Gendered Intelligence responds to draft Census questions on sex and gender identity

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently launched its guidance about how it will ask about trans, including non-binary,  people’s gender in this year’s rehearsal for the 2021 Census in England and Wales.  We’re optimistic that the 2021 Census will deliver much-needed data on the trans and non-binary population in England and Wales.

The sex question, in place since 1801, will continue to be asked to help ensure robust equalities monitoring for the benefit of public services, such as health. Fortunately, the guidance asks that people respond using their lived sex, whether that corresponds to what is on their birth certificate or not.

This is good news for trans people who may otherwise have been concerned that – in the absence of a fitting system of legal gender recognition – there may have been an expectation to respond with sex as assigned at birth, regardless of the realities of their current, lived experience.

The Gender Recognition Act remains outdated and in urgent need of reform,  meaning many men and women have sexes marked on their birth certificate that do not match the realities of their lived experience.

The ONS guidance hopes to tackle any potential confusion and is welcomed by Gendered Intelligence for allowing trans people to clearly define their sex.

However, non-binary people will, unfortunately, continue to be obliged to respond to the sex question in the census rehearsal with a binary ‘male’ or ‘female’ answer.  The legal obligation to complete all mandatory questions in the Census – of which sex is one – will put some non-binary people in an uncomfortable position.

On a positive note, for the first time there will be a voluntary question on gender identity, offering a space where non-binary status and other aspects of gender identity can be defined.

Gendered Intelligence warmly welcomes the introduction of a gender identity question, allowing policymakers, government and charities to hopefully get a clearer snapshot of how many trans and non-binary people there are in the UK.

Whilst it is disappointing that the question will be asked only of those aged 16 and over – and will not offer any clarity as to what we believe is an acute crisis of under-resourcing for trans children and young people – we welcome the data that will emerge from the census as hopefully illuminating.

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Quality of Life survey 2019

Survey on quality of life for trans and gender nonconforming adults in England returns for 4th year

On Monday, 2nd of September Gendered Intelligence is launching a survey asking trans and gender non-confirming adults in England about their quality of life. This is the 4th annual survey Gendered Intelligence and the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths University of London have run since 2016 as part of a multi-year Quality of Life study.

Take part in the survey.

The survey will run from today until the end of September. We are inviting all trans, including non-binary, and gender nonconforming people aged 18+ in England to take part. It’s important that we get participants from all over England and from a range of backgrounds so the results represent the diversity of experience in our communities. The survey looks at several factors including life satisfaction, mental health, self-esteem, social inclusion and cultural participation. We want to find out where is the best place in England to be trans or gender non-conforming and whether quality of life for trans and gender nonconforming people is improving over time.

We’re running this study because research on transgender and gender nonconforming people is incredibly sparse compared to other minority social groups. Secondly, the research which does exist has been disproportionally focussed on the distress, difficulties and disadvantages experienced by this group. Whilst such research is undoubtedly important for highlighting critical issues, an unswerving focus on the negative aspects of experience means that a more comprehensive understanding of people’s lives has not been achieved.

Our first survey of almost 900 people in 2016 revealed that relative to our cisgender comparison group, trans and gender non-conforming participants had statistically significantly higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and lower levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem and social inclusion. However, they also had statistically significantly higher levels of cultural participation.

Internalised transphobia, gender-related discrimination and not being able to be open about your trans status was linked to worse life satisfaction, self-esteem, mental health and social and cultural inclusion. Conversely,  identity pride related to higher levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem, social inclusion and cultural participation

The study is lead by Dr Jo Lloyd,  senior lecturer and researcher in work psychology at Goldsmiths’ Institute of Management Studies (IMS). Jo reflected on why this study is important and what it aims to do:

“In this ongoing project, we seek to advance current understanding of quality of life in transgender and gender nonconforming people in England. Designed in collaboration with Gendered Intelligence, we focus on individual, interpersonal and wider societal factors that may significantly impact several key quality of life indicators, such as health, happiness and connectedness. Using a large-scale, longitudinal data collection method, we hope to gain comprehensive and meaningful insights into the perspectives and experiences of this important social group.”

We know that trans, including non-binary, people face wide-spread discrimination and poor mental health, but there is a distinct lack of research into what is positive about the experience of being trans or gender non-conforming. Through our quality of life study we are building up a detailed picture of the factors that negatively affect trans and gender non-conforming adult in England but also discovering what factors lead to improved life satisfaction.

The survey takes around 20 minutes to complete, and you can take part here.

I cannot be non-binary without being queer and brown

Photo by Zaksheuskaya from Pexels

Rami Yasir is a writer, comic creator and musician. They also lead Gendered Intelligence’s Colours youth group for trans, non-binary and gender diverse people of colour aged 13-24. 

Their personal essay looks at the interaction between race, gender and sexuality. 

I was always told what it means to be a man, but being a man never sat comfortably with me.  First because of my queerness; the way I love doesn’t mould itself to any concept of masculinity I could lay claim to.  Next, my actions, my make-up and mincing, my limp wrist and elastic voice.  And finally, my race, my skin, my heritage.

Recently, I took part in a training exercise with Gendered Intelligence.  In it, participants were asked to describe their trans journeys, from childhood to the present day.  As I sat staring at a capped pen and a blank page, it occurred to me what a tangled mess that journey is; it hikes through different terrains – race, sexuality, and gender – all connected by the imprint of my feet.  To walk through my gender is to swim through my race; to understand what I am is to make sense of where I’ve been.

I cannot be non-binary without being queer and brown.  They are parts of a matrix, things which have influenced and informed each other.  And while I’m grateful for the exercise that allowed me to babble for ten minutes about who and where I was, ten minutes is not enough to shape those thoughts into something useful.  Even now, as I take the effort to think and digest, to pick apart the knots of my history and reshape them into a narrative that makes sense, I am almost at a loss.  But that’s okay, I think I’ll always be at a loss with gender, and right now the act of speaking matters more than being understood.

I was born in Jordan as a Sudani citizen and raised in England from the time I was nine months old.  My mother is a Palestinian-Jordanian woman and my father a Sudani man.  My birth certificate is in Arabic, a language I can only read with hours of work and access to Google, and my childhood took place on the border between cultures.  I was raised with tea and mint leaves, fish, chips and ful medames.

By eleven it was fairly clear to me that I would never marry a girl.  By twelve I hated myself for it.  Bombarded as we are with representations of queer hating Arabs and Africans it seemed my only course for salvation was to assimilate into the world of white tolerance.  I shied away from my parents and the heritage they represented, only to find myself still different, still brown, still carrying the weight of history in my skin.

But I was still a boy; effeminate, insecure, but still a boy.  At that point in my life I had yet to question my gender in any meaningful way, as I had yet to question my race and what it meant.  But it is not an accident that as I delved into one questions surfaced about the other.  For me, it was at Uni that I learned to worry the roots of my identity.  Having the safety net of my middle class allowed me to explore those questions in an institution designed for people like me, at least once I was living away from home and until my parent’s income took a hit during my dad’s battle with cancer.

Every trans journey is a personal one.  Gender is not only how the world understands you (or, for many trans people, how it does not) but how you interact with and understand the world.  I cannot sit here and say that my journey is typical for any group, only that I can use it to highlight how gender, race and sexuality feed off each other.

What I can say is that gender is a cultural construct, that much is no secret.  How you locate your gender or even what genders there are varies with time and place.  And the context we find ourselves in now is important, especially for black trans people and other trans people of colour.  When Shaadi Devereaux, a black trans writer, highlights how black women are only ever seen to imitate petite and white “true beauty,” she points out that any confrontation with gender is also a confrontation with whiteness.  Today, black women and men are hypermasculinised, East Asian men and women are hyperfeminised, Muslim women are denied respectable womanhood, and whatever non-white race or gender you are, you are hypersexualised.  In every case, when the context is here, now, in this country, in this language, gender is gatekept by whiteness.

So, in my experience, manhood has always been out of reach.  The discovery of my queerness caused a rift between myself and any version of masculinity I could claim.  I could not be a man by the standards of my parents, despite the long history of queer sexuality before the arrival of western colonialism, and neither could I be one by the standards of the country I grew up in, where the only wholesome masculinity is white.  The men who looked like those in my family were always the terrorists or the thieves, the abusers and patriarchs.  They were always, somehow, corrupt.

And besides, I was both African and Arab.  I was British but I was foreign.  I was not wholly anything.  Doesn’t it make sense, for someone who lives straddling those identities, to turn that questioning gaze inwards?  When older white people stare at me, wondering where I’m from and how I got here, how far of a leap is it to turn to myself and ask where I belong?  Not in Jordan, Palestine or Sudan, but neither completely in the Britain which has assured me of my otherness.  Not in the masculinity of my father, silent and reticent, or even in the subtle strength of my mother’s femininity.  And never, of course, as the white British man or woman I should aspire to be.  I am just as much adrift in gender’s seas as I am in the ones surrounding continents.

I have always said that gender never really made sense to me, but then again, how could it?  Nothing about my identity ever has done.  But it was nice to feel pretty; it felt good to do my nails.  I allowed myself a break from the expectations of masculinity and I liked it.  So my thoughts began to shift, I started to reassemble my identity from the bottom up.  And I’m still in the process, still working to pick away the detritus of life from the person I want to be, but I’m getting there.

How not to make trans people safer

Earlier this week we were alarmed to read Labour’s LGBT+ Advisor Anthony Watson advocate for the creation of seemingly separate “transgender zones” in UK cities, where trans people would allegedly be protected from hate crime. It is misguided to ask trans people to live separately from mainstream society for their own safety. We would ask for this policy to be reconsidered. 

Like anyone else, trans and non-binary people want to go to school, work and enjoy socialising among their friends, family and peers. It’s undeniable that there is a lot of work to be done before trans and non-binary people will no longer experience daily discrimination and bullying in education and the workplace. Indeed, it is unacceptable that anyone should have to be fearful of violence and harassment in public, which too many trans people –  41%, according to reporting – continue to experience. The answer to this problem is not for any political party to advocate for the ushering of trans people to designated, separate zones for their own safety. It should not be an acceptable choice to ask any group to segregate themselves for their own safety.

Historically, LGBT people have created spaces where they could be together and form communities. Our communities have always sprung from adversity. We believe there will be value in trans-only spaces, such as our youth groups and annual summer camp residential for trans youth, for as long as gender diverse people are misunderstood and punished by wider society.

As an organisation, we firmly believe that education and training is key to improving society’s understanding of diverse genders and sexualities. As trans-inclusive practices become more commonplace, public life is in turn becoming more straightforward and safe for trans and non-binary people. No one should have to avoid using a toilet or changing room because they are afraid of the reception they will receive. In the latest edition of our Transforming Spaces podcast, based on our 2018 conference, inclusive hairdressing space Open Barbers and cosmetics company Lush talk about how they are making the High Street safer and more welcoming for gender diverse customers and employees alike.

With the recent appointment of the Government’s LGBT Advisory Panel, we hope that the voices and ideas of trans people will be at the heart of all decisions made about our lives and livelihoods. It is heartening to see trans, LGB+ people and lifelong allies in this important group, as these are some of the people who can speak from real experience. It is imperative that the Government, The Opposition and all other decision makers include trans people and organisations in any and all decisions that affect us. To fail to do so will result in well-intentioned but ultimately harmful policies for all trans and non-binary people. Gendered Intelligence welcomes the opportunity for conversation with all parties. Our door is always open.

Nothing about us without us.

 

The usefulness of gender neutral language

Simon Croft, Director of Educational and Professional Services at Gendered Intelligence, shares his thoughts on how using gender neutral language can help to make everyone feel included and how small changes to the way we address people can make a big difference. 

Gendered terms are some of the most common words we use – pronouns like ‘he’ and ‘she’, titles like ‘Mr’ and ‘Miss’ and honorifics like ‘Sir and ‘Madam’. Gender is also present in collective terms such as ‘ladies and gentlemen’, ‘girls’ and ‘lads’.

There’s nothing wrong with using gendered terms, once you know what a person’s chosen terms are. Before we have that information, then gender neutral, or to put it another way, universally inclusive, language is how to ensure we don’t misgender anyone.

Misgendering means referring to someone with a gendered term that doesn’t match their gender identity, for example referring to a trans woman as ‘Sir’, a trans man as ‘she’, or a non-binary person as ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’.

Many trans people find it extremely validating when their chosen gendered terms are used.  I can still remember how amazing it felt when people first said ‘he’ to me, even though it’s now over 20 years ago.  So using gendered terms correctly can be a really supportive thing.

Having other people refer to you with the correct gender is something that most people take for granted and therefore never notice.  If you aren’t trans (or someone who is regularly misgendered), it’s quite likely you haven’t noticed just how often other people decide what gender you are and then use corresponding gendered language, but if you make an effort to try and notice for a day or two, you’ll see how pervasive it is.

Once, after I’d delivered a training session where we’d spoken about the subject, my contact showed me back to reception where I handed in my visitor’s pass. “Thank you, gentlemen,” said the receptionist.  As we turned away toward the exit, my contact said “Gosh!  I would never have noticed that before…  I see what you mean!”

Misgendering is one of the most common issues trans people encounter.  For some people it happens multiple times each day, dozens of times each week, hundreds of times each month.  This has a cumulative effect.  It’s like being bitten by mosquitoes – one bite you can shrug off; a dozen is really annoying; a hundred and you’ll be feeling really unwell.

“I’m usually misgendered (miss / she / ma’am) and it’s exhausting and invalidating. I’m left in a position to either correct them which is awkward for everyone involved…, or to feel sad and invalidated…” Trans-masculine participant in a GI survey

It costs nothing, apart from a little effort and mindfulness, to change our language to be inclusive of everyone. This isn’t trans-specific – there are plenty of women who don’t like to be called ‘ladies’; plenty of ladies who don’t like to be called ‘women’; plenty of men who find ‘Sir’ too formal; plenty of people who find their first name too informal – it just shows we need to ask.

Universally inclusive language need not be clumsy. Changing ‘Good morning, ladies and gentleman” to “Good morning everyone” will go unnoticed by most people.  But the people who are not ‘ladies’ or ‘gentleman’, such as non-binary people really will notice the difference.

There are plenty of universal terms you can use.  A few might include: people, folk, everyone, colleagues, staff, workers, employees, clients, customers, beneficiaries, visitors, students, pupils, children…  If you need to talk about relationships, then terms such as sibling, parent, child and partner are very useful.  These terms include LGB people too – not assuming for example, that the partner of a woman is a man, or that parents are a male/female couple.

It doesn’t take long to come up with a set of universal terms that work for your particular setting – three or four people getting together for ten minutes is likely to produce a very workable list.

So our top tip is start with universal /gender neutral language, until you find out what gendered terms people have chosen.  That way, everyone is respected.

Transgender Day of Visibility

On being visibly trans (or not)

One of our volunteers has written about their own difficult relationship to visibility for TDOV (Trans Day of Visibility), which is celebrated every year on the 31st of March. 

It’s a quiet night (or very early morning) in the summer of 2011 and I’m sitting hunched over a laptop I’ve borrowed (stolen) from my mum for the night, on an internet deep dive into all things trans. I scroll past the faces of young trans men taking their first shots of testosterone, waking up from top surgery for the first time, even just selfies they’ve taken showing how happy they are post-‘transition’, and it’s like I’m seeing a reflection of myself, or of what I wanted for myself, in the future.

Almost in the exact same moment I make the connection that I myself am trans, I quickly and hastily decide that it’s also a secret that I want to take to the grave. Oh, not that I thought there was anything wrong with being trans, instead it was just… Not something I felt like I should share. A simple preference about what I chose to share about myself, right? Looking back, I can recognise that what I was actually feeling was a severe amount of internalised transphobia, and an unhealthy dose of shame.

I was afraid of judgement, and what cis people would think of me, and how they would perceive me from there on, and, and, and……. The ‘ands’ were endless, and each one weighed down on me so much that I went about my transition as secretively as possible. I told my closest friends at school, and my family, then went to university far far away from home, where I socially transitioned all in one go, and god forbid any cis person suggest I was trans.

Whenever I hung around the other trans people I’d met at university, it was like a breath of fresh air because for once I didn’t have to hide a huge part of myself, but at the same time it was hard not to listen to the dark voice in the back of my head was whispering ‘careful, if you hang out with these people too much where people can see, people might think you’re trans’. Past self, you idiot, you are trans. And there’s nothing wrong with being trans. There’s nothing wrong with being visibly trans.

I was so terrified of ‘cis judgement’ and thinking of things from the ‘cis perspective’ that I’d forgotten to even view things from my own trans one. I was prioritising the thoughts and opinions of an imaginary hivemind I had dubbed ‘The Cis’ over my own well-being, and it was unhealthy.

But I couldn’t help but remember how happy and free my trans friends seemed – sure they had to deal with discrimination, but it wasn’t like my closeted bubble was entirely discrimination-free. And my cis friends were nice, accepting people, nothing like the ‘The Cis’ hivemind I’d formed in my mind…

Then Trans Visibility Day came round. I’d almost forgotten it was that ‘today’, but when I checked my phone I was stunned.I saw so many happy and joyful trans people of all walks of life all over my social media feeds, full of pride and absolutely radiant. It was like looking at a (much more diverse) recreation of that same moment that made me realise I was trans in the first place.

I couldn’t help but remember how earnestly I had wanted to one day post my own transition photos with pride. I wondered what my past self would think of how I had made it to a point where I was proud with how much I had grown, and how far the community had come, but I hadn’t posted a thing.

I couldn’t help but wonder where I would even be as a person, if the original members of the trans community had done the same as I had, and stayed silent about their experiences.

Transgender Day of Visibility: a day to celebrate trans lives, embrace our diverse community and even raise awareness of the struggles we still face. A day to make ourselves heard, so that not only cis people can listen and learn, but so the young trans generation can see a bright and happy future for themselves.

I was struck with a thought, a dream I’d had as a young trans man, of being settled on the beach on a hot summer day with my dream husband and our circle of friends, enjoying a barbeque and laughing as we all chickened out of actually swimming in the sea. I would have been shirtless, because of course, and my top surgery scars would be visibly on show (while of course sun-screen would be well applied).

Though I had no way of knowing, in my dream a young trans person would have seen that and felt a little more hopeful about being trans. It’s something I desperately wish I had seen when I was younger, and something that I wished I could give to a young trans person out there even more.

It would be perhaps too perfect an ending to this if I’d ended my TDOV by making my own post, officially coming out and ‘accepting myself’. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t. But I did reach out to my community. I made new friendships with trans people across the world, and even started volunteering with a trans charity. I’ve been more vocal about my support of trans issues, and managed to squash down that voice in my head that always made me so wary of what ‘The Cis’ would think. Maybe I’ll even add a trans pride patch next to the gay pride patch on my jacket.

To any trans people out there reading this who are in a similar situation to what I faced: I know that there’s safety in silence, and you should think about your own well-being and safety. But there’s also joy in being vocal. With visibility, you can help the world seem like a brighter place to a young trans person in need.

 

Gendered Intelligence responds to press enquiry

Today we received a press enquiry from the Times that makes further allegations about Gendered Intelligence and our relationship with the Tavistock and its gender identity service for children and young people. We recently addressed similar allegations made by the Sunday Times. Mermaids has also responded to this enquiry.

We are extremely disappointed that our professional relationship with the GIDS team has been called into question and that the experiences of trans and gender diverse young people and their families continue to be undermined.

We have a professional relationship with the GIDS team. Gendered Intelligence has attended GIDS family days in the past to take part in panel discussions for young people and families to showcase the many varied experiences of gender. These have also involved gender nonconforming people who aren’t trans and trans people who do not undergo medical transition

Gendered Intelligence has been working with young people and their families for over a decade. As an organisation, our aim is to ensure that all young people can feel safe and supported in school, at home and in public. We take our duty of care to all young people seriously, including safeguarding, and encourage other organisations to do so too. Our support of young people sits within an established and recognised youth work practice framework.

With the right support, young trans people can flourish. We recognise that medical intervention is not right for all young trans and gender diverse young people. Young people’s exploration and expression of their gender identity is valid at all stages, no matter where it leads. Equally, access to hormone blockers can be life-saving for some young trans people. Our youth groups provide a safe and supportive space where young people can explore these vital questions. We provide space where it is ok to be uncertain – this is particularly important for young people who are constantly asked to prove their gender identity to adults.

Fundamentally, it is discrimination, prejudice and lack of understanding that creates the biggest problem for trans and gender diverse young people. Over two-thirds of trans pupils are bullied for being trans at school. When young people come to our youth groups, they find recognition, understanding and validation. They leave feeling seen, with new friends and a sense of pride.

But we can’t protect young trans people from the outside world entirely. Our task is to work together to transform society so it not only tolerates but celebrates gender diversity in all its forms. That is the only way that we will make life safe for all young people.

GI’s response to Sunday Times GIDS article

Gendered Intelligence has been working with young people and their families for over a decade. As an organisation our aim is is to ensure that all young people can feel safe and supported. The experiences of our young people inform all the work that we do and our services are centred around supporting them, their families and professionals who work with them. Young people who use our services have a wide range of gender identities and expressions and we believe all of these are valid and real.

We recognise that GIDS provides a vital service for many families who are not able to access appropriate services in their local area. We have worked with GIDS to support our shared service users for many years. This work has included invitations to take part in panel discussions for young people and families to showcase the many varied experiences of gender. These have also involved gender nonconforming people who aren’t trans and trans people who do not undergo medical transition.

We refute the accusations that GIDS is providing unprofessional care and the insinuation that our relationship is based on anything other than a mutual respect for the work that we both do to support young people.  We take issue with the use of hypothetical case studies being misrepresented as fact to undermine the experiences of young people. Gendered Intelligence believes that it is vitally important that the autonomy of each individual young person should be respected.

Trans history for LGBT History Month

Trans Portraits

Below we’ve collected links to profiles on trans and gender diverse people for LGBT History Month. We know there are hundreds more we could have featured, including community champions who are rarely recognised – leave us a comment if you would like us to add a name. The vast majority of the people featured below are from the UK or US and we would appreciate any other international links too.

We’ve tried to link to articles that avoid language that is not in keeping with how historical subjects lived their lives. So often gender diverse historical figures are reduced to their gender assigned at birth, which is taken to be more “truthful” than the gender they expressed, embodied and in many cases explicitly identified as.

Nonetheless, many, if not all, of these articles and blog posts contain references to distressing themes and experiences. These include death, sexual abuse, violence, surgery, rejection and persecution by the law. Bear this in mind when you are reading.

At the same time we see the resilience, brilliance and community spirit of trans and gender diverse people whose legacies have made our work possible today. There is so much to celebrate and to fight for.

Lucy Hicks Anderson – Domestic Worker, US (link to short film from ‘We’ve Been Around’ series)

April Ashley – Model / Actor, UK (link to Wikipedia page)

Georgina Beyer – Politician, New Zealand (link to interview on the Spin Off)

Georgia Black – Domestic Worker, US (link to TransGriot blog)

Kylar Broadus – Lawyer, US (link to personal website)

Marci Bowers – Surgeon, US (link to Washington Post profile)

Roberta Cowell – Racing driver, UK (link to Wikipedia page)

Michael Dillon – Doctor, UK (link to Wikipedia page)

Lili Elbe – Artist, Denmark (link to Wikipedia page)

Jack Bee Garland – Soldier, US (link to Wikipedia page)

Althea Garrison – Politician, US (link to Wikipedia page)

Anna Grodzka – Politician, Poland (link to Vice interview)

Alan Hart – Doctor, US (link to article in Pdx Monthly)

Marsha P Johnson – Activist / Performer, US

Christine Jorgensen – Actress / Entertainer, US (link to Wikipedia page)

Jan Morris – Author/Historian, UK (link to Wikipedia page)

Sylvia Rivera – Trans Activist, US (link to Sylvia Rivera Law Project page

Lou Sullivan – Author / Activist, US (link to short film from ‘We’ve Been Around’ series)

Billy Tipton – Musician, US (link to parenting blog)

Stephen Whittle – Lawyer / Lecturer, UK (link to Wikipedia page)

Indian flag

India’s new transgender rights bill is moving in the wrong direction

The Indian government is currently in the process of passing a piece of legislation that would drastically affect the lives of trans and gender diverse people in the country. The Transgender Persons Bill was passed by India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, on Monday 17th December 2018 in spite of multiple protests by the community against the law. There are multiple issues with the Bill including how it defines who a trans person is, the medicalised process of gender recognition and the impact it will have on the livelihoods of trans people.

The Bill originally defined a trans person as someone who doesn’t identify with the gender assigned at their birth and who is neither “fully” male or female, a “combination” of both or neither. After outrage from the community, this has thankfully been amended but the current definition is still worrying. Instead of simply using “someone who doesn’t identify with the gender assigned at their birth,” the Bill lists multiple identities such as trans men and trans women, intersex and genderqueer people and people with socio-cultural identities such as hijra. The danger is that this could be interpreted to protect only those identities mentioned specifically, rather than being taken to be inclusive of all gender diverse people.

This definition is not the only problematic part of the Bill. Although it introduces a method for legal recognition of a change of gender, the pathway it would provide is very medicalised and sets up a two-tier system that prioritises people who have medically transitioned and undergone bottom surgery. For those who cannot provide evidence that they have had bottom surgery, their application to change their legal gender would go before a screening committee, similar to the Gender Recognition Panels that we are currently trying to reform in the UK.

Additionally, only people who have had bottom surgery could be recognised as male or female. If you were forced to submit your application to the screening panel, you would be recognised in a separate third category. This contravenes both current thinking and a 2014 Indian Supreme Court Judgement that trans people should have the right to self identify. A pathway for legal recognition should respect people’s autonomy while including a legal category of gender beyond the binary choices of male and female. While the Bill does include legal recognition outside of the binary, it enforces a dated and essentialist view of gender that would refuse to recognise many trans men and trans women as their authentic selves. It also puts a cost barrier in the way of many people who cannot afford surgery or lack medical insurance that would cover it, disproportionately affecting the most impoverished people in the community.

It is doubtful that many people would have the option of bypassing the screening panel pathway. The majority of trans and gender diverse people in India support themselves by begging as they are unable to find employment due to discrimination in society and the workplace. It is extremely worrying that the Bill will in fact ban begging specifically by trans and gender diverse people but it will not introduce any employment protections. If people are still facing rampant discrimination that stops them from finding work and they cannot support themselves as they currently are, by begging, how will they survive? This is why many are calling the Bill and this section in particular a death sentence for many in the community.

The LGBTQ+ community in India won a tremendous victory in 2018 with the decriminalisation of homosexuality. But as often happens, trans people are at risk of being left behind. The Bill has not become law yet and protests continue to be held against it, as they have been for over a year. There have already been breakthroughs, such as the changing of the first draft of the Bill’s definition of a trans person. We hope that this triumphant trend continues in 2019 so that trans and gender diverse people in India are granted the protection they deserve and a pathway of legal recognition that respects their dignity.