Archive for the 'equality' Category

Turkey: EU funding approved for project for the promotion of human rights for sex workers and transgender people

June 1, 2010

Via Hürriyet Daily News:

Turkey and EU flagsThirteen democratization projects worth more than 1.5 million euros have been approved by the European Union within the framework of Turkey’s EU membership bid.

Project themes range from social justice to social inclusion to protection human rights. They are aimed at including nongovernmental actors in raising public awareness and helping initiate the necessary reforms.

The project awarded the most funding is titled “Promotion of Human Rights for Sex Workers and Transgender people” with a grant worth 140,000 euros. The projects have already been launched and will last on average 16 months.

The funding comes with the legislation of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, or EIDHR, which is managed by the Section for Institution Building and Civil Society at the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey, or EUD.

[…]

A significant rise in EU-project funding has been noticed during recent years as a result of Turkey’s accession bid.

[…]

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The Gender Recast Directive – Implementation Guidelines

March 10, 2010

ILGA-Europe has published Transgender People and the Gender Recast Directive (direct link to PDF download) which is intended to provide “an introduction to the content of the Gender Recast Directive and an overview of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and their relevance for trans people living in the European Union”.

In 2006, the European Union (EU) adopted a Directive aimed at consolidating the existing provisions on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between men and women and providing a simplified legal framework on the area of sex discrimination.

This Directive, referred to as the “Gender Recast Directive”, required all 25 Member States, plus
Bulgaria and Romania which joined the Union in 2007, to implement its provisions by 15 August 2008. Additionally, it was incorporated into the European Economic Area Agreement and is thus also applicable to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

It’s worth noting that, until the Gender Recast Directive, gender identity was not explicitly included in EU law – primarily because of a 1996 European Court of Justice decision that “interpreted the ground of sex [discrimination] to cover ‘gender reassignment’”.

The landmark case of P. v. S. and Cornwall County Council opened the door for the inclusion of trans people under in EU gender equality legislation. In this case, P (the applicant) was a British transsexual woman who had been dismissed while on sick leave recovering from her gender reassignment surgery. She claimed that she had been discriminated against on the ground of sex.

The [European Court of Justice] established that the scope of the Directive [76/207/EEC], as far as the concept of discrimination on grounds of sex was concerned, was not limited to discrimination based on the fact that the individual is of one sex or the other. In fact, the Court ruled that the Directive also extended to discrimination based on the sex of the person, thus including the case of dismissal of a transsexual person related to her/his gender reassignment.

P. v. S. was a landmark case, not only because it represents a precedent on which the European Court of Justice has constructed solid jurisprudence, but also because it constitutes the foundation on which gender reassignment was included in the scope of subsequent gender equality Directives.

The Gender Recast Directive is the first piece of EU legislation that includes a direct reference to trans people, although it doesn’t go so far as to explicitly recognise gender identity as a distinct ground of anti-discrimination. Whether it can be assumed that its use of the term gender reassignment is equivalent to gender identity (and vice versa) is a problem.

A recent legal analysis carried out for the EU Fundamental Rights Agency may however provide useful insights for the domestic legislator. In response to whether ‘gender reassignment’ is indeed equivalent to ‘gender identity’, the study concluded that:

“[T]ransgenderism may not have to be reduced to [a] narrow understanding, linking it to ‘gender reassignment’ defined as ‘a process which is undertaken under medical supervision for the purpose of reassigning a person’s sex by changing physiological or other characteristics of sex, and includes any part of such a process’. Whereas transgender people in this narrow understanding do find themselves in a specific situation due to the operation of gender reassignment […] there is no reason not to extend the protection from discrimination beyond these persons, to cover cross dressers, and transvestites, people who live permanently in the gender ‘opposite’ to that on their birth certificate without any medical intervention and all those people who simply wish to present their gender differently. It has been recommended that protection from discrimination on grounds of ‘gender identity’, more generally, should encompass not only transsexuals (undergoing, intending to undergo, or having undergone a medical operation resulting in gender reassignment), but also those other categories.”

If you live in the EU (maybe even if you don’t) it’s worth having a look at Transgender People and the Gender Recast Directive. It’s well-presented and very ‘readable’ – but I still come away from it with the sense that, like every other document related to legislation around trans matters, it only reinforces what we already knew: the (comparatively) few legal protections we have are still too few and far between, still too patchily implemented, still out of reach of many of us. The fact that we’re still arguing over definitions of transsexual and transgender in this day and age really doesn’t inspire confidence; always – always – our identities are subject to interrogation by numberless cis people before we can even think about being permitted to access the few meagre laws available to us (assuming, of course, that we can afford to, or that we can believe we have a chance of succeeding).

I dunno, I feel like I’m in Ungrateful Angry Trans Harpy mode again and that I should be thankful that we have even the few laws that we do. Yet at the same time it all seems so distant, so academic, somehow – despite the many positive gains that have been made over the years. But when I hear that, for example, the biggest concern of many cis gay people is about same sex marriages, while at the same time trans women have disproportionately high rates of homelessness, poverty, harassment, discrimination and murder – and nobody gives a fuck – well, frankly, any ‘victories’ to be found from tying together these strands of EU law seem hollow, at best.

Pope says that the Equality Bill “violates natural law”

February 2, 2010

Just to pick up on a point I made in passing in my previous post, about the Pope’s attack on the (admittedly poor quality) Equality Bill.

The BBC News website has this to say:

The Pope has faced a backlash after urging Catholic bishops in England and Wales to fight the UK’s Equality Bill with “missionary zeal”.

Pope Benedict XVI said the bill – which could end the right of the Church to ban gay [and transsexual] people from senior positions – “violates natural law”.

[…]

The Pope told the Catholic bishops of England and Wales gathered in Rome: “Your country is well-known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society.

“Yet, as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.”

“In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”

Peter Tatchell is quoted as saying:

“His ill-informed claim that our equality laws undermine religious freedom suggests that he supports the right of churches to discriminate in accordance with their religious ethos,” he said.

“He seems to be defending discrimination by religious institutions and demanding that they should be above the law.”

And our Prime Minister’s response?

Gordon Brown said he respected the Pope but commenting would be inappropriate.

A stark reminder that those who govern us consider the links between state and religion to be more important than the human rights of the general population.

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McDonald’s refuses to hire woman because she’s transgender

December 7, 2009

Via the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund website:

On July 10, 2009, 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy applied online for a position as a Shift Manager or Crew Leader at a McDonald’s restaurant in Orlando, Florida. On July 28, after managers at McDonald’s learned that Zikerria is transgender, she received the following voicemail message from one of the managers:

Transcript:

You went to [indistinguishable] McDonald’s today.
It doesn’t matter how many times you go down there.
You will not get hired.
We do not hire faggots.
You lied to me.
You told me you was a woman.
And then you lied to me.
You told me you were seventeen.
I can’t believe you.
You’re a lying brother [indistinguishable].
How could you ever lie to me?
We will never… [message ends]

It’s a bingo card all of its own, that: transphobia, racism, homophobia, cissexism, trans-misogyny, hate speech.

Needless to say, Zikerria didn’t even get a job interview – McDonald’s simply refused to hire her. Although whether you’d actually want to work alongside world class bigots and hatemongers like that manager is another matter.

TLDEF has now filed a Complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations against McDonald’s for refusing to hire 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy because she is transgender.

More information over at the TLDEF website

TUC calls on employers to stop discriminating against trans people at work

November 27, 2009

tuc_logoThis last week has been unexpectedly difficult for me. From the whirlpool of emotions I felt around Friday’s Transgender Day Of Remembrance (link here) and the London memorial event on Saturday (link here); through my deep despondency on hearing the news of the violent oppression of members of the Feminist Fightback group by other so-called feminists at the Reclaim The Night march only hours after the TDOR vigil (link here); to my anger about the escalating violence my community endures at the hands of cis people, I’ve been so preoccupied with simply getting through the day without feeling overwhelmed by demoralisation that this press release (link here) from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) completely passed me by.

Although it seems to be little more than an update of last year’s message (link here), nevertheless it does actually appear to signal a genuine attempt to understand the issues we face in the workplace (assuming we have a job, of course), and to assist in ending the discriminations heaped on us by employers and co-workers alike. How – if – it plays out in real life and how much effect – if any – it will actually have, remains to be seen, of course.

In Britain the trans community continues to face violent physical attacks, alongside prejudice and discrimination in communities and at work. Just last month the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published Trans Research Review demonstrating the continued prejudice and discrimination faced by trans people in Britain. The TUC welcomes the Commission’s commitment to this issue and the guidance they will give public bodies to promote equality for trans people.

Unfortunately, it seems that the TUC’s support for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) may actually be misplaced. Last Thursday – the day before the Transgender Day Of Remembrance – ECHR announced the appointment of its new Commissioners for all the strands for which it’s responsible – except in the area of transgender issues (link here).

However…

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Discrimination and hatred are part of the daily lives of far too many trans people in Britain, and employers need to make sure all their employees are working in safe environments, free from transphobia, violence and prejudice.’

‘Prejudice starts at school, and in its work to promote LGBT equality in education, the TUC has learnt that bullying on grounds of gender identity remains largely unrecognised. This can lead all too easily to the violence that trans people can face on the streets, and challenging the roots of such prejudice is long overdue.’

‘If Britain is to be a truly equal and inclusive society we need to understand the issues facing trans people, and develop practical steps to end discrimination in our workplaces and beyond.’

Fine words, and I sincerely hope that the TUC follows through on this statement of intent but, given the ways in which trans people have been let down by the EHRC – the government’s own agency for these matters – then I think this sense of scepticism I feel is unlikely to dissipate without proof of their commitment. The time for talking is over and I don’t believe I’m the only trans woman who wants to see some results.

Reclaim The Night: policing the borders of cis feminism

November 25, 2009

Previously, on more than one occasion, I’ve made it clear that my anger at the members of the London Feminist Network who organise the annual Reclaim The Night march here in London arises from their continuing refusal to make any public clarification of their position on trans women attending the event. For a transsexual woman like me, their use of the phrase “women only” is contentious because it carries with it the baggage of nearly half a century of our exclusion from cis women’s spaces.

That such blatant and toxic cissexism is applied to trans women is, frankly, unforgivable in this day and age, but reading the latest post on the Feminist Fightback blog (link here) makes me realise just how dangerous the march organisers’ attitudes are when applied to other cis women too.

As self-identified women committed to fighting gender-based violence, members of Feminist Fightback attended last Saturday’s march in solidarity with sex workers fighting for the right to self-organise against exploitation in their industry.

From the blog post, it seems that not only were they subjected to physical harassment and verbal abuse from other marchers, but were approached and interrogated by the police, apparently at the request of one of the stewards.

[…] we were extremely surprised to find that one of the basic principles of feminism (and all social justice movements) was forgotten in this instance – namely, that we never resort to using police aggression to silence and intimidate members of our own movement, no matter how much we may disagree with them.

And that is the crux of the matter. Feminism isn’t – or shouldn’t be – about a minority of privileged cis women using strongarm tactics against other, far more vulnerable women simply to prop up their distorted and outmoded worldviews. Might is most definitely not right, and the actions of those self-appointed guardians of a fictitious ‘true feminism’ have revealed the extent of the moral bankruptcy at the core of the London Feminist Network. They should be ashamed of themselves and if they had a shred of conscience, all those concerned would have stepped down by now.

It’s no surprise that the organisers of the Reclaim The Night march have made no public statement about this incident and their silence serves only to underline their desperation to hold on to their positions of power without accountability. But listen well, my sisters: the day is coming when you will be called to justify your appalling treatment of all those women against whom you have consistently used your privilege to discriminate, when the right and proper thing to do would have been to support and assist them in their struggle against a common enemy.

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See also:

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This is not a trans woman

November 22, 2009

Reclaim The Night (For Cis Women Only) and the London Cis Feminist Network

October 5, 2009

RTN cis onlyMy previous post (link here) has drawn me into looking further back along the organisational chain of command, and the results are as depressing and predictable as one might expect; as much for the failure of would-be allies as for the actual transphobia of the organisers.

Reclaim The Night and Feminism in London are both organised by the London Feminist Network and one commonality in all their literature is the use of the trans exclusionary phrase “women only”.

The problem arises because the term is grounded in the use of the long-established trope which states that transsexual women are “not really women” – hence my assertion that the phrase women only is trans exclusionary. The definition is essentialist in meaning as it infers that one can only be “born a woman” (and never “become a woman”, to paraphrase de Beauvoir), and in so doing it denies not only the existence and agency of transsexual women and transsexual men, but also the potential for change itself. Thus women comes to mean cis women, just as surely as women only means cis women only. The biological determinism underpinning this rationale ensures that these definitions become permanent, unquestionable, immutable dogma.

However, it also results in the anomalous situation we now see in the cases of both Feminism In London and Reclaim The Night where transsexual men (“really women”) will be welcomed to these events, at the same time as transsexual women (“really men”) will be excluded. The bias in favour of transsexual men not only makes use of one of the most offensive manifestations of transphobia – ungendering us – but silences and further marginalises transsexual women in the process: it is divisive too. At the same time, it reinforces the male/female binary which, in their next breath, those same cis women feminists will tell you they are committed to destroying – because, they reason, gender isn’t really absolute, determined by one’s genital configuration at birth, it is in fact a completely malleable, socially constructed concept.

LFN cis onlyBut regardless of the contorted and contradictory logic employed by LFN to exclude transsexual women, it’s interesting to note how the cis women feminist organisers then go on to avoid being called on their hidden transphobia by saying nothing explicitly about who is included in, and who is excluded from, the term women only. Their cis women feminist supporters at these events, who blithely go along with this hypocrisy by telling themselves that if transsexual women aren’t explicitly excluded then they must be implicitly included, are therefore not only complicit in the silencing of transsexual women, but their complacency allows the organisers to manipulate and exploit them in pursuit of this hidden transphobic agenda.

Which brings me to the real question: who decided this? How many people were responsible for implementing this trans exclusionary policy – and would they have been successful if the majority not been so apathetic? In a situation like this, saying nothing is no different to actively supporting the bigots. And given that transsexual women are highly unlikely to have access to the decision-making process, it falls to those cis women feminists who call themselves allies to take a stand on our behalf.

No more excuses, my sisters.

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Cross-posted at Harlot’s Parlour

Cis Feminism in London 09

October 3, 2009

Feminism in London - it's for cis women onlyNext weekend sees the Feminism in London 09 event. There are various workshops and discussions on a range of subjects: for example, racism and sexism, self-defence and assertiveness training, activism training, etc – and nearly 30 speakers scheduled. Any self-identified woman, whether cis or not, would surely find something of interest there.

But what’s this on the front page of the website?

If you are a woman or a pro-feminist man, come along to join the discussion.

Any trans woman seeing that will surely already hear the alarm bells ringing. It shouldn’t need restating that the word “woman” defaults to meaning “cis woman” and excludes trans women as a consequence. And “pro-feminist man”? I wonder if that includes trans men?

But there’s more. At the bottom of every single page of the website is this little gem of transphobia:

Some workshops may be for women only.

I see. And which workshops might they be, then? Close reading suggests that there is, in fact, only one workshop which is open to cis women only, and it’s the Rape and sexual violence workshop.

Because, as we know, trans women never suffer rape and violence.

Scratch the surface and the same old hidden agenda can be seen. Biological determinism: if you were born male-bodied, you will only ever be male. And its corollary – if you were born female-bodied, you will only ever be female – is the flipside. The thinking, if that’s the word I want, is fundamentally cissexist. The implication is that, irrespective of how we self-identify, to cis people we are always and forever the gender we were assigned at birth. It’s interesting that a self-styled feminist event should choose to implement such an essentialist policy. Whatever happened to the idea that gender is entirely socially constructed? And what happened to the feminism that preached equality for all and an end to oppression and discrimination?

And what all of this means in the context of the event is that a trans man will be welcome at the Rape and sexual violence workshop (because cis women have decided that he’s “really a woman”), but not a trans woman (because cis women have decided that she’s not).

But then I suppose it would be foolish to expect anything else of an event organised by the rabidly transphobic London Feminist Network. The same people who were last seen supporting a transphobic bigot celebrity lifestyle journalist at last year’s Stonewall UK protest, and who are no doubt already gearing up for the annual Reclaim The Night (But Only For Cis Women) march next month.

Frankly, if this is state of feminism in Britain’s biggest city in the 21st century you know what you can do with it.

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ETA: Because trans women never suffer sexual violence.
(Via This Is South WalesPDF here)

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Cross-posted at Harlot’s Parlour

The Dallas Principles

May 20, 2009

Via The Dallas Principles website:

Dallas Principles logoPresident Obama and Congress pledged to lead America in a new direction that included civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

[…]

On May 15-17, 2009 in Dallas, Texas twenty-four thinkers, activists, and donors gathered to discuss the immediate need for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender people in the United States. Collectively we prepared The Dallas Principles.

[…]

The following eight guiding principles underlie our call to action.

In order to achieve full civil rights now, we avow:

  1. Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.
  2. We will not leave any part of our community behind.
  3. Separate is never equal.
  4. Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny civil rights.
  5. The establishment and guardianship of full civil rights is a non-partisan issue.
  6. Individual involvement and grassroots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.
  7. Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised.
  8. Those who seek our support are expected to commit to these principles.

The ENDA fiasco should have been proof enough of the willingness of the gay community to throw us under the bus as they try to push their way to a seat in first class. And it’s hard to think of any coalition or alliance with the GLB communities that hasn’t resulted in the drowning out of trans voices.

Of the twenty-four “thinkers, activists, and donors”, only one is specifically stated to be trans. (The full list is here)

And – stating the obvious, I know, but – by its own definition, the entire project’s remit is US-centric.

I wish them luck – I believe that civil rights and equality are two (of many) hugely important issues to trans people – but I have to say: skeptical girl is skeptical.

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia