Categories
GRA Reform

Self-identification & the struggle for equal rights

Trans rights were thrust back into mainstream politics this week when Jeremy Corbyn offered Labour Party support to government plans to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

The law is in desperate need of reform, but introducing gender identity as a protected characteristic and allowing people total freedom to self-identify their gender may not be the best way forward.

Categories
Workers' Rights

Our Movement Can Defeat Homophobia

LGBT+ rights are enshrined in law. The 2010 Equality Act could not be clearer: discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment are explicitly prohibited.

Prejudice, however, runs deep in our society, and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia remain endemic problems in the workplace and elsewhere. They have a pernicious and destructive impact that can sap the confidence of LGBT+ people, compromise their mental health and destroy their careers.

Following debate at last year’s TUC LGBT conference, the TUC undertook extensive research to identify the extent of the problems and better understand the experiences of LGBT+ workers, both unionised and non-unionised.

Categories
Workers' Rights

How to avoid trans stereotyping?

TRANS issues have become mainstream in recent years and they remain high on the news agenda, even in the midst of austerity, an NHS in crisis and an education system at breaking point.

But while press coverage is generally very positive, some commentators — for example Sarah Ditum and Janice Turner — have raised concerns and questioned the impact of trans rights on women’s rights.

Sadly, but perhaps predictably, the effect has been to further inflame a debate that was already polarised and toxic. Suspicion and mistrust have taken root, playing into the hands of those who oppress both women and trans people alike.

There should not and need not be any conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, so how did we get into this mess and, more importantly, how can we get out of it?

Categories
Workers' Rights

International Transgender Day of Visibility

March 31st is the annual International Transgender Day of Visibility. In recent years, even a casual observer may feel that transgender people are already very visible, and query the need for it to be marked by a day in the calendar.  Whilst campaigning groups have promoted the message that “Some People are Trans,” the press have published a seemingly endless stream of news reports and feature articles about trans issues. Editorial policy might not always be sympathetic, but the battle for visibility seems to have been won.

Categories
Free Speech

I’m a trans woman and I believe Julie Bindel should be heard

The furore surrounding Julie Bindel’s invitation to speak at the Working Class Movement Library during LGBT History Month rumbles on, and competing petitions have now amassed hundreds of signatures. Frances Donnelly demanded that “Bindel is not given a platform at an alleged ‘LGBT’ event.” In contrast, Catherine Costello welcomed the invitation and seeks to counteract the damage being done to the Working Class Movement Library, its funding and reputation. At the time of writing [21 January 2017], Costello’s petition leads by 1917 to 564. Appeals to popularity do not provide the best support for arguments but the two petitions reveal seemingly intractable divisions between LGBTQ+ people, with significant numbers holding strong feelings on both sides.

Categories
Humour

Trials and Tribulations of Transitioning, part 13: The Telecoms Provider

Firstly, an admission, this isn’t part 13; it’s the first piece I’ve written on the subject, though my telecoms provider did supply me with enough material for a dozen articles when I changed my name four years ago.  That process was relatively painless, though my enthusiasm waned rapidly. Eventually, however, only two organisations eluded me: the Land Registry and the delightful people who supplied me with telephone and broadband.

Categories
GRA Reform Workers' Rights

Trans equality debated in parliament for first time is slow but sure progress

On December 1st, Transgender Equality was debated on the Floor of the House of Commons for the very first time. Maria Miller MP moved the motion calling on the Government to review its response to the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee report on Transgender Equality, to ensure that the UK leads the world on trans equality rights.  Following on in debate, Angela Crawley MP highlighted the shortcomings of current legislation, specifically the uncertainty surrounding the rights of non-gendered and non-binary people. Ruth Cadbury MP acknowledged the cultural shift that is happening in society, especially among young people where there is greater acceptance of gender differences. Whilst that is to be applauded and celebrated, transgender people continue to face widespread prejudice and discrimination.

Categories
GRA Reform

Caution urged when Parliament debates changes to trans rights

On 1st December 2016, the House of Commons will debate the motion:

That this House notes the UK’s status as a pioneer in legislating for equality for LGBT people; welcomes the Government’s announcement of a new trans equality action plan; and calls on the Government to review its response to the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on Transgender Equality to ensure that the UK leads the world on trans equality rights, in particular by giving unequivocal commitments to changing the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in line with the principles of gender self-declaration and replacing confusing and inadequate language regarding trans people in the Equality Act 2010 by creating a new protected characteristic of gender identity.

As a transwoman, I am delighted that Parliamentary time is being devoted to trans rights. Trans people continue to face systemic discrimination and bias, so it is timely to review the legislation. However, the more I reflect on the two specific proposals in this motion, the more anxious I become.

Categories
Education Workers' Rights

Transgender Day of Remembrance: How my union were my rock through transitioning as a teacher

On Transgender Day of Remembrance we remember trans people who have lost their lives in the face of ignorance, oppression and violence. I remember Lucy Meadows, a teacher who took her own life on 19 March 2013. Three months earlier she had transitioned in the full glare of the media after Richard Littlejohn wrote an infamous article in the Daily Mail: “He’s [sic] not only the wrong body … he’s [sic] in the wrong job”. Coroner Michael Singleton had no doubts about the role of the press in Lucy’s death. “Shame on all of you” he said, as he accused them of ridicule, humiliation, and a character assassination.

Unbeknown to the Mail, another teacher transitioned at exactly the same time. On 20 December 2012, the same day they published Littlejohn’s article, my news was shared with the pupils in my school. Despite months of planning, I was at my most vulnerable. I knew my career hung in the balance; my job would have become untenable had I lost the confidence of my pupils and their parents.

Categories
Education Workers' Rights

From gender reassignment to trade union activist

Unions: not them; us.

“Think not what your union can do for you but what you can do for your union.” Actually when I went through gender reassignment, my thoughts were very much with what my union could do for me. I am a secondary school teacher, so my journey from he to she happened in front of hundreds of people. I’m grateful for the support of many people at work, but my union were superb. I knew that they were on my side because they were my union. That is what unions do, and their advice about the law and the various practical issues that I had to navigate was second to none.