Categories
LGBT literature media

2020 highlights

As we near the end of a tough year, we want to highlight some of the more positive developments from 2020.

5 Trans women continue playing rugby in England

Rugby Football Union went against the devastating World Rugby ruling and cleared trans women to continue playing domestic women’s rugby in England at all levels. We hope that in the new year this will be reflected internationally too!

4 #TrusstMe halted a further roll-back on trans rights

Although the GRA response was overall disappointing, we want to recognize the enormous campaigning efforts that stopped plans to further exclude trans people from public life. Over 44,000 people mobilised through #TrusstMe and contributed to protecting trans rights in the UK.

3 So many showed up for the trans and non-binary communities!

It’s quite reassuring that we don’t even know where to start! The Trades Union Congress, with 5.5 million members, came out for trans rights while condemning LGB Alliance. More than 200 UK and Irish Publishers signed a letter in support of trans and non-binary rights, and they were joined by over 100 major companies who came together to say that trans rights are human rights. Thousands of ciswomen wrote an open letter to Liz Truss to show their support and solidarity with the trans community. Many celebrities also stood up for trans rights, including Nigella Lawson and Melanie C.

2 Non-binary people are now protected by the Equality Act

Earlier this year an UK employment tribunal ruled that genderfluidity and non-binary identity are covered under the ‘gender reassignment’ protected characteristic of the Equality Act. This could be a ground-breaking precedent and mean that, for the first time, there is explicit protection for non-binary people from discrimination!

1 This year is FINALLY ending!

Frankly, we can’t think of anything better. We are ready for this year to be over! Thank you for all your incredible support, solidarity and energy during this difficult year.

Categories
LGBT literature media

Goodbye, 2020!

We have seen a lot of negative media coverage of trans people this year. But these stories are not the only ones that exist. As this terrible year comes to an end, we reflected on some of our favourite trans media from the last 12 months. This list is by no means exhaustive, but compiles 15 entries of our favourites, listed in no particular order. The suggestions were fielded from Gendered Intelligence staff members, volunteers, and youth group members. 

Adventures in Time and Gender
http://adventuresintimeandgender.org/
Type: Podcast

Content warning: Mention of surgery
Recommended by Jay Stewart, CEO of Gendered Intelligence

In March 2019, a group of researchers held a series of workshops and conversation in Bristol for young trans and non-binary people. These meetings explored the ideas of the sexologists working in Europe and North America in the late 19th– and early 20th-century.  The young people also recorded oral histories with older trans people, to draw out how ideas formulated a hundred years ago still affect the way trans people are treated by the medical system today.

A group of young trans and non-binary people then worked with Gendered Intelligence’s Jason Barker to develop a script for a stage show based on some of the stories that they had encountered. Due to the pandemic, the stage show became a drama podcast, directed by Krishna Istha and featuring a cast of trans and non-binary performers, musicians and sound designers.

“…A young non-binary person and a talking Suitcase travel through time, space and Ikea in search of trans history…”

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She-Ra_and_the_Princesses_of_Power

Type: TV Show
Recommended by Finn the Human, Director of Youth & Communities Services

2020 saw the 5th series installment of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, the animated story of Adora, a teenager who can transform into the heroine She-Ra. The show’s themes cover transformation, alter egos, and true selves, and have thus found favour among the LGBTQIA+ community. This fifth season also introduced the trans character of Jewelstar, voiced by transgender actor Alex Blue Davis. The show is currently available on Netflix.


We are here because of those that are not
https://blacktransarchive.com/

Type: Game
Content warning: Mentions of burial, lost history, deadnames, hormones, misgendering.
Recommended by Cara English, head of Public Engagement

London-based artist Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley’s latest project, WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OF THOSE THAT ARE NOT, is an interactive digital archive video game. Through its trippy and hypnotic landscape, it conveys themes of memory and loss to the player, based on the player’s identity. In the opening frame, it explains:

WELCOME TO THE PRO BLACK PRO TRANS ARCHIVE. THIS INTERACTIVE ARCHIVE WAS MADE TO STORE AND CENTRE BLACK TRANS PEOPLE TO PRESERVE OUR EXPERIENCES, OUR THOUGHTS, OUR FEELINGS, OUR LIVES. TO REMEMBER US EVEN WHEN WE ARE AT RISK OF BEING ERASED. YOUR OWN IDENTITY WILL DETERMINE HOW YOU CAN INTERACT WITH THE ARCHIVE, AS WELL AS WHAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ACCESS. THIS IS PRO BLACK PRO TRANS SPACE. THIS IS NOT YOUR SPACE. THIS IS OUR SPACE. 

Gender Explorers: Our Stories of Growing Up Trans and Changing the World, by Juno Roch
https://pigeonbooks.co.uk/products/gender-explorers-juno-roche

Type: Book
Recommended by Isa Sallinen, Youth Worker

Juno Roche’s latest book is a collection of interviews with young trans people, and offers valuable insight and advice into what has helped them to flourish and feel happy in their experience of growing up trans. As Roche writes, “I believe that children who are questioning and exploring their gender are the gender bosses that we all so desperately need. I believe that they are our future.”

Winter Support Hub, Sabah Choudrey
https://sabahchoudrey.com/2020/12/12/winter-support-hub/
Type: Blog
Recommended by Sasha Padziarei, Senior Mentoring Practitioner

Gendered Intelligence’s own Sabah Choudrey has created a winter support hub on their blog, built with queer, trans, people of colour youth in mind. It includes lots of handy support and links for help with mental health, self-care, gender dysphoria and much more. As it says on the blog: “…find what you need, take what you want and look after yourself.”

Trans 20.20s
https://www.studiovoltaire.org/exhibitions/archive/trans-2020s-juliet-jacques/
Type: Podcast
Recommended by: Cara English, head of Public Engagement

Trans 20:20s, is a beautiful eight–part series of podcasts created by leading writer, filmmaker and trans stalwart Juliet Jacques. The series features interviews with some of GI’s young people, looking at life for young trans, non-binary and gender diverse people from across the UK and beyond, at the start of the 2020’s. The series shows trans young people for who they are: the articulate, reasoned people we all knew they would be.

Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disclosure:_Trans_Lives_on_Screen

Type: Documentary
Age rating: 15
Content warning: transphobia, violence, sexual violence
Recommended anonymously.

Disclosure is a documentary directed by Sam Feder and executive produced by Laverne Cox, exploring the history of trans representation on screen. Clips from films and television depicting trans people are played, and trans activists and artists provide nuanced and critical responses to them, including how race, colonialism and capitalism intersect with trans issues. The documentary offers necessary context on how the current norms of trans representation came to be, how they’ve changed, and how much is still to be done. Trans people were prioritised in every aspect of production – for roles where they were unable to find a trans crew member, a cis crew member would mentor a trans fellow. It’s currently available on Netflix.

Are You a Boy or a Girl?
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000p7b3

Type: Radio show
Recommended by Susie O’Connor, volunteer

Radio Four Series (available on BBC Sounds app) by comedian, Sarah Keyworth. A funny and sharply observed exploration of gender identity in modern society, Keyworth explores her personal journey with gender fluidity and androgyny to shed light on why gender still remains such an important issue in the 21st century.

Euphoria: Trouble Don’t Last
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10636622/
Type: TV program
Age: 18+
Content warning: partial nudity; references to drug use and addiction; strong language.
Recommended anonymously.

A gritty teen drama following a young woman experiencing addiction, and her girlfriend, who is trans. This follows on from the series released in 2019, with a young trans woman as a main character in a darker, grittier version of Skins (but with good acting, and good direction and script). In this episode, it focuses on the cisgender main character and her relationship with drug use. All of Euphoria is really well done and some really well written trans stories. It’s hard to describe in a way that sounds good, but just watch it and see for yourself!

First Day
https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000ly4c/first-day
Type: TV show
Recommended by Susie O’Connor, volunteer

A beautiful Australian drama about a twelve year old transgender girl, Hannah Bradford, as she adjusts to high school at the start of a new year. She must navigate the social and personal issues of her early teenage years, while also dealing with the pressures of her gender identity, which is largely private at the beginning of the series. Overriding themes include the focus on identity and belonging, and the exploration of trans rights.

Gender Reveal
https://www.genderpodcast.com/
Type: Podcast
Content warning: Each episode has relevant content warnings in the description
Recommended by Beth Easton (Gendered Intelligence Activist Network & Trans Spokeperson)


Gender Reveal explores the vast diversity of trans experiences through interviews with a wide array of trans, non-binary and two-spirit people. The show interviews trans artists and activists, answers listener questions, analyzes current events, and aims to get a little bit closer to understanding what the heck gender is. The show has been running since 2018, but 2020 saw interviews with Addison Rose Vinvent, Daniel M. Lavery, Morgan Givens, and many more. 

How top surgery works, by NOAHFINNCE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPrtb5-dqxQ
Type: YouTube video
Recommended by Ollie, volunteer
Content warning: Mention of surgical processes, scarring and colloquial words. May be uncomfortable for some.

This is a very informative video about three common types of top surgery: double incision, peri-areolar and keyhole. Throughout the video there is visualisation of where scarring would occur after surgery, which is very helpful to see! Whilst Noah isn’t a medical professional, he clearly outlines what all three processes entail, as well as the main pros and cons of each method and who it may be suitable for. This is a great video for anyone considering getting top surgery, or for those who just want to learn about the process. There were even things about my own method of surgery that I didn’t know about!

The Last of Us, Part II
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_of_Us_Part_II

Type: Playstation Game

Age range: 18+
Content warning: graphic violence, swearing, deadnaming, transphobia, misgendering
Recommended anonymously.

The Last of Us, Part II is a survival game in a world infected by a zombie-ish plague. During the story, the player encounters a young trans person (voiced by a trans actor) and the character joins the team. The game received some criticism from trans people at the time as it contains some retelling of trauma (including deadnaming of the character) and the game is violent and graphic. However, the story is ultimately told in a sensitive way, thinking carefully about gender in an imagined post-apocalyptic context. 

Little Girl
https://www.curzonhomecinema.com/film/watch-little-girl-film-online

Type: Documentary
Recommended by Susie O’Connor, volunteer

A touching French documentary movie about a young trans girl. Society fails to treat 7-year-old Sasha like the other children her age – in her daily life at school, dance lessons or birthday parties – her supportive family, and in particular her doting mother, leads a constant battle to make her difference understood and accepted.

T, by Laurel Uziell
http://material-s.blogspot.com/2020/10/laurel-uziell-t.html
Type: Poetry book
Recommended by Georgie, Administrator
Content warning: Mention of ‘gender critical’ arguments and terminology; some strong language.

‘T’ is a long form poem from Laurel Uziell covering the ‘debate’ around trans rights, and the consequences of those arguments on the ambiguity of trans life in the UK. The poem morphs from parodies of legalese, to quoted excerpts of police ‘gender sensitivity training’, an imagined dialogue during the Rebecca Riots, and even a play entitled ‘the gender (mis)recognition, act x’.

“…Real Life is obviously fucking horrible. Just like real men, real women, real abstraction, the real economy, really existing socialism, real sex, real hair, real hip bones, reality TV, real extensions of our real limbs, real pronouns, real community, real terror, very real threats, real data, real desire, real jobs, a real family, real citizens, the real deal, fake real, the real world, which is made up of everything real and everything which is not real forced to face each other even as their backs are stuck together with real glue (which is a metaphor), holding on to the borders that could make this real, you must submit yourself to this: it is called Experience, it is not something you have or own but that which is thrust upon you even by yourself and it is real or not real and it is your fault and when you stop for even a moment it catches up with you and collapses on your throat in real time…”

Categories
media trans youth

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.

Categories
media mental health trans youth

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.

Categories
media trans youth

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.

Categories
media

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.