Friday, 29 February 2008

I don’t understand what gender dysphoria is and I have no intention of finding out! Being transgender is not a mental illness.

That was Trevor Phillips Head of the UK Equality Human Rights Commission in response to my question at my Unions recent Women & Equalities conference.

I introduced my question by saying my name is Maggie Fox and that I am a transsexual woman and had attended the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender part of the conference but that I was different to my Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual (LGB) comrades as HM Government considered me mentally ill and that I was subject to the new Mental Health Act that meant I could be arrested and sectioned to a mental hospital at any time.

My question was:

Can transsexual people count on the Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to remove the mental illness classification?

Will EHRC see that “gender dysphoria” is confined to the dustbin of history and that laws are amended to bring transsexual people the same human rights as the rest of the LGB community?


So fine words from Trevor Phillips but it’s important to make sure everyone knows this quote and please help me to make certain the necessary legal changes are implemented.

This was I suppose the culmination of the conference from my perspective. I make no apology for being a gender activist or for exposing this blatant abuse of the human rights of all transgender & transsexual people.

I am parking my cynicism on Trevor Phillips not using “and transsexual” as throughout the conference transgender was taken to mean those who transition & permanently change their sex. The “Trans Agenda” is not recognised by my fellow Union delegates. Cross-dressing males are seen as what they are - temporary cross-dressers who may or may not do it because of their sexual orientation.

So I’m prepared to go along (for now) with the word transgender if we all agree it means a permanent change of sex. What I can’t buy is gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder and some bunch of unaccountable psychiatrists telling me I am mentally ill.

I won’t accept that I am subject to the mental health act and I’ll never submit to the whims & prejudices of the charlatan psychiatrists that masquerade as gender specialists in the NHS.

I want to see the Mental Health Act, The Gender Recognition Act and the Sex Discrimination Act amended to remove any direct or implied reference to mental illness.

I accept the state needs a declaration of a permanent change to sustain its binary sex system and I do not want a third gender that people can drop in and out of at whim. I’m happy with male or female providing the State recognises:

Gender Identity is determined before birth

Gender “expression” can be altered, gender identity can not

Transsexual people have a neuro-developmental condition of the brain; a neurological inter-sexed condition

People born transsexual do NOT change gender, they alter their physical sexual characteristics to match their innate gender

Typically, transsexual people realise their difference at three to five years of age but are sometimes repressed due to extreme societal/parental pressure to conform to their outward physical characteristics

The drive for most transsexual people to bring their physical sexual characteristics into congruence with their gender identity is intense

Transsexual people do NOT have a mental or psychological condition, just a birth anomaly

Transsexual people recognize their gender at an early age but may, in fact, suffer from depression and other psychopathology due to the stress of their incongruence.

Being a transsexual person has no connection with sexual orientation, as transsexual people can be heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual.

Acknowledgement here to my friends who campaign for the recognition of Harry Benjamin Syndrome (Nature not Nurture). We are after the same objectives I just don’t care about the label we use.

OK I’ve got on to my campaign something that I will live or die for as whilst I abhor all abuses of human rights this is the one on which I’m expert and I believe I can influence.

Back to my Union Conference:

The key points I picked up from Trevor Phillips speech were 4 out of 5 employers thought won’t get caught in terms of discrimination and only 1 in 8 employees complain about discrimination.

I can easily agree with that one!

Trevor Phillips promised “modern effective law” to change that and most importantly that NO religious group gets exemption. Amen to that LOL

For those wondering who my Union is? My Union is now called UNITE and this was the last Women & Equalities Conference under the Transport & General Workers Union banner.

The Conference is sub split down into All Women Event, Black& Asian Ethnic Minorities Members Conference, Disabled Members Conference, Young Members Conference and the one I was a delegate at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Members Conference.

There were just three of us out as Transgender but given the small number of us in the UK population that was about right.

Note all three were transsexual (that is have made a permanent change) but for the conference we are called transgender OK?

There were lots of joint sessions that were great as it allowed us to mingle and for example me to both lobby and dispel some myths about transsexual people. Destroying stereotypes is a vital part of Equalities for example telling the Asian Conference leader that my ancestors were immigrants who fled from France to England to escape religious persecution – nothing is new is it?

I also unashamedly button holed Yvonne Strachan Head of Scottish Executive Government Equality Unit so she now understands the mental health issue and how UK Law compromises transsexual people’s human rights.

One thing launched at the Conference was the Sexual Orientation and Religion or Belief toolkit. It’s excellent well aside from the slight implication that Transgender has something to do with sexual orientation when it hasn’t. Still despite that it is much better than nothing!

Contact your Unite Regional Officer for a copy and use it in your work place!

I was very pleased with the Age Discrimination Factsheet but I have some reservations about the Transgender Equality Factsheet for Union Reps.

At the risk of being accused of being picky? LOL We use the psycho-babble terms of “gender dysphoria” and real life test” but at least the guide says “It is NOT a mental illness”.

Quick aside here I can’t describe how much I hate the term real life test! I mean everyone passes the real life test everyday until they die whatever and whoever they are. Do you wonder why I have no time for psychiatrists?

This is not meant to be a full conference report but I’ll pick out my personal highlights of the LBGT event.

LGBT Conference Highlights

We had a great session on Abuse of L&G Most vulnerable Groups in Society that allowed me the opportunity to feed back my workshop views including a minority report LOL

There was universal agreement to pushing for statutory recognition of equality reps in the workplace. This does imply some sort of accreditation scheme, as they need to be first line legal rights advisors.

Naturally I got in Human Rights issues for Transsexual & Transgender people see above LOL

Our group felt HM Government should make Aid to developing counties conditional on an equivalent to the European Convention on Human Rights, especially LGBT rights, being incorporated into their domestic law plus the removal of the death penalty for all crimes.

We wanted a pan-European approach to human rights with NO opt outs.

We wanted to see affiliation of LGBT Groups on a Global Basis regardless of state of Union mergers.

Essentially we wanted to reverse the cascade with policy flowing upwards from the members not downwards from the centre of power.

Oh and the minority report?

The disestablishment of the Church of England as a secular state would end the religious opt outs that are an excuse for blatant discrimination. The state must have zero tolerance of religious bigotry.

I can say that as a committed Christian but as I didn’t have unanimous support I called it a minority report though I had a 3 votes to 2 majority!

That was workshop 1 whist workshop 2 was Domestic Violence on LBGT people.

Now some of us thought this not the best choice, as reducing suicide in the LBGT community is a bigger issue. We all accept domestic violence is terrible but I don’t believe it is worse in our community.

Anyway we discussed and reported back.

Now elsewhere in our conference we agreed that discrimination is a form of control and bullying is now endemic and seen as an intrinsic management tool.

Employment Tribunals are budgeted costs for management and Unions need counter measures.

We debated a persecution law that would take as read psychological harm removing the personal injury element of the Harassment Act and making it specific to the work place.

We have a Government that does the minimum necessary to placate the employers so as trade unionists we need robust laws to counter the excesses of global capitalism. Whatever happened to socialism? Oh yes it died with John Smith when New Labour was born!

We are most concerned that the new Incitement to Hatred Laws exclude transsexual people but never mind we can go back to the European Human Rights Courts and win again against this institutionally transphobic government.

One thing we know is that we need more LGBT education & training in the workplace and in our schools and that LGBT must never be subordinated by religion.

We agreed Gender Identity must never be part of a Government Census.

Finally we need to be proactive not reactive in the work place. For example as soon as someone announces their intention to transition in the work place our “flying squad” needs to brief the local branch officials and members and offer any additional support the transsexual person wants.

Well that’s my take on my first LBGT conference it was great to be there and I got to meet “R” over lunch on the first day. She is one of my heroines a former transsexual woman she did the women’s conference and not LBGT and quite right too as she’s a woman full stop.

Oh I came up with this Union that’s gone from National to International that Treasures Everyone.

That spells UNITE to me…

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