Spring 2017 Solidarity Fund is Now Open!

The Action for Trans Health Solidarity Fund is now open for applications. The deadline is 9th April 2017.

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. We know that the trans healthcare system is in crisis, and that the people who need help accessing support will usually outweigh our capacity to fundraise. As such, we use this application form to identify those who face the most barriers to accessing healthcare treatment in more conventional ways. A proportion of this funding round will be ring fenced for trans people of colour. 

Our fund is raised through the generous donations of supporters around the country. Please consider fundraising for us, or donating via the PayPal button below. You can also choose to become a member of Action for Trans Health.

We can now accept donations!

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.

Action for Trans Health takes a broad view of healthcare, which recognises that there a wide number of things that can impact on an individual’s healthcare needs. As such, we place no restrictions on what the money can be used for. We do 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. Some things we have funded in the past include:

– appointments with private gender clinics;
– hair removal;
– counselling and therapy;
– rent payments when the money isn’t there because of a health issue;
– mobility aids;
– sick pay;
– part payment of surgery costs;
– wigs, binders, clothes, etc.

Once applications have been received, a member of Action for Trans Health’s administrative staff will anonymise the application text and pass them onto our funding panel who will allocate the funds. We will contact you to let you know whether your application has been successful within two weeks of the funding panel meeting.

Here is the application form to fill in. If you have any questions, please email us at info[at]actionfortranshealth.org.uk

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.

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

Around the Toilet / Postcards for Toilet Campaigns

Are you campaigning for a gender-neutral toilet in your school, campus or workplace? Against closures to public toilets in your town-centre? For you workplace to improve the accessibility of its toilets?

You’re in luck. Recently Action for Trans Health has collaborated on the Around the Toilet project, with campaigners from the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Queer of the Unknown, and researchers from Sheffield Hallam, Sheffield Uni and Leeds Uni. Throughout this project we have been collecting people’s stories of using public toilets. Some of these stories have been illustrated by Smizz, a fab graphical artist, and turned into postcards.

We have a limited number of postcards which people can use for campaigns to improve access to toilets for trans, queer, and/or disabled people. We recommend writing your own stories / ideas for improvement on the back and sending them to whoever is in charge of making decisions: your headteacher, your estates manager, your local councillor. This would make a great co-ordinated campaign for LGBT society, trans youth group, or trans support group. Don’t forget to take a photo of your stories and send them to us too! (via twitter or email)

Have a look at the postcards below. If you want some for use in campaigns, give us a shout with how many of each postcard you want via email info@actionfortranshealth.org.uk. We have a limited supply so we will try to do our best to send you want you want. Priority will be given to groups who have affiliated to Action for Trans Health. Please consider donating to cover the cost of postage and maybe a little extra 😉 The donate button is at the end of this blog.

Here are the postcards!

Gender Divisions:

why do we have gender divisions in toilets?

 

 

This happened at uni:

"No this is your toilet"  This happened in my first year at uni

 

 

What makes toilets accessible?:

 

What makes toilets accessible?  "I cant drink when I go out wearing a dress, as I dont want to have to use the toilet. It really affects me not having access to non gender toilets" Gender Differences: 

Only baby changing facilities in the female toilets... but not in the male toilets

 

 

Who should public toilets be for?:
"Who should toilets be for?"  "err... the public?"  "yes, but the public is not a homogenous mass"

 

Choosing journeys:

We choose places and journeys based on the accessibility of disabled toilets

 

Sleeping Rough: Once, I slept rough as I had no money for a hotel / hostel so I slept for 30 mins in a public toilet. I'm wondering what homeless people would do if public toilets werent there

 

Toilets in Film:"I think the revealing thing is that people dont go to the toilet at all in films"

Hypersexualized Culture: "My mum ended up slutshaming me?!"

Hand dryers:"I'm not going in there... the hand-dryers scare me!"

 

Why are toilets funny?:"Why are toilets funny?"  "Barriers to access are not funny, but it shouldnt all be serious" "Toilet noises are funny"

Toilet Paper Unravelled: 
What did we used to get told about public toilets as a kid?

The toilet revolution!: The toilet revolution!  Western culture sees private toilets as being more civilised, but is it? To donate to costs of postage and other costs please click the link below:

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.

Launch of Around the Toilet Project

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

First Funding Round Deadline

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.

What the election results might mean for trans people

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.

Theres no place like home…

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.