Categories
bodily autonomy policy trans rights trans youth

Bell v Tavistock outcome

Today’s judgment may initially appear disappointing for under-16s, but goes some way in confirming that 16 and 17 year olds are presumed to have full legal capacity to consent to medical treatment. Importantly:

“Doctors can continue to prescribe puberty blocking treatment if the patient is Gillick competent. The court found that the patient must understand not only the consequences of puberty blockers, but also the consequences of later, optional treatment which they may choose not to have when the time comes” (link).

The judgment will cause anxiety for people currently undergoing this treatment and their families, but we would like to reiterate that the Trust has stated it will continue to support patients. What this will look like remains to be seen, but it is not hyperbolic to say that it would be inhumane to abruptly cease any treatment. Clinicians have a duty of care to continue prescribing for those young people who have started hormone blocking treatment, and to offer support routes for any person denied treatment as a result of this ruling.

Our reading of the judgment is that:

  • For anyone 13 and under, it is theoretically possible to commence hormone blocking treatment, but is practically impossible through the GIDS pathway
  • For 14 and 15 year olds seeking to commence hormone blocking treatment through GIDS, it will be a very difficult journey and they may have to go to court to seek permission
  • 16 and 17 year olds are less likely than younger people to face difficulties in access, but they may too have to seek court permission if a clinician deems it necessary

NHS England has updated its service specifications around this already.

As with so much of what is discussed about trans young people, the judgment seems to come from a place where a transition of any kind is a last resort, something entirely medicalised and highly stigmatised. This is not what we know to be true at Gendered Intelligence. From our trans youth service and mentoring support work in schools, as well as from our lived experiences as a trans-led organisation, we know that being supported socially is most important, along with building wider understandings of what it is to be trans.

The judgment claims that “it is the role of the court to protect children, and particularly a vulnerable child’s best interests” as though a child’s being trans is in and of itself a vulnerability. This is not just offensively ill-judged, but attempts to render all trans young people as in need of protection through virtue simply of being trans. Whilst we would say that being trans, in a systemically transphobic society creates places where you could be vulnerable to damaging discourse, a trans child is not inherently vulnerable. To the contrary, most trans children we know are incredibly strong, resilient, intelligent and understanding. What they need is timely, robust, and less onerous access to healthcare, not to be patronised and stonewalled by judges who believe they know better than medical doctors and clinicians.

What we do know is that the bar is so high, that the only people who can currently access hormone blockers are those who present as in extreme distress, and as extremely knowledgeable about what the potential outcomes could be for them following treatment. These are the young people who are likeliest to have not just parental support, but the financial ability to fall back on accessing puberty blockers through the grey market. These young people are of course likeliest to be the ones to go on to take cross-sex hormones, through virtue of their existent absolute surety as to who they are — this does not mean that one leads to the other on a straight path for all people. It must be understood that transitions, social and medical alike, are unique and individual – some will decide that cross-sex hormones are the right choice for them, and others will cease hormone blocking treatment entirely. There is no one way to come to personal and individual realisations of one’s relationship to gender and transition, as much as this judgment suggests this were the case. What we need is a better support process for young people to explore all their options and implications of medical intervention with adults they trust and are, in turn, trusted by society.

It is a good thing of course that young people are armed with as much information as possible so as to make informed and rational decisions about their own healthcare. The problem arises when a paternalistic judgment states that “it may be that Gillick competence cannot be achieved, however much information and supportive discussion is undertaken” and this is applied across the board. There will be people who cannot ‘achieve’ Gillick competency and those who can — a clinician is the best person to resolve this, not a judge with no obvious understanding or qualification in trans matters.

It is those who have no parental consent and no financial resource that the system has historically failed, and upon which this judgment delivers another devastating blow. Whilst hormone blocking treatment is likely to continue regardless for a determined few, via channels other than GIDS, our concern is that this simply pushes people into a grey market where they cannot undergo robust medical monitoring. Trans young people without access to hormone blocking treatment either via GIDS or from the grey market are not going to become any less trans. They will simply become disillusioned with the understanding that the press, the judiciary and the commentariat did not speak up for their right to autonomy when they could and should have.

We anticipate that the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust will appeal the decision, bringing the challenge to the Supreme Court as a next step. If the appeal is granted, we expect the process to take at least a year until a judgment is reached, which may simply confirm the judgment as laid out today.

As a trans-led organisation, let us say that we are not just in shock at this decision, but appalled. It seems that for each step forward we take as trans communities, we take two steps backward in turn. At some point in the near future, the judiciary will have to level with the fact that trans children aren’t going anywhere, and that the best thing for all parties is to allow space for individualised decisions to be made by experts, not roll out confused diktats. Until then, know that Gendered Intelligence stands with all trans people, young and old alike, and will offer any support we can to keep our young people with us. If you need to speak to a dedicated youth worker, please email: youthwork@genderedintelligence.co.uk


Categories
allies trans rights trans youth

NHS Legal Challenge to Address Trans Young People’s Waiting Times

Today the Good Law Project announced it was to launch legal action in an attempt to ensure NHS England adheres to its own 18-week maximum waiting times limit for young people accessing Gender Identity Development Services. At the moment, waiting times are as high as four years, more than just a touch over the legal limits. This has been a longstanding issue that existed before the pandemic exacerbated waiting times further for all people.

Trans young people, as with all people accessing any NHS service, are entitled to an appointment within 18 weeks from a referral. It is a scandal that the waiting lists have been allowed to grow to such disastrous lengths, endangering young people who want and need access to the UK’s only NHS service for trans under-18s.

We are proud to be working with The Good Law Project on this and any potential future actions that come from this legal action, and stand with Stonewall, Amnesty International UK and Liberty in asking that these waiting times are urgently addressed.

Dr Jay Stewart, CEO of Gendered Intelligence, says:

Gendered Intelligence warmly welcomes this necessary intervention to address the crushing waiting times currently in place at GIDS. We never have and never would advocate for a rush towards any medical treatment for young people, and reiterate that these unacceptable waiting times mean simply that young people aren’t getting timely, robust guidance or professional direction with regards to an exploration of their gender identity. We all intrinsically know that this cannot be right.

We know too that whilst the pandemic has certainly exacerbated these cruelly long waiting times, the issue existed well in advance of the virus’s arrival in the UK. GIDS can act as a much-needed reference and support centre for young gender diverse people, and these waiting times serve only to place further, major obstacles to going through those proper and legal channels.

Cara English, Head of Public Engagement at Gendered Intelligence, says:

The aim of our involvement at Gendered Intelligence is to highlight the waiting times and their illegality and to have this properly addressed so that trans young people can get on with their lives in peace.

NHS England have to realise that these waiting times are not going to disappear with no positive action on their part, and that forcing people to wait for years for a first appointment is an unacceptable outcome for all.

We know of and welcome the Cass Review, and would highlight that whilst the review will hopefully raise recommendations on what can be done going forward, this legal action is about the here and now.

We need to do better for our young people. As trans communities we need a wholesale understanding of our healthcare needs, and at Gendered Intelligence we believe this intervention is a key first step to achieving and prioritising just that.

The Good Law Project has launched a ‘Legal Defence Fund for Transgender Lives’ which will aim to tackle similar injustices being levied against trans people through legal advocacy and action.

Categories
allies Gender Recognition Act guidance trans inclusion trans rights

Where we are as an organisation and as a movement

In the past few weeks, Gendered Intelligence has been able to mobilise almost 45,000 individuals to write to the Prime Minister and/or their MP. That’s not even counting people who have been writing en masse using theyworkforyou.com, and other organisations’ excellent guidance around the importance of writing to decision-makers. As much as the word has become a cliché in the pandemic, this really is unprecedented. We are enormously grateful to everyone who did this, including our allies, and ask that you do not stop now.

We want you all to know that our work ‘behind the scenes’ hasn’t stopped there. Our GIANTS project is helping build stronger and empowered trans communities up and down the country, providing capacity for grassroots work led by our communities with the ultimate goal of wider trans liberation.

We’ve been speaking with sector leaders about where we go from here as a collective in this political moment, but it’s very important for us at Gendered Intelligence that we let everyone who’s come on this journey with us know where we’re up to and what you can do to help our communities.

Frankly, we still don’t know what will or will not be announced by the Government in the coming weeks with regards to the Gender Recognition Act or continued inclusion in single-sex spaces. We do know that the bigger issues facing trans communities – discrimination, lack of access to robust healthcare, housing — are of more acute urgency than any potential reform to the Gender Recognition Act, especially in the wider context of the ongoing pandemic. We’re not taking a ‘one or the other’ approach, but as a small charity with limited capacity we have to pick our battles wisely. This is why it’s more important than ever that we galvanise our communities to keep speaking up.

Where we all may have (albeit limited) ability to collectively shape the discussion around matters, it’s important to do so – this is why we’re asking you still get in touch with your MP, the PM, Ministers; anyone who may be able to ensure we don’t take a massive step back in the UK for trans people.

This is a wider movement with no centralised ownership, leadership, or hierarchy. Trans liberation will be achieved by everyone who believes that trans rights are human rights, that discrimination and stigma against our communities need to end and who are prepared to put their head above the parapet for us. The call to action is carried to all trans people in the UK and our allies. Where we as individual organisations and charities are able to amplify our messages to be heard in the corridors of power, we will of course take those opportunities.

We’re working defiantly and tirelessly, in hope that our existing protections as trans people will not be curtailed. As a trans-led organisation working to improve understandings of gender diversity and material conditions for trans people, we find ourselves quite inadvertently at the coalface of a movement.

We do not speak for you but, we hope, with you. At Gendered Intelligence, we will leave no one behind on our mission towards trans liberation.

Categories
allies bodily autonomy Gender Recognition Act international mental health trans inclusion trans rights

Response to the reporting that GRA reform to be dropped

by Jay Stewart, CEO

The Sunday Times front page announced today that the, “PM scraps plans to make gender change easier”. The article details alleged plans to abolish amendments to the GRA.   

If true, this is deeply concerning.

We need reforms to ensure all trans people have access to legal gender recognition without the unnecessary barriers of expense and bureaucracy. All trans people should have the right to be recognised and treated in their gender.

The UK is falling behind other countries on this matter.

Remember the reform that we are looking for has already taken place in Ireland, Norway and Colombia and many other countries. Whatever the fears are, people should be reassured that they have not happened in these countries and that they won’t happen here.

What’s more 70% of the 100,000 responses to the consultation agree that reform is the right way to go. It is undemocratic to disregard these responses.  

In the context of #BLM and C-19, this is added upset to our communities.

Our health system is failing us with critically long waiting lists that will only get worse; hatecrime is increasing and our mental ill-health is being exacerbated.

At Gendered Intelligence we want a world where all gender identities and expressions are respected, understood and celebrated. If I have a message to trans, gender diverse people and our allies everywhere, I wish to channel Maya Angelou:

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

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
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
allies Gender Recognition Act trans rights

GI’s take on the LGB alliance: they will not divide us

On Tuesday evening, reports emerged that a new ‘LGB Alliance’ was being set up to campaign for the rights of lesbian, gay and bi people. The group excludes trans people on the grounds that gender is a social construct and LGB people are same-sex attracted not same-gender attracted. One person on Twitter announced that ‘gender extremism’ had met its match in the new group. It is also vehemently opposed to Stonewall, accusing the charity of discriminating against LGB people by becoming trans-inclusive. 

This is not the first time that LG(B) people have distanced themselves from trans people. It is a worrying step backwards that highlights the normalisation of anti-trans sentiment in society. Although trans people such as Martha P Johnson and Sylvia Riviera were key figures of the early Pride movement, trans liberation has historically been sidelined in favour of LGB equality.

Two somewhat contradictory philosophies emerged in regards to people’s goals for the new Pride movement. On one hand there were those pursuing an assimilationist view of equality where all the rights of straight people, such as marriage, were available to all. On the other, there were those pursuing radical queer liberation that involved dismantling the societal structures that oppress both cis and trans queer people. Queer liberation questioned the role of the nuclear family, its tendency to reinforce gender roles and the institutions attached to it such as marriage. 

Unfortunately, those pursuing an assimilationist goal came to the conclusion that it would be easier for LGB people to achieve equality if they distanced themselves from trans people, rather than standing with us in solidarity, as we were seen as too much of a ‘hard sell’. It is during this time in the 80s that we first see a clear split between increasingly discrete concepts of ‘sexuality’ and ‘gender identity’ becoming mainstream and the gap between LGB and T widens even further.

This divergence in thought and the practice of excluding trans people go hand in hand. We see it in the first 25 years of LGBT charity Stonewall’s existence. Before the organisation became trans-inclusive in 2015, we saw great advancement for the rights and inclusion of LGB people, but trans people were left far behind.

Following the ‘Transgender Tipping Point’, there was an acknowledgement of the role trans women and trans women of colour in particular played during the early Pride movement. People were talking about trans issues and Stonewall was now campaigning for trans equality. It seemed the days of trans people being sidelined were behind us.

But in the last couple of years there has been a resurgence of transphobia that echoes the darker days of the 1980s. Every day there is a new article in the media using the same hateful, vitriolic language as was used about gay people to stir up the same fear in the public. Not only has this sea of disinformation had the effect of stalling proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, but hate crimes against trans people have skyrocketed. People feel increasingly emboldened to deny us our rights to be treated fairly and with respect under the Equality Act, going as far as barring us from bathrooms and swimming pools.

Now is not the time for LGB people to turn their backs on us. Distancing themselves from the trans community to assimilate and hide will not work. The rise of fascism in all its guises does not end with the attacks on trans people and we need only look across the Atlantic to the US Supreme Court to see how closely a pushback on trans rights is followed by a pushback on LGB ones.

Thankfully, we do have incredible allies who have stood up with us and for us. We’ve seen campaigns like #LwiththeT, #GwiththeT and #BwiththeT that show us that as a community for all LGBTQIA+ people, we are more united than ever. Solidarity is necessary and appreciated, but we also need our LGB allies to stand with us publicly, push for greater representation of trans people and call out transphobia when and where they see it. Together we will continue making space for people of all gender identities, gender expressions and sexualities until everyone is free to safely and freely live their lives without judgement or fear.

Please donate here to support our work supporting and standing up for young trans people. You can also support our ‘Trans Writes!’ campaign by using our webtool to contact your MP and tell them about the need for fit and working gender recognition laws.

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 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.