GI Statement on High Court ruling on “X” passports

Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane has lost a High Court action against the Government’s policy on gender-neutral passports.  Elan-Cane’s case argued that the Government policy of obligatory female or male gender markers on passports was “inherently discriminatory”.  High Court judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker refused to rule the government policy as unlawful. However, the judge was satisfied that, “right to respect for private life will include a right to respect for the claimant’s identification as non-gendered.’’ It is the first time that a judge in a UK court has make such a statement about non-binary gender in reference to the right to a private life.

Sascha-Amel Kheir, non-binary activist and Gendered Intelligence’s Volunteer Coordinator gave the following statement on the ruling:

“I’d firstly like to thank Christie for the time, effort and emotional labour that not only must have gone into this case but the three decades of campaigning leading to this point. It is an issue that affects many people personally, including myself, and something Christie has fought tirelessly for many years.

While the decision from the court is not the best case scenario, it is also not the worst. For the first time a court in the UK has recognised that forcing people who identify outside of the gender binary to choose a M or F marker for documentation violates one’s right to a private life under the European Convention on Human Rights*. It was noted that the Government is currently conducting a review of gender recognition policies with the long expected consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and this seems to have been important for the court when drafting its judgement.

Hopefully, the judgement will be considered during the GRA consultation process, especially now that it has been found to be a human rights violation. If not, it at least sets a strong foundation for strategic litigation if the consultations do not lead to the necessary changes in policy and legislation.”

You can read more about the ruling on Christie’s own blog.

 

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New guidance for LGBTQI fans at the World Cup

New guidance for LGBTQI+ fans travelling to the World Cup in Russia

In the next few weeks, the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia. Fans travelling to Russia for the World Cup can find guidance specifically for LGBTQI+ people in the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Free Lions Guide. The guide is a collaboration between FSF, the FA and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. A number of LGBTQI+ organisations, including Gendered Intelligence, were consulted on the content of the guide.

To assess the risks for travelling to Russia for the World Cup, it is useful to know more about the situation for LGBTQI+ people there.

Five years ago the LGBT propaganda law was passed which prohibits the promotion of “non-traditional” values to children. The bill is purposefully vague and its use is highly unstandardised. At its extreme, it could be used to effectively ban the queer rights movement and any expression of queer identity in public. There are also no anti-discrimination laws or specifics protections for the community so while being LGBTQI+ isn’t criminalised and people aren’t persecuted against in the vast majority of the country, life can be extremely difficult.

The understanding of what “non-traditional” could mean is crucial for understanding the impact of these laws and policies on people’s lives. For example, there are mechanisms for trans people to change their names, however, if a trans man wanted to change his name to one regarded as “traditionally masculine” there would be a slim chance of his attempts being successful. Whether or not he succeeded would be determined by the officials overseeing the procedure and be subject to their views. Likewise, applications to change one’s legal gender vary depending on the court overseeing the case. To change one’s gender, a medical diagnosis of “transexualism” is required but this is also one of the “mental disorders” that can be used to deny someone a driver’s license. For non-binary people, there is no form of recognition available outside of the gender binary.

In addition to the issues at the state level, the mainstream view of the general public is much more hostile to the community than in the West. However, this does vary considerably by region and thus, so do the experiences of LGBTQI+ people from different parts of the Federation. St Petersburg is the most liberal city in Russia and there are LGBTQI+ venues, although like in the West, most are aimed are cis gay men. On the other hand, the situation in the North Caucasus and Chechnya in particular is completely different.

While the Chechen government’s persecution against (perceived) gay cis men has been well documented, it has affected people of all gender and sexual minorities. Trans women have been subject to similar levels of violence as gay men. From the society’s perspective, they are seen as one and the same and denied their womanhood. As is normal around the globe, their stories have received much less coverage in the media. Queer cis women have also been targets of violence and persecution, however this is much more likely to come from within their own family in the form of honour-based violence rather than from the authorities. This is a different experience to most gay men and trans women who have been targeted more heavily by the regional government. There is no readily available information concerning the experiences of trans men and non-binary people.

As always, trans voices are going unheard and there is a danger that the experiences of trans people in Russia, and the hardships they face, will be forgotten amid the excitement of the World Cup. Instead there must be continued pressure on the Russian government to lift the propaganda law and properly investigate the atrocities perpetrated in Chechnya. While interest from the general public has waned, there is ongoing effort to change the situation such as lobbying from Amnesty International and work to support and evacuate LGBTQI+ people from Chechnya by ILGA-Europe and the Russian LGBT Network.

All those attending a game in Russia will receive a copy of the FSF’s Free Lions Guide guide with their tickets and it is also available here.

To see the latest update from Amnesty International on the Chechen Purge click here.

To support ILGA-Europe or the Russian LGBT Network click here or here.

Celebrating volunteers at Gendered Intelligence

Our Volunteer Coordinator Sascha Amel-Kheir reflects on the important role volunteers play at Gendered Intelligence to introduce Volunteer Week 2018.  

TodaNCVO Vol week Logo 2018 colour with tagline largey is the start of Volunteers’ Week in the UK and this year we at Gendered Intelligence will be showcasing some of our volunteers’ stories and experiences from volunteering with us. Their contribution to our organisation is not only vital to the work we do because it supports our team of staff, helping us achieve far more than we could on our own, but each volunteer brings a unique perspective that enriches the programme of services we provide.

I joined GI in February as the first full-time Volunteer Coordinator and although it has only been three months, it has been fantastic getting to know our existing volunteers, training and welcoming new volunteers to the organisation and developing new ways for our volunteers to support our work.

Volunteering is not only important because of the benefits it provides to organisations, but because of the many ways it can be of benefit to volunteers. Whether it’s through combating social isolation with opportunities to meet new friends, teaching people new skills with the chance to practice them in a professional environment and also providing a space for a diverse community of staff, volunteers, service users and their friends and families to develop around our service provision.

Next week, we will be sharing 5 stories from people across all aspects of

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Volunteers Peter and Jacqui running a stall at NEU’s LGBT Educators Conference 2018

 the Gendered Intelligence Volunteering Scheme; those who have been with us for many years to those who have only recently joined, trans people who attended our youth groups in their teens and cis allies to our community and experiences across our volunteering programs. People from all different walks of life give so much to GI and the trans community and we’re excited to highlight their achievements with us!

If you are interested in volunteering with Gendered Intelligence please visit our website for more information and complete our anonymous application form.

A case for trans inclusion in reproductive rights

Both the abortion rights movement and the trans rights movement are rooted in a struggle for bodily autonomy. Both are based on the belief that people should be able to make the choices that are best for them. Both go against society’s patriarchal assumptions and norms concerning what people should do with their bodies and their lives.

However, movements for reproductive justice have historically not been the most trans inclusive spaces. Whether it’s been explicit in the form of hateful vitriol from transphobes, or implied through gendered language, the experiences of trans men, AFAB non-binary people and people who simply don’t fit into the box of ‘women’ have gone unrecognised and unmentioned.

Trans people can face discrimination in all aspects of their lives, including when trying to access healthcare, regardless of whether it’s treatment for a cold or an abortion. Using gender neutral language and not equating genitals with gender sends a message that trans people are welcome as part of your campaign or can seek treatment at your clinic.

The common statement thrown around in outrage to this suggestion is that it takes the movement away from women. But, it’s not a zero sum game. Such arguments against trans inclusion are actually deeply rooted in the patriarchal thinking that makes abortions harder to access than they should be in the first place. It’s an essentialist way of thought that not only conflates genitals with gender, but also womanhood with child-bearing, reducing a woman to her womb and her ability to reproduce.

Just as not all women, whether cis or trans, have wombs and can become pregnant, not all people with wombs and who can become pregnant are women.

Including people who may seem different from you doesn’t dilute your message and doom your campaign to failure. If anything, it means more people can get involved in the work and support you. This way of thinking has excluded women of colour from feminism, trans people from the LGB(+T) community and non-binary people from the trans rights movement.

At the end of the day, both movements aren’t about body parts and biological functions. They’re about people’s lives. The focus should be on centring people’s experiences and stories. We should all be campaigning for individuals to have the power to decide on the most appropriate course of action for themselves.

Hopefully one day soon we’ll win.

Sascha Amel-Kheir

Gendered Intelligence

New faces at Gendered Intelligence

Earlier this year we had three new members of staff join us at GI: Cara as our Policy Engagement Officer; Cathy as our Professional Services Administrator; and Sascha as our Volunteer Coordinator. Check out their bios below to learn a bit more about them!

Cara

Cara joined Gendered Intelligence in January 2018 as our Policy Engagement Officer. In this new role she’ll help Gendered Intelligence shape its policy asks as an organisation as well as enabling us to give a more robust voice to our stakeholders.

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Cara – Policy Engagement Officer

Outside of Gendered Intelligence, she campaigns against funeral poverty with the Fair Funerals campaign.

Since leaving her hometown of Belfast, Cara has worked in Glasgow, Paris, Montpellier and London. She continues to be involved in the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, as well as advocating for equal access to abortion for pregnant people in Northern Ireland. Cara has an MA in Linguistics from The University of Glasgow.

She is interested in intersectional feminism but finds most of her out-of-work time is taken up playing with her beloved rescue dog and writing needlessly intricate recipes.

 

Cathy

Cathy

Cathy – PS Administrator

Cathy joined GI as Administrator for the Professional Services Team in February. She is from the West Midlands originally, studied French and Spanish at Glasgow University and has spent time teaching English abroad in Spain and Italy.

Since moving to London in 2010, Cathy has held a number of admin roles in the voluntary sector, most recently at International Planned Parenthood Federation and before that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. She has also been a volunteer for Switchboard LGBT+ helpline, Hackney Food Bank and Hackney Winter Night Shelter. She has two tuxedo cats called Jules and Jim who are the best*. Outside of work, Cathy loves musicals, radical history and learning languages.

*The views and opinions expressed in this paragraph are Cathy’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Gendered Intelligence.

Sascha

Sascha

Sascha – Volunteer Coordinator 

Sascha joined GI in February as our Volunteer Coordinator. They are a part of the Public Engagement team and support our events management and fundraising work as well.

They are also involved with our policy engagement work, dealing with international policy matters. They have previously lived in Morocco and Ukraine and have a specific interest in LGBTQI+ policy and queer rights movements in West Asia & North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Outside of their work with GI, Sascha is also the Co-Editor of ‘Beyond the Binary’, an online magazine for the non-binary community in the UK. They were the founder of ‘Breaking the Binary’, the first project supporting non-binary people in Wales. They are also involved in interfaith work, as well as work supporting LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and refugees.

What’s it like being a trans man in Pakistan?

While gender recognition reform is on the cards in the UK, a historic trans rights bill has received approval in Pakistan.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017 will guarantee self-declaration of gender without the approval of a doctor or psychiatrist. Transgender people now possess the same rights as every other citizen under the Pakistani constitution.

Gendered Intelligence spoke to Pakistani activist and trans man Mani about the current developments in legal protection and what it’s like to be a trans man in Pakistan.

The media reported that you are the first trans man in Pakistan to legally change your identity card. You have made history! How was the process of changing your identity card?

Yes, I’m the first transgender man to legally change his identity card and the process was not very easy; sometimes it was so hard to deal with.

I’m sorry I can’t share the whole process because if it gets disclosed, people will start misusing it and then the authorities will be alerted and maybe start asking people to go through a more difficult process, which I don’t want.

At this point in time I’m in the process of changing another trans man’s identity card and have just changed one more gender marker for a trans man. I’m following a one at a time method so things will go smoothly, but you can’t imagine that even following this method we are still facing challenges.

Briefly, I will say that I challenged their policy and launched a case against them and after a long struggle I won and got my card in my preferred gender.

Khawaja sira* and trans women in Pakistan have been prominent in campaigning for –  and achieving – rights such as the ability to change legal gender (since 2010) and recognition of a third gender. Trans men are no so visible in the public eye. What is the situation for trans men in Pakistan?

So only khawaja sira identified persons got legal gender recognition after 2010 – not even trans women.

Yes, we have very low visibility of trans men in Pakistan because being born in a female body in country like Pakistan is not so easy. Families of trans men in Pakistan are overprotective towards us and that’s why we don’t have liberty to do something for our own selves. Trans men are scared to come out openly because of fear attached to society, but I’m trying hard to find more and more trans men, which is not an easy task.  I know few trans men and most of them are living with their families, while I also know very few trans men who are independent, but life is not very easy for the trans men who are living alone with a female identity.

(* Khawaja sira are Pakistan’s traditional ‘third gender’ community. They have been at the forefront of fighting for legal recognition. Under British colonialism, khawaja sira communities in South Asia were dehumanised and criminalised – the effects of which can be felt to this day. In the past decade, khawaja sira activists have won the the right to inherit property, be counted in the census and obtain ID cards that list them as third gender)

In December, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights approved Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill 2017. What difference will the bill make to trans people in Pakistan?

So the Bill has been approved by the Senate and still needs to be approved by National Assembly so fingers crossed for it!

Once it gets passed, the situation will be totally different from the current situation. If it gets passed in its current form then trans people will not need any medical documents to have access to education, health etc, but it will take time to be implemented as it is.

(† At the time of our interview, the Bill had not yet been passed by the National Assembly)

What would you like trans people in the UK to know about being trans in Pakistan?

Of course I want everybody to know about the situation of trans people in Pakistan. Maybe I sound biased, but the issues and challenges faced by trans men are worse. I have explained some issues above, but the issues which are most challenging in my opinion are financial issues. Trans men don’t like doing a job which forces them to come to work in women’s clothes. Another thing is that families don’t allow them to go out and earn money, which affects their medical transition and it is affecting their mental health very badly.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

I’m looking for a more progressive society in 2018 and not only for khawaja sira and trans women people but for trans men too. I’m hoping that the Bill will bring good changes in society.

NB: This interview has been edited for clarity.

Photo credit: Faizan Fiaz

Schools must support young trans people

We are extremely saddened to hear of the death of 15 year-old trans boy Leo Etherington from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Leo took his own life in May 2017 and an inquest into his death has recently taken place.

Media reports of the inquest suggest that Leo was supported by his family and friends.

The media also reported that Leo’s school said he could not change his name there until he was 16 (Wycombe High School has since refuted these claims).

There continues to be misinformation around making a name change, especially of young people aged under 16. This misinformation can create a huge amount of damage for young people who are unnecessarily blocked from their gender being recognised and validated. Many young people are unaware of their rights, even when they are supported by friends and family.

It is possible to change your name if you are aged under 16, with parental consent. In fact, as gov.uk says, you do not have to follow a legal process in order to start using a new name. The act of using a new name is the change of name itself.

However, in some circumstances you may need a deed poll (or a statutory declaration) in order to prove that a change has taken place.  You can “enroll” your Deed Poll with the courts from 18, but in most cases this is not necessary.

If someone is a young person, getting formal evidence of a name change requires the consent of those with parental responsibility.  Those over 16 can apply for a Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration themselves.

It is not necessary to have undergone any part of gender reassignment or medical transition in order to change your name and title.

Sometimes schools work on the false assumption that young people cannot change their name until some condition or other is met – for example, the child reaches a certain age, or until they attend the gender identity services for adolescents (NHS GIDS). This kind of assumption can be based on prejudices around the “correct age” at which a young person can self identify as transgender and make decisions about their transition. Young trans people continue to grow up in a society where they receive negative messages about not conforming to the gender expectations placed on them at birth. Many face bullying, discrimination and even violence. They experience high levels of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

It is vital that schools create a safe and inclusive environment for trans and gender variant young people. If you are a school and are concerned about the well-being of your trans students and/ or are keen to ensure that your school is inclusive of trans people, do reach out to us or other organisations that can support you.

You can contact us at: education@genderedintelligence.co.uk

Young trans people who do not have support and validation at home desperately need to feel safe enough to be themselves at school or college. If they cannot find support at home or at school, they find themselves in an incredibly isolated position.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please reach out for help. Talk to a parent, a teacher, your GP, a member of your faith community or a youth group leader. If you feel unable to do that, you can contact one of the UK helplines below:

Samaritans (08457 90 90 90)
Childline (0800 1111)

HOPELineUK (PAPYRUS)

Call: 0800 068 41 41

Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org

SMS: 07786 209697

HOPELineUK is a specialist telephone service staffed by trained professionals who give non-judgemental support, practical advice and information to:

  • Children, teenagers and young people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling
  • Anyone who is concerned about a young person

Opening hours:  Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm, weekends: 2pm-10pm & bank holidays: 2pm-5pm

In an emergency, phone 999 as soon as possible.

Prevention of young suicide: http://www.papyrus-uk.org/
Myths about suicide: http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-he…/myths-about-suicide

 

 

What is it like to be trans at work? We found out at Imagining Our Futures 2017

Last Saturday at Gendered Intelligence we ran our annual day about careers and interests for young trans people in London, Imagining Our Futures 2017. 

In the morning we invited 15 diverse employers and organisations to run stalls and chat to attendees about what they can offer to trans people.

We were delighted to have stalls from Accenture, Amazing Apprenticeships, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Diversity Role Models, EYLondon College of Beauty Therapy, Media Trust,  Ministry of Justice/Civil Service, NHS Employers, NUT, Royal MailSoho TheatreStonewall, TfL, with Institute of PhysicsRoyal Astronomical Society and National Physical Laboratory on one stall.

A group of trans teachers from the NUT  ran a workshop about what it’s like being trans as a teacher alongside the careers and interests fair.

At the beginning of the day we asked young people to share their concerns about their future at work or following their interest. Their comments demonstrated that there is still a lot of fear and apprehension around what it means to be trans at work. They are concerned about “being viewed as inferior compared to others”; “getting discriminated against” and “being outed against my will”.

Imagining Our Futures gives young trans people a chance to talk to employers and organisations about careers and projects that interest them. More importantly, those employers have an opportunity to tell young trans people that they are welcome in the workplace. Many organisations now recognise the value of a diverse workforce. Resilience and self-knowledge are assets. Imagining Our Futures provides a space for employers to communicate their message that trans people have a place in their workforce.

During the afternoon session, ten adult trans professionals with a range of backgrounds spoke to the audience of young trans people and their parents/carers about their experiences of being trans in the workplace. Just under half of them were non-binary. We heard from an academic, a London Underground driver, a video games developer, a charity filmmaker, a graphic designer, an archaeologist, an IT engineer at Mars, a software developer, a consultant and a primary school teacher.

Our speakers did not shy away from issues that they had encountered at work. They spoke about instances of being misgendered and when other’s lack of knowledge had created tricky moments for them. Everyone had experienced challenges and looked for advice and support from their employer, union or wider networks of friends, mentors and allies.

However, our speakers’ experience of work were overwhelmingly positive. Their employers had been accommodating and supportive and in general they were able to be themselves at work. Many found that their work improved once they felt comfortable in themselves .

At the end of the day, we asked all the young people who attended for their reflections about Imagining Our Futures 2017. Here are some highlights:

“The job fair was interesting – I felt like something positive could come out of it and it was great to speak to real people.”

“The employers I spoke to had a great attitude.”

“This morning’s careers fair showed us that employers are keen to diversify and appeal to trans people.”

“I have learnt that workplaces are accepting.”

“Thinking about a career is usually daunting, but today has given me a lot of confidence. I feel like I have a future as a trans person. “

“It’s reassuring to know that I have options in the future.”“It’s good that the fair focused on the “T”. I graduated recently and have been to LGBT employment fairs where trans gets lost.”

“It’s been empowering and encouraging. We exist everywhere and it’s been great to see companies that value our individuality.”

“I now know there is a place for non-binary people in the workforce. I go by they/them and I see that I can do that in the future too.”

There is a lot of work to be done to make sure that young trans people are, and feel, safe to be themselves in all areas of their lives. Imagining Our Futures showed attendees that progress is being made and that they can have the future they deserve.

We’d like to thank the National Union of Teachers for donating their amazing space at Hamilton House for Imagining Our Futures 2017.

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