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APPLICATIONS FOR THIS ROUND OF FUNDING HAS NOW CLOSED, THANKS TO ALL THAT APPLIED

Action for Trans Health are proud to open applications for the first funding round of our solidarity fund. Throughout the year, we raise money to help trans and gender variant people who for whatever reason cannot access healthcare treatment through the NHS in a timely manner. Our solidarity fund seeks to give small grants to those who face the most barriers to accessing healthcare. So far we have about £1500 to give away, but we hope to receive more in donations to increase what we can give away.

The application form for the solidarity fund is below (link). The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 12th June 2015. Information about what you can use the money for is included in the application form below.

Any money we receive in donations or membership fees between now and the deadline will be added to the fund and will go directly into a grant to help facilitate access to healthcare. You can join Action for Trans Health here, and donate by clicking the button below.

Action for Trans Health Solidarity Fund

 

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The toilet is often thought to be a mundane space, but for those who lack adequate or accessible toilet provision on a daily basis, toilets become a crucial practical issue which can create and reaffirm feelings of exclusion and regulation. Disabled people, for example, frequently report that ‘accessible’ toilets are not accessible enough, while other studies show that diminishing numbers of public toilets can prevent older people leaving the house. Toilets can also present a stark visual and material enactment of a gender binary in ways that can be problematic for trans and gender variant people. Thinking around toilets and their function as material as well as socio-cultural environments presents an opportunity to consider forms of identity in multi-faceted ways.

Around the Toilet is a cross-disciplinary, arts-based research project exploring the toilet as a place of exclusion and belonging. Action for Trans Health are proud to be collaborating on this project with activists from Queer of the Unknown and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, as well as researchers from Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield and University of Leeds. This project is funded by the AHRC Connected Communities programme. Below is a short animated PowToon video which gives more background information to the project.

The project consists of a series of art and performance workshops and public debates in Manchester over the summer, with the aim of telling trans, queer, and disabled people’s experiences of public toilets. This work will then feed into a brief for architecture students at Sheffield Architecture School and culminate in a public installation. All events will be wheelchair accessible and BSL translated. If you want to participate in the artistic and performance projects please get in touch at info[at]actionfortranshealth.org.uk

If you can’t make to the workshops, you can always share your toilet stories or photos with us via twitter by using the hashtag #cctoilettalk. You can keep up to date with the latest Around the Toilet events here or by following the project on twitter

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Action for Trans Health raise money to give small grants to facilitate individual trans people’s access to healthcare.

We’ve saved up enough money to give away at least £1000 in the first funding round. We will make the application form available on the 29th May 2015, and the deadline for applications will be set for the 12th June 2015. Any donations or membership fees we receive up until the deadline will go straight into the fund. You can donate to the fund using the button below, and join Action for Trans Health here. Thankyou <3

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.

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It would be a lie to suggest that I feel anything but devastated by the election results. A New Labour government are not much more than a millimetre away from their friends in the tory party, but even the smallest of differences save lives. Surveying the wreckage, Jess Bradley examines what might be in store for trans people over the next 5 years of a tory majority government, as well as picking out some silver linings.

The Coalition Government implemented the Immigration Act which restricted migrant access to the NHS and the Health and Social Care Act which removed a lot of responsibility for healthcare from the state as well as allowing for growing privatisation, alongside NHS, welfare, education, and local council cuts. Under a slim Tory majority, we are likely to see proposals for more cuts and privatisations of public services – already they have announced £12 billion in cuts to welfare representing 10% of the entire welfare budget. They also have their eyes on cutting the HIV prevention budget. As trans people are under-employed due to transphobic discrimination, and also represent a high risk group for HIV contractions, these cuts are likely to hurt us particularly. Further cuts to local council budgets are also likely, which will disproportionately impact on women’s and LGBT youth services. On the backdrop of this, it is unlikely that we will see the increase in the trans healthcare budget which we desperately need.

Whilst UKIP only managed to get one seat, the total vote share for UKIP now places them as the third party, above the Lib Dems. This is a massive concern, indicating a rise of racism and xenophobia within the UK public over the past 5 years. This can be partially attributed to right-wing media peddling its bile, but it would be disingenuous not to also address the fact that the Labour, socialists, and the radical left have spectacularly failed at challenging these racist narratives in the media over the last 5 years. This needs to be a central part of our organising over the next 5 years if we are to challenge the rise of the far right and their racism, sexism, transphobia (and other ism’s). UKIPs rise is likely to have consequences for the Tory Party’s plans for a referendum on EU membership – it is likely that the UK will leave the EU, or at least vote to reduce our political involvement within it. A significant proportion of human and worker’s rights legislation comes from the EU, and as such a “no” vote is likely to harm the trans community and other marginalised groups.

Whilst the collapse of the Lib Dems out of the Coalition will mean that the Tory Party will not be “checked” by them, it also means that the Tories will no longer be able to blame all their failings on a rather hapless Nick Clegg. David Cameron is also likely to find it increasingly difficult to control his own rowdy back-benchers. The only outside support in Westminster outside of his own party will be the Northern Irish MPs.

The SNP landslide in Scotland means that there will be a guaranteed anti-austerity block vote acting as a significant thorn in Cameron’s side, which you wouldn’t have been able to say if those seats had gone to the Labour Party. The results in Scotland point to the general populace wanting a viable anti-austerity option which if Labour have any sense they will learn from and move towards the anti-austerity left too. And so it might be harder to implement cuts and privatisations than the tories had bargained for, especially if the Labour Party does lurch leftwards (the Labour leadership election will be a good test of whether they will). The Tory Party’s concessions to increasing powers to the Scottish government might mean health services (including transition related services) might be significantly different above the border than below. We shall see.

The Green Party and Plaid Cymru held onto their seats with a slight increase in majority. Despite the Green Party’s Rupert Read, the Greens had better than most LGBT policy, as did Plaid (who specifically addressed trans healthcare in their manifesto). Some MPs, such as Lib Dem Julian Hubbert, who lost their seats were known for tabling trans friendly motions (presumably in Hubbert’s case at the behest of Sarah Brown). This might mean the trans community will need to find another pet MP who is willing to take these discussions forward – perhaps Caroline Lucas might be good as she seemed supportive when we met her at Brighton Trans Pride last year.

The election results seem bleak, but not all is lost. The 1992 election which similarly shocked the country with a fourth term Tory win heralded a time of creative and effective resistance against austerity. We will need to look out for each-other and other oppressed groups, create networks of solidarity, listen to eachother, and build our own coalitions to fight austerity. Our advice is: join a union. Join Action for Trans Health. Join other radical organisations. Pay membership dues if you can. Get organised: Fight back.

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Last month we wrote about our recent Freedom of Information request detailing the number of people who the state recognise as being trans who have been held within immigration detention centres in the UK over the last three years. We sent out a series of new FOI requests to find out more information.

We can reveal the breakdown of trans people held in each centre over the last three years is as follows:

Campsfield House, nr Oxford – 2

Dover – 1

Heathrow – 7

Morton Hall, Lincolnshire – 1

Tinsley House, nr. Gatwick – 6

Yarl’s Wood, Bedfordshire – 9.

 

The Home Office didn’t want to tell us about the location of the 5 current trans people incarcerated, or the countries to which the other 21 inmates had been deported too. They couldn’t shed any light as to whether any of the inmates had received transition related healthcare whilst incarcerated.

We are going to do some follow up work involving a FOI request to NHS England regarding the trans healthcare in immigration detention centres, and getting in touch with groups supporting those incarcerated to see if we can find out any more information.

 

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An anonymous Action for Trans Health member talks about their experiences of being vulnerably housed and the relationship between housing and trans health.

Content notes: transphobia, ableism, bullying, harassment, homelessness, mention of emotional abuse

I’m running out of money to pay my rent.

Last year, I was homeless and/or in emergency accommodations for six months. I had to leave my shared house following a campaign of transphobic and ableist harassment from one of my housemates. When my emergency accommodations ran out, I was back on peoples’ sofas. There came a point when having a stable place to live for more than a few weeks became more important than my bank balance, so I forked out for a private rent. I still think this was the best thing I could do at the time, as my time on sofas had tested some of my relationships past breaking point and there was no sign that any of the house sharing arrangements I’d tried to make were going to come through at any time soon. (And I wasn’t comfortable moving in with people I didn’t know and trust bearing in mind the events that had made me homeless.) However, six months later, my fixed term contract has ended. I don’t have to leave as it automatically converts to a rolling contract, but I can’t afford to stay. (To be honest, I was lucky to have the money to pay for those first months – for many people in my situation that wouldn’t have been an option.)

So, over a year after I became homeless, the fallout still keeps coming.

Why is this relevant to trans health?

Shelter and safety are some of our most basic needs. If these needs are not met, the resultant stressors make it harder for us to fulfil other needs or tasks – crucially here, to take care of ourselves. A certain level of safety and protection from the elements cannot be separated from this self-care and maintenance of health. Beyond this, the stability of a home puts us in a better position to do things that not only maintain basic health but enhance our wellbeing, whatever that means for us. So for me, I find my mental health is better when I can fulfil my creative impulses, by crafting or playing instruments – but these require safe spaces to store materials and equipment.

Trans people are at higher risk of becoming homeless or vulnerably housed. This can be due to being driven out of shared homes by housemates or family, or by transphobic discrimination whilst looking for accommodation.

Furthermore, we can encounter the same discrimination when trying to access the very services that are meant to support us in these situations, be these shelters, day centres, jobcentres… you name it. Also, some of these services will not help those who they describe as “intentionally homeless” – people like me who chose to leave houses. No matter if it would have been unsafe for you to stay, apparently this makes you undeserving of help. These sorts of situations, escaping abusive environments which I cannot call homes, are frequently the reasons that we trans people become homeless or vulnerably housed.

And, as I said previously, the fallout keeps coming.

Needing to move somewhere cheaper for me means moving into a houseshare again. I am still very anxious about who I will live with. Having a more stable home has put me in a position to put energy into my friendships again, and I feel a sense of community and family. With the right people, I hope to have the feeling of support also in a home situation. But until then, I am really worried. Will I find somewhere suitable to live, with people who can be “at home” together? Will I find these people and place before my money runs out? Will I be back on peoples’ sofas again? Should I resort to asking for loans from emotionally abusive family members who are some of the people I wish to escape in the first place…?

If you are affected by similar issues, you might  find our list of resources for vulnerably housed or homeless trans people useful.

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People often don’t think about rape and sexual assault crisis centres until they need them. But when you need them, you really need them. Whilst trans people face higher rates of rape and sexual assault than their cis counterparts, we often face significant barriers to accessing services designed to help survivors, making us all the more vulnerable.

Help us to collate a list of trans inclusive rape and sexual assault crisis centres by ringing up your local service and asking them about their policies and protocols and filling in this short form about what they say. When the services look like they are in need of trans training, we will get in touch and offer it to them. It would be good to have a look at the questions on the form before ringing. Thanks! <3

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Over the next couple of days, the National Union of Students’ National Conference will decide whether or not to allocate funds for a full time paid officer to work on trans issues. Jess Bradley talks about her experiences as a trans student and her involvement in the NUS, making the argument for the NUS to support trans students by voting yes to a full-time trans officer.

Content notes for: sex work, transphobia, sexual assault, outing, TERFs, vague reference to suicide

When I was 18 I started having sex with men for money. I started because, despite my having a part time job at the time, I found myself having to make the choice between eating and paying the bus fare to university. Like many trans students, I had a sometimes strained and sometimes non-existent relationship with my parents, and couldn’t ask them for help. At the time I was newly out as trans, and taking an engineering course at Bradford University. Nobody on my course would talk to me or want to work with me in group projects because I was trans. When they did, people asked me why I would do “a man’s subject like engineering if I wanted to be a woman”. Eventually, like too many trans students, I dropped out of my course.

This was a rough time for me. Fortunately for me, one of the sabbatical officers self-defined as trans and I came to them for support. We quickly became friends; if it wasn’t for them I’m not sure I would be alive today to be honest. I ended up switching over to a new course at Manchester University where I could get a bursary. I fast found a vibrant queer community there, but still struggled, almost failing and dropping out of this course after I was sexually assaulted on campus one too many times.

Still, I scraped through my undergrad and managed to get onto a masters course. In the first week of term, Julie Bindel was scheduled to turn up for an event on campus. I wrote a facebook status about it, which the university newspaper stole it as a quote; outing me as both trans and a sex worker to 80,000 students across Manchester at 3 different institutions without my consent. Now I am a PhD student at the same institution, and occasionally teach undergraduates. I wonder how many of them had read that newspaper article, and how many have connected their teacher with the sensationalist things that were written about me.

I consider myself pretty privileged; my experiences as a trans student are in no way unique nor are they uncommon, and many of my trans peers haven’t got into further or higher education because of the transphobia they face. During my time as a student I have been an active member of the NUS LGBT Campaign, because I want to use the privilege I have to open the doors for more trans people to get into education.

The NUS LGBT Campaign does some fantastic work for trans students, but I still feel like an outsider within the campaign sometimes. I’ve seen a lot of transphobia within the campaign in my time, and there a still a lot of barrier for trans people who want to get involved. Each year it feels like it’s a gamble as to whether the campaign will take trans issues seriously, or be able to understand our issues properly, as there is no guaranteed full time officer representing trans students.

I’m not suggesting that what happened to me would not have happened if there was a full time trans officer, simply that trans students on our campuses and in our communities need more support. And that support needs to come from someone who is trans, someone who understands our issues, and has the resources and support to focus on our issues all year round. So, if you are at the NUS National Conference this year, please act in solidarity with trans students and vote for a full time trans students officer. Thankyou.

 

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From 17th to 19th March Action for Trans Health attended the National Union of Students annual LGBT campaign conference. On the second day of conference we organised a fringe for delegates to share their experiences of trying to access healthcare as a trans person – the Trans Health Rants fringe. The fringe proved popular and successful, here and we agreed to meet again on the third day to continue sharing, discount Francis Myerscough writes:

(Content-note: erasure of trans experience, cissexist healthcare experiences (including but not limited to medical transition) – no details, more writing about talking about healthcare.)

This was organised to provide a trans-only space to share with each other our stories of accessing healthcare, be it transition-related or no. We thought this might be useful for multiple reasons.

Firstly, it can be very validating to share these experiences with a room and to not have them questioned; there was no (hopefully-)well-meaning-but-ignorant cis person in the corner to pipe up “but what if these are all secondary symptoms of your transness”. In sharing our stories and listening to those of others we form the bonds of solidarity that we are so often denied by cissexist society, both by the medical professions and the lay population.

And knowing there is that belief makes it easier to tell the stories. When we’ve stayed quiet about our experiences for so long, to be able to share them is a cathartic experience. So there’s also this therapeutic potential.

Finally, these acts of sharing have the potential to serve as a record of the routine health injustices faced by trans people. While the fringes were not minuted, we agreed as a group that ATH would start a Trans Health Rants blog which trans folk could submit our stories to. These would then be published anonymously online. In this way, we can continue to share our experiences in a space maintained and moderated by other trans folk so hopefully that sense of validation and catharsis will still be there. As a bonus this also means we have a record of the injustices we face that we can direct others to for use in organising campaigns.

You can find the Trans Health Rants blog here. Submissions are anonymous; they just require a title, any content warnings, the rant itself, and any tags. Rant away!

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Action for Trans Health recently put in a series of Freedom of Information requests to the Home Office regarding trans people currently detained in immigration detention centres, story Jess Bradley writes. According to the Home Office, as of 27th March there were 5 inmates in detention centres who the Home Office recognised as being trans. Over the last 3 years, there has been 21 inmates recorded as being trans. Given the relatively narrow definition of trans used by the Home Office in their record keeping, it is likely that this number will be higher. We had a look over the protocols governing the “care” of trans inmates in detention centres and compared them to the equivalent protocol for UK prisoners. Here is what we found:

content notes for: incarceration, searches, misgendering

Accommodation

As with UK prisoners, a detainee with a Gender Recognition Certificate (or equivalent) is required to be housed with other prisoners of the same gender. Should a trans detainee not have a GRC (which will probably be most of them) a “multi-disciplinary risk assessment” will be completed to decide where the detainee will be housed. Should the detainee’s request to be housed with people of their actual gender (as opposed to their legal one) be accepted, they will have their own private room.

Searches

Both UK prisoners and detainees who have a GRC will be searched by staff of the same gender. If a person has not undergone any medical interventions, then they will be searched by staff of the same sex that they were assigned at birth. If a person has started medical interventions but doesn’t have a GRC, the institution will make a judgement call as to what is the most appropriate course of action (reading between the lines, this will probably be based on what a person’s genitalia is assumed to look like). It is not allowed to conduct a search in order to ascertain a person’s sex / gender.

Access to packers, binders, breast forms, etc.

The protocol allows trans people in detention centres to wear wigs, packers, binders, and breast-forms. Unlike the protocol for UK prisoners, these do not have to be provided by the institution, so it is likely that many trans detainees will be forced to make do with makeshift equipment/prosthetics.

Health care

Worryingly the immigration detention centre protocols do not explicitly mandate access to hormones and other transition related healthcare. Instead, they say that healthcare treatment is a “clinical matter for the healthcare team at the centre in which the detainee is located”. The fact that the protocol does not explicitly mandate detentions centres to provide access to transition related healthcare when the equivalent UK prisoners protocol does implies that at best access to healthcare is inconsistent across different detention centres. We have sent follow-up Freedom of Information requests asking for more details regarding what access trans detainees have to transition related healthcare.

A note on non-binary

As the UK doesn’t officially recognise non-binary as a gender, there are no provisions for non-binary people incarcerated at detention centres or UK prisons.

Transgender staff

We also completed a freedom of information request for the number of trans staff working at immigration detention centres. The Home Office said they did not keep that information.

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It is worth noting that the above describes what should happen in theory, rather than in practice. Immigration detention centres are known to be rife with human rights abuses, so it is likely that trans inmates will face significant hardship. We are going to take further steps to find out more information about the trans detainees and to act in solidarity with them.

At Action for Trans Health, we do not consider the environment within the detention centres (or in prisons) conducive to adequate, timely, or empowering trans health care, and adopt a broadly abolitionist approach to their use. We believe that organising for a liberating trans healthcare system necessarily involves getting involved in issues many people feel are not strictly “trans issues”. After all, trans people are not just trans people: we are also disabled, black, women, homeless, sex workers, and asylum seekers. Trans people have a stake in all progressive movements. On that note, please consider signing this petition to keep lesbian asylum seeker Aderonke Apata from being deported.

 

We can now accept donations!

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.