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,