Flower in a cracked pot

“We need less pity and more stories about recovery” – Jesse Ashman on why it’s important to highlight trans resilience

Transgender people are often portrayed as having sad lives, needing of pity and as having poor mental health. In this blog post I am attempting to problematise the pity that is afforded to trans people and to suggest the importance of highlighting recovery in trans narratives.

One of the first times I was made aware that trans people exist was during an A Level Psychology class. There’s a module on the A Level psychology syllabus where students are required to study the “phenomenon” of transgender people. This module is optional – for the college that is, not for the students. I had a good teacher for psychology, one who worked out that giving me copies of Psychology Today to read would stop me from distracting other students. However, she peppered her teaching of this particular module with comments such as ‘Isn’t it so sad?’ or ‘These poor people’. I was introduced to the concept of trans people as an unfortunate circumstance.

The pity my teacher displayed for transgender people was not something I’d seen in her teaching of the other modules. She had little concern for Skinner’s rats, shocked at random whilst attempting to find food, or for the people who were found to be genetically susceptible to addiction. I noticed that not everyone we studied was treated in the way transgender people were. For instance, we were taught that in some cultures people who would be diagnosed with schizophrenia are viewed as being gifted, rather than stigmatised. What we focused on with transgender people were the possible causes, coupled with some emotional-music-laden reality-TV style documentaries that the college had on DVD.

Why was it then, that we were only hearing about transgender people as a sad story in an otherwise balanced syllabus? This trend also appears in a lot of media about trans people. This is possibly because somewhere around 84% of transgender people have considered suicide. This is an old, well-known and often used statistic that was re-reported last year in the Huffington post as one of the ‘shocking facts’ about transgender life in Britain. These facts are displayed placed over smiling photos of some of the most successful transgender people in the UK..

The 84% statistic is supported by pretty much every study you’ll be able to find that records suicidal intent in transgender people. What is often left out is that after transition, only 3% report suicidal intention, a number that is in fact lower than the general population (see this trans mental health study and this suicidal behaviour study for more info – both links are PDFs). This is the same population that is a high risk group for other factors which can lead to suicidal intent. This statistic suggests an exceptional recovery rate in people who the odds are significantly stacked against. The statistics that are used to elicit pity are often ones that are only representative of pre-transition transgender people, and not a full picture of the resilience and brilliance of the transgender community.

This plays into the narrative that something must be done to help transgender people. What this, and my psychology teacher, is inadvertently doing was presenting the entire transgender population as people who need to be pitied, liberated and rescued – from themselves and their destructive inner thoughts. The reality is that transgender people are failed on many levels: social stigma and medical neglect are routine experiences for trans people. This is a community that is being failed and not one that should be pitied by the same people who benefit from the systems that put transgender people down. It isn’t sad that transgender people exist, and despite people’s assumptions, a transgender life is not automatically a sad life. We need less pity and more stories about recovery. When we talk about trans narratives in terms of only negatives, young trans people are being told they cannot recover from things like mental health problems and suicidal intent. In actuality, generations of transgender people have been and continue to be recovering, surviving and thriving.

Jesse Ashman currently works in mental health. He has a Master’s degree in Sexual Dissidence and an undergraduate degree in English Literature. Jesse has been a freelance writer, illustrator and designer for Gendered Intelligence as well as being a involved in our Speakers Programme.  

Transgender Equalities Report

Gendered Intelligence statement on Women and Equalities Committee’s Transgender Equality Report

Gendered Intelligence fully welcomes today’s Transgender Equality report published by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee and its listed recommendations.

Despite an increase in trans visibility over recent years, we have a long way to go before trans people can feel happy and safe in all aspects of their day-to-day lives.

The report’s aim, to achieve full fairness and equality for trans people across the country, is poignant to many trans people and to organisations such as Gendered Intelligence.

Our work with young trans people gives us an insight into the daily struggles that young trans people face due to widespread prejudice and lack of understanding.

We are hopeful that the report’s strong recommendations in the following areas will bring about lasting change for all trans people.

  1. Recording Names and Gender Identities
  • Its consideration of the needs and recognition of non-binary people, in relation to the amendment of more inclusive language in the Equalities Act
  • The consideration of ‘x’ on passports
  • The removal of gender markers (“non-gendering”) from official records.

These recommendations work to acknowledge that gender is diverse. The practice of having only two gender options available (‘male’ or ‘female’) is no longer fit for purpose in a society where non-binary gender identity proliferates.

  1. Amending the Gender Recognition Act
  • Amendments to the Gender Recognition Act so that trans people can self-declare their gender identity

Currently, the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate can be lengthy, confusing and even humiliating. We welcome a move towards self-determination of gender that ensures full autonomy and dignity for trans people.

  1. Gender Segregated Sport
  • The report highlights the very real discrimination that lies in gender segregated sport

Trans people experience significant barriers to taking part in sport at all levels. These barriers mean that many trans people are not able to enjoy the sense of well-being that can come from participating in sports and related activities.

Gendered Intelligence is currently working in partnership with the FA to improve trans people’s access to football. We hope that the Transgender Equality report will encourage systematic change across all sports.

  1. Experience of young people at school, college and University
  • The much-needed improvement in school, college and University experience of so many trans students

We have a right to feel safe in our learning environments. At the moment there is a lack of centralised guidance to help schools and colleges put equalities legislation into practice for the benefit of trans and gender variant students.

Giving students, and teachers, opportunities to learn about gender diversity is also integral to achieving full equality and fairness.

There continues to be enormous restrictions on all of us when it comes to expressing our gender identity. We need to make the world more intelligent about gender and give children and young people the skills to navigate the complexity of gender.

Reforming trans inclusion in our education system could dismantle gender stereotypes for everyone.

The full report can be read here.

Find out more about our support groups for young trans people: http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/trans-youth/youth-group.

PSI Review – update from Jay Stewart

I’m aware that some time has passed regarding the review of the Prison Service Instruction and I’m mindful that people are keen to know what’s going on and about next steps. (Here are the terms of reference fyi: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/review-into-the-care-and-management-of-transgender-offenders)

You may know that myself and Peter Dawson from the Prison Reform Trust are independent advisers. Discussion so far has been around building up a contact list of those with whom we need to speak, clarifying what the issues are (as some may be outside our review’s term of reference) and the questions the review team should be asking, as well as devising some ways to hold a meaningful and manageable dialogue exercise.

In the first instance they have set up an email address through which people can contact the review: TransgenderReview@justice.gsi.gov.uk. This e mail address will be routinely monitored and so do feel free to share it or use it for review-related purposes.

If you do e mail you will be asked if you would like to be added to the Review’s database, in case they need to contact you again. This may be a good way of being kept informed.

In addition there will be dates set for possible visits and potential meetings/round-table/discussion events. Do e mail the above if you are interested in attending any of those. Your views and expertise are really welcome. However I imagine places will be limited, although I don’t have that information as yet.

George Barrow, who is the key co-ordinator of the Review, has stated that he is very happy for people to get in touch with him direct if that would be useful for the work in hand.

His details are:

George Barrow

Reducing Reoffending Portfolio | Criminal Justice Policy Group | 4th Flr, 102 Petty France | London | SW1H 9AJ

george.barrow@justice.gsi.gov.uk

In addition some people have already contacted either myself or Peter directly. And we are happy for that to happen. Our time is donated to this review so there is a balance to strike here around limited resources and ensuring that we can move forward on this very important matter.

Kind Regards,

Jay Stewart

Director, Gendered Intelligence

End of Year Round Up from Gendered Intelligence

Happy Holidays

We’ve had an amazing year here at Gendered Intelligence.

We’ve worked with more young people and parents than ever before. We’ve also delivered more training sessions, assemblies, talks and workshops on trans awareness and gender diversity too!

In December we produced an interim report of our work from June 2014 – July 2015. Here are some highlights:

  • From July 2014 to June 2015 we worked with 266 young people and delivered 63 sessions with a total of 851 attendances.
  • In the same period we worked with 99 parents, carers and family members.
  • In schools and colleges, we have delivered workshops and assemblies to approximately 1200 students.
  • 985 people attended our trans-awareness training course.

You can read more about our work in the past year by downloading our interim report.

Below you’ll find more highlights of our work in the past year.

A Parent’s Story

Debra
Deb and her son came to GI for the first time in February 2015. Below she shares the impact our support has had on their lives.

Deb, parent of a GI youth:

“I am not exaggerating when I say that getting in touch with GI was literally life-changing for both me and my son.At the beginning of this year, I had a depressed and isolated child, out of education and out of life generally. He wasn’t the only one who was depressed and isolated. I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression “you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.” How true is that?
At the end of February, my then 15 year old told me he was transgender. I knew very little about trans issues but whilst researching, someone told me about GI. A week later, I took an anxious and reluctant teenager who had not been out of the house for weeks to the March Youth Group.
What a transformation! The group welcomed him with open arms and immediately took him in and accepted him as one of their own. Two hours later, he emerged with the biggest smile on his face and there were plenty more hugs all round! I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him so happy.
Getting in touch with GI felt like a real lifeline to me and my son. He said to me the other day “I really don’t know where I would be now without GI” and I don’t know either.”

For more information about our parents and carers support group, please see the Gendered Intelligence website.

GI Volunteers Society

Two of our volunteers

Members of Gendered Intelligence Volunteer Society (GIVS) have continued their amazing work this year to support and raise funds for GI. In 2015 GIVS members have:

  • Worked hard to recruit volunteers to the trans youth group and other projects such as the camping trip
  • Run stalls at events at Southbank Centre, Westminster Kingsway College, London Metropolitan Archives and more
  • Organised activities including Clothes, Cake and Trans Inclusion in collaboration with The Circle as part of International Women’s Day, and camping trip fundraising party
  • Supported our clubs like Allotment Club and Football Club.

If you’re like to become a member of GIVS, fill in this short application form or email volunteer@genderedintelligence.co.uk for more details.

 

Football Association Partnership

group photo from our FA partnership event

In February 2015 Gendered Intelligence was commissioned by the Football Association to develop guidance around the practical inclusion of all trans people in football. The guidance sets out to support the FA’s new Trans People in Football policy.

We ran two focus groups to gather people’s views, followed by a friendly knock about on one of the astro turfs at Wembley. As part of this work we also ran a workshop about trans fans in football at the Football v. Homophobia conference.

To support the guidance we are also currently making a short film that looks to raise the visibility of trans people participating in football. Watch this space for 2016!

Stop Our Silence Success

SOS Logo

During Anti-Bullying Week 2015 in November, GI supporters signed up to stay silent for 24 hours to raise money for our youth work and take a stand against transphobic bullying. One 10 year-old young person raised £357 single-handedly! Well done to everyone who took part – you were amazing.

 

Over £1,500 raised so far

 

 

Knowledge is Power Launch

Knowledge Is Power

Knowledge Is Power

Knowledge is Power was a project funded by Awards for All that aimed to build a resource for young trans people, their families and those who support them.
We collected young people’s experiences and ideas during a series of workshops up to July 2015. One of the workshops was delivered by Beyond the Binary, where young people talked about their experiences and journeys as non-binary people.

Now Knowledge is Power is live! There’s lots of information there – it’s up to you to apply it to your life in a meaningful way and turn it into knowledge. Ka-pow!

 

Best wishes for the New Year from everyone at Gendered Intelligence.

New Gendered Intelligence & GEO guidance on providing services for transgender customers

Trans Guidance

Transgender people, like any other customer, want to shop, open accounts, seek entertainment and go on evenings out, yet they can face discrimination and prejudice in day to day life. Some of it is intentional, most of it is unintentional: the use of the wrong title (e.g. Mr, Mrs, Miss etc.) pronoun (e.g. he, she, they etc.) or being barred from a changing facility. Mistakes like these are easily overcome ensuring that trans customers or clients have a positive experience and service providers are rewarded with future loyalty, business and recommendations

Providing services for transgender customers : A guide

Today the Government Equalities Office released new guidance on providing services for transgender consumers, co-produced with Gendered Intelligence.  Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan introduced the guidance during this morning’s Women and Equalities Parliamentary Questions (see video at 10:00) in the House of Commons.

We are pleased that service providers across all sectors will have clear guidance to make sure transgender customers and clients are comfortable and feel welcomed.

We would like to thank all those who completed our survey and supplied us with some insightful testimony. It is the voices of trans people and their experiences that really bring the guidance to life.

The GEO has simultaneously released new guidance for employers on recruiting and retaining transgender staff.

Orla Blakelock, Univeristy placement student, writes about her experience of volunteering at the WHY? Festival, Southbank, October 2015

It was a dreary weekend in London when WHY? (What’s Happening for the Young) Festival came to the Royal Festival Hall; an event packed full of educational treats for both adults and children! Teachers, parents and young people streamed in from across the land to indulge in a variety of activities and stalls packed full of learning goodness. From political change singing to question and answer sessions on what it means to have a happy childhood, WHY? Festival had a lot to offer. I observed all of these fantastic activities whilst spreading the word about GI on our stall.

As a volunteer, it was a perfect opportunity to learn more about GI and get stuck in to the work that they offer to schools and universities. From MA students, to parents, to teachers – we raised a lot of awareness and planted a seed of interest in those who had never before taken much time to think about the issues trans people face in schools, and indeed in general. I really enjoyed putting out the word on the work GI do and, in some cases, having the privilege of hearing the personal stories of families or individuals who have been affected by the difficulties that can occur when a loved one is transitioning. I was touched by the degree of love and understanding I encountered I relation to this.

GI Southbank collage for GIVS fb.jpg

In addition to the stall, GI presented a workshop on gender: ‘Are you a Boy or a Girl’?, run by CN and Jason. The title of the workshop was taken from Sarah Savage’s book for children, which introduces themes of gender to young children, unfortunately she was not able to make it to the workshop itself. This being said, the idea of creating a book for young children on the theme of gender is something that really resonates with me; during the over 21’s workshop, we discussed the inflammation of the terms ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’  among children’s tales over the past decade or so. Namely the increased mantra of PINK for girls! Being a predominantly female group, we talked a lot about the pressure to feminise oneself and the influence this can have on young girls to exhibit girlish behaviour. Some teachers in the room talked in solidarity with one another about the problem with young girls distorting their personalities around what has become the ‘comfortable’ box to sit in: pink, pretty, princesses.

After and hour of discussion, the over 21’s and the under 21’s group reconnected and fed back the findings we came across collectively. As far as I could tell, this was an enriching and beneficial experience for both groups. I found it interesting to hear about the experience of young people compared to that of the older group, mainly because I find it refreshing to see that young people have the opportunity to have access to knowledge that can enable them to be more intelligent about gender! When I was in school, education around sexuality was only just beginning to skim the surface. I am inspired by educational organisations like GI who are unfolding their knowledge to educational institutes across the country. This being said, the over 21’s workshop was a fantastic experience and I felt very happy to share a space with other people who were so willing to explore their thoughts and feelings around gender. It was uplifting to encounter a group of people who were so open-minded and willing to empathise with the issues the gender binaries create for both sexes.

http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/are-you-a-boy-or-a-girl-93837

http://sarah-savage.com/product/book/

Gendered Intelligence responds to Mail on Sunday article

Today Gendered Intelligence’s work in primary schools was featured in the Mail on Sunday. We welcome the opportunity to share more about our work. We felt that on the whole the article featured our educational work positively and gave a strong voice to what we deem to be important work.

There are however some misconceptions in the article – mainly the alluding to Gendered Intelligence encouraging young people to become trans, which of course is not true.

To reiterate here what was in the article: ‘Gendered Intelligence delivers age-appropriate workshops and assemblies by working closely with the senior leadership teams of each of the schools that we work with’.

We want to pass on our enormous thanks for the support from the primary school that is featured and the head and assistant head that have supported us in this work all the way. We’d love to come and visit you again soon!  

The article focuses mainly on a short video that we created in 2005 as part of the No Outsiders work which was a large Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded project which focused on LGBT equality in primary school settings.  We are also disappointed that the Mail on Sunday were not entirely transparent in ordering our video for the purpose of writing a piece on our work in schools.

The DVD is a great educational resource for teachers and other professionals and is available to order via our website.

Please read  a statement below from our director Jay Stewart:

It’s so important to teach children in schools that they can be anything that they want to be, regardless of the gender that they have been given at birth. They can be engineers, nurses and politicians; they can be caring and kind, strong and forthright; they can wear what they like and look how they like. It’s okay for all children to be girlish, boyish or anything in-between.

Our work at Gendered Intelligence includes going into primary school settings. It’s important because gender stereotyping and reinforcing gender norms start from a young age.

If we are going to tackle the prejudice in society towards those who express their gender differently from what is considered the norm, we need to introduce teaching early on in a person’s education. 

Some members of the general public might make assumptions about what is actually being taught when we go into primary schools.

Gendered Intelligence delivers age-appropriate workshops and assemblies by working closely with the senior leadership teams of each of the schools that we work with.

We are proud of this work. Feedback from students and staff has always been positive. There are amazing schools who have done incredible work to make sure they include trans pupils and staff.  We need to work towards implementing this good practice across the board. The Department for Education can play its part by ensuring that there is systemic change rather than ad-hoc good practice.

We need more open discussions and debates about gender diversity in schools as awareness grows in society. This is a crucial step in ending transphobic and gender related bullying. Young trans people suffer prejudice, and even violence, at school, college and university. In turn, they experience high levels of poor mental health. That’s why our campaigns such as Stop Our Silence are so important.

Trans people – like all people – have a right to an education in a safe environment. The only way to make school safe for trans pupils, and safe for everyone to express their gender, is to start talking about gender variance at the earliest possible opportunity.

Jay Stewart

Co-founder and Director

Genderedintelligence.co.uk


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Ruby Turner, 16, writes about the good and bad of trans representation in recent films and television.

Jamie and Ruby in the office

Hello, I’m Ruby and I’m from Portsmouth and I’ve travelled to London for a week of work experience with Gendered Intelligence. I’m about to start my first year of Sixth Form, studying Philosophy, Psychology, English Literature and Biology and then to study psychology at uni. I’d hoped that doing work experience here would help me to focus my interests and gain a depth in my knowledge of LGBTQ issues I heard of GI when Finn Greig came to my school’s, The Portsmouth Grammar School, Pride society. I thoroughly enjoyed his workshop and it inspired me to do my work experience here. Shows such as Orange is the New Black and my love for Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox) sparked my interest in Trans representation in the media.

Recently, transgender and gender queer representation in Television and Film has blossomed, with LGBTQ characters becoming more frequent and positively reinforced. It could also be said that LGBTQ characters are becoming less of ‘tokens’ more just complying a more natural, realistic depiction of diversity in culture. This includes children’s television too, for example, Adventure Time, a wildly successful (not just for children) animated program which has the first example of gender fluidity I’ve ever seen on television. BMO alternates between female and male pronouns without any attention being drawn towards it. This positive representation of gender is subtly ground-breaking, especially on children’s television. Children begin to understand gender and its binaries from a very young age and to have this example of gender fluidity, a concept difficult for some adults even, addressed in such early stages pioneers progression in LGBTQ representation.

I wanted to find out about more shows involving elements of, or based around LGBTQ issues. In doing so, I found ‘Transparent’.’Transparent’ is a fictional program following the story of Maura, a 60 something divorced parent of three self-absorbed adults. written by Jill Soloway, who’s own father came out as transgender three years prior to filming. She says that in filming Transparent, she hired transgender consultants and crew members to ensure that she can make her work more authentic and accurate. Jill Soloway says she wants her set to be a “sanctuary where all are welcome”.  Transparent is fictional and only uses aspects of her father’s experiences. I really enjoyed Transparent and its dark humour and brutal honesty, it seemed that many agreed with me as the reviews were very positive; it has received two golden globes- for Best Television Series and, Best Actor to Jeffery Tambor (Maura).

Although OITNB, Transparent and Adventure Time are all shining examples of positive reinforcement of gender, some representation has generated a lot of scepticism. For example, the film ‘Stonewall’, unrelated to the UK’s LGBT organisation, follows the story of how an affluent young man flees from being bullied for his sexuality to New York, where he finds himself at the Stonewall Inn where he partakes in the Stonewall riots after a police raid. It was written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Ronald Emmereich, an openly gay director- ranking 14th highest grossing director of all time and influential LGBT activist. He is a passionate LGBT rights activist and philanthropist to the ‘Legacy Project’ and Global Warming causes.

This film has faced a large amount of criticism already, especially because of it’s depiction of the people who were involved. It has been accused of being written to appease the white, cis man. Miss Major, a trans woman activist, Stormé DeLarverie, a gay civil rights icon and entertainer, and Marsha P. Johnson, drag queen and gay liberation activist; all these women of colour play important roles in the ignition of the stonewall riots yet Emmerich decided to cast Jonny Beauchamp, a Cisgender male to represent all those women’s important roles. The film has been said to have ‘white-washed’ history and have ignored the amount of butch lesbians and people of colour involved in the movement. This anger became so widespread that there is now a petition of at least 12, 000 signatures to boycott the film. Emmerich responded to these claims to “I think we represented it very well,” he said he wanted to “portray a broader image of what ‘gay’ means.” but this has been scrutinised due to his inaccuracy. However, Emmerich responds to stonewall critics.

Miss Major Griffen-Gracy also spoke on the issue of the media ‘white-washing’ and ‘cis-washing’ history, particularly in regards to stonewall, for the Trans Oral History Project. She was outraged by how the riots are told to be triggered by white and cis-gendered men when that isn’t accurate. ‘How dare they do this again’

Here was our history, a history made real by Black and Brown trans women and lesbians, but it was a false, whitewashed and ciswashed version, a version that the establishment could find respectable enough to be a mainstream story. This was an insult.

Although Stonewall shows that more progress is to be made for fair representation of trans people and issues, I’m hopeful for a future of accurate and celebratory portrayals of gender diversity in the media.

How schools can become more trans inclusive – Year 12 student tells us how it is

My name’s Tia and I’ve come down from Portsmouth to do work experience with Gendered Intelligence. I’ve just finished my first year of sixth form, studying A level psychology, philosophy, chemistry and biology, and I’m looking to study psychology at university, with the hope that this will lead into a work concerning gender and sexuality, specifically improving services in place for trans people. Reflecting on my own experiences at school, I decided to write about the ways that schools can become more trans inclusive, and help people to become intelligent about gender.

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Around the age of 2 children begin to develop their understanding of gender, and this continues to expand throughout a person’s development, particularly being reinforced at puberty. School is, therefore, clearly a key time to be learning about and understanding gender identity in an open and intelligent way, in order to prevent the formation of prejudices from an early age and to allow young people to explore their own identity.

64% of trans men and 44% of trans women experienced transphobic bullying or harassment at school, coming from both students and teachers. Yet, Stonewall’s 2007 report found that 90% of teachers have received no training on how to support LGBT students. Training is needed for teachers, regardless of whether or not they have trans young people in their classes, due to the influence teachers have on their students, and their ability to foster positive and open attitudes towards trans people, and allow students to question their gender identity. Many teachers may also have trans children in their classes without being aware of this, as 40% of young people are not ‘out’ in their everyday lives (GI’s Capturing Journeys report), making it clear that a more accepting environment is necessary in order to help trans people feel comfortable enough to come out at school.

However, in order to fully support trans young people it’s necessary to also educate students, as many transphobic views and actions stem from ignorance. Currently knowledge about gender identity is not coming from the classroom, for most people it comes from the internet, the media, and through having trans friends or family. Resources on the internet may not always be found unless people are intentionally looking for them, and much of the trans representation in the media can be incredibly harmful. For example Caitlyn Jenner’s transition being discussed using male pronouns and her birth name, and the use of transphobic slurs in shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. This misinforms people of the appropriate language to be used when referring to trans people. Currently when trans people ‘come out’, they are often faced with many questions from friends and family, although they may not mean any harm and simply intend to gain a better understanding, there is a tendency to ask insensitive and inappropriate questions. This places unnecessary pressure on trans people, as it should not be their responsibility to educate others.

Compulsory introduction of information concerning trans identities and issues into PSHE would give trans* young people the language to talk about and understand their gender identity, as well as reducing the amount of transphobia stemming from ignorance. It is also important to include trans people and the discussion of the issues they face in other areas of the curriculum, for example studying the work of trans writers and artists, or influence figures such as the actress and trans activist Laverne Cox, this provides role models for all students. It is also important for trans young people to have an understanding of the equality act and the rights they are afforded from this, something which will also benefit other people affected by this.

Often unnecessary segregation is made by gender within the classroom, for example boy-girl seating plans and pairings which highlight to trans people who are not out that they are not being seen as their self-identified gender. This can also be harmful for non-binary people who may feel as if their gender identity is being invalidated, and that they are being made to confine themselves to the binary gender they were assigned at birth. Gendered language should also be avoided, in situations where assumptions are made about a person’s gender. For example addressing groups of students as ‘ladies’ or ‘gents’ places assumptions of a specific binary gender onto people, this once again may risk misgendering people and invalidating non-binary identities.

Gendered uniforms should also be avoided, as having distinct male and female uniforms may make a trans person feel as if they cannot wear the uniform of their self-assigned gender, due to the increased visibility this gives them. For non-binary trans people this is also a problem as they may feel uncomfortable having to categorise themselves within one of the binary genders, and therefore invalidating their gender identity. By providing uniform rules which are not segregated between the binary genders, schools can maintain their structure and regularity of uniform, whist being inclusive to people of all genders and allowing students to explore their gender expression.

Even if all steps are taken in order to create a trans inclusive environment, it remains important to also have safe spaces, in which trans students can know they will be understood and accepted. LGBT groups are particularly important for creating a sense of community, and by inviting speakers in there is the opportunity for trans people to gain role models, and also to further understanding and visibility. These groups within schools can play a very important role in ensuring that trans students are aware of staff members who can provide support, and introducing them to the wider trans community.

Strict policies should be in place for challenging transphobia, as there are with other types of prejudice and discrimination, this includes deliberate misgendering. Once students have been educated on what transphobic actions are and why they are harmful, as well as the appropriate way to discuss trans issues, a zero tolerance policy should be adopted. If both students and staff are encouraged to consistently challenge transphobic actions, it will soon become clear that transphobia is not tolerated, creating a safer environment for trans young people.

It is clear that there are many steps a school can take towards creating an inclusive environment for trans people, and also to help educate all young people regardless of their gender identity, in order to create a generation of accepting and understanding people.

schoolsposter (2)

Gendered Intelligence have produced this poster for schools. They cost £1 so if you would like some to put up at your school or college, get in touch with Jay at jay.stewart@genderedintelligence.co.uk

We are living on the cusp of a gender revolution – Jay Stewart’s TedX Talk

Jay ted talk flyer

I was really excited by the idea of doing a TedX talk. I was nervous too. 10 minutes to reach a wide mainstream audience (450 in the room and potentially more on line) I wanted it to be as high impact as possible plus I wanted to address my thoughts to people amongst our trans communities. So how would I be able to balance that out?

The good thing about doing a TedX EastEnd talk is how much support you get to prepare. Founder and Curator of TedX EastEndMaryam Pasha (an inspiring woman btw who has a finger in so many pies including doing amazing work for women immigrants in London and elsewhere) really helped me to identify and pull together my key messages. Also there was a real community generated with the other speakers, who were all awesome!

I wanted to summarise a kind of ‘where we’re at’ – not only amongst trans communities but also within wider LGBT circles. I wanted to propose that the current way we categorise gender identity and sexual orientation will become no longer tenable. I also think there continues to be an over-emphasis on the causation of being trans (and to a lesser extent LGB) as biologically determined. This works off the logic that if we can identify any cause as something a person can’t help being then we can say ‘hey we deserve our human rights!’

But why we’re trans shouldn’t really come into it. My argument here was that our human rights should not depend on what causes us to be who we are or on that which is biologically determined. Our human rights should be gained by being able to pursue what it is that we wish to become. So it’s about the freedom to act – right? When we feel we can’t become who we are, when we are not free to act, when we feel restricted – well that is an infringement on our human rights and it is there where we need to be focusing our energy and our resources. Not looking for brain cells!

I believe that we all should be able to express ourselves in a way that feels right for us. Because the possibilities of expression are political. We should be able to wear what we want, look the way we want, carry ourselves the way that we want, play with what we want, hang out with who we want, want the jobs that we want and none of this should be restricted quite simply by the sex that we were assigned at birth. And yet it is – all the freakin time!

As trans people when we are told that the way we are expressing our selves is wrong, when we are told that who we wish to become is wrong – well that’s incredibly damaging isn’t it? It can really affect our sense of self-worth and that’s not fair either.

One of the discussions that I have a lot with various people at Gendered Intelligence is to what degree we engage others with the complexity of gender and to what degree is it our job at GI to break that complexity down into accessible formats for others who are new to the topic of trans to be able to take away key concepts that we want wider society to learn and know.

At Gendered Intelligence we feel passionately that everyone can be more intelligent about gender. But I believe that this involves labour. In my TedX talk I wanted to encourage people to put in some effort when it comes to gendered intelligence – to read more about gender, to be critical about the world around them and to do what I would call ‘circulate the discourse’ by which I simply mean to talk about it more – over dinner, in the classrooms, on line. Because that’s what’s going to move the game on.

So… having tried to say all of that in my 10 minutes, I am really keen to hear more about what people think about my TedX talk and some of the things that I posed. Perhaps I have not made my point as clear as I would have liked and you have some questions for me. Perhaps you disagree with bits and I welcome your thoughts. Regardless I hope that you might feel inspired to do a TedX talk too. It has been a bit of a confidence boost for me personally – to be given such a platform and to think: ‘Wow! My voice is being heard’.