Equality Bill group on Facebook

May 5, 2009

make equality a duty, not an optionI’ve just been reminded that there’s an Equality Bill group on Facebook (link here).

There’s lots of useful information and in particular you should note the link through to EqualityBill.com, a website recently launched by Lord Waheed Ali to help facilitate people in lobbying their MPs directly. In turn, Lord Ali will present these opinions to the House of Lords later in the year when the Bill is brought up.

At the moment, EqualityBill.com is running a campaign to try and send 100 emails to MPs before the Equality Bill debate on 11 May next week – click here for more information.

Also, no campaigning website would be complete without a presence on Twitter – link here.

And last but by no means least, don’t forget the INequality Bill Facebook group (link here), which has already done sterling work under the administration of Natascha…

ETA: Just found EqualityBill.com’s stance on trans rights – here’s the link:

Transgender Equality

In a major step forward for the transgender community, the ‘Goods and Services’ equality laws covering Gender Reassignment will be extended to cover ‘Public Functions’. This means, for example, that discrimination provisions in schools will now protect transgender children. At a time when the Equality Duty is being implemented to oblige schools to promote equality (see Homophobic Bullying, above), it is obviously important that gender reassignment is a part of this duty.

Perhaps even more importantly, the laws surrounding discrimination and harrassment will be extended to cover ‘association’ with the transgender community. Given that transphobic discrimination occurs just as much to those who self-identify as transgender as it does to those undergoing any medical procedures, this will be an important part of tackling inequality and levelling-up the law to align with other forms of protection.

UPDATE: There have been some concerns from members of the Trans community that the Equality Bill will only provide protection for those under medical supervision. This is not the case. The explanatory notes to the legislation specifically note that if, for example, an individual who is biologically female is living as a man, then for the purposes of the law, they will be considered to have undergone ‘gender reassignment’. This will not require either medical or legal approval to be considered a valid defence in cases of harrassment, equality of provision of goods and services, implementation of the Equality Duty, and so on.

All well and good – but, as I’ve said before – it’s still not clear how these protections will actually be enforced, or what the penalties will be for those who break the law. I can see no point in having an ineffective law which only pays lip service to trans people’s concerns but makes no practical difference to our everyday lives. But maybe that would be something to lobby my MP about, if I could believe it would make even the slightest difference.

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ETA: Been batting it back and forth a little with the Equality Bill rep on Twitter (link here) about what the Bill actually offers, in practical terms, to the proverbial trans woman on the Clapham omnibus. This is the gist of what I was told:

  • Partners who are non-trans are protected by association.
     
    This still draws a distinction between trans and cis (non-trans) and therefore doesn’t seem to enable self-identification.
  • the trans woman who hasn’t undergone surgery is now protected.
     
    And how will you know? Pantie check, anyone? Or does it require the trans person to out themselves? The use of surgery as a marker implies that, despite assurances to the contrary, our pathology will still be required to be known. The essentialist tendency…
  • Equality Duty can affect local support groups, schools bullying policies, health privacy options in wards, and more.
     
    These all relate to various public sector items. My support groups are online, I left school 30+ years ago and I’m unlikely to be able to gain access to hospital wards without a GP – see my earlier post about the difficulties I experienced when trying to register just a couple of years ago (link here)
  • private members clubs included in all of the harrassment laws etc.
     
    I’m not a member of any private members club.

Admittedly, that’s a very brief fly-past, but even on that limited information, it really is hard to see just exactly what this law will do for me and my mine if we don’t fall within some strictly defined categories. Categories defined by cis people, of course. Like you even needed to ask.

I can’t say I’m either surprised or disappointed. For a long time my gut feeling has been that government couldn’t give a flying one about trans people and this only confirms it.

It’s all about the cis people, innit. It’s always about the cis people…

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9 Responses to “Equality Bill group on Facebook”

  1. GallingGalla Says:

    also the bill seems to assume that there’s no such thing as anybody who id’s as other than male or female, so i wonder if binary-id’d people would get (possibly sham or very limited) protection while still excluding the non-binary-id’d.

    and of course, insistence on a binary id is part of the panty-check medicalized model that’s at work here.

  2. Helen G Says:

    I’m sure I read somewhere that the transgender related clauses were added at quite a late stage in the drafting of the Bill and to my mind, it certainly smacks of being some sort of poorly thought-out, last-minute bolt-on.

    I’m also coming round to the view that waiting for cis people to sort themselves out (and their frankly shitty attitudes) is a bit like waiting for Godot.

  3. youngsook Says:

    Yeah I can see the law tries to get smarter but the same gender binary imposition. It used to say “No tranny no tranny!!” At some point it has started encouraging “Do transition Do transition!!” (not meaning that they accept trans people but force them to choose either woman or man) and now this new legislation says “you don’t need to undergo medical supervision” but it still says (the most annoying to me):

    “An unemployed person who was born physically female decides to spend the rest of her life as a man. He starts and continues to live as a man. He decides not to seek
    medical advice as he successfully passes as a man without the need for any medical intervention. He would be undergoing gender reassignment for the purposes of the Bill.”

    Pass for whom and what? The eye-sore gender variants still cannot be protected. The law says either pass or stay invisible from the society. Well Helen you are absolutely right. This Bill once again proves the law is based on nothing but cis privileges.

  4. Helen G Says:

    Youngsook! :) Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

    Hope all’s well and that you’ll be back in London soon.

    Hx


  5. Helen,

    After yesterday’s back and forth on twitter, your blog appeared on our site as a “pingback”, so I thought I’d come and clarify a few things, without the confines of 140-character boxes (if that’s ok!).

    First of all – for the benefit of anyone reading this – EqualityBill.com has not been set up just to do the bidding of the Government or the Labour Party etc. This is the last chance we have at a major piece of Equality legislation in the lifetime of this Parliament, and it is crucial that we get it right. Waheed Alli (who asked me to set up the site) sits in the House of Lords, from where he has the ability to amend the bill. We WILL be working on amendments, so this isn’t just idle chat.

    So:

    1. GallingGalla – binary ID or non-ID is the big gaping hole in this bill. Drag Artists, Cross-dressing, Gender Queer, or anyone who just doesn’t “look right” all seem to have been left out. It’s obviously hard to carve out a legal protection clause for “those who, in the eyes of some, don’t look right”, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and tackle the issues. This is something I’d like to see Parliament debate.

    2. Helen – the GP situation and transphobia among receptionists. Definitely covered by 1) the Equality Duty and 2) by Harassment laws. If, for example, there were a specialist trans mental health clinic in London, then I’m sure you wouldn’t encounter idiotic and transphobic staff on reception, and you would be able to seek diagnosis and treatment for depression (mentioned in another post of yours). This is exactly the point of the Equality Duty: if there is evidence that setting up a targeted service for specific members of the community will encourage uptake, then there will be a duty to provide it.

    4. Helen – Support Groups: Ok, so your support groups are all online. But the public sector exists online, too. And the Equality Duty will force them to branch out into areas that they currently don’t cover – so, “NHS direct online” support, etc. Maybe not your cup of tea, but perhaps a welcome port-of-call for those who haven’t reached out before.

    5. Private Clubs: Me neither, but it’s as much about making the point that you can’t have one rule for the public, and other rules for private institutions.

    6. Self-identity: This is tricky. Legally, it is difficult to offer a specific protection to a community if members of that community don’t want to ‘out’ themselves. Harassment law requires a complaint to be made, which requires identifying yourself and the reason for your complaint.

    Obviously the way to get around this difficulty is to enact legislation which tries to stop the problem BEFORE, rather than AFTER a complaint is made. This is what the Equality Duty does for the Public Sector, but it doesn’t stretch to businesses or other groups etc, because we don’t have the regulatory framework to oversee it.

    Which brings me on to:

    7. “Who will enforce it?”: If we were talking about imposing a duty on private bodies, then this would be an important question. But we’re not. Since we’re talking about the public sector, the answer is simple: the same regulatory bodies who have done the enforcing in the past. So, for local councils, it’s the LGA, for the NHS, it’s the CQC, and so on. They’re familiar with the existing duties for gender, race and disability. So this is just widening their scope (and putting it all in one piece of law).

    I realise this doesn’t answer all the problems: it’s not supposed to. But hopefully, as a springboard for debate, the issues can be looked at more closely. Again, I come back to my original point: I’m not here to say that the law or the Equality Bill are perfect – but I don’t think that we should lose hope either. Parliament is where laws can be made better. That’s our aim.

  6. Helen G Says:

    Theo Grzegorczyk: Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I’m afraid my pessimism remains regarding the practical implementation of the seemingly minimal, and deeply flawed, protections offered to trans people.

    And, forgive me but I’m not having the best of days here and the points in your comment #2 (regarding my difficulties in finding a GP practice where I will not be subject to overt hostility) are not especially helpful.

    I’ll try and respond to your other points later.

    Thanks
    Helen

  7. Helen G Says:

    ETA: You say “Parliament is where laws can be made better. That’s our aim.”

    I really don’t see it.

    I see absolutely no evidence that government sees trans people as anything other than an annoying little problem that should just go away.

    I tried to contribute to the recent process re. the under-representation of minorities in parliament – how is an ordinary working person supposed to provide a 3000 word academic essay, just to be considered for interview?

    Your precious parliament is exclusive to anyone with less than degree-level education and it sure as hell doesn’t care one jot about trans people generally, particularly anyone who is not binary ID’d.

    No. If your parliament is genuine in its wish to include trans and other gender variant people then you know what? Just damn well do it. Include us. No hoops to jump through, no insurmountable barriers, no classist conditions. Government isn’t doing us any favours.

    So either just include us.

    Or let us be.


  8. Just to reiterate: I don’t represent the Government, and I certainly don’t represent the hundreds of conflicting interests of the 650 MPs and 700 Lords in Parliament. At best, I can hope to represent my boss, Waheed Alli (who, for the record, left school at 16). Our campaign is to make the law better, by putting pressure on those 650 MPs, those 700 Lords, and those in Government. The bill isn’t law yet. It still has a way to go, and we’re just looking for people to join us in being a part of that process. So, we’ll go with option 1, “include us”. :)

  9. Helen G Says:

    Who’s “we” (“…we’re just looking for people…”, “…we’ll go with…”)?

    “…Waheed Alli (who, for the record, left school at 16)…” So did I. So what? I’m not interested in competing with your boss. And if your comment is supposed to make me magically respect a powerful and privileged cis man, well, sorry. It ain’t working. Does he have to worry about not being able to register with a GP? No, he doesn’t. So don’t give me that crap, it’s utterly irrelevant to the everyday lived experiences of trans people.

    Cis men are the worst oppressors of the lot.

    “…looking for people to join us in being a part of that process…” I don’t see how lobbying an MP who only ever contacts constituents at election time is going to help the cause of me and mine.

    “So, we’ll go with option 1, “include us”.”

    Prove it.


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