Archive for June, 2009

ID cards trial scheme to be voluntary

June 30, 2009

ID card (front) smallA few weeks ago I wrote (link here) about the proposed launch of a trial of the ID cards scheme in Manchester. Today the Press Association carried the news (link here) that the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has announced that the trial scheme “which would have required some airport staff and pilots to carry the controversial cards” has been abandoned.

Mr Johnson said: “Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens – just as it is now to obtain a passport. Accordingly I want the introduction of identity cards for all British citizens to be voluntary and I have therefore decided that identity cards issued to airside workers, planned initially at Manchester and London City airports later this year, should also be voluntary.”

Asked if the cards would ever be made compulsory he said: “No”. “If a future Government wanted to make them compulsory it would require primary legislation,” he added.

In addition:

He also ruled out ever requiring the public to own a card. Previously, ministers said ID cards could become compulsory once 80% of the population was covered.

Which, superficially at least, is good news, especially from the point of view of those trans people who are in the difficult position of having “no-match” documentation. As the Daily Mail reported it last November:

People who are undergoing a sex change will be allowed two cards – one in each gender. But they will also be forced to pay twice – landing them with a £60 bill.

It has decided they will have to hold a card in their current sex, which can be used for travel in the EU.

But they will also be able to apply for a card – with corresponding picture – in the name and sex they are undergoing treatment to become.

In other words, they will dress and appear as they will once the sex change is complete.

For anyone falling into that category, a more offensive and frankly ludicrous proposal would have been hard to concoct. I hope that it will now be consigned to the history books.

But-there’s-a-but: “the cards will still be compulsory for foreign workers”, according to Mr Johnson. That’s bad enough in terms of the inherent racism, but there’s another reason to object to it, which is that it can only mean that the centralised database remains intact. The whole concept of the ‘database state’ has been described in detail, and campaigned against solidly, by NO2ID, and I’d once again recommend any interested party spends some time browsing their excellent website – here’s the link.

I don’t believe we’ve heard the last of this foolishness, not by a long way, but I’ll reserve further comment until I’ve tracked down the full details of Mr Jackson’s announcement.

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Smoke Fairies – Living With Ghosts

June 27, 2009

I heard this last week on Radio 4’s Loose Ends and it’s really quite lovely.

Perfect listening for a sultry summer’s evening with a thunderstorm rumbling around ominously in the distance.

I miss being able to sit out in the garden with an acoustic guitar.

Also, hello Weasel :)

RFC: trans women speaking out on healthcare

June 27, 2009

Voz_latina has a RFC out in connection with a media piece she plans to make on trans women speaking out on healthcare, tentatively titled:

Our Lives Matter Too! Holding Cissexually Privileged Women’s Healthcare Accountable To All Women.

She’s asking for initial thoughts and ideas, etc and the details are up at her LJ – link here.

As she says, all our experiences matter, so click over to hers to sign up.

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

Swedish parents raising gender non-specific child

June 26, 2009

Flag of SwedenVia Sweden’s The Local comes this report (link here) about two parents who “have stirred up debate in the country by refusing to reveal whether their two-and-a-half-year-old child is a boy or a girl”.

In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.

I really don’t want to go over all that constructivist/essentialist trans 101 stuff again; I think that fixating on the nature/nurture debate misses the point. Which is, this isn’t about how or why we are who we are, but how we live our lives in a world where gender is policed so heavily, particularly for anyone who’s in some way at odds with society’s default binary settings.

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The child’s parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.

Pop’s wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop’s hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.

Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop’s parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop.

Which all sounds pretty wonderful, actually. I just wish that more parents would raise their children in a similar way. I say that, not only because I think it would be helpful for society in beginning to develop an approach to gender identity which does not marginalise, exclude and oppress those who are gender variant, but also because I fear that one child brought up in isolation like this may be having far too much responsibility placed on hir.

It’s a huge leap in the dark and only time will tell if the experiment will succeed according to the parents’ criteria. However, the child’s needs must come first and I hope that when ze does start to clearly define hir own gender identity that hir parents will be equally supportive and not insist on continuing to impose their own constructivist views on hir.

Irrespective of hir gender self-identification, I hope that Pop is able to grow up a healthy and happy human and that this social experiment, although interesting in its attempted application of an abstract academic theory, has no adverse effects on hir.

Resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity approved by OAS Assembly

June 24, 2009

OAS logoI wrote a couple of weeks ago (link here) about the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Honduras, held at the start of June. The theme of the OAS Assembly was “Toward a Culture of Non-Violence” and Human Rights Watch (HRW) had put forward for consideration a draft resolution “to promote, within a framework of the rule of law, a culture of peace and non-violence”, with particular reference to the Honduran authorities, who have failed comprehensively to bring an end to the recent sharp increase in violent attacks on trans people. At least 17 are known to have been killed in public places in Honduras since 2004; many more have been beaten, stabbed, or shot.

In the event, the HRW’s draft proposal seems to have been overtaken by a resolution presented by Brazil, called “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”. The resolution was approved unanimously by all the member nations, and its six points are:

  1. To condemn acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  2. To urge states to ensure that acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity are investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.
  3. To urge states to ensure adequate protection for human rights defenders who work on the issue of acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  4. To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the other organs of the inter-American system to continue to pay sufficient attention to this issue.
  5. To reiterate its request for the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) to include on its agenda, before the fortieth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
  6. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its fortieth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resource.

Whether the member countries will implement – and enforce – this resolution remains to be seen. For the sake of those trans people who have died violent, needless deaths at the hands of transphobic bigots throughout all 35 independent nations of the Americas comprising the OAS, I certainly hope so.

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NOTE: The full text of the resolution may be found on the OAS website: click on the Declarations & Resolutions link on this page to download the MS Word document, “Declarations and Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly” and turn to page 226.

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Prostate cancer: unexpected “success” in trials of experimental drug

June 21, 2009

tg_black-on_pink_100x107A couple of months ago I wrote (link here) about how trans women who have undergone SRS still have a prostate gland and are therefore still at risk of developing prostate cancer.

So it’s encouraging to read via the Press Association (link here) and BBC News (link here) that “two men with advanced and inoperable prostate cancer have staged dramatic recoveries after being treated with an experimental antibody drug”.

However, it should be noted that these are only preliminary findings from a small trial and that further larger scale trials and research are needed before concluding that the drug, ipilimumab, really does offer a way to improve on current treatments for advanced prostate cancer.

Finally, I’m still irritated at the way the media and the UK’s own Prostate Cancer Charity persist in erasing the existence of, and risk to, trans women by their continuing insistence that “only men have a prostate gland“. Whilst I have learned to expect only ignorance from the mass media, I would have hoped that “the UK’s leading voluntary organisation working with people affected by prostate cancer” would know better.

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Ooh! Shiny!

June 20, 2009

lemonade_awardOver at Look left of the pleiades, top blogger and good mate Ruth has very kindly given me a Lemonade Award, which is, umm, awarded for, err, well, actually I’m not quite sure what it’s awarded for – but I’m thrilled to receive my first ever bloggy award and it does look rather fab on the mantelpiece in the Grand Ballroom here at Chateau Helen.

According to Her Ruthness, I have to list three things for which I’m grateful, and then pass the award on. So here goes:

Three things for which I’m grateful:

  • Friends: Too many to mention individually (I’m s-o-o popular) but I’m especially thinking of those who’ve accepted me as I am, who’ve never judged me for transitioning, never demanded I justify my existence to them and never expected me to provide them with endless Trans 101s. These are the people who’ve always been there for me in my darker moments – and I know I have far too many of those – people who make me laugh, make me think, and whose hearts and minds are always open.
  • Bird of Paradox: I hope that, in some small way through my writing here at BoP, I can help to draw attention to the difficulties faced by too many members of my community and by doing so, help to raise awareness – even though I may not be able to directly bring about the changes and improvements they so definitely deserve.
  • Chocolate: Obviously, and without which…

Pass it on:

  • GallingGalla: Because her strength and passion – even though she’s been dealing with Things Going On in her own life – are an inspiration. Add her blog Fearfully and Wonderfully Made to your favourites and follow her on Twitter.
  • ghostlove One of the very few radical feminists who Gets It about trans women, and that’s worth a lot more to me than I can say. Add her blog to your favourites, check out the other sites where she posts, and follow her on Twitter.
  • Natalia Antonova One of the best writers it’s been my good fortune to meet. Wicked sense of humour and a damned sexy brain, too. Hanging with her during her recent visit to London was just the best. The.Best. (Even if I do seem to have developed a taste for champagne as a result). Add her blog and the other blog she edits to your favourites, and then follow her on Twitter.

Now then. Where’s the vodka to go with that lemonade?

You know you’re in the largest state in the Union when you’re anchored down in Anchorage

June 20, 2009

everyone snuggles - unless you're trans, of course (via ADN)Never mind “safe(r) spaces online“, it’s been clear for some while now that for trans women like me, there is simply no such thing as a safe space anywhere on this godforsaken planet. This year alone I’ve documented the ongoing war being waged against trans women in Turkey, the sharp rise in transphobic hate crimes in Venezuela, vigilante assaults on trans sex workers in Peru, human rights abuses against trans people in Honduras – it seems the list gets longer with every passing day.

Now I see (via the Anchorage Daily News, link here, and On Top Magazine, link here) that we can add Anchorage to the list. The good burghers of the largest city in the largest state of the U.S are fighting to have any mention of trans people removed from its proposed non-discrimination ordinance.

It’s a good example of why trans people have reason to be wary of being lumped in with cis GLB people – even though there are indeed trans GLB people too. Whilst trans people are usually thrown under the bus by cis GLB people, in this case it seems that cis het people are attacking anyone who’s Not Like Them. Consequently trans people in Anchorage seem to be suffering from the homophobic backlash against same sex marriage (SSM) that’s currently so fashionable amongst the reactionary cis bourgeoisie of the so-called developed world.

And so it is that a draft bill which would offer protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been modified so that the definition of “sexual orientation” which originally included straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people has now had ‘transgender’ completely removed.

Interestingly, cis GLB people now find themselves likely to be exposed to discrimination by private employers in the draft – although, presumably, they will still be covered in other areas such as housing and credit. Unlike trans people, who will find themselves with no legal right to live free from discrimination from the ever-increasing number of transphobic bigots who make up the cis population. Being gay may be immoral in the eyes of some cis het people, but being trans is beyond the pale, or so their twisted logic seems to run.

It’s no surprise that this proposal is being driven by the religious Right, whose fear of gay marriage is almost as intense as their fear of the existence of trans people.

Almost.

I took time out to write to my old friend
I walked across that burning bridge
I mailed my letter off to Dallas but her reply came from
Anchorage, Alaska

She said, Hey girl it’s about time you wrote
It’s been over two years you know, my old friend
Take me back to the days of the foreign telegrams
And the all night rock and rolling
Hey Chel we was wild then

Hey Chel you know it’s kinda funny
Texas always seemed so big
But you know you’re in the largest state in the Union
When you’re anchored down in Anchorage

Hey girl I think the last time I saw you
Was on me and Leroy’s wedding day
What was the name of that love song you played?
I forgot how it goes
I don’t recall how it goes

Anchorage
Anchored down in Anchorage

Leroy got a better job so we moved
Kevin lost a tooth, now he’s started school
I’ve got a brand new eight month old baby girl
I sound like a housewife
Hey Chel, I think I’m a housewife

Hey girl what’s it like to be in New York?
New York City, imagine that
Tell me, what’s it like to be a skateboard punk rocker?
Leroy says send a picture
Leroy says hello
Leroy says keep on rocking, girl
Keep on rocking
Yeah, keep on

Hey Chel you know it’s kinda funny
Texas always seemed so big
But you know you’re in the largest state in the Union
When you’re anchored down in Anchorage
Oh Anchorage
Anchored down in Anchorage
Oh Anchorage
Anchored down in Anchorage

China issues first draft of clinical guidelines on SRS

June 19, 2009

Flag of the People's Republic of ChinaMy first reactions on reading an article in the China Daily (link here) reporting that the Ministry of Health (MoH) has issued its “first clinical guideline on sex-change surgery” were surprise that China doesn’t already have such guidelines, and curiosity about how many trans people there might be in China.

Taking the NHS’ estimate that “one in 4,000 people in the UK is receiving medical help for gender dysphoria” (link here), and the CIA’s estimate (link here) that the population of China is 1,330,044,544, as being accurate, then that suggests there may be some 332,511 trans people in China.

No wonder, then, that the guidelines have been compiled as part of a process of “regulation and standardisation“. And the idea that appropriate medical support is currently only available in an uncoordinated and haphazard way isn’t such a big surprise when one considers such things as the infamous postcode lottery for healthcare access in the UK.

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The draft document sets out minimum criteria for both trans people and medical institutions. To that extent, it seems to be trying to achieve a similar result to the widely-followed WPATH Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders (SoC) (direct link to PDF here) without actually referring to them directly, for whatever reason. The China Daily reports that the MoH lists three main criteria for diagnosing gender dysphoria:

  • Candidates for the surgery must be older than 20 and single
  • They are also required to prove a persistent desire for a sex change, to live for at least five consecutive years full-time in the new gender role, and to engage in mental therapy for at least one year.
  • Before surgery can take place, a candidate must receive a recommendation for the operation from a psychologist after an appropriate series of therapy sessions.

So how does this compare with the SoC?

To begin with, the minimum age requirement for surgery is described in the SoC as being the “legal age of majority in the patient’s nation“; in the UK, this is 18. As far as I’m aware, there’s no specific requirement in the SoC that one must be single, and the inclusion of this is a telling demonstration of how a moral code is interwoven with the more empirical medical criteria.

The first part of the second clause (“to prove a persistent desire for a sex change“) in principle echoes the SoC – or, more accurately, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), to which the SoC refers.

The ICD-10 is quoted as saying that one of the criteria of transsexualism is:

The desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to make his or her body as congruent as possible with the preferred sex through surgery and hormone treatment

And the SoC quotes the DSM-IV-TR’s diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) as applying to:

those with a strong and persistent crossgender identification and a persistent discomfort with their sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex

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The second part of the second clause – the requirement for five years’ Real Life Experience (RLE) – seems draconian in comparison to the SoC. Its section IX, The Real-Life Experience sets no specific time period; although elsewhere it requires a minimum of “12 months of successful continuous full time real-life experience” as one of the criteria for surgery.

However, even this prerequisite seems flexible: a person transitioning under the UK’s NHS is likely to be required to undergo at least 24 months RLE, whereas the Thai surgeon who carried out my surgery asked for only 6 months RLE. It remains to be seen if the Chinese proposal will be strictly enforced.

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The third part of the second clause – “to engage in mental therapy for at least one year” appears to overlap with the third clause which demands that a “recommendation” for surgery is required from a psychologist “after an appropriate series of therapy sessions“. The SoC, however, states that:

Not every adult gender patient requires psychotherapy in order to proceed with hormone therapy, the real-life experience, hormones, or surgery.

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It seems that the main proposals of the Chinese model have more similarities with the SoC than they have differences, albeit with some significant variations in detail.

However, the Chinese proposal also includes two additional, quite specific legal requirements that must be met:

The candidate must provide proof from police that he or she has does not have any criminal offenses in the past.

Police must also agree to change the sex status on the identity card of the prospective receiver before the operation can take place.

I have to say that I really don’t understand why the police need to be involved in the transitioning process at all. I’m not aware of any comparable requirements in the SoC although, in addition to medical and social aspects, it’s not gone unnoticed that my own transition includes legal elements too. However, these relate, not to criminal law, but civil. For example, to qualify for a Gender Recognition Certificate, which “enables transsexual people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender“, I had to follow the procedure laid down in the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Having successfully jumped through those hoops, I am now “legally recognised for all purposes in your acquired gender“. This includes being able to obtain a new birth certificate showing my “legally recognised gender“.

No police officers required…

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I have much the same feelings about the Chinese guidelines as I do about the WPATH Standards of Care which govern my own transition. I can understand and – to some extent – even agree with the need for support and assistance from healthcare professionals regarding the medical aspects of transitioning. But I’m deeply uncomfortable about the amount of the involvement of the state. Just as I don’t understand why a trans woman in China should need police approval to change her ID card, neither do I understand why I needed a covering letter from my doctor to change my passport.

To be honest, most of the questions and discrepancies arising from the SoC look to me that they will simply happen under the Chinese proposals too.

It’s hard to see how things like the ‘no-match’ situation (where a person’s official documents don’t match the state’s records for that person) won’t occur under these proposals. It’s hard to see where non-binary ID’d trans people fit into the picture, too.

But most of all, it’s hard to see how the proposals will be implemented in such a way that trans people in China aren’t pathologised and stigmatised in the way that trans people are in other places, which in turn exposes us to unacceptably high risks of discrimination, bigotry and violence from cis people.

NY: trans woman tortured to death

June 19, 2009

There’s a very distressing report over at Zöe Brain’s blog about a young trans woman in New York who was (eventually) murdered by a group of students earlier this week.

The report contains much graphic detail, so approach with caution if you think you might find it upsetting in any way – here’s the link.

I can’t find the words I need to write about this right now; it defies description and beggars belief. And it makes me so very angry.

RIP Raychel.

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Curtsey to Stefani for the link

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ETA, 20 June: Laura, the writer at Laura’s Playground who first posted this report has now retracted the story due to a lack of verification (link here):

I have pulled the story about Rachel Roo as the story can’t be verified. Things just didn’t add up. This morning we traced the IP and there is no story in the local paper in that town. A story of this nature would be in the public domain. Roo has been a staff member here for a year and has never made up stories before. ” It appears to be a hoax and one that is in very poor taste and hurting the trans community heavily in a time when we are fighting very hard to be understood.”

I extend my sincerest apologies for reporting the story without verification. I Posted it because I thought I knew the person personally and was grief stricken. I was upset over the loss and verification wasn’t first on my mind. We were all fooled. I feel like such an idiot.

Laura