5 Steps for Improving Trans Access to Survivor Services

Transgender people face alarmingly high rates of sexual violence yet most trans victims cannot access any kind of support services in the aftermath. This post by Pazuzu Gaylord aims to outline areas where sexual violence survivor services are failing trans people and ways in which we can work to improve them.

1: Training and Advocacy

Groundbreaking research into the provision of survivor services for trans people conducted by the Survivors Network revealed that nearly all of the trans survivors who were surveyed were afraid of transphobic discrimination from the staff who were supposed to be helping them.

Action for Trans Health offer training to healthcare professionals on making services trans inclusive which could be adapted for working with survivor services. We are currently developing an advocacy service to offer individual support to trans people accessing healthcare services which will also be useful.

2: Media and Resources

Currently, most promotional media and resources produced by survivor support organisations discriminate against trans people both explicitly in the ways that they gender people’s anatomies and implicitly in how information is given and withheld based on these assumptions.

There are some examples of good trans inclusive literature, such as the LGBT Foundation’s leaflet for trans survivors of sexual violence, these can be used as a template for improving other resources. The lessons taken from trans specific literature need to be integrated into all resources, including female and male specific ones. Trans specific leaflets should be made widely, openly available without survivors having to personally ask for them.

3: Creating Specialist Trans Services

There is a desperate need for trans specific survivor services, both to deal with the total absence of services available to non-binary survivors and to provide a space for other trans survivors who are uncomfortable with using single-gender services.

4: Publicity and Locality

Where trans inclusive services exist their profile needs to be raised so that they may reach the people who need them. Action for Trans Health are working on a list of trans inclusive rape and sexual assault crisis centres, you can help us with our research here.

More outreach from survivor support organisations to trans communities is needed, forming links with organisations and individuals who are already well established in trans communities can help to build trust in services. Producing explicitly trans inclusive media and resources is another part of this.

Ideally services should be locally available but given the current rarity of trans inclusive services travel bursaries could be a small immediate way of improving access.

5: Wider Tackling of Transphobia and Rape Culture

Trans people learn to fear using public services through repeated direct experiences of discrimination from public and private sector organisations. These experiences are widespread across all kinds of services. Societal stigma towards victims of sexual violence also contributes to feelings of shame which dissuade survivors from talking about their experiences and seeking support.

Attitudes which blame trans survivors for the violence we suffer must be confronted wherever they occur and knowledge on consent and trans issues needs to be actively promoted. This education is vital not only to make survivors feel more able to access services but to reduce the prolific violence which makes survivor services necessary in the first place.

Members of Action for Trans Health are currently working with Project Salvage on research into gendered harm in activist communities and a series of workshops on how to better identify and address these problems.

Our response to the Trans Inquiry Recommendations

Today the Women and Equalities Select Committee released its report on its recent inquiry into transgender equality. The Inquiry heard written and oral evidence from trans individuals and organisations, including from Action for Trans Health, on various areas of life which affects trans people. Their report can be found here. Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by some of the recommendations made in the report, but feel that there are significant areas for improvement. This is our response.

[For a media contact please get in touch at jess(at)actionfortranshealth.org.uk]

Summary

Healthcare: Significant work needs to be done to engage trans people in decision making around healthcare issues beyond tightly managed consultations; education needs to be embedded in healthcare curricula and not just in continuing professional development; considerable attention needs to be placed on waiting lists and improving capacity in GICs; we are disappointed the Inquiry dismissed calls for the informed consent model be adopted

Child and Adolescent Services: We support the Inquiry’s call for shorter assessment times so hormone blockers and HRT can be provided earlier; we also discuss the problems of the Tavistock clinic having an effective monopoly on child and adolescent care.

Gender Recognition Act and Administration: we believe that the de-gendering of various forms of identification is necessary; we support the de-gendering of marriage is a neater solution to the problem of the spousal veto than two separate marriage systems.

Equality Act: We are disappointed to hear that single gender services (ie. survivors services) are to continue to be exempt from the Equality Act, this will have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable members of our community

Hate Crime: We are unconvinced that hate crime legislation is an appropriate tool for combating transphobia due its poor record as a deterrent and low engagement from the trans community. We believe a focus on education, awareness and combating medical neglect is more appropriate a response to transphobia.

Prisons: We welcome recommendations that policies on the management of trans prisoners be less reliant on legal definitions of gender. We believe that these policies should explicitly address the management of non-binary prisoners. We are disappointed to note the lack of discussion around trans people incarcerated in immigration detention centres. We also discuss reparative alternatives to punitive justice.

General NHS Services

We welcome the acknowledgement by the Inquiry that current practice within the NHS represents a failure to provide trans people with safe and accessible healthcare under the Equality Act (2010). It is clear that the Inquiry recognises that there is a lot of work to be done to improve NHS services in this regard.

Whilst it is right to commend NHS England’s creation of a Transgender and Nonbinary Network of consultees, the consultations themselves lead a lot to be desired. These meetings are tightly managed by NHS staff, provide little space for trans organisations to speak (nevermind being listened to) and are not very representative of the wide diversity of the trans community itself. The trans healthcare system needs to be delivered as a partnership between the trans community and medical practitioners, not solely by NHS administrators who occasionally deign to placate the trans community with a carefully managed consultation.

We welcome the recommendation for a systematic review covering transphobia in NHS services and contractors, and that the Inquiry have linked this to a lack of education on trans issues and a lack of knowledge around treatment pathways. We believe that any education efforts should go beyond Continuing Professional Development (CPD) short-courses for doctors, but should be embedded in the curriculum in all healthcare courses across the country. All NHS staff, including doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and administrators, need to demonstrate a degree of cultural competency around trans issues.

We are happy to hear that the Inquiry calls on the General Medical Council to take complaints around transphobia in healthcare seriously. We would note in that our experience, the medical neglect of trans people is so common within the NHS that many trans people do not feel it is ‘worth it’ to complain as it is perceived to have very little impact on a system which is institutionally transphobic. We believe significant efforts to improve NHS services, through greater funding of Gender Identity Services and through education, is necessary before the trans community feels engaged enough that even the complaints procedures feel accessible to them.

Gender Identity Clinics (Adults)

We welcome the Inquiry’s recommendation to consider removing Gender Identity Services from the realm of mental health towards a different specialism (such as endocrinology) or establishing gender identity services as a specialism in and of itself. Like the Inquiry, we view this shift as potentially depathologising.

We also are glad that the Inquiry recognises the inconsistency and inaccessibility produced by gatekeeping in all areas of transition related healthcare, including with GPs, Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) and in Real Life Experience. However, we are saddened to hear that the Inquiry does not recognise the clear benefits of adopting an Informed Consent model of trans healthcare treatment which we feel would address many of the concerns witnesses had around gatekeeping and inconsistent diagnostic protocols, particular those faced by nonbinary people.

We feel that the Inquiry may misunderstand some key features of the Informed Consent model, which is used in many US-based clinics. The Inquiry seems to imply that the Informed Consent model is simply about giving surgical interventions on demand without any diagnostic evaluation. Instead, Informed Consent is based upon a genuine partnership between healthcare practitioner and patient, based around an understand of trans as an identity rather than a pathology. Further, the Inquiry seems to be under the belief that the Informed Consent model is inconsistent with the WPATH Standards of Care, which is arguably not the case. If the Inquiry wishes to see trans people have “full involvement” in their healthcare and “full personal autonomy in gender identity and presentation”, as they say in the report, then a move towards an Informed Consent model of healthcare is a necessity.

We note that the Inquiry recommends a consistent application and interpretation of guidelines between different GICs and different practitioners. It is true that inconsistent treatment between GICs, clinicians, and even between individual clinicians depending on the day of the week, is a source of confusion and anxiety for many trans people. Where guidelines are to be applied consistently, it needs to be ensured that these are interpreted in a manner which is empowering to all trans patients, including those that identify as nonbinary.

We also note that the Inquiry recommends that the requirement for Real Life Experience shift from being about conforming to potentially outdated gender norms, and more about preparing the patient for the mental, physical and social consequences of surgery. We believe this is a positive step in the right direction, but that in order to do this justice a significant investment needs to be made in mental health support for those trans patients who need it. These mental health services need to be non-pathologising.

We are glad that the Inquiry shares our concerns around waiting times for treatment and the capacity in GICs. Demand is rising 20-30% per annum and there are no clear plan to recruit the gender specialists that are needed. Waiting times already unacceptably and illegally long. We are sitting on crisis in trans healthcare. Significant financial investment is needed to meet the increasing demand. Further, recruitment and training of new specialists should happen as a matter of urgency. This should be augmented with further education work in medical schools so more young doctors are aware that specialising in trans healthcare is a career option. In the meantime, the recruitment of additional administration staff to improve the poor quality of administration and communications (alongside a review of how admin is processed) is necessary.

Children and Adolescent Trans Healthcare

We are happy to see that the Inquiry recommends a review of the Tavistock’s services with a mind to reducing the time of assessment so that hormone blockers and HRT can be provided earlier. This is an area where it has been clearly proven that failing to provide hormone blockers can cause significant harm, and compared to similar services in different countries, the UK Tavistock service is actually far behind. As the Tavistock has an effective monopoly on treatment for young trans people in the UK, this raises the issue, which we note the Inquiry has not addressed, of young UK based trans people having fewer choices of how and where to access their treatment.

Gender Recognition Act and Administration

We welcome the move away from gender recognition based on submitting medical and legal data to a panel and towards self-definition, as recommended in the report, which would see legal gender recognition move to an administrative process centred on the wishes of the individual applicant. We are glad to see the recommendation to create a legal category for nonbinary people in order to allow freer self-identification and welcome this development. However, we feel that this should be a step towards the systematic degendering birth certificates altogether. In their current form, birth certificates assign a gender to infants before they can speak, when they are unable to self-define. Degendering would be a move towards the depathologisation and destigmatisation of trans identities. The degendering of birth certificates would also be in line with recommendations from intersex rights groups, such as Intersex UK.

Degendering of birth certificates would also support young trans people who would not be benefitted by the current recommendations from this report. While the decision to reduce the age of legal gender recognition from 18 to 16 with parental permission will benefit young trans people with supportive parents, it will put in place additional barriers for children with unsupportive parents. Unfortunately, for many young trans people, parents and family members can be unsupportive and can often be sources of abuse. We believe legislation intended to support young trans people must recognise this fact. Action for Trans Health supports gender self-determination for all trans people, regardless of age, and encourages the development of legislation to allow this.

Recommendations to review the spousal veto and its harmful effects on trans people are very welcome, as are recommendations to address the problem of trans people who are victimised by spouses with malicious intent, especially given the high rates of domestic violence experienced by trans people. However we feel that the argument for the spousal veto rests on a distinction between same sex and different sex marriages and that a neater and all round better solution would be the degendering of marriage contracts. This would allow people the freedom to divorce or annul their marriage at any time but would enable trans people to have full autonomy over their identities, rather than that control being in the hands of their spouse.

We are concerned but unsurprised to hear that there have been no prosecutions under Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act, which is intended to protect trans people’s right to privacy by preventing trans people from having their trans status unlawfully disclosed. We believe that a review of this Section is an unconvincing solution to transphobic discrimination, especially given the evidence concerning repeated instances of unlawful disclosure during court proceedings. We believe that the degendering of birth certificates and the enabling of gender self-determination regardless of age would be more effective strategies to combat transphobic discrimination on a larger scale.

Equality Act

We support the recommendation to change the wording of the protected characteristic from ‘gender reassignment’ to ‘gender identity’ in order to ensure that all trans people are clearly protected by this piece of legislation. However, while we believe that expanding the scope of this Act to cover all trans people is good in theory, given how ineffective its application often is across those protected characteristics already covered, we have concerns that it will ultimately prove confusing and difficult to apply.

We were disappointed to hear recommendations that single gender services would continue to be exempt from discrimination clauses. The suggestion of only removing exemption when the individual possesses a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) clearly does not go far enough, especially considering the criticisms of how GRCs function which have already been outlined in this inquiry.

It is worrying that the inquiry refers specifically to areas where vulnerable trans people are already struggling to access services, such as rape crisis centres, and sees fit to continue these exclusions. Research conducted by the Survivors Network revealed that a large majority of trans people fail to access any kind of support services following sexual violence, with most citing fears of transphobic discrimination as a reason they felt uncomfortable trying to access single gender services. Allowing discrimination against trans people in the case of single gender services legitimises the oppression of trans people and encourages transphobia amongst staff and service users.

Excluding people from work on the basis of trans status is a problem when trans people already face high rates of unemployment and trans staff could better support trans service users. Research suggests that funding is needed for the creation of trans specific services for survivors of sexual violence, which would also be inclusive of non-binary people, but this needs to be done in conjunction with and not as an alternative to making existing services inclusive of trans women in the case of women’s services and trans men in the case of men’s services. Widespread education is needed to make staff aware of the unique challenges which trans survivors face.

Hate Crime

The Trans Inquiry recommends that existing hate crime legislation be extended to bring trans in line with other protected characteristics by classifying aggravated offences and stirring up hatred against trans people as hate crimes. Whilst hate crime legislation exists, it is clear that trans people should have legal parity with other protected characteristics. We would like to see clarification as to whether Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) would be able to be prosecuted for “stirring up hatred” under the new proposals. However, given low rates of prosecution for “stirring up hatred” on racial and religious grounds, we wonder whether if TERF hate-speech qualified as “stirring up hatred” it would be acted upon by the state with any degree of consistency or regularity.

However, we are concerned that the sole focus on hate crime legislation to deal with issues of transphobic violence individualises social problems of transphobia and may have some negative consequences. Hate crime legislation has not been proven to have a deterrent effect on violence borne from prejudice. Rather, hate crime legislation seeks to punish the individual perpetrator for their bias and in doing so increases the number of people in contact with the criminal justice system – mostly this will be individuals from other marginalised groups who are more unlikely to be able to afford good legal representation. Moreover, we are concerned to learn that hate crime legislation will be linked to ‘tackling extremism’, especially when the government’s flagship anti-extremism programme Prevent has been largely criticised for racial profiling and islamophobia. When marginalised groups are disproportionately negatively impacted by hate crime legislation, it is unclear how these tools are useful in bringing about a more equal society.

The reality of the situation is that most trans people do not have the ability to seek legal recourse after a hate crime incident. This is due to a number of barriers some of which are discussed in the report, including but not limited to; unwillingness to be ‘outed’, lack of energy to pursue legal recourse over incidents due to their frequency, lack of willingness to deal with the police, and lack of access to legal support (including the issue of potentially paying court fees, etc.). The inquiry recommendations encourage third party reporting to increase the number of trans related hate crime reports. However, as hate crime legislation actually gives very little in terms of protecting trans people due to it being an ineffective deterrent, it is unsurprising that trans people often do not engage with it, and will probably not do so even if the barriers above are solved. Rather, we feel that the government would do better to focus on the causes of transphobic violence through methods such as education, income equality and the reduction of medical neglect.

Recording Names and Gender Identities

We support the Inquiry’s recommendation to introduce clear and appropriate policies regarding the recording of individuals’ names and genders across public services. However, we are concerned that little guidance is given as to how this might be achieved. With widespread misinformation about the existence of ‘legal names’ in the UK, as is referenced in the report, and many trans people’s’ information currently being stored in ways that directly contravene the Data Protection Act (1998), it is difficult to see how these policies would be implemented and maintained.

We are in support of the recommendation to remove the requirement for a doctor to produce a letter enabling a trans person to apply for a passport that accurately reflects their gender and the recommendation to introduce a category on passports to include nonbinary people, such as the X category in Australia. The move towards degendering of documentation, such as passports and driving licenses, may seem an important one in ending transphobic discrimination. However, we question the necessity and impact of nationalist documents such as passports that are used to reinforce the category of citizenship and therefore cause direct harm to trans migrants and refugees. We express these concerns especially given the absence of any recommendations to support trans migrants and refugees within the Inquiry’s response.

We agree that the recording of gender should be for equalities monitoring purposes and not for identification purposes, where the recording of gender is used to uphold cissexist standards of gender. Overall, we support smarter and more comprehensive equalities monitoring that monitors gender, trans status and sexual orientation in a way that enables self-determination.

Prison and Probation

In light of the recent deaths of two trans women held in male prisons, and the high profile case of Tara Hudson hitting the media, we are glad that trans people incarcerated in prisons and in probation were discussed in the report. We note that the report acknowledges the large gap between the current guidelines for the management of trans prisoners and the reality that many trans prisoners face due to inconsistency, prejudice and bias of prison institutions. We welcome recommendations that guidelines for the management of trans prisoners be made more flexible and less reliant on legal definitions of gender, and further we support the Bent Bars Collective’s submission which recommends that any guidelines should cover the management of prisoners who identify as non-binary. We would also like to see prisons being ‘opened up’ to researchers and trans organisations so that the status of trans prisoners can be assessed more accurately.

However, we were disappointed to learn that despite evidence being presented to the inquiry about trans people incarcerated in immigration detention (by us and the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group), the report did not explicitly mention immigration or issues facing trans people incarcerated in detention centres. This is a significant oversight which should be addressed immediately.

Further, we feel that any discussion of prison policy would be amiss not to discuss the very low effectiveness of the prison system in terms of reducing recidivism rates, whilst operating at high expense to the public purse. Prison is an inherently harsh environment which is not conducive to reparative forms of justice, nor is it an effective deterrent to crime. The current government has announced plans to build a £250m “mega-prison” in Wrexham, which is likely to be run by a private company. This expansion of the prison system will undoubtedly result in an expansion of the prison population as the prison estate’s capacity is increased. It is expected that this will lead to an increase in trans and gender-nonconforming people being incarcerated. In a backdrop of austerity, is likely that living conditions in prisons are likely to decrease over this period. We recommend that the government explore alternatives to the ineffective and punitive prison system which emphasise more reparative forms of justice.

Sheffield Activist Training Day

Action for Trans Health are teaming up with Sheffield IWW to hold a training day in Sheffield.

Jess Bradley from Action for Trans Health will be visiting Sheffield to deliver training for trans activists. Join us in learning about:
– Campaigns planning and training
– Setting up a group
– Training people how to give trans-friendly sexual health training to health professionals

Keira James of IWW Sheffield (UK) Branch will be talking about trans solidarity and the successful campaign against transphobic discrimination from her employers.

This event is open to all. Respectful cis people are welcome but please be aware that this is not a trans 101. If you are cis and want to come, we will be sending you homework beforehand. Please note this on your booking form.

Booking:
Places are limited so please book online here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/111BiCNOIxjiMVN3jIuzp33Dy_EL7zU2C2YJNu3ec54g/viewform?usp=send_form

There is a travel fund available if you can’t afford to get here (this fund will prioritise trans people of colour). Get in touch at info@actionfortranshealth.org.uk

Access information: the conference room at SYAC is on the first floor, accessible via the lift, there are accessible toilets on the same floor. A quiet space will be provided on the day. If you have any additional access needs please mention this on the booking form and we will do our best to meet them.

Training is free to attend. Donations towards the Action for Trans Health solidarity fund are welcomed. The solidarity fund is used to help UK based trans and intersex people access healthcare, with priority given to those who are facing greater barriers than most.

Solidarity Actions with the Junior Doctor Strikes

We know that the workplace conditions of healthcare professionals make up patients healthcare conditions. The new junior doctor contract represents a 30% real term pay cut to doctors salary. More than that though, it puts patients lives at risk by putting overworked and overtired doctors in charge our lives.

[The BMA / junior doctors strikes have been postponed til the end of the negotiation period as the government have come back to negotiation table. This represents a short term win for the doctors. Dont go to the picket lines tomorrow! Keep tuned in because strikes are still likely to happen if the govt doesnt offer significant changes to the contract.]

Junior doctors make up 65,000 members of NHS staff. They have overwhelmingly voted to go on strike, and have put in place mechanisms to strike in such a way that patients will not be put at risk. Action for Trans Health support the junior doctors strikes and are encouraging trans and queer people to support the strikes by attending picket lines, demonstrations, writing to your MP, and raising awareness on social media. Joining picket lines are an excellent way of building solidarity and coalition building between trans service users and healthcare professionals.

We are looking to create a list of picket lines where Action for Trans Health or other trans / queer organisations are joining the picket line in solidarity with junior doctors. If you are trans / queer and interested in popping down to your local picket on either the 1st, 8th, or 16th of December and want to be listed here, or have any further questions, get in touch info[at]actionfortranshealth.org.uk

Manchester: Manchester Action for Trans Health are joining pickets at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, 8.30am on the 1st December, potentially might join actions on the 8th and 16th too (to be confirmed).

Leeds: Leeds Action for Trans Health are planning on supporting picket lines (exact details to be confirmed).

Sheffield: Queer Agenda Sheffield are meeting at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital at 8am on the 1st December. Potentially future actions in the junior doctors on the other days (to be confirmed).

Liverpool: Liverpool Action for Trans Health are going to be joining the picket line on the 8th December (which picket to be confirmed).

Alternative Trans Day of Remembrance 2015 Manchester

Join us to remember those we have lost from transphobic violence, discrimination and harassment. Organised by trans people, for trans people (although respectful cis allies are welcome).

Please bring candles with jam jars to hold them in, and flowers if you can afford them. We will be collecting donations to cover the cost of putting on the event, if we take in more money than it cost to put on the excess with be donated to a trans charity.

The venue:
Nexus Art Cafe, 3 Dale Street just off Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter.

Access:
The venue is wheelchair accessible through the Methodist Chapel on Oldham Street. The Dale Street entrance involves a flight of stairs.

Food / Drink:
There will be cakes and coffees / teas on sale at the venue. There is usually some form of gluten free and vegan cakes on sale. The venue is alcohol free.

Toilets:
The venue has flat access gendered toilets that are accessible with a code. The code numbers will be stuck on the doors so people do not have to ask venue staff for the code.

Facebook event here

Solidarity Fund Now Open for Applications

Our solidarity fund is now open for applications. The deadline for applications is the 15th November 2015.

Who can apply?
We are offering small grants for to help UK based trans and intersex people access healthcare. Any trans, cure nonbinary, intersex or otherwise gender nonconforming person based in the UK can apply. We have a specific fund ringfenced for grants to black trans people and are particularly keen to receive applications from trans people of colour.

What can you apply for?
We take a very broad definition of healthcare, and in the past have paid for appointments with doctors, therapy sessions, stipends to support people undergoing surgery, binders / packers / breast forms, clothes etc. We only ask that if the money is being used to access medication which will be needed long-term, that the applicant has thought about how to secure the long-term supply after the grant money has been spent. Its a small fund and we are unlikely to give a grant of over £500 to one individual.

How can I donate to fund?
100% of our donations and membership dues received through the website currently go into our solidarity fund. You can donate to the solidarity fund using the paypal button below, or become a member of Action for Trans Health here.

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.

How do I apply?
The application process is pretty simple. Fill in this short form, giving as much details about your situation as you can. After we have received your application, our administrator will anonymise it and pass it on to our funding panel who decide how to allocate the funds. If you have any questions, please get in touch at info[at]actionfortranshealth[dot]org[dot]uk

Upcoming: Activist Training Day and AGM

Join Action for Trans Health for an exciting weekend of activist training, plotting, and networking with awesome trans activists.

On the 21st Nov we will be having an activist training day: learn about organising for democratic healthcare, taking direct action, healthcare advocacy, and more… including an open mic night in the evening.

On the 22nd we will be having our AGM. Featuring a debate on tactics and strategy, elections of the new committee, picking priority campaigns for the year ahead, and our accountability sessions.

Are you interested in running for a spot on the Action for Trans Health committee? Have a look here for more information.

To vote to set policy and in our elections you need to be an Action for Trans Health member, join here

Register to come here

We have a small travel / childcare budget to help people attend. This resource will be prioritised for trans people of colour, disabled people, and people with caring responsibilities. Get in touch by emailing info@actionfortranshealth.org.uk if you need to use the travel / childcare budget to attend.

Venue: LGBT Foundation, Richmond Street, Manchester. Venue is wheelchair accessible and will have a quiet space. Get in touch via info@actionfortranshealth.org.uk

Autumn 2015 Funding Round Announced

We are really happy to announce that we will be opening applications for a new round of solidarity funding on the 29th October 2015 (deadline: 15th November 2015). This fund will be allocated to trans (including non-binary) and intersex people to help them access healthcare. At the moment, we have about £1000 in the fund. Any additional monies raised through donations and Action for Trans Health dues between now and the deadline will be added to the fund. We would love to reach our target of giving away £1750 this Autumn, so please get fundraising and donating if you can! You can see where the previous grants went here. Donate using the button below:

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.

Healthcare is a right, not a prize

You wouldnt catch me in a beauty pageant anytime soon, but I don’t knock the women for whom that is a thing they wanna do. But Miss Transgender UK’s first prize of gender confirmation surgery has left me speechless. Jess Bradley writes

A few days ago the Miss Transgender UK facebook page posted an update detailing the first, second, and third prizes for their beauty pageant to be held next week. The first prize is £5000 cash and a £10,000 worth of gender affirmation surgery, the second prize is £1000 cash and one facial feminisation procedure. The third prize is £500 cash and a makeover.

We started Action for Trans Health because we saw so many of our friends having to crowdfunds their transitions. We noticed it always seemed to be the prettiest, the whitest, the most middle class people who achieved their goals the quickest. We set up Action for Trans Health to do things differently. We believe that access to hormones, surgeries and other transition related treatments are basic, necessary, and life-saving. They are not prizes akin to a cruise or an open-top car. Making them prizes just makes our basic healthcare needs seem like luxuries: cosmetic and elective.

Our solidarity fund is overseen by a democratically elected committee who employ an independent funding panel to allocate funds according to who needs it most. This beauty pageant seems to be allocating funds according to who is the prettiest (read: most cis-normative looking?). I cant help but imagine how devastating and dysphoria-inducing it must be to get your hopes up of winning the “prize” to have them dashed because a bunch of strangers judged you to not be attractive enough. A whole bunch of people are desperate for access to trans healthcare, and I don’t blame anyone for entering such a pageant for those reasons, or indeed any other really. But I can’t support the idea of basic healthcare being a “prize” for those seen as most attractive in the service of a profit making venture such as Miss Transgender UK.

Our solidarity fund is just one part of what we do at Action for Trans Health, because we know that for all trans people to have access to healthcare, we need to campaign against the idea that our healthcare is cosmetic and elective. The campaigning work that we have done has been hard work, taking us from picket lines to Parliament and back again. We need more than spectacles offering healthcare to the few, but to build a movement which demands healthcare for the many. We hope that instead of giving money to Miss Transgender UK, you donate to our solidarity fund below… and instead of joining them at their pageant, you join the movement which fights for democratic trans healthcare today.

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.

 

 

On gay marriage and the crisis of queer relevance

Recently I was invited to speak on “the future of LGBT activism” at Manchester’s Political Pride. I was on the panel with Hope Winter-Hall, an original member of the UK Gay Liberation Front; Florence Okoye; member of the AfroFutures collective; and Alex Young, a trans activist and Christian. Hope talked about some of the tactics of early GLF and the importance of finding your own personal revolution. Florence discussed the intersections of queerness, blackness and futurism, and highlighted the need to queer all of our institutions. Alex talked about his experiences as a queer person of faith and the importance of understanding our experiences as both systematic and subjective. What follows is my thoughts about the future of queer activism, in a post gay marriage era. Jess Bradley writes:

Since the implementation of gay marriage, the LGB movement has been experiencing an identity crisis. We have “equality” now. Or at least, it seems so the straight cis people who determine third sector funding priorities. For large organisations such as Stonewall, this has led to a crisis of relevance: how can they justify their continued existence as institutions when LGB people appear to have legal equality? (Perhaps this is a problem that Stonewall foresaw, given its rather sluggish support of gay marriage).

They have dealt with this crisis of relevance is to incorporate the T into their work. Trans people are politically relevant right now, what with the “transgender tipping point”, Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and more visible areas of concern that need addressing (transphobic violence, healthcare, etc.). Of course, they could have incorporated the T into their work a long time ago, but made a strategic decision to do so now as the threat of funding irrelevance outweighed the threat of pissing off TERFs and other transphobes. This is an observation not (necessarily) a criticism. Organisations like Stonewall strategically choose to operate in a way which pleases their funders and that necessarily involves avoiding controversy in order to keep their staff in work. Organisations like Action for Trans Health have a different set of priorities and use a different set of strategies, but perhaps if our interests align at some point we will work together. (Riffing off what Hope said, I think having a sense of what your interests are is part of understanding your own personal revolution).

Whilst the increased attention on trans issues which comes with Stonewall incorporating the T is a good thing, I tend to think that simply incorporating new identities into the existing ways of doing things might not be all that. Do we simply keep on adding new identities when the ‘old ones’ become less politically relevant? How much does this incorporation of new identities involve lipservice and how much involves an institutional change? Perhaps we need to do things differently, use a new set of tactics which involve incorporating the most vulnerable from the offset not just when its politically convenient.

If we need a new set of tactics and priorities, then what? At this stage, I would like to return to the specific moment of getting gay marriage, because I believe it holds a lot of answers to the current question of priorities, strategies and relevance. Gay marriage is, in the history of marriage, a bit of an anomaly. In the past, in Europe and the US, marriage has generally tended to be an institution foisted upon new groups without their consent, rather than something actively asked for. Marriage was devised as a way of denying aristocratic women property rights, then was applied to the working classes to create more stable (read: manageable) nuclear family units, and to black slaves and ex-slaves in the US to tie them to their master’s estates. So it is interesting that LGB activists have seemingly asked for gay marriage, in the most part within a wider set of demands, and how the official response has been to assume that was all that was being asked for. Its also pretty interesting that the Tories, hardly known for their love of the queer community, were the ones who passed the law. Perhaps this was to try and shed their image of being the “nasty party”, or perhaps gay marriage, too, offers something useful in terms of managing populations.

I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with my racist uncle. We were talking about the immigration crisis and the fact that many migrants are Muslim. He said “Why are you defending Muslims? If you go ‘over there’ you won’t get your gay marriage”. In saying this, my uncle created a conflict between queers and Muslims: we (white, non-Muslims) are “tolerant” to gays, more “civilised” than the racialized Muslim other overseas. (Its interesting how my uncle is only ever concerned about gay rights when he has something racial to prove, it’s a shallow solidarity). This construction of Europe as a bastion of tolerance is widespread (see Israel’s pinkwashing of the conflict with Palestine for another example) but blind to history: most countries with anti-gay laws had them passed by European colonial powers, or more recently by neo-colonial theocratic leaders installed by the US with the backing of Europe. Its also blind to the fact that many Muslims are queer, and many queers are Muslim. Simply put, you’re still homophobic if your vision of tolerance towards queers only extends to the white non-Muslim ones. My friend and comrade Sonia talks more about this in her blog inspired by this discussion here.

Drawing on this phenemona, Jasbir Puar in her Terrorist Assemblages talks about how gay marriage is being used to codify a Western set of values in order to justify the othering of black and brown people in Europe and the global south. Essentially, gay marriage and other LGBT issues are being played off against race. This dynamic is shown with UK marriage as at the same time we see the implementation of same sex marriage legislation, we also see changes to immigration legislation which restricts the spouses of British citizens from getting citizenship unless the citizen earns over a certain amount (which started of around £18k, although my friend said recently it had risen). As such, whilst we see same sex couples being incorporated into the institution of marriage, we also see a whole bunch of immigrants whose partners earn less than the required amount excluded. At the same time we also have the spousal veto for married trans people, whereby their partners can veto their legal gender recognition, also excludes a significant amount of trans people from the institution of marriage.

To me, the question of what the LGBT movement does now that we have gay marriage is obvious, the marriage legislation is quite clearly pointing us towards a focus on immigration and anti-racist queer activism, and changes to gender recognition legislation and abolition of gender gatekeepers more generally. However, for the LGBT movement to focus on the rights of LGBT asylum seekers / immigrants or trans people excluded from basic healthcare / recognition, necessarily involves a change of focus away from existing models of activism led by white cis LGB people. This is increasingly relevant as Europe’s leaders fail to address a growing refugee crisis internationally and UK governments slash funding for healthcare and various social support mechanisms. Following what Alex and Florence said in their speeches, we need to understand that white cis LGB experiences do not always produce the same understandings or priorities as those of other groups, and that part of queering our activist institutions involves a radical openness to collaborating with other groups and letting other people lead. This should occur alongside an openness to allowing ourselves to make mistakes as we learn about other peoples experiences, and a commitment to educating ourselves so we “fail better” next time.