Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pope Benedict - the Pope of Hate

I am not a fan of Christmas - and after reading the comments made by pope benedick (spelling intentional) I am even more resolved to get any thought of celebrating christianity out of my life.

OK I expect a pope to maintain the catholic church's unfounded discriminatiuon against homosexuality and transsexuality, but what was said on December 22nd went well beyond maintaining a bigoted view - this pope is now entering the realm of "Incitement to Hatred" and ironically at a time when the general christian message is about good will and love.

At GenderShift we spend much of our time helping to repair the damage caused by the behaviour and attitudes of bigoted christians. Don't misunderstand me, my life is strongly influenced by the teachings of Jesus and other great teachers but I do have a problem with the catholic church and evangelical churches in particular who seem to ignore those teachings relying instead on twisted interpretations of poorly translated writings from the distant past.

Just incase you missed the popes comments, he said in his christmas speech on Monday that "saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction." and that "[the Church] should protect man from the destruction of himself." He also said humanity needed to "listen to the language of creation" to "understand the intended roles of man and woman" and compared behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work".

Wow! Imaging after that message how devout catholics might respond to their young children this christmas if they express any atypical gender behaviour. This almost makes child abuse "the work of god" if it is now to be seen as "saving the planet from the destruction of God's work." This is also reinforcing gender stereotypes and trying to undo half a century of progress.

Fortunately looking at the comments across the internet, there seems to be little public support for this and there are attempts by church leaders at damage limitation, but with the Single Equality Act due next year, I for one will be lobbying hard to ensure that faith groups generally do not secure any further rights to discriminate against us, and that those they have are removed as soon as possible.

We will of course be on the lookout over christmas for any young people finding themselves homeless or damaged because they live in a home where there are supporters of this dangerous bigot of a pope.

Perhaps pope benedict is the Anti Christ that christians have all been waiting for. We know he had connections to the Nazi's and he now seems to be inciting the ethnic cleansing of gay and transsexual people just as was done by Hitler. Did you know that 15,000 gay and transsexual people were sent to concentration camps and after the liberation the few surviving gay and trans people were then re-imprisoned by the allies because homosexuality was illegal.

You may also not know that all UK LGBT legislation in the past decade has been designed to limit the impact of EU directives and court judgments and provide exemptions to church groups, and that this was largely led by Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly - both staunch catholics.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Landmark Court Ruling for Trans Rights in the USA

I often read comments to the effect that the USA is ten years ahead of the UK, but when it comes to the rights of trans people that situation is reversed. In the UK discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment was made illegal in the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment Regulations) 1999 which has been further strengthened in the Equality Act 2006 by the inclusion of Gender Reassignment in the Gender Equality Duty. And largely the same situation exists across Europe due decisions in the European Courts of Human Rights and Justice.

In the USA the position has been far less clear with a number of state rulings going against trans people and the exclusion of trans people from recent legislation improving the rights of lesbian and gay people. However on Friday all that changed with a landmark ruling in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia in the lawsuit by Diane Schroer against the Library of Congress. There have been rulings in favour of transgender plaintiffs under the federal sex discrimination statute but the first time a court has ruled that "sex" includes "gender identity." It is likely that there will be an appeal, but legal opinion indicates that this ruling may be difficult to overturn.

My in-box has been filled with comment on this case since the judgement was published on Friday, with a near party like atmosphere in the trans community. This is a hugely important case and will have a significant impact on attitudes towards trans people. I was going to comment earlier but have waited for comment from Jillian Weiss, who is probably the leading expert in workplace rights for trans people in the US. Her comment has been well worth the wait and I highly recommend that you read her post which is a comprehensive analysis of the case and impact of the judgement.

Landmark federal decision on transgender employment discrimination: Schroer v. Billington - Analysis from Dr Jillian Weiss

This CNN Interview with Diane Schroer, conducted before the decision, explains the background to the case and why the decision is so important.

In the UK if a public sector employer had offered a job and then withdrawn it on being informed that the applicant was planning to undergo gender reassignment, it would be a clear case of sex discrimination. Interestingly here, as in the USA, it is religious based objection that is often behind resistance to changes in legislation regarding LGBT people. Ironically Judge Jefferson in this case used treatment of religious discrimination to support gender identity discrimination as Jillian Weiss Explains

"[Judge Jefferson] recognizes that the definition of sex is a hotly contested areas, so he changes gears, and says that it is unnecessary to decide what the scientific definition of sex is. Rather, the only question is what the statutory definition of sex is. And since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, national origin, sex and religion, he analogizes the "sex" claim to the "religion" claim. He notes that no court would accept the argument that discrimination based on changing religion is allowed, even though the statute does not explicitly state this. He also notes that race discrimination has not been limited to exclude discrimination based on interracial marriage or interracial friendships.

So those many courts that have accepted a similar argument -- that sex discrimination is limited to exclude changing sex -- are wrong."

I do urge you to read Jillian's Post - Whilst specifically applicable to the USA many of the principles discussed are universal and provide a good understanding of the fundamental principles of equalities law in practice.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Real Life Test - Is it really necessary?

Stephen Whittle has posted a very interesting article on the Real Life Test or as he more accurately describes it, the Real Life Experience. This is the requirement embedded in medical practice of treating trans patients that we are required to live and work successfully in our intended gender for a period of at least a year - though 2 years in practice, before we an qualify for surgery. Reading Stephens Article, The Real Life Test: to be or not to be, that is the question has challenged my own thinking on this. Should there even be a requirement for "living in role?"

I suppose the difficult questions is whether a trans person should be entitled to surgery even if they are unable to cope with living publicly in their acquired gender. I have come across a small number of trans women who feel they should be entitled to have the right body even if they continue to present a largely male gender. I was recently consulted by a leisure centre faced with a dilemma. A trans woman who presented in their view as male and is preoperative, wanted to use the female open changing facility. They offered her access to a disabled changing facility where she could change in private which she accepted, but she has subsequently returned and asked again to use the female facilities.

Our laws here in the UK permit a trans person to legally change gender without having surgery - and this is often the situation with trans men where surgery is less satisfactory. So if it is OK for a trans man to have a vagina - then surely it is OK for a trans woman to have surgery and still present as a male - especially if it is very difficult to pass. If you are over six foot, with little hair and a very masculine build it is always going to be difficult to pass. But should the reconstruction of our bodies be in anyway linked to the presentation of our gender?

On the other side, of the argument, if it is important for a trans person to be accepted in their correct gender, having surgery is not going to change the way we are treated most of the time. If I do not present a gender expression that other people see as female then I will be treated by many as "different" and will likely be subject to a degree of discrimination even humilliation. We can change all the laws we want - but it will not stop people from treating me inappropriately, just as disability, age, race and other discrimination laws do not stop the issues from happening.

It seems to me that the primary reason for the RLE is to reduce the likelihood of someone suing the medical profession if they change their minds and claim that the doctors were wrong to agree surgery. This has been aggravated by the case of Charles/Samantha Cane. Cane was able to a degree to circumvent the RLE rules because he could afford to. He made a lot of money also from a book and film about his experience then changed his mind, destroyed the career of a leading gender Psychiatrist who was seen to have supported surgery to easily, Fear of litigation is in my view the primary motive for the RLE, although the general social pressure to fix everyone clearly into the gender binary is also a problem.

I have a gender recognition certificate but I am still pre-operative - largely because of the huge waiting lists for surgery but also because I was not in a hurry for surgery - I was more interested in tackling the social challenges and gaining public acceptance as a professional speaker. When I finally got to the gender identity clinic, I was told I wold need to complete two years RLE. When I pointed out that I had already done three years and that my driving license and passport proved that, I was informed that didn't matter I had to do another two years supervised by them. That has now dragged out to three years, mostly because I have not appeared to want it urgently enough which I think they measure by evidence of self harm attempted suicide depression etc.

A friend, who for a variety of good reasons lives in both genders has been refused a referral to the gender identity clinic because she is happy to work as a man (she finds it pointless putting on a wig and make up to do what can be quite mucky manual work work.) Essentially they decided that she would be unable to complete the RLE so refused any treatment.

As I have written this article I have discovered that I really do not have a totally clear view on this myself, but that I am certain that the present policy around the RLE is not right. It is based on a presumption of a sterotypical norm for gender presentation. In order to secure the surgical and hormonal changes that will enable us to reconcile the mismatch between our physical bodies and out gender identity, we are forced to comply with a gender norm, after which we are then free to express ourselves anyway we want. This is exactly what a number of my trans friends have done, settling eventually for a largely androgynous gender presentation, but happy with the sence that they do now have the body they felt they should have been born with.

I think reflecting on this that the real focus should be simply to help trans people to cope with being who they are, not in making them tr to be who society wants them to be. Then perhaps we should be trying to do that for everyone.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sex and Power 2008 - Report from EHRC

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission have released their first Sex and Power report for 2008. This report was originally produced annually by the Equal Opportunities Commission and due to the merging of the EOC into the EHRC last October, the 2007 report failed to materialise.

Unfortunately the news from the report is not good showing that fewer women now hold top posts in most of the measured categories than in 2006, and that at the present rate of progress is will be 200 years before women have equal representation in parliament. This is a short video from the Equality and Human Rights Commission discussing the report.

Reading the comments made on the Independent Online site shows that this is still a topic that inflames passionate debate and which draws out strong sexist comments from both men and women. (scroll to the bottom of the Independent article for comments if you follow the link above)

There is no doubt that if there are men in power who believe, as some commentators do, that men are essentially better at leadership than women - then equality will take a long time. Having been in positions of leadership as both a man and as a woman perhaps I can inject a different perspective.

My experience and study suggests not that men are better than women, but that women tend to do leadership differently. Unfortunately because men have monopolised power and leadership for the past few thousand years, there is a tendency to measure leadership by a male model - ie a hierarchical model of command and control.

My studies suggest that women are more inclined to what I would describe as a networked model, where women seek not to be at the top of an organisation but rather at the centre of it. This different approach to leadership which I have attempted to introduce into GenderShift is not easy to work with because of the tendency of competitive people, primarily men in my experience, to try to take over.

Regrettably the EHRC appear to have decided to discontinue what I consider to be a more useful and interesting publication - Facts about Women and Men in Greater Women. This publication now two years old provides detailed statistics about underlying inequality highlighting the real causes of the problem - pay and employment inequality.

However I believe the fundamental cause of the power inequality is that men tend to be more competitive where women tend to be more collaborative. It is for this reason that many women drop out the power struggles in public life to run their own organisations on a more networked and collaborative basis, hence the steady growth of women owning their own businesses.

The difficulty with understanding any of this is that the moment anyone defines gendered behaviour someone will highlight an exception. Which leads us to needing to understand that masculinity and femininity are not necessarily tied to male and female bodies - which every trans person knows.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Treatment of Trans Children - a Mothers Tale

When a young child is gender dysphoric, and therefore feel that they have "a girls brain in a boys body" or visa versa, how does the medical profession react?

The answer in Britain is not very well. The rigid approach by gender experts is to force the child to go through puberty and the consequential irreversible changes in their physical body. The result is untold pain and often suicide.

In the USA and Holland and other parts of the world, hormone blockers are used to suspend puberty to enable the child to reach 16 and then make an adult decision about their future. Stopping the blockers results in normal puberty continuing. Those who are transsexual will be able then to start cross ender hormones and develop in their acquired gender without the problem of then having to undergo difficult cosmetic surgery and cope with having a body which means they will always be identified as trans.

I highly recommend this sensitive interview by Christine Burns with the mother of a young trans girl who has had to go to Holland and the USA to secure the simple treatment to suspend puberty and give her daughter a chance of a near normal life.

What is most striking about this interview is the mothers commitment to supporting her daughters needs often against huge pressure from her ex husband and the medical profession to condemn her daughter to a lifetime of misery .

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Ultimate Price for Atypical Gender

It's not been a good week for gender atypical boys this week.

First the awful news from California that 15 year old Lawrence King had been shot in the head and killed by fellow student, 14 year old Brandon McInerney because he was effeminate.

Read the LA Times Story here

This murder has resulted in a huge outcry from the LGBT community against the hatred and bigotry that encourages anti-LGBT attitudes.

Lori Jean from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center’s Jeff Griffith Youth Center said, "Such hatred and bigotry must be learned. It is learned in families that don’t accept their own children if they’re different than the norm. It is learned in right-wing churches where ministers preach abomination or in schools where teachers and administrators don’t protect LGBT kids from bullying and harassment."

Before you start to protest that "this is America," let me assure you that the same issues exist in the UK, however sexual orientation or gender identity are seldom recorded or questioned when children are stabbed or bullied, yet the same bullying goes on 60% of children grow up in homes where that same same bigotry and hatred exist.

Which is why it is saddening and sickening to read of the suicide last Monday night of Cameron McWilliams a 10 year old boy from Doncaster who wanted to be a girl.

Read the Telegraph article about Cameron McWilliams here

The reports in a number of papers focus on the inquest on Friday where details emerged of a young, somewhat isolated, boy who often wore his sisters underwear to school and as a result had been "teased" by other children.

Surely it is time to realise that teasing is not the right term. Teasing is bullying and it is not appropriate. Until schools start to realise the serious consequences of the targeting of children for gender atypical behaviour or appearance and take firm action against the "teasing", these suicides will continue.

What has also emerged from this inquest is that Cameron was well aware of the recent publicity about the spate of suicides by young people in Bridgend, which may have influenced him. Sadly there have been two more connected suicides by young people this week taking the total to 16 in less than a year.

There is little support for parents or children when it come to atypical gender. If you or someone you know does need any help, Mermaids is an charity for trans youth and provides some excellent information on Gender Identity Issues in Children and Adolescents here.

If the events of the past week act as a catalyst for change there perhaps their young lives will not have been in vain, unfortunately noticing that the anti discrimination legislation due to have been enacted on December 21st has still not been represented to parliament two months later I will not hold my breath. Regrettably I suspect that a few more innocent lives will be lost before the government has the balls to tackle these problems.

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Different Treatment for Black Men and Black Women

When I first changed gender, I was quite surprised to discover the different way in which I was treated because I was now perceived to be female. We are all conditioned to treat men and women differently and today my attention was drawn to a fascinating article on the gender differences experienced by black trans men and trans women which are clearly very different from the experiences of white trans men and women.

Becoming a Black Man

I am planning to do a little research on this topic in the Community in Hull and also talk to diversity officers in Humberside police to see whether there are any similarities in the UK. I think the experiences of all the trans people are really important indicators of the way in which gender impacts behaviour.

The fact that as a man, one trans man found that he was stopped while driving in the few months after taking hormones, 300% more than in the previous 23 years as a women is very telling. And
the experiences of a black police officer finding that he would rather shop on-line now because of the intrusive level of suspicion he experienced after transition highlights a serious gender imbalance that needs to be addressed, especially if the experiences in the UK are similar.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Different Approach to Diversity Monitoring is Needed

The Daily Mail carried an interesting article yesterday , February 9th, headed Fury as firms asked: Are your staff LGBTs?

I don't often agree with the Daily Mail, but on this occasion I do think that the London Development Agency is wrong to be asking businesses applying for a slice of their £400 million pot of government funding questions like "Is your organisation mostly owned or led by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) people?" and "What is the percentage of LGBT staff in your workforce?".

These are all part of a diversity monitoring form which government departments are obsessed with trying to get completed regarding all six diversity strands (race, faith, age, gender, disability and sexual orientation). The problem is that when it come to sexual orientation and gender identity, that is personal and more often than not confidential information.

In fact disclosing this information regarding trans people could easily lead to acompany being in breach of section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act. Past gender information must be sealed and only accessed by authorised people. If a trans person's identity is disclosed, it can lead to a fine of up to £5000 but, more importantly, cause untold personal distress. If a company discloses on its monitoring form that there are one or two trans employees, the chances of them being identified, or people being suspected of being trans being harassed are high.

Instead of this kind of monitoring there is a much more important monitoring process public sector organisation should be addressing.

Any organisation delivering service to or on behalf of any public sector body is required to comply with a General Equality Duty. This means they are obligated to take positive action to prevent discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, disability and gender including gender reassignment. These equality duties are not being enforced by public sector government procurement departments.

You can find more information about the Gender Equality Duty here - detail of the race and disability duties are on the same site.

By asking any organisation applying for as bid what procedures they have in place to ensure that discrimination is identified and prevented, agencies would be achieving a much better objective. Rather than simply monitoring equality, they would be monitoring anti discrimination action and also preventing any company that does not take action to prevent discrimination from accessing government contracts.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why Women Mean Business - Excellent New Book

If the lack of women in positions on power in FTSE companies concerns you - then do read this article in the Guardian today from authors Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland.

Why women in business became the solution, not the problem

Their new book, Why Women Mean Business (see the links below for UK and US) is due out next week and highlights an important point we have been promoting for a while now in GenderShift. It is no good companies thinking that women will adapt to the male culture, to attract top women into business, it is necessary to change the culture so that it is more attractive to women.

This interesting extract from the article highlights many of the reasons why women are not better represented in large organisations.

A multinational company was concerned that only 5% of applications in Europe came from women. It assumed that its technical, sales-oriented business did not appeal to them. Its recruitment advertising showed a young businessman with dark suit and briefcase, and the text spoke of the need for aggression, dynamism and competitiveness. The company decided to change the ad, featuring its own senior women instead. The text contained messages about enthusiasm, innovation and audacity. The application rate from women jumped to 40%. (The Guardian Financial 5th February 2008 p.23 )

Women do business differently to men, but with more than 60% of graduates being female and 80% of spending decisions being made by women, can any business now afford to ignore the needs of women. Failing to respond to the changing demands of women will prove fatal to businesses because apart from isolating themselves from the majority of the talent pool, women as buyers are increasingly disinclined to buy from male dominated organisations.

But more importantly, this extract highlights the difference in language. Certain words carry a masculine overtones and they will often invoke a negative response from women. The problem for a male dominated business is that they are likely to use masculine language without really realising they are doing so because, in my experience, men tend to be less aware of the way in which language discriminates.

Click on the appropriate link above to read details of the book,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Saudis Ease Restrictions on Women

I really struggle with this.

According to a recent article in Gulf News women in Saudi Arabia are now permitted to stay in a hotel without a a male escort. Woopee doo!!

http://www.gulfnews .com/news/ gulf/saudi_ arabia/10183906. html

I have spoken to many Muslim women about what I, and many women, see as unacceptable restrictions imposed on them in the name of religion. I cannot comprehend how they find this acceptable yet most I have spoken to adamantly defend the policies.

A few years ago I attended an National Union of Students conference where a guest speaker from Iraq spoke about the negative impact of the illegal war there. Hard fought improvements in rights and freedoms for women are being eroded as strict Muslim dress and behaviour codes are forcefully reimposed. Half way through her speech a large group of Muslim students at the meeting noisily stood up, turned their backs on the speaker and walked out of the conference. That behaviour was not challenged by the organisers and when I challenged them later I was rudely told to mind my own business, yet earlier in the conference members of that same group were appealing for support in their campaign against Islamaphobia. Since then of course we have heard that women are being beaten and even killed for failing to comply with these draconian rules. So clearly these rules are not a matter of choice - they are part of a viciously imposed regime of oppression against women.

Oh and back in Saudi - they are considering allowing women to drive. I think the airline pilot a few years ago got it right when he announced - "Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly be commencing our decent to Riyadh Airport and you may want to put your watches back about - Oh four hundred years." Unfortunately, as usual, the Saudi's were unable to see the humour and the pilot was sacked.

Of course as a trans woman I have had to keep Saudi along with other Arab states off my list of possible destinations - Though ironically Iran, where homosexuality carries the death penalty has become the transsexual mecca of the middle east thanks to the unbelievable courage of one trans women who managed to convince Ayatollah Khomeini to permit gender reassignment.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

UK Fails to Implement EU Discrimination Law by December 21st Deadline

I have been dismayed today to receive a newsletter from The Gender Trust explaining that the long awaited amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to outlaw discrimination against Trans people in the provision of goods and services, which was due to have come into force on December 21st, has been postponed.

Gender Trust Newsletter

It is difficult to understand why this government shows such disdain for gender and transgender issues. Of course there is always a strong religious, and especially Christian, lobby against all transgender rights, and the recent news that Tony Blair has converted to Catholicism does perhaps give us a clue as to why a government that talks equal rights and diversity has only acted on gender and sexuality issues when compelled to do so by the EC or European Court.

The Sex Discrimination Act amendment is in response to the EC Goods & Services Directive 2004/113 intended to create equality throughout the EC. The draft regulations were presented to parliament on 28th November following consultation during the Summer and should have come into force on 21st December. The regulations include a number of changes, the most significant of which are to make it unlawful to discriminate against people in the provision of goods and services on grounds of gender reassignment, maternity or pregnancy. They also change the burden of proof in favour of the person discriminated against.

I really find if difficult to understand why when the EC directive was issues in 2004 it has taken until now to implement in the first place. There was an attempt to deal with this in an amendment to the Equality Act 2006 which did result in goods and services legislation for lesbian and gay people in April 2007 once again delayed, and it seems that the reason for this latest delay is again because the government is attempting to allow exemptions for religious organisations.

Later this year the new Single Equality Act will be debated which will be an attempt remove anomalies in the various strands discrimination law and create fairer and more equal treatment for all discrimination. Yet once again powerful lobby groups on doctrinal grounds will argue for the right to discriminate on the basis modern of interpretations of a few questionable paragraphs in the old testament of the bible.

Surely it is time these religions accepted that discrimination, especially where it is on the grounds of a physical characteristic over which we have no control, is unacceptable. Right now Britain is in breach of EU law and it is very likely that if this legislation is not put in place soon, they will find themselves facing high court litigation over their failure to comply with their EU obligations.

Update - 16th January 2008

I have now learned that one of the problems with these regulations, apart from objections from religious pressure groups, has been that they failed to fully reflect the requirements of the EU directive. In fact had the regulations as drafted gone into force they would have diluted previously agreed rights. As a result the government had decided to redraft the regulations and they will be presented to parliament shortly. Whilst this does mean that the UK is now in breach of the EU directive, any trans person experiencing discrimination in respect of goods and services is able to take legal action and courts are bound to interpret the law as if the EU directive had been implemented.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

An Inspiring Speech from Isabel Allende

This is one of the most outstanding speeches about change and the role of women in that change I have ever heard. It is just 20 minutes long and I promise you, you will be inspired.

Novelist Isabel Allende writes stories of passion. Her novels and memoirs, including The House of the Spirits and Eva Luna, tell the stories of women and men who live with passionate commitment -- to love, to their world, to an ideal.