Happy Equinox!

Today is the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a day of celebration in pagan calendars, and it is well worth celebrating today.

The UK government has finally issued its response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation. As I suggested yesterday, they are not introducing any major reforms, but they are making minor changes, and crucially they are not rolling back any existing rights.

The campaign against GRA reform has always been based on lies about how the reform would give trans people “new rights” that would be dangerous to cis women. Those new rights were all rights that trans people had anyway under the Equality Act. The anti-trans campaign hoped that by complaining about rights we already have, they could persuade the government to remove those rights. That campaign has been a complete failure.

Trans people do want reforms to the GRA, but mostly what we want is legal recognition for non-binary people and for people under 18 years of age. Those two things were never on the table. Even the more trans-friendly Scottish Government has refused to countenance them. The reforms that were proposed were nice to have, but most trans people in the UK are living happily without changing their legal gender. They have already changed their names, passports, driving licences and so on, which is all people need much of the time.

From the government point of view, the objective of reform was to encourge more trans people to change their legal gender so as to bring it into line with the rest of their ID. The original proposed reforms would have done a lot to help with that. What we have been given today is very minor in comparison. The government will know this, and civil servants will probably be working hard behind the scenes to make the process easier to the extent that they can do so without legislation. And when the Scottish bill becomes law and everyone can see that it is more effective that what Westminister has done, they will quietly introduce new legislation without bothering to consult on it, because they do really want us to change our legal gender.

So where do we go from here? Well, GRA reform is now officially dead. Presumably there is no more need for any of these “feminist” campaign groups. Or, if there is, they will have to be honest about their desire to roll back existing laws. My hope is that a lot of them get distracted into things like anti-mask activism and anti-vax activism, partly because many of them are in those camps already, and partly because that’s what their paymasters in the USA are mostly concerned about now.

If that happens, then the trans community will be able to get back to negotiating with the NHS about how to improve our healthcare. And that will bring real benefits.

The main point, however, is that we would not have got here if it was not for you folks (or at least the UK citizens amongst you). Without you crashing the email servers at Downing Street with your letters of protest; without you signing petitions in your thousands; without you supporting us through your companies and trade unions; we would have seen our rights rolled back. Because the government has seen that the vast majority of the British people support their trans siblings, they have decided that persecuting us is not a vote-winner.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

Reasons to be Cheerful

Life has been pretty awful for trans people in the UK for the past few years. Most of the mainstream media outlets have devoted themselves to campaigning against trans rights for a few years now, and more recently we have acquired a government that seemed keen to support that campaign. However, over the past week or so we have seen a heartwarming level of support from ordinary British people.

The Trades Union Congress passed a motion in favour of trans rights, and explicitly condemning one of the more ridiculous astroturf organisations set up to campaign against us (an “LGB Alliance” that seems to be actively homophobic).

A group of over 100 major businesses and organisations also came out in favour of trans rights. The signatories included the Army, the Navy, the Welsh Government, and multinational companies such as Disney, Microsoft, BP and Sky.

For the first time ever, the British Medical Association explicitly came out in favour of trans rights.

And best of all, the Employment Tribunal has ruled that non-binary people are protected under the Equality Act. This is a huge deal because it provides legal precedent for an issue that was previously unclear in law.

All of which may explain why the latest piece of malicious sniping in the Sunday Times did not include any mention of rollback of trans rights, as was the case when they previously leaked what Liz Truss was due to say in Parliament. Indeed, the proposals now seem to be for a small improvement in trans rights, albeit somewhat less than Theresa May had promised.

Of course the government can still do with a bit of reminding about the overwhelming groundswell of public support for trans rights. There’s a new petition asking for a proper reform, including recognition of non-binary identities. It has over 75,000 signatures already, and when it hits 100,000 it has to be debated in Parliament, which forces Bozo and Truss to actually pay attention. If you are a UK citizen, please consider signing it. (And if you are not, please promote it to your UK friends.)

The Trials of Koli

It is Happy Book Birthday today for the second volume in Mike Carey’s Rampart Triology. The Trials of Koli describes how Koli and his friends travel down from Yorkshire towards London. We learn a lot more about the world that Koli and his friends inhabit, but this is also the volume in which Koli, Cup, Ursala and Monono have to come together as a team. This excellent review describes them as a “found family”.

One of the issues that they face while on the road is that Cup is starting to go through male puberty. It is coming to her a bit late because she has been quite malnourished, but now it is an urgent issue. This is where I probably had most input to the story, talking to Mike about the puberty process and what treatments might be available via Ursala’s box of tricks. Credit should also go to my friend Ben Vincent whose book on Trandgender Health is an excellent and very accessible guide to the subject. Ben explains things far more authoritatively than I can, and probably more clearly too.

Of course there’s a lot more in the book as well, and there are a lot more surprises to come in the third volume which will be out early next year. I do hope you enjoy the whole series. And once again my huge thanks to Mike for treating trans issues with such generosity, acceptance and support.

Tomorrow – Outing the Past

Tomorrow the lovely folks behind LGBT History Month will be holding a virtual symposium on, you guessed it, LGBT History. This one will be all about history and creative production. My good friend Dan Vo is hosting a session at 13:00, and I will be one of his guests. There might be Romans, and mosaics, and Greek theatre.

The event is free, and you can find full details here.

The Smithsonian Discovers Kush

Every so often White Media discovers ancient Black civilisations. (Don’t worry, Black folks, they will forget you again soon.) Today it is the turn of The Smithsonian Magazine, which has allowed a Sudanese-American journalist to tell the story of the African kingdoms to the south of Egypt. The tale includes Taharqa and Amanirenas, whom I have probably talked quite a bit about here already. It also includes an interesting piece of queer history.

In the New Testament the Acts of the Apostles includes a story about how St. Philip met a foreign dignatory on the road south of Jerusalem. The man was a treasury official from the court of the Kandake of Meroë, probably Queen Amantitere given the dates. This fellow, named as Simeon Bachos by the 2nd Century writer, St. Irenaeus, had an interest in Jewish religion, and had been to Jerusalem to learn more. He had obtained a copy of the Book of Isaiah which he was reading on his way home. He asked Philip for help interpreting the words of the prophet, and by the time the Apostle had finished Simeon was eager to convert to Christianity.

One obvious point here is that as a foreigner it seems unlikely that Simeon would have been welcome to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish elders of the time were a stuffy lot. The New Testament also describes him as a eunuch, which would also have counted against him. Philip may have been reminded of the time, reported in Matthew 19:12, when Jesus spoke of how eunuchs were welcome in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But what exactly does “eunuch” mean in this context. Jesus describes three types. There are those who are made eunuchs by others. Simeon might have been an ex-slave who won his freedom thanks to his skill at accountancy. There are those who make themselves eunuchs for religious purposes, such as the Roman transfeminine priestesses of Cybele, but this seems an unlikely explanation given our man’s interest in Judaic religion. Finally there are those who were deemed “natural eunuchs”; that is, men who have no desire to have sex with women. This has lead some people to claim our African accountant as the first gay Christian.

Whatever the explanation, as a eunuch Simeon would have been regarded as neither male nor female by the cultural traditions of his time. Even if he didn’t identify as queer in some way himself, he would have been seen as such by others.

To the best of my knowledge, the people of Meroë were still following Egyptian religion at the time. It would be interesting to know what the Kandake thought of Simeon’s conversion. But there has been a thriving Christian church in Ethiopia since at least 333 CE, so presumably our man made some converts among his people.

There is a painting of the baptism in the Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum of Wales. I believe that it is part of the LGBT history tour that Dan Vo put together for the Museum. I know Dan and I talked about it as a possible inclusion, but I missed my Guide training session thanks to COVID.

Supporting LGBTQ+ Refugees

The lovely people at Pride Without Borders in Bristol have a fundraiser going at the moment. Theirs is an absolutely essential service. The treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by the government in this country is abhorent, and queer people are treated worse that most.

I have had the pleasure of meeting the members of the Pride Without Borders support group on a couple of occasions. They cope with really awful circumstances, and malicious harassment by the authorities, with amazing good grace. If you have a few pounds to spare, please help them out. You can donate here. And my friend Lowie has an article about the work that Pride Without Borders does on Bristol 24/7.

Outing the Past Goes Virtual

Outing the Past is an annual academic conference on the subject of queer history. Normally I attend, but this year it got scheduled for September 12th, and I had already accepted an invitation to go to Augsberg in Germany for a science fiction conference organised by the wonderful Sabrina Mittermeier. Of course that isn’t going to happen now. Sabrina and her colleagues have already put some of the proposed events online, including my chat with Sabrina and Maria Turtschaninoff. You can find that and several other events, on the covention’s YouTube channel. (And let me tell you that I’m seriously chuffed to be on the same programme as the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.)

So what about Outing the Past. Obviously it is going virtual too, and that means you can all join in the fun. There will be a special one-day event on September 12th called Completing the Past. It will be all about LGBT+ History and Creative Production. There are a lot of great speakers lined up, and in particular I would like to draw your attention to the panel titled, “Heritage at home: Connecting and engaging with the LGBT+ past through creative production.” That will be hosted by Dan Vo, and it will feature a bunch of guests talking about works of art that open a door on the LGBT+ past. I can’t tell you any more about it than that now, but you know that if Dan is involved then it is goign to be awesome, right?

Meet Saint Wilgefortis

In Castle Park in the centre of Bristol there is a small, bombed out church called St. Mary Le Port. The current building is Norman dating from work in the 11th century, but archaeologists have discovered a Saxon site beneath so it is presumably much older. Because it is a useful landmark in the park, the church has effectively been a gathering point for the Bristol Pride March for a few years, and before that Pride itself took place around the church in Castle Park.

Via an article in today’s Bristol 24/7 I discovered that the church contains a chapel to Saint Wilgefortis.

Saint who, you may well ask? Well, she is apparently the patron saint of Unhappily Married Women. Her legend is that her father arranged for her to marry someone she did not like, so she prayed that she might be made repulsive so that he would reject her. The next morning when she woke up she had a full beard. That put paid to the marriage, but her angry father had her crucified as a punishment.

Wikipedia (yes, I know) lists a whole bunch of names by which Wilgefortis was known around Europe. She seems to have been particularly popular in Northern Europe, but she has found her way as far afield as Panama and Argentina.

These days historians tend to assume that the legend is entirely made up. After all, teenage girls don’t normally sprout a full beard overnight. However, there are a range of biological variations that can lead to people assigned female at birth growing beards. That can range from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome all the way to 5-ARD, an intersex variation that also leads to the young person growing a penis. It is entirely possible that young Wilgefortis knew that she was developing facial hair and had been hiding it from her parents, but decided to come clean about it in the hope of getting out of the marriage.

Just as fascinating is the fact that the worship of Wilgefortis involved the image of her being crucified, which led to some very androgynous iconography. My friends who study gender in the Middle Ages are all over this sort of thing, but Christian theology is a minefield I try to avoid playing in because you need a lot of basic knowledge before it is wise to say anything.

What I can say, however, is that the existence of a chapel to Wilgefortis in the very church that has such a close connection to Bristol Pride is a delightful piece of serendipity. I have no doubt that the local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will take this to heart.

Coronavirus – Day #149

It is still warm. I still have lots of work to do. But there is cricket (albeit with a lot of rain delays).

The big news item is to do with exams. Today high school students across the country got the results of their final exams, known as A Levels. Because of the pandemic, no one could actually sit exams this year, so the government said that grades would be based on teacher reports instead. Now, however, they have decided that teacher reports are unreliable, and they have concocted a secret algorithm to “correct” the grades. To no one’s surprise, the result of this is that pupils at fee-paying schools have had their grades raised on average, while pupils at state schools, especially those in poorer areas, have had their grades reduced on average, sometimes drastically. This is what happens when the Cabinet is made up of upper class snobs.

Needless to say, this is a disaster for universities who are having to cope with large numbers of promising students failing to make the grades they needed for admission, and a bunch of posh twits whose parents can afford expensive lawyers demanding those places instead.

Meanwhile there has been an announcement that a number of classic works of fiction by women writers are to be re-issued under those women’s “real names”. While it is likely that some of the women concerned adopted male pen names in order to help their careers, some of them very obviously used their male names in everyday life, dressed in masculine clothing and generally behaved in a gender-variant way.

For a long time the anti-trans movement in the UK has solely targeted trans women. They seem to think that war has been won with the scrapping of reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and leaked promises by Liz Truss that existing trans rights will be repealed. Trans men, and butch lesbians, mostly flew under the radar, until recently when there has been a spate of attacks. We’ve had butch lesbians who are assaulted in toilets after being mistaken for trans women decribed as unavoidable collateral damage. We’ve had a Labour MP say that only people who identify as women should be allowed healthcare such as cervical screening, even though many trans men still need it. This new set of books is very clearly in the same vein. I don’t think that the people behind it care two hoots about women who genuinely adopted a male pen name just for the money. What they want to do is come down hard on anyone who dared display any degree of gender variance. The only thing they forgot was to make all of the covers pink.

Coronavirus – Day #121

Masks. Some have them, some don’t. They have been mandatory in shops in Scotland for some time. Over the weekend Michael ‘Wormtongue’ Gove said on TV that he didn’t think that masks were necessary. So obviously yesterday the government he is one of the leaders of decided to make them mandatory. That’s how government works here.

Oh, and it won’t be mandatory until the 24th, so there is plenty of time for a u-turn yet.

The assembled snowflakes of the right wing media are all having fits of the vapours and whining about how they won’t be able to breathe and will look ugly and their right to bodily autonomy has been compromised. This is, of course, nonsense. What they mean by this is that fewer poor, non-white, disabled, aged and queer people will die if we wear masks, and what point is a pandemic if it doesn’t kill off undesirables?

I made my weekly trip to Tesco today. There was a slight uptick in the number of mask wearers, but we were still a tiny minority. Also they have stopped queuing for entry and the one-way system. They had yeast, for the first time since the pandemic started.

According to the informed leaks from Westminister, today was to be the day that Liz Truss announced her rollback of trans rights. It had been planned for International Non-Binary People’s Day for maximum trolling effect. It did not happen. The announcement is now scheduled for probably next week and no later than the morning of the 22nd. Someone, it seems, got cold feet.

So what has been happening. I mean, apart from a supermajority of the GRA consultantion respondents supporting reform, and an opinion poll last week confirming this, and the Welsh and Scottish governments backing reform, and the massive letter-writing campaign that crashed the Downing Street servers, and LGBT+ MPs from all parties getting together the complain to Bozo. Maybe it was because the LibDems introduced two bills addressing non-binary rights issues today (one on passports, the other on school uniforms). And maybe it was because Bozo got a letter from a group of media companies, including Disney, the Financial Times, Warner Media, Discovery and, of course, Diva Media Group (who publish the UK’s leading lesbian magazine) urging him to support trans rights.

You are all doing incredibly well. Thank you! Please keep up the pressure.

Queering the Classics

Today is International Non-Binary People’s Day (neatly positioned half way between International Men’s Day, which does exist, and International Women’s Day). I am rather pleased that today is also publication day for volume 49 of the CUCD Bulletin, in which I have an article.

CUCD stands for Council of University Classics Deparments, which is a professional forum for all teachers of classical Greek and Roman subjects in British Universities. That makes the Bulletin a pretty serious academic venue, albeit one that will cover issues of pedagogy as well as research. My article is titled “Queering the Classics”, and it is primarily a review of this book, Exploring Gender Diversity in the Ancient World.

However, in order to explain the importance of the book, I had to do the whole thing of talking about understanding gender and sexuality in the ancient world. And it is this that makes publication on International Non-Binary People’s Day so appropriate. The short version is that gender is a social construct, and every society constructs it differently.

Huge thanks are due to the Bulletin‘s editor, Professor Susan Deacy, who has been very supportive of my baby steps in the Classics world.

Wales Stands Up For Trans Rights

With the government’s announcement on their planned rollback of trans rights expected next week, interesting political things are happening. Some I can’t talk about right now, but a couple I can.

Firstly there was a poll in Pink News today which revealed that 57% of women support the use of so-called “self-identification” in the process of changing your legal gender. (I use scare quotes because the phrase itself utterly fails to convey the extent of legal penalties that will fall on anyone shown to have made a false declaration.) Even more interesting from my point of view is the fact that obly 21% of women were against (the rest were “don’t know”) compared to 33% of men. So the anti-trans cause, which claims to be a women’s rights movement, gets more than 2/3 of its support from men. Odd that, men being so much more in favour of “women’s rights” than actual women.

But the really big news today is that the Welsh Government has come out firmly in favour of trans rights.

As you may remember, Scotland has a GRA reform bill in process. It has been shelved during the pandemic as the Scottish Parliament is busy with other things, but it does pretty much exactly that Theresa May’s proposals for England & Wales would have done.

Wales does not have the right to pass such a law, but it does have the right to complain to Westminister and that is what they have done. In their letter the Welsh government speaks of having consulted with the trans community in Wales whom they say are, “dismayed at the increasing likelihood of a regression in their Human Rights as trans people.”

Furthermore, the Welsh government states:

While the thrust of the Gender Recognition Act may deal with matters which are reserved, we will explore what actions may be open to us to support trans people in related areas which are within devolved competence.

It is unclear exactly what they can do, and will remain so until Westminster publishes its plans. What does seem clear is that if Westminister wants to roll back trans rights, as Liz Truss has promised, then it will have to fight both Scotland and Wales to do so. (For all I know they would have to fight Northern Ireland too, but those folks are way too busy with Bozo’s plans to set up customs posts between NI and mainland Britain as part of Brexit.)

They don’t call it the Untied Kingdom for nothing,

Forget the Carrot, Resist the Stick

News has been leaked that the government intends to abandon proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Understandably, large numbers of people are up in arms and are demanding that the reforms be implemented. Certainly it is outrageous that the government choose to simply ignore the 70% of consultation respondents who were in favour of reform, and side with the 30% who were against. However, the best way to get reform may not be to campaign for it, but to resist the changes that the government will have to introduce instead; changes which will have implications far beyond the arena of trans rights.

To understand why we need to look at the reasons the GRA reforms were proposed in the first place. They are not something that the trans community was hugely concerned about. While there could have been real steps forward in reform, such as legal recognition for non-binary people, and for people under 18, the government has made it clear that such things would never be seriously considered. The primary beneficiaries of GRA reform would not have been the trans community, but the Home Office.

Legal gender recognition is the end point of a long process that trans people go through once they have sought medical assistance with transition. The government requires that anyone wishing to change their legal gender can show that they can live peacefully and effectively in the gender to which they are transitioning. The GRA requires that each applicant complete a 2-year “Real Life Test”, and obtain approval for their application from two doctors, to show that they are “really trans”.

The medical approval side is something of a formality, once you can get accepted for treatment. The medical profession has long since understood that the best way to find out if someone is “really trans” is to let them transition and see if they like it. If they do, then they must be “really trans”. That is, of course, a form of self-identification.

The government, however, wants an orderly society. They want to know, to steal some talking points from the anti-trans lobby, that trans women will not be peeping under toilet doors in the Ladies, or “waving their willies about” in communal changing rooms. We know that this doesn’t actually happen, because it would be all over the newspapers if it did, but the government wants to be sure before allowing a legal gender change.

However, in order for a trans person to be able to complete this test, it is essential that they be able to live their lives fully in their correct gender for those two years. That means they need to be able to change some paperwork. They might change their name, they’ll almost certainly need a new driving license, they may need a new passport as well. In other words, they need to change all the things that they need for day-to-day living.

Changing your birth certificate and legal gender are not necessary for day-to-day life. They are supposedly the cherry on the cake that you get at the end of the process. But you only need them in certain specific cases: if you want to get married, if you get send to prison, or if you die.

A combination of ever-increasing waiting times at NHS gender clinics, and the expense and humiliation of the GRA process, has meant that most trans people have simply not bothered to seek legal gender recognition. They have almost everything they legally need to live their new lives already. As a result of this, there are thousands of trans people in the UK who have changed all of their other ID, but have not changed their legal gender. And that is where the Home Office comes in.

If you are a Home Office bureaucrat, you want everyone to have their papers in order. What is happening with trans people simply will not do, from a bureaucracy point of view. It horrifies the Home Office that so many citizens have driving licences and passports in one gender, but are legally a different gender. The obvious thing to do was to make changing your legal gender easier and cheaper. After all, many other countries around the world, including Ireland, Portugal and Belgium, have done the same thing, and there have been no unpleasant consequences. This is why the likes of Theresa May and Amber Rudd were so keen on GRA reform.

The current government, however, has been seduced by the complaints of the anti-trans lobby, and by the supposed benefits of making persecution of the trans community a central plank of a “culture war”. They have scrapped GRA reform. That has not solved the problem for the Home Office, so something else must be done instead.

Quite simply, if you are not going to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender, the only other solution is to make life harder for trans people and hope that they all go away.

What Liz Truss appears to have signalled via the leak to the Sunday Times is a new set of draconian curbs on the ability of trans people to live happily without a legal gender change. It will be made harder for them to access spaces appropriate for a person of their gender. So they will have no choice but to apply for a legal gender change or to detransition.

It should go without saying that forcing people to detransition is abominably cruel and is likely to lead to an epidemic of mental health crises within the trans community.

There are other problems with this approach too. How is a trans person to complete their “Real Life Test” if the government itself is making it impossible for them to do so? In effect this would be a ban on anyone beginning transition.

In addition, the anti-trans lobby is unlikely to be satisfied with this approach. They want nothing less than the complete repeal of the GRA, and will not be satisfied until they get it. Their friends in the media will support them in pushing the government to a retrograde step that would see the UK ranked alongside Hungary as one of the most transphobic nations on Earth.

However, all this pales into insignificance beside the danger to equality law posed by the anti-trans lobby. The basis of their argument is that (a small minority of) cisgender women are frightened of trans women (there is no evidence that we are an actual danger), and that because of this the “sex-based rights” of cis women must always trump those of trans women. This strikes at the very heart of equalities legislation, because once it is established in law that the rights of one (probably majority) group are more important than those of another (probably minority) group, there is no stopping the dominoes from falling. Everyone’s rights will be at risk. One obvious end point of this type of argument is that the “sex-based rights” of men be allowed to trump those of women.

The US Supreme Court recently argued that the rights of trans people, and indeed those of LGB people, are all protected by “sex-based rights”. That is because as a society our concept of “sex” is intimately bound up with how we perform gender, including our sexual preferences. Sadly, the UK is not subject to the rulings of the SCOTUS, but the same logic should guide us here. In any case, any attempt to argue that the civil rights of one group of citizens should include the right to oppress another group should be strongly resisted by everyone, not just trans people.

Ultimately this is what will usher in GRA reform. The Home Office still has a problem. If we do everything we can to prevent the government wielding its proposed stick, then the problem of trans people with mis-matched paperwork remains, and the government will have no choice but to go back to the carrot.

Coronavirus – Day #107

The big thing that I have done today is create a list of trans and non-binary writers, editors, etc. in the SF/F/H community. Why I have not done this before I do not know. But it is done now.

There will be people that I have forgotten. There will also be people that I have never heard of. There may also be people whom I have put on the list who don’t want to be on it. If you are in one of these groups, please get it touch. I’m also open to suggestions from non-trans folks as to who to put on it, but if you suggest someone please be sure that they are open abuout being trans first. And check to see if they are already on the list before suggesting them.

I also did my weeky Tesco trip. It was very quiet. There were no shortages. I only saw one other person wearing a mask.

Coronavirus – Day #98

I appear to have spent much of today watching TV. There was housework as well, and an online meeting, but lots of TV. Or, to be precise, Netflix.

So, yes, I have watched Disclosure. It is rather painful to be reminded of the many awful ways in which trans people have been portrayed in film and TV, but it is also quite powerful to be reminded of what the media has done to us. Because something that has been done can be undone.

After which, I needed a reward, so I binged the rest of season 4 of She-Ra. Tomorrow, season 5.

Wait, no, tomorrow back to work, what am I saying…

She-Ra.

In the outside world, the 7-day rolling average of deaths in the UK ticked upwards again. Its only one day. We’ll be fine. I hope.

Coronavirus – Day #95

I made my weekly run to Tesco today. I was pleased to see that they are finally selling facemasks, though it is still the case that the vast majority of shoppers are not wearing one. The staff aren’t either, but I’m assuming that they have all been tested and are COVID-19 free which makes it less of an issue.

Talking of the virus, I’ve seen a few people posting in the last few days that they have had serious relapses. One was the TV historian, Dr. Janina Ramirez. I’ve been coughing quite a bit over the past week, which is annoying because I thought I was over that. Maybe it is something to do with the weather. Or perhaps it is just a case that if you get too tired the virus comes roaring back.

In Parliament today the Minister for Men and Inequality, Liz Truss, was required to take questions. Because none of the other political parties are prepared to stand up for trans rights, she got few questions on her plans for equality law reform. Those she did get, she bumbled past saying nothing of substance.

On the one hand that is good news. She could have said a bunch of awful things. It is also possible that yesterday’s letter-writing campaign had some effect. As of close of business today over 25,000 people had sent letters to Bozo via the Gendered Intelligence gateway that I wrote about yesterday. More people have written directly, or written to their MPs. Apparently some MPs experienced website crashes and overflowing mailboxes today.

I don’t expect that this will have any effect on the government’s plans. Truss did not come up with this idea by herself. Dominic Cummings will be patiently explaining to panicked Cabinet members that the whole point of leaking the plans ahead of time was to allow the public outrage to run its course so that by the time the plans are officially announced people will be tired of the subject and only those directly affected will complain. We will need to prove him wrong.

In the meantime there has been a public statement of support for the trans community from Angela Rayner, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Not from Kier Starmer, of course. He is sticking to his policy of not getting involved least JK Rowling stop donating to his party, but at least we have got Labour a little bit rattled.

And yes, as you may have noticed, billionaires are a very bad thing all round, regardess of which political party they support.

Dear Prime Minister

There is a thing going around social media today to the effect that Downing Street will be making a decision tomorrow as to whether to back Liz Truss’s plans to roll back trans rights. Consequently we are all being urged to write to the PM. Personally I suspect that Bozo has already had his mind made up for him by Cummings, but you never know. Recently we have seen:

1a. A climb down over whether overseas staff in the NHS should be charged a £400 fee for using the service should they get sick.

1b. Except we learned today that the government lied and the fee is still being charged.

2a. Another climb down today over providing school meals to poor kids over the summer holiday, something that Bozo flatly refused to do until get got yelled at in Parliament over it.

2b. And I’m betting that come summer we will find out that this was a lie too.

So it is possible that we might squeeze some weasel words out of Bozo about bowing to public opinion, but come mid July when the proposals are published they will be exactly as outlined in the Sunday Times (if not worse).

Anyway, if you are a UK citizen and feel like writing a letter, Gendered Intelligence have provided a nice little template for you to use.

Here’s what I wrote.


I’m writing to you today as a UK citizen deeply concerned about proposed rollbacks to safeguards for trans dignity and safety in this country. On 14th June, The Sunday Times had as its front page an article on how the much-needed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act were being shelved. In the same article, plans were revealed that would restrict the access of trans people to single-sex spaces, and educe their access to medical treatment.

When your predecessor first proposed reforming the Gender Recognition Act we were told by the media that this would grant trans people worrying new rights that would put women in danger. The trans community patiently explained that the issues raised were covered by the Equality Act and not the GRA, so the supposed new rights were actually existing rights that had been in operation for 10 years without causing any problems.

Your government has now decided to scrap the reforms, despite an overwhelming majorty of people who expressed an opinion supporting them. But in addition to that you are apparently intending to remove rights from trans people on the grounds that they are a danger to women. How can that be, given that we were told that these dangerous new rights would only be granted if the GRA was reformed? And if these rights do exist, why are they being taken away given that they have been in place for 10 years without causing any problems?

As an active member of the Women’s Equality Party I am very much concerned with women’s safety. I know that between 2 and 3 women are killed every week by men that they know. I know that rape convictions are so hard to obtain in this country that the Crown Prosecution Service is now reluctant to bring cases. These are real and urgent issues facing the women of Britain. And yet your Women & Equalities Minister is instead wasting her time taking away rights from people who, as far as I can see, have done no one any harm. This is surely an inefficient use of government resources.

Please do something to protect women that will actual have a positive effect on our lives, and stop wasting time and effort on this ridiculous persecution of a tiny minority of the population.

Please Help Mindline Trans+

The last week has been particularly awful for trans people in the UK. I know a lot of people are very frightened and upset. Fortunately the lovely folks at Mindline Trans+, the helpline for trans and non-binary people run by the mental health charity, Mind, is looking to expand. They have a fundraiser going through the Aviva Community Fund and are hoping to hit £10,000 in donations by July 15th. The money will be used to expand their service from 2 nights a week to 3.

I should declare an interest here. The service started in Bristol and I did the initial training for staff from Bristol and Taunton. Also I see that the fundraiser is using a TV interview that Liz Sorapure of Mind and I did for Made in Bristol TV when the service first started up. But I very much believe that this is one of the best projects I have been involved in. And it is never more needed than it is now. Please help.

The Government War on Trans People Begins

Today’s papers have the news that the UK government is ready to move forward on reform of trans rights. The government has leaked to the Sunday Times that it will not be implementing the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), and will instead be introducing proposals to protect the British people from dangerous trans folks.

By far the most remarkable part of this is the revelation that 70% of respondents to the government survey on GRA reform were in favour of the proposals put forward by those notorious radicals, Theresa May and Amber Rudd. However, the proposals are still being rejected because the government believes that the Wrong Sort of People responded to the consultation.

If only they had been so sensible about the 52% of people who voted for Brexit, eh?

Also, given that trans people make up around 1% of the population, I find it hard to understand how we could have swamped responses to a public consultation, especially because almost every national media outlet, including the Guardian and the BBC, were encouraging people to reject the reform proposals.

But we are where we are. The government is determined to move forward as it sees fit, and it has made clear that even a supermajority of public opinion will not be allowed to stand in its way. So what does it all mean? Like most things pertaining to trans people, the announcement in the Sunday Times is full of coded language that can seem harmless but may hide all sorts of nastiness.

I should note, by the way, that I have no reason to believe that the Sunday Times has got this wrong. One of their reporters who led their campaign against trans people until recently was rewarded, after the General Election, with a post as a senior advisor to the Prime Minister.

One way in which we can try to decode what the announcement means is to look at what is already being done. Some time ago the government announced a legal inquiry into the operation of the Tavistock and Portman clinic in London, which provides the vast majority of health care for trans youth in the UK. The Tavi is well known to be deeply conservative in its practices. When asked to recommend international best practices for trans youth I normally point people to the official guidelines in the USA and Australia. However, a week and a half ago NHS England issued new guidelines for the treatment of trans youth that characterised the services that the Tavi provides as experimental and dangerous. This gives the inquiry no choice but to find that the Tavi is operating improperly, and to either order them to change their practices or close them down.

Those new guidelines also cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of treatment for trans adults.

One of the proposals listed by the Sunday Times is as follows:

There will be a crackdown on “quack” doctors to ensure that only reputable medics can give approvals.

This is obviously a direct attack on Dr. Helen Webberley and her Gender GP service, but the UK has a long and inglorious history of attacking anyone who sets up in private practice to help trans people. All of these people have been reputable medics with appropriate qualifications, but they have all been attacked (with the connivance of senior NHS doctors). Every single private gender expert that I have seen has been forced out of business. As I understand it, Dr. Webberley has moved her operations overseas.

The reason that private operations such as these exist is that waiting times for a first appointment at UK Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) were around 3 years as of before the pandemic. All services are currently on hold. Once services start up again that will have increased signifcantly. That’s 3 years before you see anyone at all, and probably at least another 6 months before a second appointment and approval for you to start treatment.

One of the ways in which trans people have navigated this problem is to initiate transition themselves. They transition socially. They may obtain medication from someone like Dr. Webberley. And until recently NHS guidelines suggested to GPs that they could provide a “bridging prescription” to tide people over until they could get officially taken on by a GIC. That guidance was withdrawn fairly recently. (Sometime last year, as I recall.) So one of the questions I am asking is, what if “quack doctors” include GPs who have provided treatment to trans patients who are not yet with a gender clinic? Will they soon be banned from doing so, under pain of being struck off?

It is rather ironic that a government that is hell-bent on privatising as much of the NHS as possible is also trying to prevent any private practice in the case of trans health.

The Sunday Times also talks about new national guidelines on access to toilets. They talk about how the general public does “not support transgender women with male anatomy accessing female-only facilities”. This is deeply disingenous of them. The current treatment protocols for trans people require that you show you can live full time in your correct gender for a period of time. The GRA states 2 years, though most GICs currently require less than that. This so-called “real life test” includes navigating public life. If trans women are not able to use public toilets, changing rooms and so on, they will fail the test and not be allowed surgery or a legal gender change.

The Sunday Times report also talks about a crackdown on the provision of gender neutral toilets. This does not protect cisgender people in any way. When asked to give advice on toilet provision I always note that gender neutral facilities should either be an addition for those who need them, or that they should be entirely separate cubicles such as you find on trains and aircraft. Gender-specific toilets can still exist alongside them. That way anyone who is unconfortable accessing a “male” or “female” toilet will have somewhere safe to go. That will include non-binary people, and butch lesbians, as well as pre-surgery trans women. It looks like this option will be banned.

Then there are the waiting lists. There are currently thousands of trans women in the UK who have transitioned successfully but have either yet to be accepted by a GIC, or are still waiting for a date for surgery. All of these women will be left in limbo by such regulations. Even going to work will be difficult for many of them. Thank goodness for Lockdown, because currently no one is surprised that we are afraid to leave home.

What about people like me? I successfully completed all of the required tests years ago when treatment protocols were much more stringent. I’ve had genital surgery and I am legally recognised as female. Will I be safe under these new proposals? Possibly not.

To start with, in the 20+ years since surgery I have had continual problems with GPs who have been unwilling to provide me with the hormones I need to stay healthy. There has been an ongoing spat between the GICs and the Royal College of GPs, with the latter pushing for a position that all health care for trans people should be conducted by GICs because it is “too complicated” for ordinary GPs. The GICs, being massively overloaded, have pushed back against this. They discharge people into GP care as soon as they have had all of the surgery they want.

Remember that I suggested that GPs might be banned from providing hormones to trans people before they access a GIC? What happens if they are banned from providing hormones after surgery as well? The government will say that there is no problem because people like me will be able to go to a GIC for prescriptions. But there will be at least a 4-year waiting list, and having thousands of people like me apply to be taken on will only make matters worse.

None of this will even require any legislation. All that is required is for the NHS to change official guidelines and threaten GPs with being struck off if they disobey. As we have seen with the changed guidelines for trans youth, they are already willing to do this.

Another point raise by the Sunday Times is as follows:

Safeguards will be put in place to protect “safe spaces” for women, reaffirming provisions in the Equality Act.

What does this mean?

UK readers will remember that the Tories have long been opponents of equalities legislation. David Cameron’s government spent a long time trying to find a way to repeal the Human Rights Act. The fact that they were unable to do so while still part of the EU was a significant driving force behind Brexit. The government does not want to do anything to equalities legislation except dismantle it.

A key feature of anti-trans arguments (for example Rowling’s recent screed) is that trans rights somehow take away rights from cis women. They want equalities legislation changed so that “sex-based rights” always trump the rights of trans people. This sort of thing appeals to the government because it can be endlessly extended. If they get this done, then they can argue that the rights of religious people trump the rights of LGBT+ people, that the rights of Christians trump those of non-Christians, that the rights of white people trump the rights of non-white people, and that the rights of men trump those of women.

The government knows that it is impractical to pass a law banning trans women from “women-only” spaces. It doesn’t want to be seen to be responsible for putting police guards on toilets and changing rooms. What they will do instead is to amend the guidance for the Equality Act to note that any person or organisation that allows a trans woman (whether she is legally female or not) access to a “woman-only” space is committing an act of discrimination against cis women. They will then sit back and wait for the rash of law suits that will force organisations to rescind their trans-inclusive policies.

In the USA a couple of days ago the *Unpresident changed legal guidance so that it is no longer an offence to refuse medical treatment to trans people. What I think the UK government is proposing is far worse. They will make it a crime for an orgnisation to be trans inclusive, even if it wants to be.

Finally there is the point about outlawing gay conversion therapy. This is generally being seen as a sop to the LGB community, and an effort to further divide them from their trans allies. “Don’t make a fuss over the trans thing,” the government is saying, “and we will give you this other thing you have always wanted.” But it could be much more than that, because the anti-trans movement has long claimed that gender reassignment is, de facto, gay conversion therapy.

Back when I transitioned, it was absolutely essential that I claimed to be sexually attracted to men, otherwise I would be deemed not feminine enough to be allowed to transition. Thankfully that wasn’t a problem for me, but others had to lie to get through. Suppose, however, that claiming to be sexually attracted to men was also taken as proof that I was “really gay”, because I was “really a man”. Anti-trans LG people firmly believe this is the case, and that “their people” are being stolen by gender clinics.

If the government listens to the anti-trans lobby, and they have shown every sign of doing so enthusiastically, then they could quite easily define gender transition as “gay conversion therapy” as an excuse to ban it.

Now of course none of this has happened yet. It is possible that the government is not in fact as devious and cruel as I think it is. But I’m not going to bet on that. We need to be prepared for the possibility that such changes will be introduced, and that they will be disguised by weasel words to make them seem harmless. The misinformation campaign over GRA reform has shown just how dishonest the opposition can be when it comes to trans rights.

The question is, will anyone care? Obviously vastly more people who do care are on our side than are not. The results of the consultation proved that. But the vast majority of the UK population did not respond. Nevertheless, they should care about what is being done to trans people right now, because we are the canary in the coal mine. Also we are running out of time.

Last week the government confirmed that they would not be seeking an extension to the Brexit negotiations because of the pandemic, and that they will be continuing their intransigent negotiating stance. This means that a very hard Brexit currently looks inevitable, and as a consequence the UK will suffer a massive economic disaster in January. We need to stop this. We need causes to rally around. The Black Lives Matter campaign appears to be one of them. I am hoping that the sheer cruelty of the government’s treatment of trans people might be another one.

The other interesting political wild card is Scotland. The Scottish government has published a Bill implementing the proposed GRA changes, and has promised to progress it once the pandemic is over. I have long wondered why Nicola Sturgeon has insisted on this, given that one of her main allies, Joanna Cherry, is violently transphobic. My assumption is that for the SNP independence always comes first, and that Ms. Cherry is privately prepared to accept a temporary increase in trans rights in Scotland if that provokes a massive row with Westminister.

We surely live in interesting times.

As usual with such things, comments are closed on this. You know how to find me if you need to talk.