Categories
allies bodily autonomy Gender Recognition Act GEO policy

Our message to the PM

To write directly to the PM, please use our form here.

Dear Prime Minister,

I’m writing to you today as a UK citizen deeply concerned about proposed rollbacks to safeguards for trans dignity and safety in this country. On 14th June, The Sunday Times had as its front page an article on how the much-needed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act were being shelved. Compounding the trans community’s worries about this was that in the same article, prospective plans were revealed that would tighten the screw of exclusion for trans people from single-sex spaces.

The consultation period on the Gender Recognition Act was very difficult for the trans community – trans lives and dignity were debated as though a minority’s right to existence itself was up for debate. Still, 70% of respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of positive change. To ignore this would send a clear message to the country that engaging through democratic means does not lead to positive changes for the most marginalised. This would, of course, be a worrying message to signal from yourself as Prime Minister and I would urge you not to greenlight it.

The threat of rollbacks to trans rights, dignity, and legal protections in the UK cannot be overstated. I’m asking you to carefully consider the direction you wish to take with regards to the dignity of one of the most marginalised groups in this country. Please do not allow trans lives to be used as a pawn in a game they didn’t ask to play – trans people simply want to get on with their lives in safety and in peace.

Unduly excluding trans people from public life would be a huge step in the wrong direction, and a monumental loss to the UK’s proud human rights record. Please do not allow this to happen under your watch.

Categories
bodily autonomy Gender Recognition Act GEO policy trans inclusion trans rights trans youth

What is an irreversible decision?

As part of our newly-launched BAEB campaign, Gendered Intelligence CEO, Dr Jay Stewart has written on the idea of bodily autonomy for trans people.

Who has the right to bodily autonomy?

In a film called Gendernauts by Monika Treut, (1999), trans historian Susan Stryker said:

It’s been a really powerful way of feeling that I’m in control of my own body, that it’s like saying: my body belongs to me and I’m going to do with it as I choose… I have the right or the ability to exercise complete control over this flesh. I live here. I don’t rent, I’m not borrowing it from someone. I didn’t have to pay a damage deposit. It’s mine. To do with it as I see fit. … [it’s] my responsibility. (Monika Treut 1999– interview with Susan Stryker)

This was the single most important utterance that I had heard when I was developing an understanding of my own gender, and emerging trans identity at the turn of the millennium. The principle of bodily autonomy as a human right is stated clearly. I am in my own body. It is mine. And it is ultimately my responsibility. There is a sense of graveness but also freedom in this revelation.

Bodies are also routinely regulated by the state and societal norms pervade our thinking in relation to our own bodies and indeed in the way that we judge and police other bodies. So, I recognise the tensions between freedom and constraint. Nonetheless in contemporary discourse when it comes to trans adults’ lives the sentiment of bodily autonomy is appreciated widely. But what about people who are under 18 years old? Do they have a right to bodily autonomy?

On 22nd April, Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss, gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee. Here she set out her priorities for the Government Equalities Office. In response to the reform to the Gender Recognition Act, she stated:

“…not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but [one which] is relevant, [is] making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.”

What is an irreversible decision?

Being a legal adult means something in society. It means the ability to take responsibility for your actions. Children are granted differing levels of responsibility which builds throughout childhood and teenage life before developing into an independent adulthood. With this comes degrees of freedom and opportunity to take decisions  which is generated from demonstrating an ability to take ownership of  responsibilities. It’s an iterative process.

For instance, I have ten year old twins and for Christmas last year one of my children wanted an iPhone 11 pro, whilst the other wanted a snake. Having your own smartphone (we settled on an iPhone 7) is a key moment in a child’s and indeed their carer’s/parent’s life. As they step into their own digital social world, I worry. It’s important that I learn about what’s involved – what are the risks? Of course, my constant thought is that I want to protect my child. Allowing my child to have a smartphone involves ongoing conversations about trust. We agree some basic rules. We equip ourselves and educate ourselves about how to keep safe and my child must embrace the responsibility that is involved in having a smart phone.

Now, what about the snake – well that’s another dilemma. Will the child look after it, feed, clean out its vivarium? Will the child take responsibility? In addition to this, did you know corn snakes live ‘til they’re 20 and that potentially would make my child will be 30 by the time it dies? That’s quite a commitment for a 10-year-old. However, giving a child an opportunity to be responsible is part of watching them grow. And of course, as responsible adults we are the back-up plan; we are there to catch our young people if they need us.

Entering teenage years the journey continues towards independence. Choosing GCSEs, A or T Levels, who to be friends with, who to break friends with, ear and other piercings, emerging sexualities and life experimentation. Decisions are happening all of the time. Which ones can be categorised as ‘irreversible’ is hard to say.

Okay, so let’s talk about gender

So, how does this relate to gender? Currently when we are born we are given a gender – an emphatic ‘it’s a boy’ or ‘it’s a girl’. That decision is based on genitalia. Each of us has no say in the gender that we are given. One could argue that it’s the first non-consensual act.  We think of ‘being a boy’ or ‘being a girl’ as a very normal part of human existence, natural even. However we don’t have to dig too deep to know that gender is a fundamental aspect of social life and there are deeply embedded social expectations to behave in particular ways based on the gender that we have been given.

What if you don’t behave in these particular ways? Or can’t? What can a person do?

At Gendered Intelligence we run groups for young people who feel that the gender that was given to them (the gender that they didn’t choose), doesn’t feel right to them. Being trans is an identity category or label that some individuals— including young people— take on for themselves. It is a word that we use to explain something about our gender where we are saying ‘hang on folks! The gender that you’re putting on me – it’s not right. It doesn’t feel right.’

Some individuals will use this term about themselves and feel empowered. Finally we are able to communicate something about our sense of self, about our inner feelings to the world around us, including our loved ones and family members.

Some will try on the label and take it off again – it’s not for them after all. Young people are welcome to come to GI to explore their gender and if they find that actually they come to the conclusion that they’re not trans, then of course that’s okay too. No judgement on the proverbial journey!

It’s not for anyone else to tell another person that they’re trans, or indeed that they’re not.

Being trans or becoming trans involves a process of self-determination. Not all identity categories work this way. I think sexual orientation also involves a process of self-determination in the sense that an individual might say, “I’m a lesbian. That description helps me to organise and communicate my principle desires for other women”. Not that people actually talk like that!

The problem with society is that being trans, like being lesbian, gay or bisexual, involves us saying ‘hey, I’m not the thing others have put on me and assumed me to be. I am different to that’. Despite strides made by the LGBT rights movement over the past decades, society continues to assume a person is heterosexual until they tell us otherwise. Likewise, we assume that a person, a baby born and a child growing up, is okay with the gender that they’ve been given or at least that they don’t have any intentions to change it (we often call this cisgender). In short, LGBT people go against the ‘norm’.

So, here we are at the crunch point – let’s imagine there is a person under the age of 18, who is telling the people around them that they do not feel themselves to be the gender that they have been given  – what actual decisions are ahead of them? And who is making them?

What is an irreversible decision? Or where may the harm lie?

Truss’s concern around individuals making ‘irreversible’ decisions is a hangover from a medically framed model of being trans. When a trans person chooses to have medical intervention, they do this in dialogue with a health practitioner who is a specialist in gender care. The doctors’ code of ‘do no harm’ provides an ethical dilemma around balancing the rights of an individual to bodily autonomy and the ability to take responsibility for themselves, with that of the duty of care a statutory funded health practitioner has to their patient.

One way doctors have dealt with this is to differentiate the treatments between that which is ‘reversible’ from that which is considered to be ‘irreversible’.  Before a person undergoes any kind of medical treatment via a Gender Identity Clinic or a Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), they will carry out social actions that are changeable, moveable and if wanted also reversible. They are not fixed acts. For instance, to start using a different name, to try it out and seeing how it feels   As a person goes about their daily life, they might try to experiment with their gender expression – clothes, haircuts, make up, or with their mannerisms, walk, voice etc. There is a lot in social life that a person can change if they wish to – all of which are not harmful and are, if you choose to think of it this way, ‘irreversible’.

This is about experimenting with the ways in which our expression feels authentic to us as individuals, where we feel that we are being most real, where we feel settled in our self (as much as possible anyhow – I’m being cautious here if we are to recognise the complexities of a world that highly regulates body image, as indeed, we regulate those of others).

Trans people, including those under 18, should be – and indeed are – free to change any of these social aspects of what we would call ‘gender’. This is because we have the right to be able to autonomously express ourselves and that should be respected.

It is in the refusal to respect a trans person’s wishes where harm is caused. And yet, to use a trans person’s name and pronoun can be such a small act on the part of those around us and the difference can be so very validating for us.  And if a person changes their name and pronoun again, or returns to a previous one, or goes onto wear a totally different style of clothes again, or in anyway reflects a different gender expression again, then that’s all perfectly acceptable. It all forms part of the rich tapestry of diverse life. The more openness to explore the better for everyone.

Likewise if a person feels confident with their name and they want to change important documents they can do that – there are processes to change names on passports, getting a deedpoll, changing names on exam certificates and if the person needs to change their name again and again, going back to their previous gender marker, then it is entirely possible – it is reversible, if you choose to think about it like that.

So what about body changes?

Families and young people who attend the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) will discuss options around the treatment that will change their bodies. Some children (usually around 10-12 years old) might explore puberty blocking treatment. For anyone younger than this, there is no hormone treatment or medical intervention of any kind. Puberty blocking treatment is reversible in the sense that when administered it stops puberty progressing and, if treatment stops, puberty kicks back in (like pressing the pause button – this is how it is currently understood).

For 16 year olds who want their bodies to masculinise through testosterone or feminise through oestrogen (sometimes called cross sex hormones) they will need to have been on puberty blockers for at least a year. Remember -sixteen is the age that a person can access health services and administer medicines without consent from their legal guardian; they can also get married, pregnant and join the army – all pretty responsible stuff.

So here we have a picture –  a young person and their legal guardians have been in GIDS services for some time, they will have attended several appointments, talked about their relationship to gender and what they would like to happen; they will have had the opportunity to explore and express their gender in everyday life and be continuing to do that; they may have made some changes to their identity documentation, been put on puberty blockers and, at the age of 16, go on cross sex hormones. At 18, they may consider surgery – as Liz Truss MP says, they would “have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit”.

GIDS is there to provide a space to discuss and explore – what does the young person want, what do the family members think, what are some of the concerns everyone has, what do we know about the choices that are available? It’s important that there is space for discussion, exploration and to get the right information in order to support decision making. Parents and carers are involved.  Staff in schools are involved. Sometimes Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are involved. Therapists and counsellors are involved. Gendered Intelligence, along with a whole number of LGBT charitable and voluntary sector organisations, may be  involved. We make up a collective of professionals around the child – thinking about what is in the child’s best interests, safeguarding them, holding them at the centre, listening to their wishes, supporting them in the respective roles that we have, asking ourselves ‘where the harm lie?’ We each bear our own responsibilities here, and recognise that the young person has responsibilities too. No one is rushing (in fact waiting lists are long!) There are no quick decisions made out of nowhere.

There is always a context – an iterative process of decision making.

We need to do away with the false dichotomy of ‘reversible’ and ‘irreversible’ when talking about young trans people and decision making. It’s not useful. What is useful is for adults to process their fears of gifting children their right to autonomy. We all know that young people thrive when given responsibility. We also know that, as adults, we should be supporting and reassuring young people, providing a safety net beneath them, working with them.

Trans, gender questioning and gender diverse people, especially those under 18 years of age, need more support not less. We need less judgement, not more.

Categories
allies careers policy trans inclusion workplace

Trans representation and casting. Where are we at?

Jay Stewart, CEO of Gendered Intelligence

As a trans-led organisation, Gendered Intelligence wants to see more roles for trans actors as well as trans people represented in all aspects of the creative process of theatre and performance making (trans writers, trans directors, trans stage managers etc.) Trans people, including young trans people, need to see themselves positively represented on stage and elsewhere.

Trans people face significant barriers in their careers in the creative industries. These are often due to barriers of opportunity to learn and gain skills, as well as experiencing prejudice in the industry itself. In addition, trans people can experience internalised transphobia (the learnt shame of being trans) and consequently have feelings of low self-worth and confidence. We need to work together to remove these barriers in order that all trans and gender diverse people thrive and fulfil their potential.

Gendered Intelligence wants to be part of the change that needs to happen.

At Gendered Intelligence we deliver training and consultancy with organisations to support them in their understandings and in working towards their delivery of trans inclusive services. These services include working with theatres and drama schools. We want all trans people to feel welcomed and supported, whether they are employees, customers or students.

Some will know that Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival co-produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and in association with the Donmar Warehouse are working in collaboration on a musical theatre production of Breakfast On Pluto. The production is based on a book written in 1998 and is about a young Irish trans person in the 1970s.

On Monday 9th March they released a press release about the production, which included information that they had cast a cis actor to a trans role. 

Gendered Intelligence was not involved in the casting process of Breakfast on Pluto and suffice to say Gendered Intelligence does not endorse the casting of a cis actor to a trans role.

We did arrange to deliver consultancy and training for staff at the Donmar Warehouse who reached out to us in order to work with the team to ensure trans inclusive practices will be carried out in the run up to the production. Indeed, we have carried this out with a number of other theatres over the years.

In addition to GI delivering this work, there was discussion around recognising the difficulty and complexity of the task in casting for trans characters. The identity of the character Pussy Braden is both trans and Irish. We also discussed the skillset required in the mix with it being a musical.

Having already cast for the production, our discussions moved to considering those wider, ongoing aims mentioned earlier – to nurture trans talent in the theatre industry. So, a question we posed was:

What could the Donmar, their partners on ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ and the industry more generally, do in order to invest in trans actors and to ensure that things change for the better, so that we won’t see the casting of trans roles going to cis actors?

One idea we had was for the Donmar to donate space for a trans led show, that Gendered Intelligence is involved with. The show is written by trans artist, with a group of young trans people. The show will be directed by a trans person and performed by an all trans cast. The show will involve a short tour across different parts of the country, but this gave us an opportunity to showcase trans talent and tell trans stories at a large theatre space in London where we could offer low and no-cost tickets for a predominantly trans audience alongside our allies.

Another idea was to arrange a showcase later in the autumn period to, once again, showcase trans talent and create discussion and debate about the experiences, representation and politics of trans people in the industry.

Other actions taken by the production have been the employment of two people, who have shared their trans status, in the job roles of production consultant and Assistant Director, as well as a trans academic to curate a ‘wrap around programme’ in Galway and Dublin.

My view is that these actions were taken in good faith to further contribute to the ultimate aim of increasing opportunities for trans people in the theatre industry. I am not of the opinion that these efforts are cynical acts on the part of the Donmar, and their partners, as a way to legitimise decisions around the casting of a cis actor to a trans role.

Some people may feel that the casting decision far outweighs any other positive endeavour. It sends the wrong message and ultimately is highly inappropriate, especially given our current climate of increasing toxicity in the media. Some believe that there are talented trans people out there and more efforts needs to be made to cast them into these important high-profile roles. Others have highlighted how damaging it is to have cis performers playing trans roles. Whilst others still feel that it should be trans people telling trans stories. In short, a line needs to be drawn: no more cis actors for trans parts.

I want to say that I applaud these sentiments.

In 2015, GI began its Trans Acting project – a project that engages with trans and non-binary people’s place within the creative and cultural sector. Over the years we have engaged with over 200 people who have participated in a range of masterclasses, panel discussions and workshops. The Trans Acting project began as a collaboration with the My Genderation duo (Fox Fisher and Lewis Hancock) and Dr Catherine McNamara now Head of School (Art, Design & Performance), at University of Portsmouth. At Trans Acting we want to develop and deliver high quality trans-inclusive performer training with trans and non-binary participants, nurture the creativity and talent of trans and non-binary participants, give producers, directors and others involved in making TV, film, radio, theatre and other media access to that talent and share a model of practice that might be used by other practitioners and professionals.

Over the years, we’ve worked with a range of organisations including the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Royal Court Theatre, Scottish Queer International Film Festival and BFI Flare. Partners in delivering the project include Outbox, an LGBT Theatre Company with a remit of making performance and doing outreach with young LGBT people.

Trans Acting, among others, are the initiatives needed to nurture talent and profile it in the West End and elsewhere.

Thinking back to 2015, I am reminded of an article I did about The Danish Girl – a Hollywood movie about trans woman Lily Elbe (played by Eddie Redmayne). I wrote:

Representing trans lives in films or elsewhere is a nightmare task for anyone and I applaud anyone who gives it a shot. But this film [The Danish Girl] made by cis (non-trans) people and performed by mostly cis people… will be mostly watched by cis people.

Claudia Rankine…  argued in The Guardian that “Blackness in the white imagination has nothing to do with black people” and I… want to make this parallel.

These films are not for ‘us’ trans people and yet ‘we’ view them nonetheless. What kind of politics emerges specifically from a trans perspective? We are living in very interesting political times right now when it comes to trans equality. We need to make films like The Danish Girl (and the public encounter that comes with it) count. The story of Lilly and Gerda is extraordinary, challenging and painful. So talk about it. Discuss with friends over dinner, colleagues at work, family members, in the classroom. And when you do this ask yourselves “What is the politic here?”, or to put it another way: “Who gets to say what about whom – to whom?”

In 2020, there is certainly more engagement with trans people when producing plays about trans people. But we are still a long way off from bridging the gap between the ways in which mainstream plays portray trans lives, with that of the amazing, rich, intelligent, nuanced, and often quite hilarious ways in which trans and queer people create art works that are by us and for us.

So, I’m still pondering: how can we utilise this debate of casting to progress the aim of getting trans talent nurtured and out there? What is a good way forward? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

Gendered Intelligence is holding a roundtable ‘think tank’ space for trans people currently working in the industry. If you are keen to attend or can’t make it but want to contribute your thoughts email me: jay.stewart@genderedintelligence.co.uk.

Categories
bodily autonomy policy trans rights trans youth

Judicial Review on GIDS

This case is about trying to draw a near-invisible line in the sand about what healthcare can and should be offered to young people and what should be denied. This is an arbitrary distinction: a child can be informed of any consequences and be expected to fully consent to any other life-saving treatment where possible, but we’re expected to believe this is magically untrue of treatment around gender dysphoria. At the heart of this case lies a mission to run roughshod over the legal precedent of Gillick competence.

With waiting times creeping into the years, gatekeeping of options for young people with gender dysphoria – whether intentional or not – is already causing acute distress to a population who deserve and demand robust and proper care. If our response to young people in distress is to compound these feelings, we are failing them. These people know themselves, know their bodies and know what it right for them individually. Where there exists Gillick competence, they consent in the fullest terms, after several consultations with the NHS’s only service for them, to the treatment which is right for them. Some young trans and non-binary people may choose to take puberty blockers until a time where they can safely and legally access medication which may help them feel more congruent in their gender.

Either a young person can consent to their medical treatment when presented with all known information about that treatment, or they cannot. These are highly individualised conversations which cannot be reduced to simple talking points or a reductive rolling back of enshrined rights through the courts. If we were, as a society, to allow for children to be stripped of their agency when choosing what’s right for them, we set off a dangerous domino effect of others deciding what is and isn’t right for all of us. If this case is successful in removing Mrs A’s child’s right to consent to medical treatment, the line in the sand is removed: A loss to trans youth is a loss to all.

Categories
bodily autonomy equal marriage family LGBT Northern Ireland policy

A huge leap for equality in Northern Ireland

Gendered Intelligence’s Policy lead, Cara English, grew up in Belfast, and reflects on what news laws on equal marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland mean to her and other LGBTQ people.

Time for Equality
Image from the Love Equality NI campaign

On the 21st October, the political parties in Northern Ireland failed to restart the Assembly (our devolved parliament), allowing for a cross-party Westminster bill on equal marriage and legalised abortion to come into place.

Despite certain Northern Ireland Assembly members’ last minute effort to sit in session and have the law fall at its final hurdle, the power-sharing agreement that is the bedrock of NI politics meant that – with Sinn Fein unwilling to act against its ostensible human rights agenda – Northern Ireland will soon have equal marriage and bodily autonomy laws.

This has been a very long time coming and as such it has been strangely difficult to navigate the apprehension and the jubilation. I decided to go home to celebrate, as I’d missed the chance to do so when the Republic of Ireland voted to equalise the law in 2015. When you grow up a little pudgy, working class child from the third most deprived constituency in the UK, you’re not expected to want for much. But the people of Northern Ireland wanted more, fought for more and got more.

As the countdown clock ticked down in Belfast’s gay village (more of a hamlet, really), everything felt electric, the start of something new. Apart from a flying, one-day visit, I hadn’t been home in years and wasn’t prepared for how much the city, and myself, had changed. North Belfast is a tough place to grow up as a queer person, so it seemed like a natural step for me to get out as soon as I could. But standing in the bar as the drag queen started shouting “ten! nine! ei—“, I felt a deep sense of awe at all of my queer siblings who had stayed, who had fought for a better Northern Ireland just by existing openly in a way I felt I couldn’t have. It makes me proud of the amazing organisations doing good work in Northern Ireland, such as Cara-FriendSAIL and our friends at TransgenderNI.

Now we will legally have equal marriage for same-sex couples and some of the least restrictive rights around bodily autonomy in Europe. This isn’t just a massive win for lesbian, bisexual, gay and queer people, but a win for women and others who can get pregnant which would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago.

Northern Ireland may still not have anything approaching the legal protections afforded to trans Britons under the Equality Act 2010, but we’re taking huge forward leaps. To the tireless campaigners who refused to kowtow to the push against their right to equality and to bodily autonomy, Gendered Intelligence stands in solidarity with you and wants to say – go raibh maith agat, thenks, thank you.

Categories
policy research

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.

Categories
international policy trans rights

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.

Categories
international policy trans rights

Policy Breakthroughs in 2018

2018 was a turbulent year for our community.

We faced challenges from the invigorated far-right but we also saw progress all over the world. It has felt discouraging at points to see a backlash in society after the ‘Trans Tipping Point’ in 2015. Yet we still saw incredible wins in a number of areas. When many loud voices in the media are shouting you down it can be easy to lose sight of the gains we have made as a community. So we’re leaving the negativity in 2018 and going into 2019 looking back at 3 breakthroughs in policy around the world  in the last 12 months:

  1. The Scottish GRA Consultation

Skimming over the media coverage surrounding the Gender Recognition Act Consultation in England and Wales, we’re going to focus on the results from the Scottish equivalent that were released in September. The Scottish Consultation looked at many of the same issues as Westminster’s such as making the process of legal recognition less bureaucratic, lowering the age limit for applications and making the process inclusive of non-binary people. But it was held a few months earlier, closing in March 2018. We haven’t received a detailed report on the consultation but the Scottish Government have released a very encouraging letter with a preliminary evaluation of the responses. Excitingly, a majority of respondents agreed with the Scottish Government’s proposals to demedicalise the process of legal recognition. There was also majority support to lower the age limit so young people aged 16 and 17 can change the gender marker on their birth certificate. Finally, almost two thirds of people were on board with the introduction of legal recognition for non-binary people!

2. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act

Pakistan passed one of the world’s most progressive pieces of legislation relating to trans rights in May. The trans community in Pakistan faces severe levels of discrimination with many people struggling to find employment. The government had previously brought in legal recognition of the khawaja sira, a gender-diverse community who have been part of South Asian society for centuries, with the introduction of an additional sex/gender marker on official documentation. The 2018 Act allows any trans person to not only self-identify under the additional gender marker, but also to self-identify as any gender. It has also established safe houses for trans people and created provisions for physical and mental healthcare for the community.

3. Non-Binary Recognition in the USA

In the face of the Trump administration’s attempted rollback of trans rights, there have been many positive policy changes at state level in the USA. People in Washington, Oregon, Maine, Arkansas and Colorado can now apply for identification documents that recognise people outside of the gender binary. Similar policies will be introduced in Massachusetts and California in 2019. At a federal level, Dana Zzym who brought a case against the Colorado State Government for its refusal to issue a driving license without an M or F marker, won a case against the US State Department with the judge ruling that the department’s refusal to issue a passport a passport without an M or F marker exceeded its authority.

In addition to the above progress in policy seen around the world, we’ve also seen a leap forward in trans representation in the media with trans characters in Supergirl and Emmerdale and the release of Pose featuring 50 trans characters, with the largest cast of trans actors for a TV series and a trans producer!

Our community has continued to see amazing progress in terms of policies, media and culture. We are supported by hundreds of thousands of allies around the world. If you look at all the ground we’ve gained over the last 12 months, there is a lot to be proud of and we can be hopeful looking forward to 2019.

From all of us at Gendered Intelligence, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Categories
Gender Recognition Act policy trans youth

Young people and the Gender Recognition Act

Gendered Intelligence’s stance on gender recognition reform for young people

When the Government announced its consultation on the Gender Recognition Act in July of this year, what we were hoping for was a robust enquiry into how we can best reform legal gender recognition in the UK for the benefit of all trans people, including young trans people.

With our work at GI being centred around young trans and gender diverse people, we were disappointed that there were no questions explicitly about their experiences of dealing with the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). This seems like a missed opportunity to meaningfully explore options for gender recognition with young people whose current and future well-being depends on updates to the GRA, especially in the current climate where increasingly vocal, transphobic rhetoric questions  trans people’s very existence. If Scotland can ask these questions, why couldn’t England and Wales?

It’s so important to get the biggest and most useful change for the most amount of people, taking special consideration of those who’d otherwise be ignored or left behind. We need to get this right, or we’ll be waiting another 14 years before there’s any hope of reform again.

If you’re a young person or ally

There are a few opportunities to shoehorn answers into the consultation response by young trans people or their allies. Questions 10 and 11 are the most obvious, where the interaction between age and the GRA is talked about. We’ve some guidance here on what we might write for these questions, but the best answers will always come from the heart and from direct experience. There are other opportunities throughout the consultation response, such as questions 1 and 2. Question 5 asks about documentary evidence of gender, which is something many young people are going to struggle to get, and this is just another one of the many places where young people’s experiences can be talked about.

What Gendered Intelligence has been doing

When the Scottish Government undertook its own consultation on Gender Recognition Act reform, it asked for feedback on its proposed options for young people. Our view now is the same as then: that young people know who they are, that approaches that affirm their gender are the best for young people and the people they know, and that the baseline for respect and recognition needs to be much higher than it is.

Our policy officer has been meeting the young people we work with at their youth groups, asking them what their first-hand experiences are with the GRA and how the process might be improved. By and large, they said the same thing over and over again:

  • This isn’t rocket science.
  • We know who we are.
  • Fix it and fix it now.
  • Make sure everyone who needs access to the process can get it.

Gendered Intelligence’s take on young trans people and the GRA

Whilst we’re all too aware that this isn’t being explicitly consulted on, we need to be making a stand and speaking up for those the reformed Act may continue to leave out.

It seems so obvious that 16 and 17 year olds should have full, autonomous access to the GRA process that it needn’t even be mentioned, but here we are! At 16, a person can change their name, receive any medical or even surgical treatment they want, and can even marry. There would be absolutely no logic to deny extending the GRA to 16 and 17 year olds, and ultimately we don’t see any real pushback to this.

None of the options given in the Scottish Government’s consultation for under-16s were perfect, but some were better than others. Obviously there needs to be some system in place, and some of these templates could be easily mirrored down in England and Wales, making for a seamless system across Britain.

Gendered Intelligence is asking for a system of legal gender recognition for under-16s through parental application, with the option of application by a capable child where parental consent can’t or won’t be given. A system of parental application might be best as it works under the assumption that the young person will have parental consent and support, which is ultimately one of the biggest factors in how successful and happy a transition is for a young person and their family.

Of course, the reality is that many young people of all gender identities don’t have much parental support, so there has to be something in place for them. We’re asking for a system of ‘application by capable child’, wherein a capable young person can access the GRA process by providing a statutory declaration. Application by capable child as the only option would make the process longer and should only be as a fall-back option where parental consent isn’t granted.

Young people’s access to a system of legal gender recognition that works for them must be guaranteed. Their right to recognition cannot be muted or discounted simply because of their age.

Making a better future

Having worked with young trans and gender diverse people over many years, we see them for themselves  – the full range of young people just being themselves, in their own unique ways. There can be no doubt that they should have the right to be recognised in the gender they know themselves to be.

Now’s the time to refuse to be belittled, to refuse to be silenced, to speak truth to power and make the world a better place for young trans and gender diverse people. I hope you’ll join us.

Categories
Gender Recognition Act policy trans rights

What does Scotland think about gender recognition?

The Scottish Government have released an update following their recent consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 which closed in March 2018. The letter published on their website includes a brief analysis of the results to some of the key questions posed to the public. Gender recognition is a devolved area of law in Scotland and reforms to the GRA 2004 are an ongoing conversation in both Westminster and Holyrood.

The first results from the consultation are positive and suggest that a significant number of people are in favour of making gender recognition less restrictive, to include young trans people under 18 and non-binary people.

Over fifteen and a half thousand responses were received, including submissions from 162 organisations covering a wide range of interests from trans and wider LGBTQ community groups, women’s groups and religious bodies. Excitingly, a majority of people who responded supported the Scottish Government’s proposal of a demedicalised model of gender recognition that does not rely on the approval of a panel of “experts”.

Under this model, Scotland would introduce reforms similar to those seen in Ireland and Canada where people do not need evidence from a medical professional to change their legal gender. The model that we would be most likely to see in the UK would be statutory declaration, where people would sign a legal document in front of a witness such as a solicitor.

There was also an encouraging result for young people aged 16 and 17. A majority of submissions agreed that these young people who are old enough to marry, join the army and vote in Scotland, should also be able to change their legal gender.

For children up to the age of 16, less than a third of respondents said they should remain excluded from being able to have their legal gender changed, with this figure rising to just over a third for children under the age of 12. Almost a quarter of people thought a capable child under 16 should be able to apply to change their gender and a similar number of people thought children should be able to apply with parental agreement.

Finally, almost two thirds of respondents agreed that non-binary people deserve legal recognition in Scotland. This would also mirror reforms seen in places such as in Australia, New Zealand and parts of the USA. A similar figure also thought the Equality Act 2010 should be amended to include all non-binary people in its protections against discrimination. Currently, the protected characteristic is ‘gender reassignment’, not gender identity, which was written to cover people undergoing a medical pathway of transition and is therefore not inclusive of all trans people.

The results of the Scottish consultation are an encouraging indicator that there is an appetite to reform laws to better include trans and non-binary people in parts of the UK. 14 years ago, the GRA 2004 was one of the most progressive pieces of legislation for trans people in the world. The results from this consultation show that spirit of inclusion is still alive and that change is possible.

There are only a few weeks until the English consultation closes. It is so important that trans people, their families and their friends make sure their voices are heard. We have a once in a generation opportunity to make legal gender recognition easier, more affordable and demedicalise the process.

If you haven’t yet submitted a response but are finding the process a little confusing, we will be running a drop in on the 6th October where you can fill out the consultation with support from our staff and volunteers. We also have online guidance to help you respond to the key questions.