Archive for the 'The F Word' Category

Some are more equal than others

August 2, 2010

Zöe has a must-read post called simply Equality? over at her blog, in which she takes a look at the changes the Equality Act 2010 (direct link to PDF) will bring and concludes that:

It means that there is one “protected” class where protection is explicitly removed, not granted. It means that a gender recognition certificate is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Rather than being a recognition that they are of the target gender, it’s a nullity, as the law states that they’re not, not really. […]

[…] any legally sex-segregated area can now legally exclude anyone who’s trans from either being employed there, or as customers.

Regardless of whether they have a GRC or not.

All the proprietors have to prove is that it’s genuinely possible some of their clientele might be lost should they allow a “transsexual person” to be present on the premises.

Note also that the converse does not apply: it is illegal sex-discrimination to require counsellors for trans people to be trans themselves.


[The Equality Act 2010] effectively repeals large sections of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 – to wit, in all areas of provision of legally sex-segregated services. Things like toilets for example.

Note that it does not apply to transgendered people who are not transsexual persons. Only those who have started or completed the process of transition. Crossdressers good, transsexuals bad.

So apparently, even though I have a full GRC, and all my other documentation shows my gender correctly, I will no longer legally be a woman when this Act comes into force in October; I’ll be a “transsexual person” and that means I can forget it if I think I can count on UK law for any protection of my civil and human rights.

I’m already seeing a groundswell of outrage and anger amongst some of my trans sisters online; I think it’s entirely understandable, even justifiable. Because, when you get right down to it, cis society is transphobic, by default and to its core; there is precious little respite for trans people and, like most humans, repeatedly backing us into a corner isn’t going to put us in the best of humours.

But anti-trans prejudice is so deeply embedded in cis society that all the legislation in the world is never going to change anything for the better, least of all the attitudes of cis people. There’s no logic, no acceptance and certainly no justice. There never really was – all this legislation will do is formalise a state of affairs which already exists.

Cis people may, rightly, feel aggrieved about the low proportion of reported rapes that end in a successful prosecution – but has anyone ever seen statistics for reported rapes of trans people? Has anyone ever heard of even one trans person who’s seen a successful prosecution? And there may well be too few rape crisis centres available to cis women – but how many of them will even let a trans woman through the door, let alone offer help and support?

The fact is that the law – like many other aspects of society which the majority of cis people take for granted – is simply not accessible to us. Trans people are routinely dehumanised and demonised, excluded and harassed, attacked and even murdered with impunity by cis people from across the entire class spectrum – and, be honest, would you trust a system in which nearly everyone you meet treats you as less than human?

As the old joke goes: it doesn’t matter which way you vote, the government still gets in. And as far as I’m concerned, with this legislation, the government looks set to do a far better job of morally mandating people like me out of existence than Janice Raymond could ever dream of.


Cross-posted at The F-Word

UK: Identity Documents Bill 2010-11: progress report 30 June 2010

June 30, 2010

Having completed its First and Second Readings, the Identity Documents Bill 2010-11 has now reached the Committee stage of its progress through the House of Commons, according to the Parliament UK website.

The committee’s consideration of the Bill is scheduled to be completed on or before 8 July 2010.

Summary of the Bill

The main purpose of this Bill is to abolish identity cards and the National Identity Register; it repeals the Identity Cards Act 2006. There are no provisions for refunding existing cardholders.

A small number of provisions in the 2006 Act – unrelated to ID cards – reappear in the Bill. These cover offences relating to the possession and manufacture of false identity documents such as passports and driving licences. The Bill also re-enacts data-sharing provisions in the 2006 Act designed to verify information provided in connection with passport applications. Identification cards for non-EEA nationals are not affected by the provisions.

The ‘small print’ in the second paragraph of that quote seems to re-confirm that, even though ID cards may be abolished for UK citizens, the national identity database remains in place and, presumably, active.


Cross-posted at The F-Word


Previous, related posts about ID cards and the national database:

UK Government “committed” to GLb(t) anti discrimination and prejudice plan

June 16, 2010

Government Equalities Office logoAccording to this Press Release, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Theresa May today set out “an ambitious cross-government programme of work” with the admirable intention of tackling anti GLb(t) prejudice, including these aims:

  • a commitment to remove historical convictions for consensual gay sex from criminal records;
  • new work to end the blight of homophobic bullying in schools;
  • work to allow same-sex couples to register their relationships in a religious setting;
  • lobbying other countries to repeal homophobic legislation and recognise UK civil partnerships;
  • and an end to the removal of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.

Whilst I welcome Mrs May’s recent change of mind on gay adoption and applaud her commitment to scrapping ID cards and the National Identity Register, it should be remembered that anti GLb(t) prejudice and discrimination – and the consequent bigotry, hate speech and violence – remain daily realities for many.

With that in mind, and in the knowledge that a “more detailed action plan, setting out exactly how all the changes will be delivered” at an unspecified date sometime in the next six months, I hope Mrs May will understand my scepticism towards her wish to “tear down barriers to equal opportunities” and “build a fairer society”. Because without a clearly defined plan of action – drawn up in consultation with those affected by prejudice and discrimination towards our gender identity and/or sexual orientation – her fine words remain only that.

And so I, for one, await with interest the publication and implementation of the promised “detailed action plan”. Only then will members of the GLb(t) community be able to judge just how seriously the government takes this commitment.

Later today the Minister for Women and Equality will join the Prime Minister and figures from across the LGB and T community for a reception at 10 Downing Street to mark the beginning of Pride London fortnight.

Dwahlings, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am not to have been invited – and me a member of the trans community and the Downing Street Project’s mock Cabinet, and all. Obviously I need to work at my (lack of) social climbing skills.

…saucer of milk for table 5…


ETA 17 June: I’ve been sent a copy of the full statement (Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality) that yesterday’s announcement was based on. I’ve not been able to track down where it’s cached online so, for any interested parties, I’ve uploaded a copy of the 4-page PDF document to this site – here’s the direct link to it.

Whilst it’s still short on the detail of exactly how it will be implemented, it does add a little more about the scope – for example, the focus on SSM will also include working to improve recognition of civil partnerships outside the UK. Perhaps more significant is this paragraph on asylum:

We will stop the deportation of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution.

And the further information in the section on additional action for trans equality is also to be welcomed – although I have to say that I’m still reserving final judgement until I’ve seen more concrete proposals.


Cross-posted at The F-Word

Dictionary corner: gayjacking

June 6, 2010

Gayjacking: A portmanteau word combining gay and hijacking, it refers to the process by which TS/TG people’s self-identification is invisibilised and our lived experiences appropriated and repositioned to fit cis people’s agenda, and exempt themselves from acknowledging their own privileges and prejudices. The result is to present trans people as being always and forever our assigned sex and once that malicious assertion has been made, it’s a simple matter for cis people to pronounce that, for example, a relationship between a trans woman and a cis man is “really” a same sex relationship. Additionally, amongst other things, it sets up the conditions necessary for implementing the “trans panic defence” beloved of many a cis man who, on discovering that the woman with whom he has just had sex was born male-bodied, uses that as a justification for murdering her in a brutal and cruel way. (There are useful analyses of the trans panic defence in the context of the murder of Angie Zapata by Holly at Feministe and by Jillian Weiss at The Bilerico Project)

Gayjacking is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, but it does seem to have become more prominent with cis people’s still-dawning awareness of terms like transgender. From Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall in the 1960s (and before), through the annulment of April Ashley’s marriage in 1970 and the continuing anti-trans bigotry of many radical feminist cis women, to the almost universal misgendering of Tiwonge Chimbalanga by the mainstream media (along with so-called LGBT activist groups and numerous human rights organisations), this dehumanisation of TS/TG women has been a recurrent pattern of anti-trans hate, discrimination and discrimination for far too many years.

Even as I write this, reports of an LGBT group (associated with a major UK political party) being refused service in a London pub “because they were gay” – thereby instantly eradicating any trans, as well as bi and lesbian members, a textbook example of gayjacking – continues to unfold on Twitter, Facebook, BBC London News and one or two of the more enlightened cis women feminist blogs.

However, not only has gayjacking been around for a long time but it seems set to continue unchecked. For that to happen would, of course, require a tipping point to be reached in the positive evolution of mainstream cis society’s attitudes to my community, and it’s increasingly obvious to me that that is highly unlikely to happen any time soon.


Cross-posted at The F-Word

Bring back The Pansy Project’s Facebook page

May 22, 2010

Image of pansy from WikipediaWhilst I generally have little patience with the cis gay rights movement – primarily for its readiness to throw trans women under the metaphorical bus whenever we ask for its support in our struggle for civil rights, social justice and legal recognition *cough*ENDA*cough* – on an individual level it’s hard not to empathise with cis gay people who have been subject to homophobic harassment and abuse…

Manchester-based artist Paul Harfleet started The Pansy Project when he began to revisit various city streets to plant pansies at the sites of homophobic abuse.

A string of homophobic abuse on a warm summer’s day was the catalyst for this project. The day began with two builders shouting; “it’s about time we went gaybashing again isn’t it?”; continued with a gang of yobs throwing abuse and stones at my boyfriend and me, and ended with a bizarre and unsettling confrontation with a man who called us ‘ladies’ under his breath.

Paul decided that planting a small unmarked living plant at the site would correspond with the nature of the abuse: a plant would continue to grow, as he did through his experience. As he says:

Placing a live plant felt like a positive action, it was a comment on the abuse; a potential ‘remedy’.

The species of plant was of course vitally important and the pansy instantly seemed perfect. Not only does the word refer to an effeminate or gay man: The name of the flower originates from the French verb; pensar (to think), as the bowing head of the flower was seen to visually echo a person in deep thought. The subtlety and elegiac quality of the flower was ideal for my requirements. The action of planting reinforced these qualities, as kneeling in the street and digging in the often neglected hedgerows felt like a sorrowful act. The bowing heads of the flowers became mournful symbols of indignant acceptance.

Each pansy’s location is named after the abuse received and the project consists of the website, photographs and installations at sites of homophobia. In the five years since he began The Pansy Project, it’s been embraced by many in the gay community, who see it as way to deal with an experience shared by many. To my mind, the idea that art – living art – can challenge the brutality and ugliness of hate is actually quite beautiful and looking through the website, I think it’s hard not to be moved by it.

And yet, earlier this week, Paul’s Facebook group page was summarily removed by the site’s administrators on the grounds that “it transgressed their regulations”. Although Paul has requsted clarification from Facebook, none has been forthcoming. He has now set up a new page – Bring back THE PANSY PROJECT now – which he’s using while he waits to hear back from Facebook.


Curtsey to Earwicga for the heads-up

Image via Wikipedia


Cross-posted at The F-Word

Malawi: Couple sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for getting engaged

May 20, 2010

Today, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, whom the media calls “Malawi’s first openly gay couple” even though Tiwonge identifies as a woman and her partner as her husband, were given a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison with hard labour after being convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts. The judge said he wanted to protect the public from “people like you”. They have been detained in prison and repeatedly denied bail since they were arrested on 28 December 2009 after holding an engagement ceremony.

Their treatment has been internationally condemned – although the British government, Malawi’s largest donor, hasn’t withdrawn aid despite expressing its “dismay” – and the case has sparked debate over homosexuality and trans issues in Malawi, a conservative country where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism and President Bingu wa Mutharika has dismissed homosexuality as alien.

Gender DynamiX, a South African trans group, has produced the following video of the South African protest against the conviction of the couple which also addresses the problem of identifying them as a “gay” couple, despite Tiwonge’s expressed female gender identity:

(The direct link to the video is v=Y9d2kXHYnJk; as far as I’m aware, there is no transcription)

Saturday: The following is a transcript of the video made by Kate, a regular TFW reader, and I cannot thank her enough for generously taking the time and trouble to make this transcript. Thanks Kate!

Opening title:
protest – cape town
transgender woman and her partner in malawi is convicted to 14 years imprisonment for attempting to get engaged.
20 may 2010

Opening scene: Crowd protesting noisily

“Hi, I’m Tebogo Nkoana from Gender DynamiX South Africa. I’m standing outside the Department of Home Affairs in Cape Town. Today we are protesting with other activists against the conviction that was made to one transgender woman in Malawi who attempted to be in a relationship… I mean to get engaged with her partner in Malawi. So we’re protesting against that , asking… or appealing to our government that they must please accept them or give them the refugee status in our country because of the expressed problems in their country.”

Crowd sing and clap in background.

“It’s an incredibly important demonstration because the people here are not only gay and lesbian and transgendered and intersexed activists but they are people from various political angles, human rights and what’s holding everyone together is people’s human rights”

Crowd sing loudly in background.

“Tiwonge and Steven are a couple in Malawi that were convicted to 14 years imprisonment today. They attempted to get engaged at a private function at Tiwonge’s workplace. Tiwonge is a male-bodied person who identifies as female and has lived as a female all her life. However, the media, and organisations all over the world, is treating this as a couple who are homosexual. They were also convicted as a homosexual couple who does unnatural acts against nature”

Crowd chants “sign it” (petition) and claps. Whistles in crowd.

“I acknowledge receipt and I will hand it over [to the Prime Minister?] tomorrow”

Crowd claps and whistles.

“It is…it’s your prerogative, it’s no-one else’s, you know. And if you’re happy with what you are, why…why must the next person, like, you know, outcast you for what you want to be, you know. So…it’s not like if you’re going to stay in their house that they’re going to outcast you, so…”

“Of course, it’s very problematic for us in Africa to do transgender activism. Information about gender identity is not as available as it is in the West. It is very clear that the couple in Malawi is a couple which the one is a transgender woman and the other is a heterosexual-identifying…em…partner. Em…but I suppose the…the…the protest today is important in the sense that it’s not really necessary for us to separate things out…em…because it is a human rights violation when somebody has to go to jail for 14 years because they just attempted to have a private function to get engaged to one another, two consenting adults.”

Closing title:

The judge justified his harsh sentence by saying “the case has left a scar on Malawi’s morality,”

gender dynamix rejects the conviction of Transgender woman Tiwomnge and her partner Steven and urges the SA government to end their silence concerning these human rights infringements
south africa

021633 5287


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia and The F-Word

What’s wrong with this picture?

May 4, 2010

Just when you thought that cis people’s crass fixation on trans people’s genitalia could go no further, along comes this article in Argentina’s Momento24 English, demonstrating conclusively that their prurience really knows no bounds:

Barbie changes sex

Image from Momento24 English

Andrea Cano and photographer Manuel Antonio Velandia, after 50 years of Barbie, were responsible for the operation, which ended with the change of sex on the popular doll.

Velandia told the media he “chose to these dolls because they are well known and because they are unrealistic women, that would have waists of 40 cm and breasts of a size of 110 cm.”

And he “found it curious that, as with most of the dolls, Barbies are sexless.”

Andrea Cano revealed that “she had since childhood the fantasy of having a doll that was a transsexual and Barbie gave her that chance.”

Thanks to them, and to Decide-T Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders of Alicante, the exhibition ‘Invisibles: Natures transgressive’ will be held.

Veladia confirms that “this exhibition is recommended for audiences of all ages as we are to put aside the issue of sexuality as a taboo and that children since early know that there is diversity in this area.”

I can understand Mr Velandia’s objection to the unrealistic representation of women that Barbie dolls perpetuate (including the fact that the dolls are anatomically incorrect) – it’s hyper-feminisation personified – but Ms Cano’s “fantasy” of having a doll of a transsexual woman suggests a large degree of objectification, not least because of its upholding of the gender binary.

To complete their bid for winners of today’s round of trans bingo, the thinking behind their dolls sensationalises surgery and defines our identities according to our genital topography – and, in his last quote, Mr Velandia also manages to conflate sexuality with gender identity.

But perhaps the most striking thing about these dolls is that they show how ignorant Mr Velandia and Ms Cano really are about trans bodies: surely a Barbie doll would “transition” to a trans man, not a trans woman?

If I was posting this on Twitter, I’d hashtag it #cisFAIL. Facepalm moment of the day, no question.


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia and The F-Word

Message in a bottle

April 16, 2010

Talented, creative & beautifulThere’s an interesting article on the CNN International site about a recently-completed project “that asked transgender, transsexual and questioning people to create a message they wanted others to know”.

Overall, iReporters wanted the world to hear their voices, their stories, and to possibly teach a few people along the way. [A contributor, Oscar Robles] summed up the feelings many transgender people shared through their submissions.

“People get really wrapped up in their minds about people who are queer-identified or trans-identified,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that big of a deal. Correction, it isn’t that big of a deal.”

Hmm. It is and it isn’t; I think it depends on the individual’s self-perception, as well as how they are perceived by others.

Which seems to lead into the often vexed question of living ‘in stealth’: as Andrea James says at TS Roadmap, “Various levels of stealth have advantages and drawbacks, and one isn’t better than the other. It’s a very personal decision that must be based on your individual needs” – and the article reports a couple of the contributors touching on this point:

Jett Smith […] says that he has worked jobs for months without anyone ever knowing his transgender status, and while he understands the desire to be stealth, he prefers to be upfront about it.


While [Avery] is out at work and says she doesn’t try to hide away, she remarks that her transgender identity isn’t a topic that comes up in general conversation or everyday activities.

It’s encouraging to see that several of the contributors consider their ‘transness’ to be of comparatively little importance in their lives. While that may not be everyone’s experience, it does help to underline the point that the trans community is not some anonymous monolith whose every member unquestioningly complies with imposed cultural stereotypes; we are, each and every one of us, individual human beings whose diversity deserves to be celebrated and included, not ridiculed and marginalised.


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia and The F-Word

Equality Bill passed as Parliament draws to close

April 8, 2010

Via People Management:

government portcullis logoThe equality bill has been passed before the dissolution of Parliament and will come into effect from October.

The bill, originally put forward by deputy Labour leader and equalities minister Harriet Harman, combines existing anti-discrimination legislation into a single equality act.

MPs yesterday approved the equality bill and its amendments without a vote in the “wash-up” period – when new laws are rushed through Parliament before it breaks for the general election.


The bill includes changes to the use of pre-employment questionnaires and the requirement for large organisations to reveal gender pay disparities. Provisions within the legislation could potentially force political parties to publish anonymous information on the diversity of their candidates.

The House of Lords’ amendments included protection against discrimination for pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers. Peers also removed a ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious premises, but retained the rights of churches to refuse to employ gay and transsexual people.

[Rachel Dineley, employment partner and head of the diversity and discrimination unit at law firm Beachcroft LLP, commented:] “Under the act, the government proposes to extend the positive action regime. Employers would be able to consider, when selecting between two equally qualified candidates, under-representation of disadvantaged groups and appoint the person from the under-represented. The merits of these new provisions are highly controversial and some view them as social engineering by the back door.”

The Bill has now been sent for Royal Assent, after which it will become an Act of Parliament.


(Cross-posted at The F-Word)


Previous, related posts:

Zen and the art of internet trolling

March 29, 2010

A near perfect textbook example of internet trolling appeared last night in the comments to my cross-post of this article at The F-Word.

Butterflywings, the troll in question, has routinely left comments comprising short paragraphs of hate speech on my posts for some time now, and I wish she could apply herself to learning (about the intersectionalities of trans and feminist issues; about the ways in which cis people marginalise and oppress trans people with such casual brutality, and so on) with the same fervour she shows in her hate speech.

Be that as it may, her comment followed her predictable scattergun approach and, in a sense, doesn’t merit further consideration; on the other hand, a brief analysis of it might provide a useful trans 101 on a few of the more popular misconceptions about my community.

The full comment was as follows:

yeah, surprise surprise you bring this round to trannies issues as you do everything. IT’S ABOUT WOMEN idiot not men in drag and er if as you insist you ARE a woman, WEALLY cos you totes feew like one, then you will not have a problem as you’ll pass, huh? Not to mention that not everyone is actually out to get trans people, except in your self-obsessed imagination.

Taking it apart line by line, we can start with:

yeah, surprise surprise you bring this round to trannies issues as you do everything.

There are two points to consider here: the recentring of an issue, and the use of pejorative language.

The first point, the accusation that I was recentring the subject, is actually quite amusing in its own little way, as recentring is precisely what she was attempting to do with her comment. This is a classic trolling tactic, to try and put the blogger on to the defensive, as a precursor to a full-blown derailing and consequent shutting down of discussion of any topic to which the troll objects.

Recommended reading: Derailing For Dummies (Google cache reconstruction)

The second point concerns the use of offensive slurs against a marginalised minority. The word “trannies” has a long and complex history, originating within the porn industry. In that context it’s used to highlight how trans women are not “really women” (of which, more in a minute). It’s perhaps one of the most trans-misogynistic hate words in use today, and no more so than when a cis woman attempts to use it as a weapon against a trans woman.

Recommended reading: Is ‘Tranny’ Offensive?

Her next sentence opened with:

IT’S ABOUT WOMEN idiot not men in drag

This is one of the most hackneyed and unimaginative attacks made on trans people, yet it remains as popular today as it ever was. In it, trans people are told that we are always and forever the gender we were assigned at birth – usually one of the stereotypical binary categories (in the process erasing many intersex people as well as anyone who isn’t binary identified). It’s an attempt to deny our identities and it’s cissexist. I’m always puzzled how some cis women feminists can promote this essentialism and in the next breath assert that gender is a construct.

Recommended reading: Transphobic Tropes #1 – “Really” A Man/Woman

She then segued into this:

if as you insist you ARE a woman, WEALLY cos you totes feew like one, then you will not have a problem as you’ll pass, huh?

The first part is a continuation of the ideologically threadbare “biology is destiny” theme discussed above; the second part, regarding “passing” at least introduces a new theme to relieve the monotony. “Passing” is a form of privilege accorded by society in exchange for complying with cultural stereotypes about how a woman is supposed to look and act, etc. But it carries a subtext of deception, as though one is pretending to be something one isn’t. So we see how patriarchal society delegates the policing of the borders of binary identity to, in this case, an internet troll.

Recommended reading: Early transition: The concept of “Passing”

Not to mention that not everyone is actually out to get trans people, except in your self-obsessed imagination.

This is such a naive and foolish assertion it almost beggars belief. Tell it to Angie Zapata or Gwen Araujo. Tell it to Destiny Lauren, Andrea Waddell or Kellie Telesford.

Recommended reading: Trans Murder Monitoring Project

So there we are. This post is a good example of why it’s ultimately pointless to try and engage with trolls: the effort required to deconstruct their words is rarely worth it, but I hope that this one-off post at least offers some pointers to more in-depth discussions elsewhere around some of the common misconceptions about trans people.


Related post: