Friday, August 24, 2012

Glad to be Out4Marriage

This morning I saw three short video's that made my day and I just had to share them with you. - Just follow the link to my other Blog and enjoy. 

Glad to be Out4Marriage

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Christian Bigots and Gay Marriage

Cardinal O'Brien opposes same sex marriage proposals 

I cannot help but feel angry at the constant bigotry from Church leaders over the issue of same sex marriage, the latest being the decision by the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland to withdraw from discussions on the topic - an action that is being interpreted as public snub to Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmon 

I understand that some church leaders have strongly homophobic and transphobic beliefs, founded on tenuous interpretations of a small number of biblical references.  But the difficulty I have is with Churches claiming that they own the concept of marriage. 

When my daughter married in a civil ceremony she asked me to read something at the ceremony. I decided to read the passage from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet on marriage and that text contained the word God. Because the word God was mentioned I had to submit the reading to the registrar to seek permission to read it.  Once they had assured themselves that the piece was in no way a religious reading it was allowed.

The proposals for same sex marriage do not require any church organisation to agree to conduct ceremonies so the Government is still allowing them to openly discriminate within their church. There are some more enlightened churches that are happy to accept lesbian, gay and trans members and to marry them although regrettably the UK proposals at present will apparently not allow them to conduct same sex marriage even though they will continue to be able to conduct civil partnership ceremonies. 

Cardinal O'Brien wants to hold a referendum on the topic.  In my view that is seriously flawed. How is it possible to secure an unbiased vote when the church leaders declare that homosexuality is a sin and are allowed, despite equality legislation, to continue to express that view most forcefully? 

I think the Scottish government are to be applauded for steadfastly refusing to go down this route and for moving forward with the same sex marriage proposals which will end the stupidity of couples, where one partner changes gender, from having to divorce before they are allowed to change gender. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

First Transgender e-Bulletin from Lynn Featherstone

Lynn Featherstone, a LibDem MP is the current Minister for Equalities in the coalition government, While an oppositoin MP Lynn had always been a great champion of Trans Rights, regularly promoting bills and amendments on behalf of the Trans Community, so iit is not surprising that we are now seeing a very positive approach to trans rights.

The first Transgender eBulletin was published this month including a link to a Transgender Survey which I do strongly encourage you to complete if you are trans or if you work with trans people. As far as I am aware this is the first government run survey, although Press for Change conducted a huge survey as part of the 2007 Discrimination Law Review and the Scottish Transgender Alliance have undertaken some recent research in regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty.

This latest survey is very comprehensive and is a real opportunity to feedback to government the state of play in supporting trans people, especially in regard to medical treatment which frankly leaves a lot to be desired.

I am helping Claire Eastwood from Trans Yorkshire who is actively campaigning to make sure that the new Health Bill specifically includes provision to allow trans people to have choice when it comes to surgery. At present Leeds GIC is offering only access to Tim Terry as a surgeon, and any choice is then subject to an exceptional treatment appeal to the PCT.

Charing Cross appears not to accept patients from outside their "catchment", so the only way to access Phil Thomas and James Bellringer is to go privately. This is where the system get stupid. The cost of using Phil Thomas privately is cheaper than going through the NHS, yet PCTs are refusing because it is private treatment, even though the surgeons are the primary NHS surgeons in the south.

We have a meeting with my MP, Diana Johnson in May to try to get her support for an amendment to the Health Bill to make choice a statutory requirement. In the meantime the Government Equalities Office survey is another very useful means of influencing government and given Lynn Featherstone's history of support for trans issues, I am hopeful that she will respond poisitively to the results of this survey.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Summing up 2010

It’s probably a mixed blessing to say that this year has been another year of new experiences. Some of those experiences have been real learning experiences but when I back look at the outcomes, 2010 has been a year of amazing of progress.

In June 2010 GenderShift managed to secure over £250,000 in funding from the Department of Health to create the UK’s first single point of access centre for Gender Variant people. We opened in September and have been overwhelmed by the response from people of all ages struggling with their gender identity and sexual orientation. We have also see a huge increase in friends, family and employers seeking help. Our challenge now is to fund the running of the centre because our training revenues and access to general funding have been severely impacted by swinging public sector cuts.

This year has seen further sweeping changes in UK Equalities Law with the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 and brings new protections around Associated and Perceived discrimination while equalising the treatment of all people with “protected characteristics”. In response to this, and in preparation for the introduction of the Public Sector Equality Duty in April 2011, GenderShift has enhanced it's range of training seminars, workshops and presentations.

With so much pressure on the bottom line it is very tempting for organisations to apply cuts to soft targets like training, and equality and diversity training has definitely suffered. Unfortunately it is at times like these that people with protected characteristics are most vulnerable and it is really important for all socially responsible organisations to make sure that changes are fair to all staff, customers and service users.

That will be the theme of my Keynote Presentation, Seminars, Workshops and Consultation services. If you would like to discuss how GenderShift can help you, especially in relation to Sex, Gender and the Equality Act – don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Hollyoaks actress Victoria Atkin to open new GenderShift Centre

Actress Victoria Atkin, who plays Jasmine/Jason Costello a young female to male transsexual character in Hollyoaks, will be in Hull on Sunday 5th September at 2.00pm to open an innovative new support centre for trans and gender variant people. Funded by a £262,000 grant from the Social Investment Business, the GenderShift Centre is the UK’s first single point of access support centre for people facing gender identity and sexual orientation issues.

GenderShift successfully applied to the Social Enterprise Investment Fund in December 2009 and was awarded the money in June this year, beating off competition from thousands of organisations from around the country. "This is an exciting time for us" says Rikki Arundel, founder and director of GenderShift. "Many support services for lesbian, gay and bisexual people focus on sexual health, while support for trans people is often about gender reassignment surgery. We will provide a much broader service."

“We are delighted that Victoria has agreed to open the new centre on Sunday,” says Rikki. “She is playing a very challenging role in Hollyoaks which is bringing much needed public attention to the difficulties faced by people with gender identity issues.” The GenderShift Centre is located at 44 Portland Street in Hull will offer services including in-house counselling, social care, education, befriending, advice, advocacy, sexual health support, volunteering, work placements, social events, movie nights, internet cafe, campaigning, training and meeting space.

The centre will be available to everyone, but especially those needing help and support with gender and sexuality issues, including family, friends, employers and other support agencies. "People will be able to drop in or phone our national help line on 08000 193 195," explains Rikki. "We want to make our facilities as accessible as possible."

The Department of Health who funded the scheme, awarded the grant as part of a £25m budget to fund new and innovative approaches to tackling health issues. They were particularly impressed with the idea of creating a single point of access centre which provides support and advice to anyone dealing with gender identity or sexual orientation issues.

Founded in 2001, GenderShift began tackling atypical gender issues when founding director Rikki Arundel, also founder of the Professional Speakers Association, changed her gender and became 'unemployable'. She set up the organisation to deliver trans awareness training aimed primarily at public sector organisations and now has over 100 leading organisations as clients.

As GenderShift has become more widely known, a growing number of trans people and their friends, families and other support agencies have sought advice support. "We realised that as well as changing attitudes we needed to help people to cope with living with gender and sexuality issues," says Michelle Pindar, also a Director at GenderShift. "We do what we can to change attitudes so that we are more accepted, but trans people are often very isolated. Now we can help to tackle the isolation as well."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Are Christians Being Persecuted

I am not sure if anyone saw the programme on BBC last night, but it seems that a number of Christians believe they are being persecuted and marginalised - especially by the provisions of the soon to be Equality Act 2010.

It's interesting that, following a millennium of persecuting others, they are finally having to face up to the repercussions of that history.

Having watch the programme on BBC last night and on iPlayer today it seems that there are three primary complaints

1. Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter are being taken over by non Christians and renamed. Oddly the presenters of the programme seem to have forgotten that both of those festivals were originally pagan festivals that were hijacked by Christians in order to suppress pagan religions.

2. There is concern over the number of incidents where Christians have recently been penalised for practising their faith publicly or wearing symbols of their faith. Interestingly they seem to ignore the fact that Christians, more than any other faith, have persecuted people who are Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Witches, Pagans and Muslims, to name a few, for practising their lifestyle choices publicly and have for centuries imposed their beliefs on others, often with lethal consequences.

3. Most concern seems to be over the implications of the Equality Act 2010 the provision of which mean that Christians, and everyone else, will be prohibited from discriminating against and persecuting others. Well about time is all I can say.

We live in an increasingly secular state where we have, as a society, decided that allowing one group of people the right to discriminate against another group is unacceptable. It is going to take a while for us to work out in practice what is now being embodied in law, but it really is about time.

On our Trans Awareness workshops we have been slowly modifying the content to reflect the changes that are taking place in equalities law, but more importantly I have been doing a lot of research into the history of homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic discrimination.

The history of misogyny goes back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks. Active campaigning by women over the past century has finally brought us to the point were the law operates in favour of removing discrimination. Yet 40 years after the Equal Pay Act and we discover that in the financial services industry the average pay of men is still 122% higher than the average pay of women. The health sector is not far behind this. Why? well perhaps because we still assume that women do not need as much money as men and that they are less important. And whilst some churches will now ordain women, few allow them to become become bishops and leaders.

But the mistreatment of women is nothing when compared to the way in which homosexual men and trans women have and often still are treated. Still I have people on our workshops arguing that homosexuality is a sin - fundamentally forbidden by god. Yet the references in the bible are few and mostly unclear.

When I looked at the history of the bible it is interesting that the "authorised edition" of the Bible was published in 1611 during the reign James VI. At that time James was encouraging bishops to preach against cross dressing, especially by women and homosexuality or more especially Buggery, was a capital offence. Homosexuality remained a capital offence until 1861 and remained illegal until 1967. There is nothing in the gospels against homosexuality, and often the arguments I hear are based on interpretation of the bible - eg "god made adam and eve - man and woman - therefore homosexuality is a sin"

Yet when we look at nature we see all manner of sexual practices naturally occurring. Of course in biblical times a woman was stoned to death for adultery and we do not do that now because we have moved on. All religious doctrines need to be constantly reassessed against the changing moral codes of current society and that is not happening with homosexuality.

When I talk to Christians about their objection to gay and trans people it becomes clear that the objection is entirely about sexual practice, yet far more heterosexual couples engage in anal intercourse than same sex couples, and of course same sex couples do far more in their lives than just engage in sexual practices.

I think arguments in last nights programme will rage for a while yet and it will be interesting to see how the Equality Act 2010 works in practice, especially if, as currently predicted, we end up with a Conservative government having to implement an important plank of Labour legislation. Interesting times ahead but one thing is now certain - the Equality Act is going to come into law and we are all going to have to learn how to live with each other and reconcile our differences.