There was hand-wringing piece in the Independent yesterday about an Essex pharmacy that provided a journalist with HRT. It’s so bad and on so many levels that I felt it worthy of mentioning here specifically. However, this is hardly an isolated incident – the media have a very long history of trying to scupper trans healthcare, including David Batty’s persecution of doctors practicing trans medicine and past efforts by the BBC, similar to this one, to shut down entirely legal sources of medicine.

Turning back to the Indy piece, sources such as the pharmacy they mention are often a lifeline for people who can’t get medication in any other way. Even having had to wait, sometiems years, to get help many people subsequently find their GPs refuse to prescribe drugs because it goes against their religion, even when recommended by a specialist. Or they live somewhere where they can’t access specialist care without long journeys – there is no Gender Identity Clinic anywhere in Wales, for example. (Fortunately, there are moves afoot to remedy that particular problem)

This isn’t due to a lack of evidence of the effectiveness of health care – research has shown that blocking health care for those seeing transition is extremely dangerous, with the suicide attempt rate for those unable to access services at around 50%.

The Indy also plays up the risks of HRT, which if you believe the tone of the article must be incredibly dangerous, and state that it shouldn’t be “used unmonitored”. However, amongst the long-term-transitioned trans women I know of who have been able to find a stable supply via cooperative and responsible GPs, none are being monitored – because the real world risk for most people is not high enough to make it worth the GP’s time. Progynova is even an over-the-counter medicine in some countries, such as Spain.

In case you’re wondering, the side effects list of an over-the-counter drug in the UK such as Ibuprofen includes difficulty breathing, vomiting blood, stroke, liver failure, heart failure and heart attacks. If there’s a lesson here, it’s “don’t read the side effects list on the leaflets”.

Finally, the headline cites “Fears of ‘DIY transitioning’“. DIY transitioning is exactly what people have been doing for decades because the press and medical establishments have a long history of making it as hard as possible to access treatment.

To be clear, having to defend grey market medication is a far from ideal situation to be in. But it is disingenuous to harp on about the “dangers” of these sources, while ignoring the effects of cutting off that supply. And trawling forums for “exclusives” like this is terribly dangerous and will just force desperate people further and further underground, where they’ll end up being taken advantage of or finding sources of supply that are really dangerous. I imagine many people will be wary of asking for help on that particular Reddit forum after it was cited by the paper.

The NSPCC have now announced the cancellation of the debate into the care of trans kids. At first, this seems like good news, given one of the speakers was to have been Sarah Ditum – known for her support of those practising conversion therapy.

However, I am quite annoyed by the tone of their response which is at best disingenuous. Here is what they said: (I received the same text via email in response to my letter)

However, the trans community have raised concerns and told us that they don’t support the NSPCC hosting this discussion. We have listened, and following the withdrawal of a keynote speaker, we are no longer hosting this event.

To be fair, getting a press release like this right in a way that doesn’t cause repercussions is hard. However, I would expect a withdrawal from an organisation with a competent press department to use phrases like “Having considered the background of the speakers, we can understand why this would upset members of the trans communities“. Some people might regard these as “weasel words”, but they’re there to indicate that they don’t blame those who protested, that they can see both sides of the argument and they really just don’t want a fight. Instead, we’re treated to a spin on the facts stating that trans people don’t want the NSPCC to discuss this issue. We do, because we think this is an important issue and I said as much in my letter to them. We just don’t think it’s appropriate for the debate to involve someone supporting those engaged in child abuse.

I expect we’ll see a concern-trolling New Statesman rant by Sarah Ditum about how her right to freeze peach has been violated soon. As always, it hasn’t.

Following the news that the NSPCC had invited Sarah Ditum to a debate on trans kids, I sent them the note below regarding Ditum’s support for those advocating conversion therapy against kids. Since I wrote this yesterday evening, Kellie Maloney (also an odd choice for this debate) has pulled out which means it may not go ahead, although Kellie’s withdrawal appears to be because of concerns about personal attacks from Ditum rather than due to her controversial views on trans people.


Dear NSPCC,

I would like to thank the NSPCC for giving time to discuss the issue of treatment of trans children. As I am sure you are aware, this is an important but often overlooked topic in an area in which many involved in setting policy, including teachers, social workers, clinicians and politicians, are unaware of the facts and of the desperate need for more resources.

However, the as someone who had until now held the NSPCC in high regard, I was appalled to learn that you had selected speakers who will harm rather than help this issue. Sarah Ditum’s position on trans issues in general is controversial and well-documented, but I would particularly like to highlight to you two specific incidents regarding Ditum’s support for those practising conversion therapy.

Firstly, in 2014, Sarah Ditum wrote an article for the New Statesman, best characterised as “concern trolling”, regarding the suicide of Leelah Alcorn. (“If you believe trans lives matter, don’t share Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note on social media“) Leelah was a trans teenager who had been cut off from her peers and subjected to conversion therapy by her parents. After 5 months of this, Leelah posted a public suicide note on the social media site Tumblr in which she was highly critical of her parents, before stepping into traffic on Interstate 71. Despite this, Ditum wrote an article for the New Stateman in which she was highly critical of the media coverage highlighting the dangers of conversion therapy, downplayed the significance of the abuse and expressed support for Leelah’s parents. (She has not written similar articles concerning other events that do not feature trans people)

More recently, in May 2016 another article appeared in the New Statesman by Ditum (“What is gender, anyway?“) in which she supported clinicians practising conversion therapy on children, including Susan Bradley and Kenneth Zucker. Conversion therapy (sometimes also known as reparative therapy) is now widely abhorred by the medical community as not just ineffective but dangerous and cruel. It is banned in some Canadian provinces and US states and, in the UK, LGB conversion therapy has been condemned by all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies as well as the NHS. Zucker’s clinic in Canada was shut down after Ontario banned the practice of conversion therapy – Susan Bradley also campaigned against the ban. The centre hosting the clinic later issued a public apology for the practice as a result of an external audit, but Ditum dismisses this in her article as being “attacked for not conforming to the current trans political line” and Zucker being “ultimately forced from his job”.

It should not be the case that, in 2016, a children’s charity proposes to host a “debate” in which one of the panellists supports treatment that is now banned in many parts of the world as child abuse. Your supporters would be horrified if you hosted a debate with those advocating other forms of child abuse – please do not let trans kids be the exception.

I urge the NSPCC to reconsider the ethical implications of allowing this debate to proceed.

Kind Regards,

Councillor Zoe O’Connell
Cambridge City Council

Without any pre-announcement – a move that, judging by some tweets, annoyed even the Women & Equalities Select Committee – the government released it’s overdue response to the trans inquiry. Once could be forgiven for thinking that the sudden, unannounced arrival of a report in the middle of the largest political crises the UK has seen for decades was an attempt to bury bad news. Despite some oddly positive press coverage suggests the report is promising things it doesn’t, reading the report does little to put those suspicions to rest.

By way of explanation, I should say that there are some well tried and tested methods of dealing with troublesome reports that politicians and civil servants will use. These tactics are not as lavish as Sir Humphrey Appleby, but they work if nobody is paying too much attention.

If you want to genuinely do something about an issue, a response will say something like “We welcome the suggestions made by the inquiry. The Ministry of Silly Walks will publish a green paper later this year, with a view to introducing legislation on the promotion of especially silly walks in public life during the next session of parliament”. This has someone who is responsible (the Ministry of Silly Walks) for doing something concrete (a green paper) by a given date (the end of the year) with a clearly defined end goal. (new legislation with a defined scope)

Conversely, you might not want to do something. In which case there are several tactics:

  • (1) State that existing legislation adequately promotes especially silly walks in public life.
  • (2) In response to calls to do more on a topic, give a long list of positive things you’re already doing to promote silly walks, but try to hide the fact you were already doing them.
  • (3) State that more evidence about the need for silly walks is needed. Don’t do anything to encourage evidence, so you can state later that nobody sent any in.
  • (4) Promise a review of silly walks. If you don’t actually want to commit to anything, don’t give any details of the remit, don’t say which group is doing the review and give any details about timescale. This makes chasing the results nearly impossible, because you can keep saying it’s still a work in progress.
  • (5) If it’s nothing too harmful, publish a report into silly walks at some unspecified future date. Try to avoid giving the scope of the report, which allows you to neatly forget about any inconvenient issues when you get round to publishing it
  • (6) If you really must be seen to do something promise “training” on how to develop a silly walk. Don’t give any further commitments and definitely don’t commit any money to it.
  • (7) Confuse two unrelated or barely related situations to construct a straw-man argument you can dismiss as unworkable.

It’s usually considered polite to promise to “continue to monitor the issue” .

So, with all that in mind, I’ve gone through all the responses given by the government and scored them on how well the government addresses the requests from the original inquiry. I’ll warn you now, this is long (although not as long as the original report) and few areas outside the NHS score above 2/10. Most areas give excuses for inaction covered by the list above, and I don’t believe that it’s any coincidence that the areas that show some glacially slow progress in the right direction – i.e. the NHS – are being delivered by NHS England, not central government.

The original recommendations of the committee are given in italics, followed by the government’s response.

Cross-government strategy

Within the next 6 months, the Government must agree a new strategy
It must also draw up a balance sheet of the previous transgender action plan, confirm those actions which have been completed and agree a new strategy to tackle those issues which remain unaddressed. This must be done within the next 6 months.

Government’s response: “We are monitoring the remaining commitments and will publish an update report on both the existing Transgender Action Plan and the 2011 LGB&T Action Plan”

Score: 2/10. A number (5) from the fob-off tactics list. At least they’ve said something, but it’s already been 6 months since the inquiry report, and this gives no timeline for when they will publish the report.

·

The Government must also make a clear commitment to abide by the Yogyakarta Principles (setting out various protections for LGB&T people) and Resolution 2048 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe“. (Calls for various protections for trans people, including self-determination of gender and non-binary recognition)

Government’s response: “We have noted the ideals set out in the Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048… we believe that existing international and domestic legislation provides adequate protection for transgender people, and that those mechanisms already in place for ensuring effective implementation are adequate.”

Score: 0/10. A number (1) from the fob-off list. Short of outright denouncing the Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048, it’s hard to see how the government could be more dismissive. They simply note that they are non-binding and go on at length saying little more than “we’re already doing OK, so why try harder”. However, there is no explanation of which bits of the principles or resolution they disagree with.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Government must bring forward proposals to update the GRA, in line with the principles of gender self-declaration
The Government must look into the need to create a legal category for those people with a gender identity outside that which is binary
We recommend that provision should be made to allow 16/17-year-olds, to apply for gender recognition

Government’s response: “We will keep these issues under consideration. The Government will review the GRA to determine whether changes can be made to improve it in order to streamline and de-medicalise the gender recognition process. We would like to see more evidence on the case for change and the implications of altering the minimum age, moving to a self-declaration process and extending legal recognition to non-binary gender identities. We will therefore monitor the implementation of alternative gender recognition processes in other jurisdictions and we will analyse the evidence placed before the Committee to inform our work.”

Score: 1/10. A number (3). I’m encouraged that the public statements made on this might mean we get some tinkering with the GRA to remove some of the more onerous medical requirements, hence not scoring this zero. However, this is essentially “We don’t really intend to do anything much”. If they haven’t seen enough evidence by now, the implication is they are unlikely to ever be convinced by the case for change.

Spousal Veto

We do take very seriously the evidence that we have heard regarding the scope that the spousal-consent provision gives for married trans people to be victimised by spouses with malicious intent. … The Government must ensure that it is informed about the extent of this and ways of addressing the problem.

Government’s response: “We will continue to monitor this issue.”

Score: 0/10. Not even bothering to pick a brush-off from the list. I’d rate this negative if I could, this is the civil service equivalent of Arkell v. Pressdram. I have no idea why the 74 married trans people who gained a GRC are worth quoting here stripped of any context, given they don’t report how many people have been blocked or delayed.

Data Protection

“We note that not a single prosecution has yet been brought under [section 22]. (Protection against outing) The MoJ must investigate why there have not been any prosecutions and take action to address this. It must also work with the courts to tackle the issue of trans people being inappropriately “outed” in court proceedings.

Government’s response: “We would like to assure the Committee that the MoJ has commenced discussions to ascertain why there have not been any prosecutions under Section 22. All HM Courts and Tribunals Service staff are obliged to undertake equality and diversity training, which includes an overview of legal responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. Similarly, equality guidance provided to the judiciary specifically addresses the issue of gender reassignment, and provides advice on how to prevent transgender people from being ‘outed’ in court proceedings.”

Score: 2/10. Looking into the reasons why section 22 isn’t being used, which is positive – no dates but this one is my it’s nature a little more open-ended and at least lists who they’re talking to, so I’m willing to cut them some slack. The issue of people being outed however is effectively ignored with a variation on number 6 – “but we already train them” – passing the buck on to staff and judges.

Gender reassignment as a protected characteristic

The protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of gender identity

Government’s response: “The provision of a protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” in the Act is fully compliant with our obligations under the Equal Treatment Directive… We will keep this under review and will continue to listen to and monitor people’s experiences of discrimination, harassment or victimisation.”

Score: 0/10. Quite a strong number (1), ie “no, we disagree with you and we’re not going to do it”.

·

The Equality and Human Rights Commission must be able to investigate complaints of discrimination raised by children and adolescents without the requirement to have their parents’ consent

Government’s response: “No such restriction exists on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC’s) power to investigate complaints of discrimination.”

Score: ?. Looks like the Trans Inquiry got the wrong end of the stick on this one.

Exemptions in respect of trans people

We recommend that the Equality Act be amended so that the occupational requirements provision and / or the single-sex / separate services provision shall not apply in relation to discrimination against a person whose acquired gender has been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Government’s response: “We are keen to receive further representations and evidence on the availability and use of the exceptions in the Equality Act 2010 from all affected parties to take into account for future policy discussions.”

Score: 1/10. This starts off really well, with a statement that the government “agrees with the principle of this recommendation” but then spends two paragraphs talking about recently published guidance before kicking it into the long grass with a number 3, asking for further representations.

Separate-gender sport

We recommend that the Government work with Sport England to produce guidance which help sporting groups realise that there are likely to be few occasions where exclusions are justified to ensure fair competition or the safety of competitors

Government’s response: “We have established a review of the Duty of Care of sports participants at all levels, and this will include mental wellbeing. Led by Baroness Grey-Thompson, the review is establishing a number of focus groups examining equality issues for all groups, including LGB&T. The Duty of Care Review will publish its findings by the end of 2016.”

Score: 8/10. The government are delivering pretty close to what the Inquiry asked for, even if it’s probably considered too small a step by most people. And they’ve given a date for the group to publish their report. I’m docking them one point for the mention of “mental wellbeing” and because this is almost certainly something that was going to happen anyway, even without the Trans Inquiry.

NHS services

Score: 4/10. This is a narrative section and doesn’t go head-to-head with inquiry recommendations. Some parts of it are very weak, mentioning that a Parliamentary Undersecretary of State spoke at a trans health conference and that they’re planning a symposium on the issue – most trans activists are suffering from consultation fatigue as the trans voluntary sector just doesn’t have the resources to keep plugging away at this year after year. The report does recognise some of the real problems with training doctors and turning around an organisation as large as the NHS, where decision making is often devolved rather than centrally managed. I don’t want to be too critical here as things are genuinely heading in vaguely the right direction, it just needs more momentum.

Professional regulation of doctors

The NHS is failing in its legal duty under the Equality Act…A root-and-branch review of this matter must be conducted, completed and published within the next six months

Government’s response: “NHS England is considering how to strengthen current governance arrangements to deliver this recommendation within the timescale set by the Committee.”

Score: 1/10. I had to triple check my calendar when I saw this. The inquiry report was published in January and it’s now July, which means it has already been six months. And they were only asking for a review in the first place.

Treatment protocols

We are concerned that Gender Identity Services continue to be provided as part of mental-health services… Consideration must be given to the transfer of these services to some other relevant area of clinical specialism

Government’s response: “We are supportive in looking at how this recommendation can be achieved. Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness.”

Score: 4/10. There’s some credit due here in that the government is looking into the transfer of services, even if it’s been driven by the clinicians at Charing Cross wanting to get away from West London Mental Health Trust. It’s also really something that it’s not realistic to expect a timetable on. This section also annoys me because the statement that “Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness” has inexplicably attracted positive press as if this is a groundbreaking statement for a government to make, rather than a restatement of the obvious. I’m not sure that whoever wrote the report really intended this to be a headline phrase.

·

The issues that exist around clinical protocols must instead be addressed through the consistent application of clear and appropriate standards across 19 the Gender Identity Clinics.
The requirement to undergo “Real-Life Experience” prior to GRS must not entail conforming to externally imposed and arbitrary (binary) preconceptions about gender identity and presentation.

Government’s response: “The NHS England Specialised Commissioning Team is leading to review the service specification for adult gender identity services. This will be a significant piece of work but there is a commitment by NHS England to deliver recommendations in 2016. Once the specification is agreed, its implementation will drive consistent application of clear and appropriate standards across all the Gender Identity Clinics.

Score: 6/10. This is all about GICs with archaic and at times barbaic practices – the kind of institutions that would insist you divorced and wore a makeup and skirt to every meeting before even considering treatmnet. It might only be a review at this stage, but is has a date on it and a clear idea of how the problem will be solved. Only 6/10 because it’s possible the review will drag the more progressive GICs backwards by having to conform to outdated ideas.

The Tavistock Clinic (children and adolescents)

Consideration be given to reducing the amount of time required for the assessment that service-users must undergo before puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones can be prescribed.

Government’s response: “NHS England will consider the outcome of public consultation before making a final decision on the service specification and clinical commissioning policy, which is planned to be by July 2016.”

Score: 9/10. They asked for consideration, a review and consultation has taken place and will publish on or around a given date. Something firmer would be nice, but it’s clinical practice so not something that can be pre-judged by civil servants or ministers. This is what a good response should look like.

Hate crime legislation

The MoJ must ensure that it consults fully with the trans community in developing the Government’s new hate-crime action plan… This plan must include mandatory national transphobic hate-crime training for police officers and the promotion of third-party reporting.
The Government should introduce new hate-crime legislation which extends the existing provisions on aggravated offences and stirring up hatred so that they apply to all protected characteristics

Government’s response: “The Government continues to carefully consider options for taking forward a review of hate crime legislation. The College of Policing is currently undertaking action to improve the level of police knowledge and training around hate crime.”

Score: 1/10. A weak number 4. Not even a promise of a review, merely a hint that they’re considering it.

Recording names and gender identities

The Government must take the lead by ensuring public services have clear and appropriate policies regarding the recording of individuals’ names and genders

Government’s response: “We will carry out an internal review of gender markers in official documents to find ways to reduce unnecessary demands for such markers”

Score: 1/10 on the basis of evidence presented here, likely a number 4. Internal reviews don’t report publicly, so there is no way to know if this might bear fruit.

·

The UK must follow Australia’s lead in introducing an option to record gender as “X” on a passport.
The Government should be moving towards “non-gendering” official records as a general principle and only recording gender where it is a relevant piece of information.

Government’s response: “…”

Score: 2/10. Number 7. I’ve struggled to pick some useful details out of the response, but it’s lacking. It appears from irrelevant discussion of biometrics and statements like “The removal of any gender marking on the passport is not currently an option under ICAO standards” (The inquiry doesn’t ask for that) that the government is trying to fudge and confuse the issue by merging together three separate inquiry recommendations. The promise to “conduct a survey with member states on gender and passport markings” is helpful and names specific groups tasked with the work alongside reporting dates. This might well produce evidence useful for campaigning not just in the UK but worldwide, so I’m giving them some credit for that even if they close with the statement “We maintain the need for gender to be gathered at the point of application and included in the passport chip to assist law enforcement and border agencies.”

Prison and Probation services

The MoJ, National Offender Management Service and National Probation Service must urgently clarify what the situation is pending the publication of the new [Prison Service] Instruction.

Government’s response: “An MoJ review… concluded that treating offenders in the gender which they identify with is the most effective starting point for safety and reducing reoffending… The NOMS is working to make sure that a new instruction on transgender prisoners will follow the conclusions of the review. To ensure that any new operational policy is fit for purpose and being correctly implemented, an advisory group is proposed, initially for three years.”

Score: 0/10. The Inquiry didn’t ask for much, so a zero score might seem harsh – however, whilst harm to trans people in some of the other areas covered by the inquiry might be regarded as more remote there is clear evidence that the current policy is directly contributing to the preventable deaths of trans people in prison. Three years will cost lives.

Online services

Government’s desire to work with online service providers rather than further regulate them must not be an excuse for inaction. The Government must keep the situation under close review and work proactively with providers to ensure that they take their responsibilities seriously.

Government’s response: “Government is committed to making the Internet a safe place for all.”

Score: 9/10. The inquiry asked for nothing substantial, the government delivered nothing substantial. Can’t argue with that. Docking one point for the mention of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, which isn’t relevant except that it tends towards being pro-censorship. This hurts rather than helps by causing LGBT resources for youth to become inaccessible to those most in need.

Schools

More needs to be done to ensure that gender-variant young people and their families get sufficient support at school

Government’s response: A list of generic LGB&T things that were already being done.

Score: 0/10. Number 2: “Look at all the nice things we’re doing”. Most of these were already in place before the trans inquiry report said more was required, and none of it is trans-specific.

·

Trans issues (and gender issues generally) should be taught as part of Personal, Social and Health Education

Government’s response: “We trust schools and head teachers to know how best to meet the needs of their pupils in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner, and trust them to decide what specific issues they cover in line with the needs of their pupils.”

Score: 0/10. This isn’t a fob-off, it’s an outright refusal. Printing just “No” would have saved some ink.

·

The levels of bullying and harassment experienced by trans students in further and higher education are unacceptable.
The Government should also take steps to ensure all further education and university staff receive gender identity awareness training.

Government’s response: “Nick Boles, Minister for Skills, who writes to all further education (FE) college governing bodies, college principals and training providers on a termly basis, will reference the importance of providers being proactive on this issue in his next letter. For higher education, Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, will write to Universities UK, the umbrella body for universities, to highlight the need for transgender equality.”

Score: 1/10. A variation on number 6, only with letter writing rather than training. One point for persuading universities to set up a “task force”, although that’s possibly veering into a number 4.

Social care for young people

We have heard worrying evidence about some social workers’ lack of knowledge on gender variance… The Government should seek to address this through formal training as a matter of urgency.

Government’s response: “Government will commission a study to ascertain the adequacy and consistency of knowledge on gender variance in initial social work training and continuous professional development (CPD). It will use the findings to decide whether additional training materials should be made available.”

Score: 1/10. Number 4. A study, a review… all much the same. No dates or departments given.

A key theme running through this chapter has been lack of sufficient understanding of transgender issues by professionals in the public sector… Appropriate training of public sector professionals on gender identity issues must be a key part of this new strategy.

Government’s response: “We will write to all relevant heads of profession to highlight the need for training on transgender issues for their profession, asking them to introduce training if not already available, and to monitor effectiveness of the training provided.”

Score: 1/10. Another letter-writing variation on a number 6.

Cambridge City Council today debates a motion supporting the European Union – you can read the full motion on the council’s web site. My contribution to the debate is below – the debate is still ongoing but the balance of speeches so far suggests the motion should pass comfortably.


Mr Mayor,

Like many others in this chamber, I appreciate the hard-won advances in equality that have been secured by the UK’s membership of the EU. Advances such as Equal Pay for women and men; employment protection on the basis of religion, belief, sexual orientation and age; and vital progress towards ending human trafficking.

These have been won not just for people of Cambridge, nor for just the population of the United Kingdom, but for over 700 million people across the EU member states.

And the biggest advance of all: Seventy years of relative peace. It is always those who find themselves most unfortunately at the bottom of society who, despite having so little already, stand the most to lose from war and conflict.

But I share concern expressed by many about the direction of debate. A debate that has to date been dominated by men such as David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and has seen twice as many women as men respond in polls that they do not know how they will vote.

Although politics across the board has performed poorly in gaining representation from BAME people, in other respects the city council has, on all sides, avoided becoming dominated by any one group, be it gender or any other protected characteristic. I believe that a strong pro-European-Union message from us here today – that we recognise and appreciate that progress towards equality – will help to reengage people who feel left out of the debate so far and who stand to benefit most from this work.

The results are all finally in! Of the 10 trans & non-binary candidates who stood, one – Anwen Muston – has been elected. This brings the total number of openly trans elected politicians to an all-time high of three, or approximately 1 in 6000 councillors in England. (There are none in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland that we know of)

Congratulations to Councillor Anwen Muston and commiserations to all those who were not successful this time. I hope I will be able to include many of in next years’ reporting!

Whilst the increasing number of candidates standing is good news and 1 in 6000 is close to the estimates for the trans population of England, trans people are far more likely to be politically active and a success rate of one in ten is, unfortunately, quite poor. This suggests that out, trans and non-binary candidates are still not being given winnable seats to fight in local elections. However, it is only since 2013 or 2014 that trans people have been standing in any significant numbers and few people are successful at their first attempt, so this will hopefully improve over time.

Trans
(Binary, or predominantly IDs as such)
Northern Ireland Assembly
Green Party Northern Ireland Ellen Murray
West Belfast party list, sole GPNI candidate
11th place on first preference votes: 0.9%, change: +0.9% [source]
London Assembly
Labour Emily Brothers
London-wide party list, 9th of 11
3 party list candidates elected: 39.9%, change: -1.2%
Principal Local Authority
Labour Anwen Muston
Wolverhampton, East Park Ward
Elected: 56.4%, change: +4.5% [source]
Liberal Democrats Helen Belcher
Wokingham Borough Council, Evendons Ward
2nd place: 38.2%, change +17.8%. (1st Place: 43.2%) [source]
Conservatives Jennifer Kirk
Bolton City Council, Tonge with the Haulgh Ward
3rd place: 14.5%, change: -3.8% [source]
Liberal Democrats Jane Fae
North Hertfordshire District Council, Letchworth East Ward
6th place: 6.6%, change +6.6% [source]
Green Party Aimee Challenor
Coventry City Council, St Michael’s Ward
4th place: 5.5%, change -0.9% [source]
Non-binary
Scottish Parliament
Scottish Greens Anna Crow
Glasgow party list, 9th of 9
1 of 9 elected: 9.4%, change: +3.5% [source]
Principal Local Authority
Liberal Democrats Henry Foulds
Amber Valley Borough Council, Alfreton Ward
4th place: 5.0%, change: +1.6% [source]
Liberal Democrats Maria Munir
Watford Borough Council, Vicarage Ward
2nd place: ~13.7%, change ~-1.0% (Turnout figures for the all-up election have not yet been published, so this is an estimate)[source]

Each April, I compile a list of openly trans politicians standing for election in the UK. This year, elections involve a number of local councils as well as devolved Assembly, London Assembly and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. The returning officers have almost all now declared who is to on the ballot, so it’s time to publish the list.

The current situation is that there are two out, full-time trans people holding publicly elected office at a principal local authority level or higher: I sit on Cambridge City Council for the Liberal Democrats, and Zoë Kirk-Robinson on Bolton City Council for the Conservatives. Having one or two out, elected politicians is something that has been maintained almost continuously for the last 15 years, mostly in Cambridge, with Jennifer Liddle, Jenny Bailey, Sarah Brown and (briefly, after she came out) Nikki Sinclaire as an MEP.

I have no local knowledge in any of the seats up for election, but based on past results most people listed below do not appear to be starting from particularly enviable positions. The exception to this is Anwen Muston, whose East Park Ward seat appears to be a Labour stronghold. Unless something unexpected happens in Wolverhampton, it seems likely that we will reach a new peak of three simultaneously out, elected politicians.

Also on the positive side, we have the first non-binary person standing for election – Anna Crow – that I know of. Courtesy of excessive gatekeeping and paperwork in the UK, name changes have made it easy to decide who to include in a binary or mostly-binary-identified list and helped filter out people who cross-dressed once and it made the paper. (On that basis, I’d have had to include sitting MPs in previous lists) That method doesn’t apply so well for non-binary identified people and the problem of spurious press articles and tenuous claims-to-fame seems less likely so for now at least self-declaration is sufficient for listing.

But there are still problem – everyone listed here is white and in seven of eight cases, a binary-presenting trans woman. Although much progress has been made, there is still a relative lack of diverse political representation within the trans community – a problem that likely stems from a general lack of BAME (in particular) representation in national politics.

Update, 28th April 2016: I have now added a second non-binary person, Maria Munir, who came out when asking a televised question to US President Obama. Maria is also BAME, which means that although we are a long way from properly diverse representation, it is at least a step in the right direction.
Update, 4th May 2016: There are now three non-binary people listed below!

Please do let me know if you know of someone who I have missed, as word-of-mouth is about the only way to find out who is standing – political party HQs are generally busy running elections and do not collect diversity statistics on candidates. But I must be able to verify (Either news articles or public statements by the candidate) that they are publicly out or have been outed to the point of no return, i.e. not just rumours. Every time I do this, at least one person emails me to tell me about one of a councillor who is not out – there are far more trans people in politics than most people realise.

Trans
(Binary, or predominantly IDs as such)
Northern Ireland Assembly
Green Party Northern Ireland Ellen Murray
West Belfast party list, sole GPNI candidate [source]
2011 party result: Did not stand. [source]
Scottish Parliament
No known candidates
(But see below under non-binary)
National Assembly for Wales
No known candidates
Police & Crime Commissioner
No known candidates
London Assembly
Labour Emily Brothers
London-wide party list, 9th of 11 [source]
2012 party result: 4 of 11 list members elected [source]
Principal Local Authority
Liberal Democrats Helen Belcher
Wokingham Borough Council, Evendons Ward [source]
2015 party result: 2nd place, 20.4%. (1st place: 50.5%) [source]
Green Party Aimee Challenor
Coventry City Council, St Michael’s Ward [source]
2015 party result: 5th place, 6.4% [source]
Liberal Democrats Jane Fae
North Hertfordshire District Council, Letchworth East Ward [source]
2014 party result: Did not stand. [source]
Conservatives Jennifer Kirk
Bolton City Council, Tonge with the Haulgh Ward [source]
2015 party result: 2nd, 18.3%. (1st place: 42.9%) [source]
Labour Anwen Muston
Wolverhampton, East Park Ward [source]
2015 party result: 1st, 51.9%. (2nd place: 23.7%) [source]
Non-binary
Northern Ireland Assembly
No known candidates
Scottish Parliament
Scottish Greens Anna Crow (IDs as non-binary, see this article)
Glasgow party list, 9th of 9 (Not yet officially confirmed)
2011 party result: 1 of 9 list candidates elected [source]
Police & Crime Commissioner
No known candidates
London Assembly
No known candidates
Principal Local Authority
Liberal Democrats Henry Foulds (IDs as non-binary, see this tweet)
Amber Valley Borough Council, Alfreton Ward [source]
2015 party result: 4th place, 3.4% [source]
Liberal Democrats Maria Munir (IDs as non-binary, see this article)
Watford Borough Council, Vicarage Ward [source]
2015 party result: 3rd place, 14.7% [source]

Unsurprisingly, a motion to Liberal Democrat conference against the Investigatory Powers Bill passed overwhelmingly this weekend. Below is the video and text of my contribution to the debate, which I can share with you as I had written it in advance, albeit only a couple of hours earlier!

The myth spread by the Home Office that the technical industry understands the Bill is always something I am keen to dispell, so that was my main purpose in wanting to speak. The quote from the New York Review of Books is also something that’s stuck in my head since I first read it, and I particularly wanted to give it an airing in the debate. (I have verified the quotes given in the article from other sources)

All of this is, sadly, against the backdrop of a very showing from both Labour and the SNP who abstained at the second reading of the bill yesterday. A particular shout out is due to Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, who said he wants to “robustly challenge” the bill… but abstained anyway.

(The text below is what I wrote in advance, it does not entirely match what I actually said. No autocue for most speakers at conference)


I am a member of the Security & Liberty working group, so it should come as no surprise to you that I would urge you to support the motion. Brian Paddick has already made the case for the motion very well. However, there are some points I would like to make in relation to metadata and some of the claims being made by the current government.

A couple of months ago, I was asked to speak as part of a Q&A panel on the Investigatory Powers Bill at the UK Network Operators Forum. This forum, in case the name is not enough of a giveaway, was a full of a couple of hundred of the people who really run the Internet. I worked as one of those running the internet myself, for over a decade.

I asked – who here understands what data you are being asked to collect by the Home Office? Now, if you believe what we’re being told by the Tories, every hand in that room should have gone up. Because we’re told that – absolutely – Service Providers really understand the limits of what is being asked of them.

But not one hand went up. Nobody understood the limits of the powers Theresa May is asking for. The bill is so confused, and hands Theresa May such sweeping and unchecked power, that the draft bill includes the now-infamous phrase “Data includes any information which is not data”.

Of course, the Tories claim that it’s only meta-data, or “Internet Connection Records” as they’re now calling it. That can’t be too harmful, can it? Here’s a quote from David Cole in the New York Review of Books, in 2014

As NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker has said, “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” When I quoted Baker at a recent debate at Johns Hopkins University, my opponent, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, called Baker’s comment “absolutely correct,” and raised him one, asserting, “We kill people based on metadata.”

No other democratic country in the world gives such powers to its politicians to monitor and collect Internet browsing history to this extent.

Please vote for the motion.

It’s not often that I give a prepared speech – they’re usually from brief notes or a mind map. But unusually, my speech tonight to Cambridge City Council was one I wrote in advance, so I’m able to share it with you.

The background is in the context of the Liberal Democrat amendment to the Labour City Council budget tonight. As part of a fully costed budget amendment, we’ve asked the council to fund a part time post in the not-for-profit sector to help coordinate efforts. There is a lot of goodwill from the residents of Cambridge towards those in need, but no effective coordination yet.

Proceedings are still in full flow, so we don’t know the outcome yet.

The amendment was not accepted – the relevant executive councillor did not speak, but both the Labour leader and executive councillor for finance did. They seemed confused and did not appear to have given the issue much serious thought, claiming a wildly inaccurate (just four people) figure on the number of refugees housed by Cambridge City council and stating that a document produced by their own officers was “rambling”, apparently in the belief we had written it.


Given the cross-party support we have seen, with the council unanimously passing a motion in support of Cambridge becoming a City of Sanctuary in October, I feel that any lengthy description of the horrors many people are fleeing from would be preaching to the choir, so I will not belabour that point.

However, It it worth noting that Office for National Statistics released it’s latest national asylum application figures this morning. Those figures show that 2015 was fifth successive year in which asylum applications have risen.

There is nothing that would suggest these numbers will fall any time soon, despite the current government limiting it’s commitment to helping refugees.

Against this background of conflict in the wider world, and large-scale displacement of persecuted peoples, we have seen the amount of support for asylum seekers and refugees in Cambridge fall. The Refugee Council’s outreach programme in Cambridge closed when it lost national funding in 2014 – to be replaced by a different organisation, which focused it’s work in larger urban areas, away from Cambridge.

At this point, I would like to pay tribute to the fantastic work that Council officers have done, trying to fill in the gaps despite the increase in numbers. This is not part of their normal day-to-day duties, and they have gone above and beyond in providing this help. Bit it is a stretch to do this on top of their other work.

But it is a stretch to do this on top of their other work. We should not be placing the burden solely upon the shoulders of council officers, who with the best will in the world simply can not provide as co-ordinated a service as a funded post could.

The void in co-ordinated provision does mean we suffer from a lack of robust data on the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Cambridge. But we know they are here – as well as the numbers we know the council itself has formally housed via the Home Office programme, there are others staying with friends and family in the city.

And we also know that housing a family that has fled from war and persecution is no trivial task, that can be handled by a quick gateway assessment at the local CAB – it takes a long term commitment to work with people who may have no ability to communicate using either written of spoken English when they first arrive.

Those working with refugees in Cambridge tell us that, in the coming year, they will be left “struggling to regards to capacity both in regards to direct service and coordinating services in the City“.

They tell us that that even a small investment in funding would go a long way.

And we know that there are many people willing and able to provide help, if only some way can be found to coordinate this goodwill.

We are proposing that the council fund a post within the not-for-profit sector to both provide direct help and enable coordination, going some way to help those who are in the most dire of need. This is a time limited post, after which we will be in a much better position to know the level of need within the city. We have shown that this amount is also affordable, within the wider council budget.

The council resolved to be a City of Sanctuary, but words alone are not sufficient – we are now asking the council to deliver on that commitment.

Thank you.

What’s below started out as a comment on yet another blog post I ran across, supporting Peter Tatchell and (unsurprisingly) based entirely on a Tatchell-centric view of the world. It got long, so I thought it would be worth putting it up as it’s own post here. Those interested in reading up on the background of Peter’s repeated uninvited meddling can also find more at the following sites: (This is far from an exhaustive list)


This is not about identity politics. Or it wouldn’t be, except that Peter Tatchell makes it.

This is about white knighting. It’s about refusing to listen to marginalised groups who don’t want “help”. It’s about someone who plays the victim when people fail to show gratitude for uninvited and harmful interventions.

Ultimately, this is about Peter Tatchell trying to destroy anyone who does not worship him unconditionally.

What really happened was not someone taking undue offence at some imagined slight. An invite to speak alongside Peter Tatchell was declined, because the invitee disagreed with his views. This is hardly unusual – many people, myself included, who have seen Tatchell’s anti-free-speech methods, his hypocrisy and his attempts to intervene where his is not wanted share those views.

The response was swift and merciless: Tatchell used every available media outlet to complain he was being silenced and no platformed. To complain that a random person who owes him nothing would not spend time to exchange emails with him email and explain to him exactly why he was wrong. (She may have done, for all I know – Tatchell simply ignores any evidence put in front of him and acts like it wasn’t there) Articles in politics.co.uk, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Guardian and even on Newsnight all went on about Peter’s response to this terrible insult. Yet he was never uninvited from any event. The only person being no-platformed was the person who declined the invite. You could say they were no-platforming themselves.

And the only person guilty of publishing this terrible insult is Tatchell himself, taking a private and otherwise unpublished email and using it to destroy the reputation of an activist.

The fury is not about identity politics. It stems from Tatchell misrepresenting event after event to put himself in the best possible light, at the cost of everyone else. It stems from abuse of “free speech” in service of the media elite to mean the ability to arbitrarily demand the time and energy of others.

For those of who have seen this first hand, these accusations are far from absurd. Instead, the uncritical assumption that Tatchell’s views are the only acceptable ones neatly illustrate the terrifying reality: A white cis-gendered man has more power and influence than those they falsely claim to represent.