Gendered Intelligence calls for the age limit of legal gender recognition to be lowered to 16

Gendered Intelligence, a community interest organisation that aims to increase understandings of gender diversity, welcome the launch of the consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, but are concerned that the scope of the reforms isn’t wide enough.

In line with progressive legislation in other countries such as Ireland and Malta, Gendered Intelligence are calling on the Government to reduce the minimum age for a person to have their gender legally recognised from 18 to 16. We are disappointed that the Government has fudged the consultation with regards to young trans people, failing to properly and transparently include a question around the age limit of gender recognition. The GEO fact sheet on Trans People states that the government has no intention of lowering the age limit to under 18.

Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women and Equalities, has stated that the starting point for the consultation is the fact that trans women are women and that gender recognition processes should support those going through transition rather than add to their stress. This is a positive starting point, but the concerns of young trans people must also be at the heart of the consultation process.

The Government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 was launched by Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Women and Equalities. The consultation invites individuals and relevant organisations to share their vision for reform of the 2004 Act. Under current legislation, applicants for a Gender Recognition Certificate have to be at least 18 years of age and transitioning from one fixed, binary gender identity (‘male to female’, ‘female to male’).

 Through its youth work programme, Gendered Intelligence works with over 500 young trans, gender diverse and questioning young people and their parents every year. The ability to have their legal gender recognised would allow those 16 and 17 year olds with diverse gender identities to have their gender respected at school, college and at work. Research shows that respecting trans people’s preferred pronouns and name drastically decreases depression and improves outcomes. Young trans people are currently facing an extreme level of discrimination. Research shows that more than four in five (83 per cent) trans young people have experienced name-calling or verbal abuse; three in five (60 per cent) have experienced threats and intimidation; and more than a third (35 per cent) of trans young people have experienced physical assault.

 Dr. Jay Stewart MBE, CEO of Gendered Intelligence said:

“As a sixteen year old, you are able to marry, join the army and work full time, yet you cannot have your gender legally recognised. Increasing numbers of young people are transitioning, with the full support of their parents, and would fulfill the conditions of gender recognition, yet are blocked from changing the gender on their birth certificate simply because of their age. Those under 18 are at risk of discrimination and harassment in education and work because they do not have the option of their birth certificate reflecting the gender they live as. It is simply unjust to deny young people the human rights that we afford adults just because of their age.”

Cara English, Gendered Intelligence’s Policy Officer said:

It is time for the UK to catch up with Ireland and Malta and give 16 and 17 year olds the right to have their gender recognised on their birth certificate. The UK was a thought leader on LGBTQI issues when it launched the original Gender Recognition Act, and we need that radical thinking back if we’re to make things fair and equitable now. We have a once in a generation opportunity to improve the Gender Recognition Act for all trans and non-binary people and we have to make sure that young people are not left out of the conversation. Gendered Intelligence will ensure that young people’s voices and views are included in the consultation process. Young trans people continue to experience disproportionate bullying, discrimination and poor mental health outcomes. The government needs to take action to address these inequalities. The ability to have their gender legally recognised will give young trans people safety and privacy in education and at work, and absolutely needs to be a priority for the Government”

In the coming weeks we will be sharing suggestions to help those who are taking part in the consultation to make sure the experiences and needs of young trans people are reflected in their submissions.

 

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What are the single sex exceptions in the Equality Act?

Today several mainstream media outlets have claimed that trans people do not have a legal right to access single-sex space, according to the government.  After weeks of media confusion over the scope of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, it seems that it is now the turn of the Equality Act 2010 to be misconstrued.  Inaccurate information about legislation relating to trans equality is unhelpful to organisations and businesses, and moreover, potentially harmful for trans women who stand to suffer an increase in harassment when accessing single-sex services.

Earlier this month, the Government Equalities Office released a statement in response to a petition from an anti-trans group to halt the planned reform of the Gender Recognition Act.  Use of single sex space is legislated in the Equality Act, and the government confirmed that it has no intention of changing any aspect of this Act. In short, this means trans people – covered by the Protected Characteristic of “gender reassignment” – continue to have the legal right to access facilities appropriate to their gender. Discrimination against trans people as customers and service users is still unlawful.

Today’s inaccurate media claims mainly come down to one point – the single sex exemptions in the Equality Act.  Under normal circumstances,  if service providers provide single or separate sex services,  trans men and women should be treated in accordance with their gender and access the services most appropriate for them. However, in limited circumstances, there are exceptions to this.

The “Services, Public Functions and Associations: Statutory Code of Practice” (EHRC, 2011) document provides useful guidance to the exceptions to this rule. It says service providers can provide a different service, or exclude a trans person, but this will only be lawful “where the exclusion is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.  To clarify the nature of this exception, it says , “any exception to the prohibition of discrimination must be applied as restrictively as possible and the denial of a service to a transsexual person should only occur in exceptional circumstances”.

 Far from the blanket ban that today’s media suggests,  in general the exceptions can only be used where every way to enable full inclusion has been explored and no other option can be found. Under no circumstances should an organisation treat the exceptions as something it should do. An exception is a last resort.

The EHRC guidance advises that the needs of different service uses are weighed up, but that ,”Care should be taken in each case to avoid a decision based on ignorance or prejudice.  Also the provider will need to show that a less discriminatory way to achieve the objective was not available.

The onus is clearly on the service provider to demonstrate that a decision was not taken based on ignorance or prejudice, which begs the question – what is actually left when we have removed ignorance and prejudice from the equation?  We have seen many other groups denied rights on the basis of (often) essentialist arguments that are now clearly seen to be based entirely in ignorance and prejudice.

Single-sex exceptions to the Equality Act 2010 are generally applied in sensitive services, such as rape crisis and women’s refuges. In Scotland several women’s services are explicitly trans inclusive and offer guidance to similar organisations. Women’s services have to balance the needs of service users – both cis and trans – who are often extremely vulnerable and traumatised. They do vital and often harrowing work, in a sector that is increasingly underfunded. If they are able to model good practice, there is hope for all organisations to welcome and affirm trans people.

The existing Equality Act is far from perfect – for one, it provides no explicit protection for non-binary people. However, it is irresponsible, and indeed immoral, for the media to twist legislation to suggest that trans people can be lawfully barred from every day facilities and services. This kind of rhetoric empowers those who seek to harass and exclude trans people, especially trans women, from public space.

GI Statement on High Court ruling on “X” passports

Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane has lost a High Court action against the Government’s policy on gender-neutral passports.  Elan-Cane’s case argued that the Government policy of obligatory female or male gender markers on passports was “inherently discriminatory”.  High Court judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker refused to rule the government policy as unlawful. However, the judge was satisfied that, “right to respect for private life will include a right to respect for the claimant’s identification as non-gendered.’’ It is the first time that a judge in a UK court has make such a statement about non-binary gender in reference to the right to a private life.

Sascha-Amel Kheir, non-binary activist and Gendered Intelligence’s Volunteer Coordinator gave the following statement on the ruling:

“I’d firstly like to thank Christie for the time, effort and emotional labour that not only must have gone into this case but the three decades of campaigning leading to this point. It is an issue that affects many people personally, including myself, and something Christie has fought tirelessly for many years.

While the decision from the court is not the best case scenario, it is also not the worst. For the first time a court in the UK has recognised that forcing people who identify outside of the gender binary to choose a M or F marker for documentation violates one’s right to a private life under the European Convention on Human Rights*. It was noted that the Government is currently conducting a review of gender recognition policies with the long expected consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and this seems to have been important for the court when drafting its judgement.

Hopefully, the judgement will be considered during the GRA consultation process, especially now that it has been found to be a human rights violation. If not, it at least sets a strong foundation for strategic litigation if the consultations do not lead to the necessary changes in policy and legislation.”

You can read more about the ruling on Christie’s own blog.

 

Celebrating volunteers at Gendered Intelligence

Our Volunteer Coordinator Sascha Amel-Kheir reflects on the important role volunteers play at Gendered Intelligence to introduce Volunteer Week 2018.  

TodaNCVO Vol week Logo 2018 colour with tagline largey is the start of Volunteers’ Week in the UK and this year we at Gendered Intelligence will be showcasing some of our volunteers’ stories and experiences from volunteering with us. Their contribution to our organisation is not only vital to the work we do because it supports our team of staff, helping us achieve far more than we could on our own, but each volunteer brings a unique perspective that enriches the programme of services we provide.

I joined GI in February as the first full-time Volunteer Coordinator and although it has only been three months, it has been fantastic getting to know our existing volunteers, training and welcoming new volunteers to the organisation and developing new ways for our volunteers to support our work.

Volunteering is not only important because of the benefits it provides to organisations, but because of the many ways it can be of benefit to volunteers. Whether it’s through combating social isolation with opportunities to meet new friends, teaching people new skills with the chance to practice them in a professional environment and also providing a space for a diverse community of staff, volunteers, service users and their friends and families to develop around our service provision.

Next week, we will be sharing 5 stories from people across all aspects of

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Volunteers Peter and Jacqui running a stall at NEU’s LGBT Educators Conference 2018

 the Gendered Intelligence Volunteering Scheme; those who have been with us for many years to those who have only recently joined, trans people who attended our youth groups in their teens and cis allies to our community and experiences across our volunteering programs. People from all different walks of life give so much to GI and the trans community and we’re excited to highlight their achievements with us!

If you are interested in volunteering with Gendered Intelligence please visit our website for more information and complete our anonymous application form.

A case for trans inclusion in reproductive rights

Both the abortion rights movement and the trans rights movement are rooted in a struggle for bodily autonomy. Both are based on the belief that people should be able to make the choices that are best for them. Both go against society’s patriarchal assumptions and norms concerning what people should do with their bodies and their lives.

However, movements for reproductive justice have historically not been the most trans inclusive spaces. Whether it’s been explicit in the form of hateful vitriol from transphobes, or implied through gendered language, the experiences of trans men, AFAB non-binary people and people who simply don’t fit into the box of ‘women’ have gone unrecognised and unmentioned.

Trans people can face discrimination in all aspects of their lives, including when trying to access healthcare, regardless of whether it’s treatment for a cold or an abortion. Using gender neutral language and not equating genitals with gender sends a message that trans people are welcome as part of your campaign or can seek treatment at your clinic.

The common statement thrown around in outrage to this suggestion is that it takes the movement away from women. But, it’s not a zero sum game. Such arguments against trans inclusion are actually deeply rooted in the patriarchal thinking that makes abortions harder to access than they should be in the first place. It’s an essentialist way of thought that not only conflates genitals with gender, but also womanhood with child-bearing, reducing a woman to her womb and her ability to reproduce.

Just as not all women, whether cis or trans, have wombs and can become pregnant, not all people with wombs and who can become pregnant are women.

Including people who may seem different from you doesn’t dilute your message and doom your campaign to failure. If anything, it means more people can get involved in the work and support you. This way of thinking has excluded women of colour from feminism, trans people from the LGB(+T) community and non-binary people from the trans rights movement.

At the end of the day, both movements aren’t about body parts and biological functions. They’re about people’s lives. The focus should be on centring people’s experiences and stories. We should all be campaigning for individuals to have the power to decide on the most appropriate course of action for themselves.

Hopefully one day soon we’ll win.

Sascha Amel-Kheir

Gendered Intelligence

New faces at Gendered Intelligence

Earlier this year we had three new members of staff join us at GI: Cara as our Policy Engagement Officer; Cathy as our Professional Services Administrator; and Sascha as our Volunteer Coordinator. Check out their bios below to learn a bit more about them!

Cara

Cara joined Gendered Intelligence in January 2018 as our Policy Engagement Officer. In this new role she’ll help Gendered Intelligence shape its policy asks as an organisation as well as enabling us to give a more robust voice to our stakeholders.

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Cara – Policy Engagement Officer

Outside of Gendered Intelligence, she campaigns against funeral poverty with the Fair Funerals campaign.

Since leaving her hometown of Belfast, Cara has worked in Glasgow, Paris, Montpellier and London. She continues to be involved in the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, as well as advocating for equal access to abortion for pregnant people in Northern Ireland. Cara has an MA in Linguistics from The University of Glasgow.

She is interested in intersectional feminism but finds most of her out-of-work time is taken up playing with her beloved rescue dog and writing needlessly intricate recipes.

 

Cathy

Cathy

Cathy – PS Administrator

Cathy joined GI as Administrator for the Professional Services Team in February. She is from the West Midlands originally, studied French and Spanish at Glasgow University and has spent time teaching English abroad in Spain and Italy.

Since moving to London in 2010, Cathy has held a number of admin roles in the voluntary sector, most recently at International Planned Parenthood Federation and before that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. She has also been a volunteer for Switchboard LGBT+ helpline, Hackney Food Bank and Hackney Winter Night Shelter. She has two tuxedo cats called Jules and Jim who are the best*. Outside of work, Cathy loves musicals, radical history and learning languages.

*The views and opinions expressed in this paragraph are Cathy’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Gendered Intelligence.

Sascha

Sascha

Sascha – Volunteer Coordinator 

Sascha joined GI in February as our Volunteer Coordinator. They are a part of the Public Engagement team and support our events management and fundraising work as well.

They are also involved with our policy engagement work, dealing with international policy matters. They have previously lived in Morocco and Ukraine and have a specific interest in LGBTQI+ policy and queer rights movements in West Asia & North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Outside of their work with GI, Sascha is also the Co-Editor of ‘Beyond the Binary’, an online magazine for the non-binary community in the UK. They were the founder of ‘Breaking the Binary’, the first project supporting non-binary people in Wales. They are also involved in interfaith work, as well as work supporting LGBTQI+ asylum seekers and refugees.

BAM Festival

Our volunteer Jezza writes about speaking at Southbank’s Being A Man Festival as a genderqueer person

I got involved with Gendered Intelligence at the end of 2015 through GIVS (Gendered Intelligence Volunteering Scheme). I was welcomed by the inimitable Sasha with their enviable energy and drive, and I volunteered at a couple of events. Public speaking was not high on the agenda at that point.

Jay Stewart (CEO of Gendered Intelligence) approached me in November at a meeting and told me about the panel discussion GI was chairing at the Being A Man (BAM) event at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday, 26th of November. There was to be a panel of people gathered by GI discussing relevant issues for an hour. The discussion was simply entitled Transgender… which being fairly broad left a fair amount of ground to cover.

I deliver workshops regularly in schools, and am a performer, so talking to a roomful of people isn’t the most terrifying thing for me, but when you’re covering such personal ground it can feel rather different. I knew one of the panel, a trans man who had only recently announced his transition. We’d worked together through an LGBT+ organisation called Diversity Role Models, so it was nice to see a familiar face.

The rest of the panel identified towards the more masculine end of the spectrum, so as a fairly femme genderqueer individual I somewhat assumed the role of ‘wildcard’! The discussion was lively and interesting, and covered so much crucial ground with humour, humility and refreshing frankness.

I had been to BAM the year before, and found the event quite groundbreaking in its inclusive approach.  It was only right that we were there, but I still had to pinch myself as I looked out at a roomful of people who were keen to freely engage with the reality of transgender lives in order to inform themselves.  The festival was a wonderful ‘pit stop’ in life, taking time out of the everyday race in order to make ourselves the best version of ‘us’ that we can be, through education and considered thought.

Hearing stories, asking questions and putting faces to the concept of ‘otherness’, reminds us that we are all ‘other’ in some way, shape or form. Thus proving the fact that to be ‘other’ is in fact one of the most ‘usual’ things that we can be. Just don’t call me ‘normal’ – it doesn’t agree with me!

To sum up, Gendered Intelligence’s Jason Barker (who was chairing the debate) asked a question to the panel that he is often asked in schools: ‘Is there anything you miss about being a girl?’. The rest of the panel had been assigned female at birth, and knew what it was to be perceived in that role. My own experience of being perceived as female was somewhat limited, but a fascinating conversation ensued about how perception of threat and safety (yours and other people’s) is largely based on gender expression, and how gender is a fundamental part of how we move through the world.  Old news to many of us, especially the trans people, but some were facing up to this for the first time and it was a revelation.

About a week later I was at a concert that I had helped to organise for a choir I sing in, The Pink Singers,  London’s LGBT Community Choir.  Whilst setting up the keyboard and sound checking, a teacher came up to me who was there with the secondary school choir who were also performing that night.  Bizarrely enough he had recognised me from the panel at BAM and wanted to say how much he had enjoyed the talk, and how informative and enlightening he had found it.  It was an unexpected coincidence that really made me smile. Proof that sharing our stories does help.  When you consider the knowledge he can now take with him to his work with young people, we can be reassured that the future is getting brighter by the day.

Jezza

Travelling While Trans: Jamie shares his story

The Summer holiday season has got into full swing  and our annual camping trips are coming up fast. We’ve been thinking about the potential challenges of travelling as a trans or gender variant person, inspired by our short survey about trans and gender variant people’s experience of using airports in the UK. We’ve had some insightful responses. 

Below Gendered Intelligence’s Communications Officer Jamie shares his recent experience of flying through an airport in the US. 

In June, I travelled to the US to attend Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. After a short trip to New York, my partner and I flew back to London through JFK.

You might not be aware that all passengers who travel through airports in the US are obliged to undergo a fully body scan as a security check. In times of increased surveillance at airports, travellers from marginalised communities, including trans people, have reported facing an uncomfortable degree of scrutiny while flying.

There is no reason that anyone should find the experience of a full body scanner comfortable, but for trans and intersex people there can be added difficulties. The scanner is calibrated to recognise “female” or “male” bodies. Any body parts that cannot be mapped on to those figures show up as anomalies on the security system.

While you stand inside the machine with your hands above your head, an image of your body is checked by security personnel.  Depending on the system in use, this image is either an accurate representation of your naked body, or a cartoon-like figure.

If an anomaly is detected, the passenger is then subjected to an additional security procedure – which generally means a pat down and a hand swab to check for explosive material.

I had travelled through airports in the US a few times before and gritted my teeth through several scans – for some reason, my body had never registered as an “anomaly”. This time, I wasn’t so lucky. Once I exited the body scanner, a security officer gestured to me to step to the side, instead of passing through to collect my hand luggage.

The security officer proceeded to give me a pat down. As he passed his hands over my chest, a look of surprise registered on his face: “What is that?”. I haven’t yet had top surgery.

“I’m transgender”.  The officer seemed mildly confused. I told him that I was “born female”.  These aren’t the words I would ideally use to describe my situation, but I wanted to avoid further confusion.  It worked – the penny dropped. The officer smiled sheepishly as he swabbed my hands.  He turned out to be kind, and almost puzzled that I had got myself into this position, as if I could have made the situation easier for myself.

Unfortunately, airlines do not provide you with a guide to being “trans at the airport” to navigate the current system.  Travellers who do not match conventional expectations of gender have to rely on airport staff to have sufficient knowledge and act sensitively in response to it.  As the #TravellingWhileTrans (or #TravelingWhileTrans) hashtag attests, many airports are spectacularly far off of the mark.

I found my experience at JFK embarrassing at worst.  If I was more vulnerable, or was treated in a less respectful way by the security offer, it could have been traumatic. We can’t be expected to depend on the benevolence of individual security staff or having had a particular type of surgery in order to feel safe.

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Jamie, GI’s Communications Officer

 

 


 

Gendered Intelligence is planning to take 70 young trans people camping this August. It’s a massive undertaking by our team, but we know that the camping trip has a huge impact on the young people who take part. 

To make the two camping trips happen, we have to raise £12,000 by the 12th of August.We need your support. We’re over halfway there, but there’s still a steep climb until we reach our target. 

Quote by Alex, 16

 

 

 

 

A young trans person shares their story of our camping trip

Gendered Intelligence is planning to take 70 young trans people camping this August. It’s a massive undertaking by our team, but we know that the camping trip has a huge impact on the young people who take part. 

To make the two camping trips happen, we have to raise £12,000 by the 12th of August. We need your support. We’re over halfway there, but there’s still a steep climb until we reach our target. 

Jamie, a 20-year old young person who attended last year’s camp, has written about their experience and why it was so special.

Camping with Gendered Intelligence meant so much to me. I’d only had bad experiences of camping on previous school trips, so I had no idea what to expect. However the GI camp was nothing like I’d ever been involved in before.

Everyone who was there wanted to be there. All the volunteers wanted to help and were brilliant in doing so. If you ever needed advice they’d try their hardest to guide you – even if it was the simplest task like finding the toilets at night!

I was really nervous about the camp at first because I actually have social anxiety, and so making friends and even encountering social situations in general is difficult. However camp really helped me. There was always someone to talk to, and the volunteers made sure that you were never left out. I made some good friends at camp; people I’m still in touch with now – a year on!

I think one of the best things about GI camp is that it is so accepting. You have so much freedom there. No one pressures you to do anything you don’t want to do. You can sit out of activities if you like (although I really liked kayaking!) You can have a timeout from socialising if you need it. No one judges you either. You can wear whatever makes you feel comfortable in the swimming pool. You can use whichever bathrooms you want.

You can talk openly about how you’re feeling. In this protected space you can be yourself, whoever that is or turns out to be.

I think for me, actually leaving to go home was the hardest part of camp. I remember getting asked, rather jokingly, by a family member if I was ready to come back into the ‘real world’ now. I remember feeling like this was such a surreal and ironic thing to ask, seeing as I’d felt camp was actually one of the most ‘real’ experiences in my life. In camp you got a very valuable opportunity to learn and understand others’ identities, and (perhaps more importantly) your own identity. For me, camp helped massively with self-discovery.

Three days may not seem very long but the time I spent with the others, and the memories I gained from this whole trip stayed with me for much, much longer.

Coming back from camp made me hopeful that the ‘real world’ would one day incorporate all the love, freedom, acceptance and self-expression that I experienced at camp.

Name: Jamie(/still discovering)

Age: 20

To donate to the camping trip, click here

Gendered Intelligence’s view of the Government’s Trans Inquiry response

Gendered Intelligence welcomes the Government Response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality.

We support the Government’s commitment to review the Gender Recognition Act.

In particular, we welcome the move towards self-determination of gender. The Government’s commitment to address the ‘unnecessary bureaucracy and to assess the need for medical checks’ within the 2004 Act sends a message to the general public that the role of the state and medical establishment in deciding an individual’s gender identity is excessive, and should be reduced.

At its inception, the Gender Recognition Act was a progressive piece of legislation and a reflection of dedicated campaigning by trans activists in the UK. However, there is now a global movement towards legal self-determination of gender and we believe that the government must follow the example of countries like Ireland and Argentina.

Gendered Intelligence works extensively in the education sector including Higher and Further Education. The Government’s response to work with Universities to include trans students in their learning environments, in part by addressing bullying and discrimination, is fundamental to many of our young members.

In 2015, Gendered Intelligence wrote guidance aimed at service providers who work have transgender customers, clients or service users . This guidance was well received by the business community. However, more needs to be done to ensure that trans people can access services without prejudice alongside everyone else. It is imperative that all trans and gender variant people are respected as their self-identified gender while using public and private services.

Recognition of everyone’s right to determine their gender will only come through a wide-spread effort to educate, inform and train members of the public, from students at school to employees in the public and private sectors.

We sincerely hope that the Government will take decisive action on the points it has raised in its Response.

About Gendered Intelligence

Gendered Intelligence is a Community Interest Company, that provides activities, support and resources for the trans community. We work with trans community and all those who impact on trans lives; specialise in supporting young trans people 8-25.

We do Trans Youth Work, Work in Education, Professional Services and Public Event.

More about us:

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