Trans youth are real

by Dr Jay Stewart, CEO Gendered Intelligence

 

Following the broadcast of  Who knows best? documentary by John Conroy on BBC 2 last week, there has been a lot of rich discussion, debate and thoughtful insight online by members of our trans, queer and LGB communities and beyond.

Part of me feels there isn’t anything constructive that I can add, so much has been said. I’ve been reflecting and some time has passed. However, I’ve been thinking about the impact of this programme on our young members and their families, and wanted to address it.

The young people at Gendered Intelligence often tell me of their general sense of not being listened to and also of not being taken seriously. Sadly, that’s their norm. Sometimes what young people want isn’t deemed important, or they are told that it’s not ‘doable’ or even ‘sensible’.

Well intentioned teachers, parents, carers, nurses, GPs, social workers, youth workers, therapists and counsellors can feel nervous about the best thing to do when working with a young trans person.  Sometimes they miss out the most important question: what does the young person want? I think professionals do this because they lack support and guidance from the institutions and services that they work for.

Mainstream programmes that purposely undermine what trans children and young people are saying about themselves, their feelings and what they would like to happen are a backwards step for everyone. It’s disappointing that the BBC posited the idea that it is not children and young people, but experts, who know best about their own gender-related feelings and emerging identities.

At Gendered Intelligence, we have critiqued the notion of the ‘expert’ or sought to problematise it. From our inaugural Sci:dentity Project in 2005 where we asked ‘What’s the science of sex and gender?’, we learnt quite quickly that in fact there is very little ‘science’ when it comes to sex/gender and what is out there is subjective, even partisan – arguably heteronormative and reinforcing of gender norms. What’s more, by the time any scientific findings reach us (the general public) via journalists and documentary makers, they have been so reduced and oversimplified, all nuance is lost and meanings twisted.

But, what if we gave young people more of a platform rather than less of one? I believe we would all gain. At Gendered Intelligence, we learn from our young members. That’s where we got our name – trans and gender diverse young people are very intelligent when it comes to gender and it is their insight and experience that should steer services, not vice versa.

The 400 young people who attend our groups each year come from a wide range of backgrounds and have very diverse experiences, senses of self and use different words to describe their identity and their expressions.

When we use the word trans we mean it in its very broadest sense and work hard to ensure that those who identify as, for instance, non-binary, agender or a person with a trans history are all included. It’s important to state that we also welcome young people who are questioning their gender at our groups. We can’t expect young people (or anyone really) to have it all worked out.

Some members might think, ‘It feels right for me to express my gender in ways that people don’t expect, but I’m not sure trans is the right word for me just now and might never be’. We value these diverse feelings, experiences, identities and expressions. If such diversity was more visible and valued in society, the world would be a better place.

The BBC documentary reiterated a common belief that any exploration of gender identity or expression during the childhood or adolescence of a person who turns out not to identify as trans in adulthood is inauthentic and even dangerous.

I want to make the argument that we shift through life, we can change and we can take on different words to describe our sense of selfhood as we go along. Some things stay the same, some things don’t. Who we are is not ever entirely fixed – there is a lot that’s fluid. I think there is a lot of pressure for trans people (and young trans people in particular) to prove to everyone around them that who they are is entirely fixed in order to be taken seriously.

Thomas Kuhn wrote a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). In it he tells us that what we know through science, comes to us through a paradigm shift. A new piece of scientific knowledge will look to prove the old one wrong – it’s a fundamental shift, a revolution, rather than a gentle evolution.

In 2015 I did a Ted talk, stating ‘We are on the cusp of a gender revolution‘. Today I picked up a copy of National Geographic and on the front features a photograph of 7 young people with different gender identities. In big letters it says: ‘Gender Revolution’.

It looks like that revolution has started.

national-geographic-2

National Geographic

The idea of two distinct categories of gender identity based on genitalia presented at birth is (or will be) no longer tenable. Gender is more complex, nuanced, political and interesting than that.

I’m reading a book at the moment called Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly by Judith Butler. In it she talks about the importance of coming together, to ‘call for justice’, to say ‘”we are not disposable”… “we are still here, persisting, demanding greater justice, a release from precarity, a possibility of a livable life”‘.

Now is the time to come together and get behind gender diversity, get behind the right to express ourselves, get behind Gendered Intelligence and other organisations like us because this affects lives.

Butler states:

‘The political aspiration is to… let the lives of gender and sexual minorities become more possible and more lovable, for bodies that are gender nonconforming as well as those that conform too well (and at a high cost) to be able to breathe and move more freely in public and private spaces…’

To breathe and to move more freely – that is what trans, gender diverse and gender questioning people need – to breathe, to expand our lungs, our bodies, our selves – let us feel what’s right, let us do what’s right – right now.

BAM Festival

Our volunteer Jezza writes about speaking at Southbank’s Being A Man Festival as a genderqueer person

I got involved with Gendered Intelligence at the end of 2015 through GIVS (Gendered Intelligence Volunteering Scheme). I was welcomed by the inimitable Sasha with their enviable energy and drive, and I volunteered at a couple of events. Public speaking was not high on the agenda at that point.

Jay Stewart (CEO of Gendered Intelligence) approached me in November at a meeting and told me about the panel discussion GI was chairing at the Being A Man (BAM) event at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday, 26th of November. There was to be a panel of people gathered by GI discussing relevant issues for an hour. The discussion was simply entitled Transgender… which being fairly broad left a fair amount of ground to cover.

I deliver workshops regularly in schools, and am a performer, so talking to a roomful of people isn’t the most terrifying thing for me, but when you’re covering such personal ground it can feel rather different. I knew one of the panel, a trans man who had only recently announced his transition. We’d worked together through an LGBT+ organisation called Diversity Role Models, so it was nice to see a familiar face.

The rest of the panel identified towards the more masculine end of the spectrum, so as a fairly femme genderqueer individual I somewhat assumed the role of ‘wildcard’! The discussion was lively and interesting, and covered so much crucial ground with humour, humility and refreshing frankness.

I had been to BAM the year before, and found the event quite groundbreaking in its inclusive approach.  It was only right that we were there, but I still had to pinch myself as I looked out at a roomful of people who were keen to freely engage with the reality of transgender lives in order to inform themselves.  The festival was a wonderful ‘pit stop’ in life, taking time out of the everyday race in order to make ourselves the best version of ‘us’ that we can be, through education and considered thought.

Hearing stories, asking questions and putting faces to the concept of ‘otherness’, reminds us that we are all ‘other’ in some way, shape or form. Thus proving the fact that to be ‘other’ is in fact one of the most ‘usual’ things that we can be. Just don’t call me ‘normal’ – it doesn’t agree with me!

To sum up, Gendered Intelligence’s Jason Barker (who was chairing the debate) asked a question to the panel that he is often asked in schools: ‘Is there anything you miss about being a girl?’. The rest of the panel had been assigned female at birth, and knew what it was to be perceived in that role. My own experience of being perceived as female was somewhat limited, but a fascinating conversation ensued about how perception of threat and safety (yours and other people’s) is largely based on gender expression, and how gender is a fundamental part of how we move through the world.  Old news to many of us, especially the trans people, but some were facing up to this for the first time and it was a revelation.

About a week later I was at a concert that I had helped to organise for a choir I sing in, The Pink Singers,  London’s LGBT Community Choir.  Whilst setting up the keyboard and sound checking, a teacher came up to me who was there with the secondary school choir who were also performing that night.  Bizarrely enough he had recognised me from the panel at BAM and wanted to say how much he had enjoyed the talk, and how informative and enlightening he had found it.  It was an unexpected coincidence that really made me smile. Proof that sharing our stories does help.  When you consider the knowledge he can now take with him to his work with young people, we can be reassured that the future is getting brighter by the day.

Jezza

Ask your Mp to take part in next week's Parliamentary debate on trans equality

House of Commons to debate trans equality – ask your MP to attend

Last week Parliament scheduled a trans equality motion to be debated in the House of Commons next Thursday, 1st of December.

In January 2016 the Women and Equalities Committee published its Transgender Equality Report, following several months of consultation with the trans community and organisations that work with trans people.

In July, the Government published its response to the Report.

In September MP Maria Miller requested the debate on behalf of the Committee, stating that the Report, with its 30 plus recommendations, did not get the coverage it deserves from the Government. The Report points out some real shortcomings in public services and the law with regard to trans people.

Why is the debate important?

Trans people continue to face inequality and discrimination – it’s vital that we keep our demands on the political agenda.  It’s also  important that the recommendations made by the Women and Equalities Committee are not sidelined now that the Government has published its response to the Report.

What can I do?

It’s important that we get as many MPs as possible at the debate to support the Committee’s recommendations.

You can write to your MP by email to encourage them to attend the debate. Writing a personal message is more effective than sending a template email.

Not all MPs will have the same understanding of trans issues and gender variance.

If you are trans or gender variant, it could be helpful to give examples of difficulties that you have faced.

It could be useful to mention:

  • Why it is important to attend the debate
  • Ways that you feel that being trans has been a disadvantage to you (if you’re trans) or the challenges that trans people face
  • What trans equality means to you
  • What action you would like to Government to take to promote trans equality – you might find it helpful to look at the recommendations in the Transgender Equality Report.

You do not have to be trans to write to your MP – it would be brilliant if as many supporters of trans rights as possible wrote to their MPs.

You can find out how to contact local MP here.

Gendered Intelligence team recommend their favourite trans & gender related books for International Literacy Day

There are more and more brilliant books being published that have trans themes or look at gender diversity. You can find some comprehensive lists online, but here a couple of members of the Gendered Intelligence team have shared titles they have enjoyed lately.

 

Peter, Gendered Intelligence volunteer

Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal is a debut YA novel by Lisa Williamson.The structure is clichéd – two schools, one posh, one ringed by barbed wire in the middle of a London council estate; two students, one trans but definitely not out, one gay and definitely not out. But the path by which they meet rings so true. Best of all is the alternative Christmas dance organised by the ‘others’ shunned by the official School event. It’s funny, scary, moves at a pace and explores all the issues without being heavy. What’s not to enjoy?

 

 

Jamie, Communications and Project Officer

Man Alive by Thomas McBee

I first came across Thomas McBee’s writing at The Rumpus – his Self Made Man essay series explored the emotional terrain of transitioning in ways that seemed new and evocative to me. I was excited to learn that he was releasing a memoir in 2015. It didn’t disappoint. Man Alive works through the impact of two traumatic encounters with masculinity – the first in the form of McBee’s abuse as a child at the hands of his father, the second when he is held at gun point as an adult in San Francisco. Against this backdrop of troubled manhood, McBee is deciding whether to transition. It is a beautiful and philosophical book. Moreover it raises an important question for trans men, and all men – how can we create new ideals of being a man that reject violence and toxic masculinity?

Content Note: Reference to sexual abuse, violence, trauma 

 

 

 

#TravellingWhileTrans

Travelling While Trans: Jamie shares his story

The Summer holiday season has got into full swing  and our annual camping trips are coming up fast. We’ve been thinking about the potential challenges of travelling as a trans or gender variant person, inspired by our short survey about trans and gender variant people’s experience of using airports in the UK. We’ve had some insightful responses. 

Below Gendered Intelligence’s Communications Officer Jamie shares his recent experience of flying through an airport in the US. 

In June, I travelled to the US to attend Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. After a short trip to New York, my partner and I flew back to London through JFK.

You might not be aware that all passengers who travel through airports in the US are obliged to undergo a fully body scan as a security check. In times of increased surveillance at airports, travellers from marginalised communities, including trans people, have reported facing an uncomfortable degree of scrutiny while flying.

There is no reason that anyone should find the experience of a full body scanner comfortable, but for trans and intersex people there can be added difficulties. The scanner is calibrated to recognise “female” or “male” bodies. Any body parts that cannot be mapped on to those figures show up as anomalies on the security system.

While you stand inside the machine with your hands above your head, an image of your body is checked by security personnel.  Depending on the system in use, this image is either an accurate representation of your naked body, or a cartoon-like figure.

If an anomaly is detected, the passenger is then subjected to an additional security procedure – which generally means a pat down and a hand swab to check for explosive material.

I had travelled through airports in the US a few times before and gritted my teeth through several scans – for some reason, my body had never registered as an “anomaly”. This time, I wasn’t so lucky. Once I exited the body scanner, a security officer gestured to me to step to the side, instead of passing through to collect my hand luggage.

The security officer proceeded to give me a pat down. As he passed his hands over my chest, a look of surprise registered on his face: “What is that?”. I haven’t yet had top surgery.

“I’m transgender”.  The officer seemed mildly confused. I told him that I was “born female”.  These aren’t the words I would ideally use to describe my situation, but I wanted to avoid further confusion.  It worked – the penny dropped. The officer smiled sheepishly as he swabbed my hands.  He turned out to be kind, and almost puzzled that I had got myself into this position, as if I could have made the situation easier for myself.

Unfortunately, airlines do not provide you with a guide to being “trans at the airport” to navigate the current system.  Travellers who do not match conventional expectations of gender have to rely on airport staff to have sufficient knowledge and act sensitively in response to it.  As the #TravellingWhileTrans (or #TravelingWhileTrans) hashtag attests, many airports are spectacularly far off of the mark.

I found my experience at JFK embarrassing at worst.  If I was more vulnerable, or was treated in a less respectful way by the security offer, it could have been traumatic. We can’t be expected to depend on the benevolence of individual security staff or having had a particular type of surgery in order to feel safe.

IMAG2633

Jamie, GI’s Communications Officer

 

 


 

Gendered Intelligence is planning to take 70 young trans people camping this August. It’s a massive undertaking by our team, but we know that the camping trip has a huge impact on the young people who take part. 

To make the two camping trips happen, we have to raise £12,000 by the 12th of August.We need your support. We’re over halfway there, but there’s still a steep climb until we reach our target. 

Quote by Alex, 16

 

 

 

 

Camping Trip Picture 4

A young trans person shares their story of our camping trip

Gendered Intelligence is planning to take 70 young trans people camping this August. It’s a massive undertaking by our team, but we know that the camping trip has a huge impact on the young people who take part. 

To make the two camping trips happen, we have to raise £12,000 by the 12th of August. We need your support. We’re over halfway there, but there’s still a steep climb until we reach our target. 

Jamie, a 20-year old young person who attended last year’s camp, has written about their experience and why it was so special.

Camping with Gendered Intelligence meant so much to me. I’d only had bad experiences of camping on previous school trips, so I had no idea what to expect. However the GI camp was nothing like I’d ever been involved in before.

Everyone who was there wanted to be there. All the volunteers wanted to help and were brilliant in doing so. If you ever needed advice they’d try their hardest to guide you – even if it was the simplest task like finding the toilets at night!

I was really nervous about the camp at first because I actually have social anxiety, and so making friends and even encountering social situations in general is difficult. However camp really helped me. There was always someone to talk to, and the volunteers made sure that you were never left out. I made some good friends at camp; people I’m still in touch with now – a year on!

I think one of the best things about GI camp is that it is so accepting. You have so much freedom there. No one pressures you to do anything you don’t want to do. You can sit out of activities if you like (although I really liked kayaking!) You can have a timeout from socialising if you need it. No one judges you either. You can wear whatever makes you feel comfortable in the swimming pool. You can use whichever bathrooms you want.

You can talk openly about how you’re feeling. In this protected space you can be yourself, whoever that is or turns out to be.

I think for me, actually leaving to go home was the hardest part of camp. I remember getting asked, rather jokingly, by a family member if I was ready to come back into the ‘real world’ now. I remember feeling like this was such a surreal and ironic thing to ask, seeing as I’d felt camp was actually one of the most ‘real’ experiences in my life. In camp you got a very valuable opportunity to learn and understand others’ identities, and (perhaps more importantly) your own identity. For me, camp helped massively with self-discovery.

Three days may not seem very long but the time I spent with the others, and the memories I gained from this whole trip stayed with me for much, much longer.

Coming back from camp made me hopeful that the ‘real world’ would one day incorporate all the love, freedom, acceptance and self-expression that I experienced at camp.

Name: Jamie(/still discovering)

Age: 20

To donate to the camping trip, click here

Gendered Intelligence’s view of the Government’s Trans Inquiry response

Gendered Intelligence welcomes the Government Response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality.

We support the Government’s commitment to review the Gender Recognition Act.

In particular, we welcome the move towards self-determination of gender. The Government’s commitment to address the ‘unnecessary bureaucracy and to assess the need for medical checks’ within the 2004 Act sends a message to the general public that the role of the state and medical establishment in deciding an individual’s gender identity is excessive, and should be reduced.

At its inception, the Gender Recognition Act was a progressive piece of legislation and a reflection of dedicated campaigning by trans activists in the UK. However, there is now a global movement towards legal self-determination of gender and we believe that the government must follow the example of countries like Ireland and Argentina.

Gendered Intelligence works extensively in the education sector including Higher and Further Education. The Government’s response to work with Universities to include trans students in their learning environments, in part by addressing bullying and discrimination, is fundamental to many of our young members.

In 2015, Gendered Intelligence wrote guidance aimed at service providers who work have transgender customers, clients or service users . This guidance was well received by the business community. However, more needs to be done to ensure that trans people can access services without prejudice alongside everyone else. It is imperative that all trans and gender variant people are respected as their self-identified gender while using public and private services.

Recognition of everyone’s right to determine their gender will only come through a wide-spread effort to educate, inform and train members of the public, from students at school to employees in the public and private sectors.

We sincerely hope that the Government will take decisive action on the points it has raised in its Response.

About Gendered Intelligence

Gendered Intelligence is a Community Interest Company, that provides activities, support and resources for the trans community. We work with trans community and all those who impact on trans lives; specialise in supporting young trans people 8-25.

We do Trans Youth Work, Work in Education, Professional Services and Public Event.

More about us:

Read More

Trans inclusion in Education

GSA

There has been a flurry of media interest recently regarding our work in education around trans inclusion and celebrating gender diversity. The interest came following a conference at the Girls Schools Association  on Thursday 16th June. It was a fantastic day, a part of which was dedicated to transgender students. It featured Jay Stewart from Gendered Intelligence, two head teachers (both of whom are working with Gendered Intelligence) as well as a young person who is a Gendered Intelligence youth group member and student at a GSA school! It also became clear in the Q&A that many of the schools represented there also had transgender pupils. Consequently more and more schools are thinking about ways in which they can fully support all of their students, including their trans students.

Gendered Intelligence has now developed a range of services for all schools, colleges, Universities and other educational providers. These include mentoring, workshops and assemblies, staff training and consultation.

The panel finished with a huge round of applause.

Whilst the media interest has been a bit reductive in its focusing on gender neutral language, it has given Gendered Intelligence an opportunity to share our services to other educational institutes and young trans people.

Gendered Intelligence provides a non-judgemental service that supports all educational settings to develop and improve their trans inclusion and gender diversity good practices.

Here is a list of media pieces:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/19/dont-call-girls-girls-advise-gender-neutral-headmistresses/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3649181/Don-t-calls-girls-girls-young-women-case-offends-pupils-questioning-gender-identity-schools-told.html

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/girls-cant-be-girls-private-schools-told-2q25nvnv7

The GSA have also written their own statement:

https://gsa.uk.com/2016/06/news-transgender-pupils/

If you would like to know more about how your school, college or University can be more trans inclusive  or if you are a trans student and you feel that your education institute could benefit from what we provide do get in touch:

e mail: jay.stewart@genderedintelligence.co.uk

Office telephone: 0207 832 5848

 

P.S. If you want one of our cool posters just get in touch!
schoolsposter (2)

 

 

FA Guide to Including Trans People in Football

Including Trans People in Football – new FA guidance

Over the past year we have worked closely with the Football Association on their new guide to including trans people in football – and we’re delighted to announce that it’s now available online.

The new guidance is based on the FA’s core ethos that ‘Football is for everyone’.

The guide covers:

  • Terminology
  • Laws that protect trans people
  • How to tackle discrimination at your club
  • Making positive steps towards inclusion
  • Issues around ‘fairness of competition’
  • Supporting trans people as managers, players, supporters and other football roles
  • Testimonies from trans people who play, watch and coach football

To accompany the guidance, Gendered Intelligence has produced a short film about trans people playing football. We hope the video will lead to greater understanding for people who play football and are involved in football at semi-professional and grass-roots levels.

This video is about showing you that trans people play football too and we want you to include us in the beautiful game – Jen Kitney, Trans People in Football (film)

Watch the film:

 

Transacting Project Workshop

10 things we learnt from the Transform panel at #Flare30

Two weeks ago the Transform panel at BFI’s Flare brought together film maker Campbell X and author and journalist Juliet Jacques, chaired by  Gendered Intelligence’s director Jay Stewart. They were set the task of discussing how far trans representation has come in film and TV.

Before the discussion began, Campbell offered a libation to the space, to honour our predecessors and those trans people who are no longer with us.  This ritual set the tone for what was a powerful discussion about power, community and visibility.

Over the past couple of years, trans actors and story lines have finally gained prominence – Rebecca Root starred in a BBC sitcomOrange is the New Black is a phenomenon, and Transparent was Amazon’s flagship show.  We can celebrate this success, but it is representative of gains being made across the industry, behind the scenes?  Are we now in the position to tell our own stories?

Here are some of the powerful points that we learnt (or were reminded of) during the panel:

  1. Visibility can be hollow

The presence of trans people on television – in fiction or documentaries – can give the impression that mainstream media is really invested in our communities.

We should ask how many trans people work behind the scenes – who is being paid to write, produce and commission our stories? It was argued that the media is structured to preserve white, cis male and upper class dominance.  Trans visibility will be tokenistic until that changes. Trans people on-screen have to be matched by trans people at executive level.

  1. There are real barriers to trans people making media

Getting on in the industry as an actor, producer or writer means you have to network.  Networking relies on self-confidence and making use of contacts who help you out – basically exploiting your social capital.  Existing inequality means that trans people, especially trans people of colour, aren’t present in the media in sufficient numbers to help out other trans people.

Gendered Intelligence’s TransActing project aims to create a network for trans and non-binary actors that connects them to industry professionals.

  1. Money talk$

Making web series and film is expensive.  Many marginalised film makers are not in the position to self-fund their work. We have to work towards more resources and funding for aspiring film makers.

  1. Finding a diverse cast/crew is not that hard

Campbell X’s feature film Stud Life had trans people working both in front of and behind the camera. Upcoming LGBTQ web series Spectrum East includes actors with a broad range of backgrounds and identities.  If small-budget productions can achieve this, can’t we expect more from big production houses and studios? Jill Solloway’s Amazon series Transparent has led the way by hiring trans director Silas Howard, as well as trans producers and writers.

  1. Trans actors can play any role

It would be fabulous to see more trans actors in non-trans roles in the future.  Trans actors are brilliant and can bring something special to any role.

  1. Look backwards as well as forwards

Trans people are not a 21st century invention. The mainstream interest in the “first trans person to x” erases our past and the people who made modern trans life possible.  The panel said we should celebrate our cultural legacy – film makers like Kristine Clark who was making ground-breaking trans documentaries in the 80s.

  1. Progress is not a given

Juliet Jacques commented that we expect progress to be followed by more progress, but it is not linear.  It isn’t the case that things will continue to improve just because we have already made some gains – we can go backwards.

Indeed, going backwards is a real risk when people outside our communities continue to dictate how much, and what sort, of mainstream trans visibility is desirable.

  1. Don’t wait for mainstream media to represent you

Campbell X told the audience that we have to stop waiting for recognition from mainstream media  – fundamentally we have to recognise ourselves and appreciate that our stories are real without that external validation.

  1. Lean on your community

We heard from one 26 year-old trans audience member and aspiring film maker who felt despondent because he isn’t getting on in the industry.  He finds networking difficult and feels he is not being taken seriously. The panel advised him to keep going with the work he loves and reach out to other trans film makers for more advice and support.

Juliet Jacques shared advice that a friend gave her when she contemplated abandoning her dream of becoming a writer – “You’re only a loser when you give up!”.

  1. Let’s support trans creators

If you want to see more work from trans film makers, actors and writers, especially those who are the most marginalised, we have to put in the effort to support their work, go to their shows/screenings and encourage our friends to do the same.

As independent film makers and producers, trans people are in position to tell new, nuanced and experimental stories about our lives that will never make the mainstream cut. Trans people of colour and non-binary (trans) people are especially erased from dominant narratives. By supporting work within our own communities, we can amplify more voices.