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.

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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.

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!

Young people at Gendered Intelligence

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.

Gender Recognition Act 2004 in Scotland

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.