It’s been an awful week for trans rights

It’s been an awful week for trans rights

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This week’s photo are self portraits from the Cotswolds back in 2018.

You can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fi so I can buy film for my camera.

A duck lands on a river while seagulls fly around a willow tree.

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Heads up. Things are horrible for trans folk right now. I’m going to look at why in this weeks post. Feel free to skim through and enjoy the photos and links at the bottom if you’re finding it tough right now and don’t want to be triggered.

Last week I wrote about TDoV. The Trans Day of Visibility. A celebration of trans culture, people, art, activism and above all a day to remind cisgender people that we’re just human beings asking to be respected.

That next day the UK government announced that they would ban conversion therapy for all but trans people. Just the LGB. A few days later Boris Johnson said that gay conversion therapy is “utterly abhorrent”. For trans conversion therapy he said there were “complexities and sensitivities” when “you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender”.

“But these are complex issues and I don’t think they can be solved with one swift, easy piece of legislation. It takes a lot of thought to get this right.”

It has been 4 years since the government promised to ban conversion therapy. Brazil banned conversion therapy for sexual orientation in 1999 and followed up in 2018 with a ban to cover gender identity conversion therapy. Argentina did both in 2010 as did Uruguay in 2017. Canada banned it in Dec 2021 and France a few days later. In February this year New Zealand became the latest country to ban it. It is a complex issue but clearly the right thing to do is to ban it. The UK could maybe ask for assistance if they are struggling?

“…I’m sorry we haven’t been able to reach agreement with the organisations concerned but that will in no way diminish our determination to tackle prejudice wherever we can… It’s vital that we give people the maximum possible love and support in making those decisions…”

After making these statements he went on to cancel the ‘Safe to be me’ LGBT+ conference because everyone pulled out in protest over the conversion therapy ban. The experts offering love and support to those needing to make important decisions sent him a clear message and he binned it.

He went on to say that “it takes a lot of thought to get this right.” In his interview with Sky News he mentioned 3 key things.

  1. Kids aren’t able to make the decision about their gender on their own and need parental guidance.
  2. Trans women shouldn’t compete in sports alongside women.
  3. Single sex safe spaces for women. Toilets, bathrooms, etc.

Those are classic signs of transphobia. It’s like he’s seen a single Youtube video on “Being gender critical” then liked and subscribed. So much for “it takes a lot of thought.” Imagine if there was a room filled with experts who had already done “a lot of thought” and have already got it right. A room where he could have spoken and learnt what needs to be done to provide “the maximum possible love”.

Around the same time the militant wing of Mumsnet (aka Mumsnet) announced a political movement to respect women’s sex claiming it to be the biggest women’s right movement since the Suffragettes. Totally ignoring LGBT history suggesting many of the Suffragettes were LGBT and most likely wouldn’t be associated with this new movement.

Also around the same time the EHRC announced new guidelines on how to make spaces safe for everyone by excluding trans people. A carefully worded guide to get around the pesky Equal Rights Act of 2010. That act states that it illegal to exclude people.

Under the Equality Act you are protected from discrimination:
– When you are in the workplace.– When you use public services like health care (e.g. visiting your GP or local hospital) or education (e.g. your school or college).– When you use businesses and other organisations that provide services and goods (like shops, restaurants, and cinemas).– When you use transport.– When you join a club or association (e.g. your local tennis club); and– When you have contact with public bodies like your local council or government departments – From the NHS Gender Identity Service

While these EHRC guidelines aren’t legally enforceable they give credibility and power to those people who would like to discriminate against trans people and power to people who would like to attack those who look trans. The EHRC guidelines have examples so businesses know how to effectively discriminate against trans people.

Example: A community centre has separate male and female toilets. It conducts a survey in which some service users say that they would not use the centre if the toilets were open to members of the opposite biological sex, for reasons of privacy and dignity or because of their religious belief.
“It decides to introduce an additional gender-neutral toilet. It puts up signs telling all users that they may use either the toilet for their biological sex or to use the gender-neutral toilet if they feel more comfortable doing so.”

In this instance you would have trans men going into the women’s which is going to provoke an issue. “I just saw a man openly go into the ladies!” Most likely what would happen is the trans person would feel discriminated against by the venue and they would use the gender-neutral toilet. Of course it leads to cisgender women who look a bit “manly” also being targeted because clearly they’re a man and should be using the mens room.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is actively helping people to discriminate against some humans rights by saying that trans people aren’t as equal as cisgendered people.

Scaremongering about trans women supposedly committing crimes in bathrooms is fuelling this issue and yet there hasn’t been a single case of it. This fear, based on nothing, that aims to do good for one group of people is doing so at the expense of another. What this will come down to is a continued lack of cases of trans people attacking others in toilets and an increase in trans people being attacked. Logically speaking if the purpose of the government was to prevent people being attacked they would look into this and do something about it because the data is clear. Trans people aren’t attacking cisgendered people but cisgendered people are attacking trans people. Imagine if you could do something with that data to offer “the maximum possible love and support”.

All this has been a lot to process. I’m sat here an assigned male a birth (AMAB) person in a skirt wondering how it affects me. While I wear a skirt I, reluctantly, use the mens room because how you present isn’t your identity. My identity, non-binary, means I don’t identify as man or woman. Given the data about trans people being attacked in bathrooms I do wonder if it’s only a matter of time until men attack me for wearing a skirt. If at all possible I’ll use the disabled as I am invisibly disabled. Single toilet safe space. Yay.

This toilet fear that people have that the EHRC have outlined ways to discriminate against trans people won’t affect me right? Right, but the growing fear of trans people will. How will I go shopping for a new skirt? Are people going to see me and think I’m gearing up for something? “Oh he’s buying skirts now! I saw him earlier photographing women on the street too.” Being a photographer I always carry a camera and what people may see as me photographing one thing is probably something completely different.

Normally I would say this is catastrophising and to challenge those bad thoughts with evidence to the contrary. However I’ve had multiple instances of misguided public intervention while doing my job as a photographer. I was once photographing the interior shop spaces for a client wearing a security pass and lanyard issued by security. All the staff knew I was there for legitimate reasons. The public decided they knew better though and a woman came up to me ranting about how I can’t take photos here because there are kids in the area. I showed her my pass. It did nothing. She kept ranting. Eventually security came over to help me, an official person working in the space, from this seemingly unhinged woman ranting at me. Security looked after me and the woman walked away happy because security had “caught me”.

It has been an awful week for trans folk. The new EHRC guidelines should have been updated to help protect us against people’s unfounded fears. The government should be banning conversion therapy because there’s no real evidence to say it helps but plenty to show it harms. They can’t say it’s an “utterly abhorrent” thing for LGB but not T. Gender Critical ideology is now at the top level of government and the PM believes it is the right thing despite there being no evidence to back any of it up.

Oh and I haven’t even properly discussed Boris Johnson saying trans women shouldn’t compete next to cisgendered women in sports because they have an unfair advantage.

“I don’t think biological males should be competing in female sporting events,” Boris Johnson said. “Maybe that’s a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible.”

Would you be surprised to learn that there is no evidence to support this? Trans athletes have been able to compete in the Olympics since 2004 and no trans woman has ever won a medal. A trans non-binary footballer called Quinn won gold last year in Tokyo which is awesome but 0 trans women or men in 18 years. Could we start listening to science? “Maybe that’s a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible.”

How do we push back? You would think that evidence and facts would help our case but well 15 out of 10 unicorns agree that facts are meaningless in the modern age. First things first. Try and stay positive. There’s hope in that all this has happened before and the results of that could happen again. The gay rights movement is a couple of decades ahead of the trans rights movement so look to them see that change is coming.

Trans people are being better represented on TV, in movies, games and comics. Marvel are looking to cast a trans character in the new Ironheart show. Elliot Page has confirmed that their Umbrella Academy character is trans and will be explored in season 3 of that show. Star Trek Discovery has a non-binary character played by a non-binary actor and a trans character played by a trans actor. Nothing about us without us. Change is occurring. Good change.

I know that may not feel like much in comparison to this week but it shows things are changing. I personally need little things like this to cling on to for mental health reasons. You need to hang on too. You need all those little things to help get you to tomorrow. A better tomorrow? Erm… maybe a better next week.

Remember that change has occurred in other countries. It can happen in the UK too. Most important thing to remember is be yourself. Be proud of who you are. Don’t let anyone take that from you. If you want to go up a gear make art. Sing. Dance. Write. Show people there’s nothing to fear. Attend protests to show we won’t be ignored. Pride is protest! Make activist art. Be provocative. Be edgy. Try not to hate. It is instinctive but it can consume you. Listen. People have some seriously stupid ideas but if we don’t listen and figure out what is driving their concerns we can’t hope to challenge or address them with some of those mythical facts that have worked so well in the past… I have to hope that this is how we can make things better.

I had a nice chat with some young folk in the park the other day. They were inquisitive. Possibly needing a little education on their language as they asked me if I liked “birds” to which my reply “Nah not into wildlife” only confused them. Schools are way way more LGBT+ friendly than when I was at mine 25+ years ago. Change! It is happening. Don’t lose hope.

Take breaks from social media and the news. It can be too much noise and not enough signal. While things are bad constantly consuming social media and the news can make things feel a lot worse than they are. Take care of your mental health.

If you’re struggling to cope right now, contact Samaritans:

Here are some links.

Branches from a willow tree reaching into a river on a sunny day.

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Autumnal coloured leaves glowing in the evening sun.

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Toxic positivity affirmations are bad, and so is this.

A river of compassion washes away my anger and replaces it with love. Yay for climate change. All those rivers are rising.

A duck plays in a river.

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