the Political gets Personal

Here’s why critics of trans law reform are mistaken

“The Boy”

Sometimes I look and see,
The boy that hides inside of me,
The boy that never went away,
And eyes the woman with deep dismay.

The boy that couldn’t understand,
Why he never became a man,
The boy that wants to maim, destroy,
The woman that stopped the little boy.

And everyday, his presence near,
The woman’s sanity lives in fear,
Will he ever live and thrive,
Killing the woman who kept him alive?

By Max.

Trans day of visibility 2018

Today is TDOV (trans day of visibility) and unlike the title suggests it isn’t about trans people coming out or outing them, because actually that can be really harmful. It’s more than about acceptance, it’s about anti-oppression, it’s about saying that you care. Please don’t ever out trans people when offering your support.

Here are 5 things you can do to support trans people today:

1) Post/tweet/instagram your support of trans people. If you have a friend or colleague who is trans talk about something you like about them. Love and defend the trans people in your life.

2) Help make spaces encompassing for trans women, men and non-binary people. Support gender neutral bathrooms, support trans women’s inclusivity in women’s spaces. Think about inclusivity rather than excluding people because they’re different to you.

3) Challenge transphobia in all its forms. This might be comments like “I identify as an attack helicopter”, beliefs that people “suddenly identify” as a certain gender for malevolent reasons, referring to people as “biologically” their birth gender, or equivocating being trans to being mentally ill (it’s coming out of the next ICD as a mental illness, just like homosexuality did).

4) Google “how to help trans people” and read some of the articles. Realise that being trans can be really painful. Challenge your internal bias, empathise with what it might be like to be trans and to live in fear of rejection/hostility/violence.

5) Copy and paste this post to your wall on facebook, paste the link in your tweets!

Transiness forums are here!

It has been a while coming but we’re slowly moving forwards and to help people share information and advice I’ve made the transiness forums.  The Facebook group is great but it has a few problems – some really useful advice and links get lost over time and sometimes it’s useful to have a place where things can be stored more permanently.  Moving from one format to another might be challenging so I’m looking to the group to make the most of the new forums.  I’ve taken technical suggestions forward and you can now connect via SSL instead of unencrypted.  I’m hoping that you’ll find the structure easy to navigate, uncluttered, and of course mostly free from annoying pop-ups and advertisements.

You can navigate to the forums from the address bar above or directly here.

UK’s First Sexual Violence Helpline for Trans and Non Binary People

We’re delighted to announce the UK’s first helpline for trans, non binary and questioning people.

“We offer non-judgmental emotional support and signposting to other organisations who may also be able to offer support”, the service says. The idea for a trans related helpline has been long in development and the team have ensured, not only that the switchboard is operated by trans volunteers, but have built upon their successes and experience with survivors of sexual violence. The idea of approaching support is complicated when you are trans, especially since you won’t know exactly how much those who offer support understand the complexities of being trans is.

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“This is the first service of its kind in the UK to offer specialist support for trans survivors. We are sex worker affirmative, LGBT affirmative and are skilled in working with people in vulnerable situations, such as those who are homeless or living with domestic abuse”.

The service was launched to coincide with trans pride 2016 in Brighton, an event for transsexual, transgender and non-binary people to celebrate their lives in mainstream society which is often oppressive to their identities.

GP Trans Care Guidelines – Northern Ireland

We’re really pleased to announce that the royal college of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland recently produced these guidelines with respect to the care of trans patients.  Often it can be a frightening and infuriating process as a trans person trying to make some headway undergoing a permanent physical transition.  Often people know what they need from services but actually accessing them is a difficult process, having to navigate personal prejudice along with inappropriate referrals for counselling or treatment for depression.  This excellent guide encourages GP’s to treat trans people with the care and dignity they deserve.

LGBT History month

I’m sorry that transiness has been a bit slow lately, however, our co.uk site is back up and running (it’s been a year already!), and here’s our history for LGBT history month!:

Transiness was formed in 2013 and pioneered a radically different approach to online support which steered away from political-led victories towards health and wellbeing. Using the tenents of transfeminism – that of freedom of expression and bodily autonomy, transiness furthered it’s goal by adding wellbeing as a core factor of wellness for trans identified people, and peer support as a key factor which had previously been identified in local support groups.

Since then, this model has been emulated, and concepts of health and wellbeing has formed part of the vocabulary of trans people and support services.

Transiness has stood on its own through the contribution of its members sharing their transition victories and stories, and through its wide appreciation that transness is a community issue: families friends and allies share a space where people are allowed to be vulnerable, open and honest about what is going on for them.

Inclusivity means supporting not only people who choose to only socially transition but , but also those who need to change their bodies (bodily autonomy) which is radical in the face of ideologies against trans people changing their physical bodies.

We encourage everyone to self define how they feel most suits them, from binary identified people, to agender people and across a spectrum of identities, and across social and ethnic backgrounds.

LGBT history month : An interview with Carol Steel.

As part of LGBT history month I was delighted to be able to have the chance to interview a prominent activist who has seen her fair share of change over the years.

In 1961, at the carolage of 16, Carol began in earnest her journey to physically transition from male to female and in 1972,  she formed one of the first groups for transsexual people in the UK with a friend, Linda B. The group grew fairly rapidly and she was asked to give a talk to the students union at Manchester University about transsexuality. After the meeting she was approached by a young trans guy (who identified as a lesbian at the time) who told her that he had always been conflicted about his gender – this person transitioned shortly afterwards and later went on to become one of the leading campaigners for transgender rights and he was part of the legal team that won that all important victory in Strasbourg that forced the then Tory government to implement what became known as the Gender Recognition Act of 2004.

Currently she is doing groundbreaking work supporting trans people in Devon, with her site transfigurations, and ongoing work exploring people’s experiences with their GP’s (something we found to be a big issue with our members in our straw poll in 2014).

Rebecca Williams:
Hi Carol, I was wondering if you wanted to take part in a small interview for transiness.co.uk about your activism and the GP database for LGBT history month. I think it’s such important work!

Carol Steele:
Yes, I would love it if you would promote it, it is something that is very important and could prove a lifeline for some people.

Rebecca Williams:
How did you come about having the idea, of the database?

Carol Steele:
It came about from somebody mentioning in one of the groups of the hassle that she was having with her GP to get her referred to a GIC – and the rudeness of some of the other staff at the practice.

Rebecca Williams:
There’s a lot of content on your site, how did you envision it?

Carol Steele:
Yes, the site was meant to be a resource where anybody (transgender people of all ages, parents, partners) could gain a little insight into the condition as well as gain reassurance that they were not the only ones in the world – which is what a lot of people feel when they are coming to terms with how they feel about themselves.  That’s why I included some pages about “our stories” to show people that we are all the same but at the same time all unique. Unfortunately that side of it has yet to take off properly

Rebecca Williams:
Yes, it’s much more in the public eye than it was. I remember going to my first support group and thinking “thank god, it’s not just me”.

Carol Steele
My thoughts as well.  When a person who was counselling me put me in contact with a couple of other transwomen – and with one of them we set up the first TV/TS group in Manchester.

Rebecca Williams
Oh, what was that called, and how did it go?

Carol Steele:
As we wanted it to be very recognisable, we went for the name of ‘The Manchester TV/TS Group’ lol! It later went on to become the Manchester Concord I believe, but that was well after the time I left to get a job in London. It very quickly became very popular and together with the Leeds TV/TS group were responsible for some of the early activism – including gatecrashing the annual psychitrists conference in York one year lol!  They ended up throwing us out!  It was around 1974

Rebecca Williams: omg I wasn’t born then.  It’s incredible all the work that was done for TS/TV people but when I was young there was absolutely nothing to be heard of.  The nearest I had was Kenney Everret and frankly that was so scary for a very young trans girl.

Carol Steele:
Yes, it was difficult back in those days as there was no such thing as home computers or the internet. The Manchester Gay Switchboard used to pass on all enquiries of a transgender nature to me. Some gay friends of mine were actively involved with it and they suggested it as they felt it was better to refer a caller onto me whenever possible rather than try and handle it themselves. That was back in the days of CHE and the GLF

Rebecca Williams:
The CHE?

Carol Steele:
Campaign for Homosexual Equality – a bit like Stonewall – a respectable organisation working for gay rights. The GLF (Gay Liberation Front) was more proactive as its name might suggest

Rebecca Williams:
Ah ok. It sounds like attitudes to gender minorities were quite good from sexual minorities – is that how you experienced it?

Carol Steele:
Yes, very much so – we used to work well together – no such thing as TERF’s back in those days.

Rebecca Williams:
Right, is that what happened then, is that what caused the rifts?

Carol Steele:
A lot of gay groups are still very helpful to trans people – we have one in Devon called Proud2Be and we work very well together. It started with Germain Greer and then the publication of the Transsexual Empire by Janice Raymond. It served to drive a wedge between some feminists and transgender people, or perhaps I should say some feminist lesbians

Rebecca Williams:
Yes Germain Greer has been in the press recently, thoroughly discrediting herself. I think a lot of modern feminists just wish she’d shut up now! There were some laws passed in America that saw that sexual minorities had rights, but trans people didn’t, and moreover, that transgender people were denied access to medical treatment. So around this time you were in London?

Carol Steele:
Yes, Cathy Brennan and her cohorts had a lot to do with trans people losing rights to medical insurance etc.  Yes I was in London from the mid 70’s to the very early 80’s

Rebecca Williams:
And you’ve been an activist all this time?

Carol Steele:
No, not all the time – when I moved to Torquay to set up my businesses, I took a break.

Rebecca Williams:
To live in stealth?

Carol Steele:
Yes, I owned a hairdressing and beauty salon and I don’t think I would have got very many clients if they had known I was trans lol

Rebecca Williams:
Yes, exactly… on a personal level, how was that for you?

Carol Steele:
It was great, just being accepted as just another woman – but I, like you, was lucky in that respect- I could blend in without a problem

Rebecca Williams:
Yes, it’s actually who we are.  What made you come out again?

Carol Steele:
The realisation that there was still so much to be done for people who were not as fortunate as I had been – and that I had an (almost) lifetime of experience – both good and bad – that I could help people with… so I joined an online forum and quickly became a site moderator – but I became disenchanted as they would not accept people below the age of 18 – when most people need that help.

Rebecca Williams:
Yeah, I hear Tavistock is rammed right now. So is that when you started your own group?

Carol Steele:
Yes, around 4 years ago

Rebecca Williams:
How did you get things started?

Carol Steele:
Originally it was just for Torquay people – a casual group meeting up – but I saw that there was a need for it to be much wider based (and open to trans youth/parents/partners) so set about becoming much more active with the police, the NHS and other bodies – then I decided to create the website

Rebecca Williams:
It’s looking really good, and it’s fantastic to have a very personalized site. It must have taken a lot of time and effort.

Carol Steele:
Yes, originally, it was often a 20 hour day whilst I got it up and running and looking the way I wanted it to…. but well worth it in the end. It receives a huge number of visitors these days
Just as well that I have a good web hosting company!

Rebecca Williams:
And what are your plans for 2015?

Carol Steele:
Further expansion, more membership, go out into schools, help people back into employment, work with the NHS to try and improve transgender healthcare – the usual stuff! I have a tour of the custody suite at our local police station – and then some important work around a new protocol that we are developing for transgender detainees being held in custody in the afternoon.

Rebecca Williams:
Carol thank-you so much for your time.

Part of Carol’s work includes the GP database, if you identify as trans-gender or trans-sexual and have needed to approach your GP about it, please take the time to fill in Carol’s survey below.


 

Since it was first published in July of last year, the results of the survey into Trans Friendly Doctors and GP’s has been accessed 3,100 times by people from all over the UK – showing that there is desperate need for this type of information by transgender people all over the UK – yet sadly, many transgender people are not coming forward to supply the much needed information sought by so many.

Please, please, PLEASE those of you who have been retiscent about providing information in your area, please take the 5 mins to complete this survey so that you can help others in your area find a GP who will treat them with respect and dignity – or those to avoid because of bad practice.

You can find the survey here.
And here for another article about Carol’s work.

Welcome sassy transmonaut, welcome 2015!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWelcome to 2015 everyone, I’m glad you all made it through. As far as New Years resolutions go, my son came out with a great one recently – his friend said “to write 2015 at the top of the page”!

I’m inspired by people like Brene Brown, Julia Serano, Anne Enke, Bell Hooks, our local activists who put so much hard work into supporting people – and everyone here for their comments and contributions to make this a positive space, despite all our differences and individualities! I know and try to understand how it is difficult to understand how different spaces work on facebook, but I’m so pleased to read people’s courage not only in talking about issues that matter to them, and trying to be respectful of others, but also in really trying to remember the good things that happen too and making a note of them here.

I’m very aware of the recent tragic news that has affected the trans community, that possibly might be bringing up issues for everyone here as well so it’s probably a good time to send that facebook message to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, or just to let your tribe know that they matter to you. I’m also mindful of our friends here who have lost loved ones because of depression, who feel sad and isolated right now – everyone matters. Every life is precious, every trans life, every queer life, all genders, sexes, colours, regardless of upbringing or disabilities.

You are special.

2014 brought us fantastic integration with Maz’s trans friendly events in Brighton, the establishment of a roller-derby team with an amazing trans friendly policy. Like 2013, Brighton had trans-pride 2014 which was bigger and better than ever. We’re seeing much more kindness in the press and media than before with fantastic productions like “Orange is the new Black”, as well as the emergence of more realistic trans storylines. Healthcare providers are becoming interested in “trans training”, and the once hailed “S onewall” seems to be interested in putting the “t” back in. I’ve also had the delight of watching friends and acquaintances grow stronger and happier through sometimes gruelling transitions.

2014 has also brought us the establishment of both binary and non-binary identities as “a thing”, where transition to a place of personal, individual comfort is something we all share. Sometimes this is just a shift in the way we think, and for others a little more work is required!. All identities are unique, special and treasured.yal4 c

So where are we going for 2015? Well we hope to continue the stickies, and hope to add as many as we can to the co.uk site. We’re also looking for contributors to write on the co.uk site if anyone feels brave enough saying publicly!

Was there anything else brilliant about your 2014? What would you like to make happen in 2015? How can we help each other better and have a bigger, stronger, brighter and better positive-thinking community?

Rebecca x