Monday, 14 July 2008

OII and the demon 'Whittle'

Intersex Activists go mad for no reason at all

Stephen Whittle, 14 June 2006: I received a disturbing email and commentary on the 8th July 2008, from the "Organisation Internationale des Intersexes Founder, Organisation Intersex International"
The original email can be found, along with their commentary on me, at -- 28th July - the commentary has now been removed, but despite several considered & lengthy responses from myself, they still say they have received no response from me.
The protagonists ; Curtis Hinkle and Sophia Siedlberg from OII-UK, start by saying they are writing this because
"It would seem that Dr. Whittle is not entirely happy about this state of affairs, that is, he does not like people saying "We do not want Dr. Kenneth Zucker anywhere near our health care "."

Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact in 2000 I wrote the first serious piece about how these paediatric gender consultants should be legally liable for the dreadful and often unlawful decision making they practiced on behalf of their patients. (A year later, a physician, from one such leading clinic, wrote an almost identical paper and won a research prize for it from GIRES (but more about them another time).
They then go on to say:
"Stephen Whittle's reputation, well his unending desire to interfere with the lives of intersex people is nothing new. There are two reasons why we say this. Firstly in 2000 Whittle interfered with intersex organizations and affairs by claiming that Press for Change was mandated to deal with intersex people."
I would love to see the evidence for this claim. It cannot exist because Press for Change (PFC) and myself especially have always maintained we are an organisation lobbying on behalf of trans people, and never on intersex issues.

In fact in the mid 1990s, PFC deliberately withdrew its links with GIRES, a charity originally set up by PFC, after GIRES started to claim it was speaking on behalf of intersex issues. We have maintained that distance, especially as since the 'brain sex' experiments of Zhou et al, GIRES has continued to maintain trans people are intersex. PFC is an organisation run by trans people , for trans people, about trans people's issues. So why would I have ever said anything different.
There are some intersex people who also claim a trans identity. They sometimes work with PFC, and some see us as their mandated voice, but we can only ever talk about their trans issues as we are not experts on the rest of their lives. But then, Curtis and Sophia, turn to saying that when

"Whittle was trying to get the "Gender recognition bill" through parliament, he made sure that previous legal rulings dealing with intersex people (Specifically the Halliday case) were no longer valid and replaced it with a universal "Gender Recognition Act" where people who did not agree with the sex they were assigned as children (In the case of intersex people) had to go on a "Gender register" and obtain a "Gender recognition certificate".

This is just stuff and nonsense,as well as defamatory, as you will see from my reply (see below), which I publish in full at the end of this blog (they haven't bothered to publish it on the page , which contained the defamatory remarks). The Gender Recognition Certificate is only available to Trans people. Intersex people in the UK can continue to use the ages old method of having their birth certificate amended (those intersex people who also identify as trans can use either method).For those who want to read a history of how intersex people have been classified in law, I suggest you read: Stephen Whittle and Lewis Turner (2007), '''Sex Changes'? Paradigm Shifts in 'Sex' and 'Gender' Following the Gender Recognition Act?'', in Sociological Review Online.
But back to the point; Curtis and Sophia go on to say that I apparently use:

"Aggressive damage limitation, clandestine policy making and a total disregard for those affected by all this"

and that this is "nothing new for Whittle" as, apparently, they will not "accept being made to "shut up" by Whittle"

I cannot imagine a moment where I have asked anyone (other than myself and GIRES) to shut up about this matter. But they proceed to say I do not "have a mandate to deal with intersex people", as if I ever did. I answer that allegation now:

I have never claimed, nor will I ever claim to have any sort of mandate for intersex people -- the reason why is simple, I am trans, not intersex.
Hinkle and Seidlburg then asked why I had
"not responded to OII's Enquiries being asked by Curtis Hinkle, the founder of OII. and Whittle, in classic Whittle Fashion, simply ignored it."
Well for a start I did not ignore it, and have responded several times, but I felt it contained so much complex material that I did not as yet know how to answer it, without getting shot in the back by someone. I get between 20 and 50 emails a day requiring considered answers (the rest get yes or no), most from colleagues at my day job, the rest from trans people seeking legal advice, or PFC/TGEU/WPATH colleagues.

As I had been travelling extensively recently, at no point did I feel I had the time to give considered thought to an answer, as it seemed clear from the beginning they had decided (for whatever reason) to hate and crucify me. But, no, in this instant email world they all expect answers tomorrow, something that is rarely possible for me.
Email needs once again to be treated like ordinary mail – it is too instant and leads to serious communication problems. For example, I am totally fed up with the tit for tat nature of emails. I start answering my email sometime in the late afternoon, otherwise I never get the rest of my job done. Emails are done in the following order: Students first, work colleague’s second, PFC work third, followed by TGEU, and then ignominiously at the end, WPATH. The rest comes later if there ever is a later, which oftentimes there isn't as I fall asleep from exhaustion. But more to the point, two weeks after I replied to OII, they took three weeks to reply to me, and only did so when I insisted on one. Clearly one rule for one, another for the rest.
The conclusion to their commentary on their web page is the finest bit of fantasy writing I have seen for a long while. Seidlberg says:
"Stephen Whittle, in his now well known arrogance (is it well known? I’m not sure I am that arrogant, just a tiny bit bossy) “has some agenda that he seeks to impose on intersex people. ... we suspect Whittle has a point of view that underpins all this. Basically we sense he regards female to male transsexualism as a "Legitimate intersex condition" or "DSD" (To use the contentious terminology he espouses) while he regards male to female transsexualism as a "Fetish"."
Seidlburg's says this is

"evidenced by comments like "Male to female transsexuals have their brains removed when getting SRS."
Clearly she cannot get a trans community joke when it is thrown at them – that is probably because they are intersex and not trans. I am a funny (ha ha) bloke at times, and sometimes even make light hearted humorous jokes about oestrogen & testosterone effects, but this is apparently now, a sin. Sophia needs laughter classes - surely she can see that the joke is all about the patriarchal values that I have spent my life undermining, and the need for a feminist perspective to trans lives. If I thought such a thing was true, I would not be saying it - I'd have left the trans women dominated organisations, Press for Change and TGEU, years ago. But, instead, she goes on and say: 
"Given that this misogynist attitude fits hand in glove with the past antics of ISNA (Who regarded those intersex people who rejected being assigned male as children by surgeons as "liars") I am not surprised he feels so confident about his probable agenda."
My ‘probable’ agenda - what bollocks, you would think that if I had an agenda, I would have kept it 'hidden' at the very least. That they have to imagine my thoughts shows how little they know about me. I was born female bodied, there are no hidden secrets. I am what came out of a life long project for change: a person in a female body, which I have adapted because I was driven by deep unhappiness to live a life where others knew me as a man, even if only (but what a glorious only) trans man. Let’s make it really clear:

  • I do not want see myself as intersex, I am a trans(sexual) man, and very, very proud to be so.
  • I am not interested in, and don't do, brainsex of the Zhou et al. sort.
  • I am not, and don't do, intersex
  • I don't do chromosomes - I have no idea what mine are
  • I do hormones, and have no idea whether I am killing myself with each dose of testosterone - but it makes me feel good.
  • I do the following identities: English / British / Manchester transgender / transsexual / poly /pan / bisexual, sexual /ex-working class / now middle class (yuk) / disabled / quite fit / academic / teacher/ leader / lobbyist / political / husband / partner / and father to 4 children.
  • I do transgender community external politics.
  • I do 'being a human rights and equality lawyer'.
  • I care about a person, whether trans, intersex, or regular, if they seek my legal advice.

  • and I care about every person's entitlement to their human rights and their right, in law, to be treated equally, and respectfully, regardless of their difference, without fear or prejudice.
    I eventually responded (see below) to Curtis and Sophia’s letter and commentary -- you see names are much nicer, I don't do Whittle either. As I say to my students; Stephen will do nicely - we are all adults now.
    Unfortunately, a month later, Curtis and Sophia had not put my response on their website. Rather they have maintained it as if I have never responded, and that I am unwilling to explain myself - hence my reason for this blog.
    So Curtis and Sophia, I need you to take down your webpage discussing me. It is defamatory and therefore unlawful. (This is NOT a threat: but interestingly, in the UK, I can sue for defamation on the web, regardless of where in the world a defamatory piece was written or published. Those who defame have to provide hard evidence that the allegations they make are true).

    Secondly, I need an apology, and bloody quick, do you hear me Curtis and Sophia of OII.
    My Letter of RESPONSE, sent by email to OII Dear Curtis & Sophie:
    Dear OII,
    Unfortunately I am a very busy man, and often do not have, immediately, the time to answer, in the manner which I would like to, emails like yours which raise very complex issues . However I will try to answer some key issues that I feel I am able to address, within my limited time : WPATH: I think it best that WPATH's board develops a consensus position on its relationship to intersex people and their concerns. Work is currently taking place on this matter, but I cannot give a date, as yet, as to when some conclusion might be reached. However I would repeat WPATH's mission statement to explain what we are endeavouring to achieve:

    WPATH is an i

    nternational multidisciplinary professional Association the mission of WPATH is to promote evidence based care, education, research, advocacy, public policy and respect in transgender health. The vision of WPATH is to expand its worldwide authority by promoting education, advocacy, training, research, quality health care and best practice standards for service providers and policy makers regarding gender variant individuals.
    I can assure the members of OII that I have written to the chair of WPATH's committee on 'Disorders of Sex Development" and asked that consideration is given to ensure that the content of the committee's work reflects more publicaly, their support of the position of many people with intersex differences. They have a difficult remit, as you know, in that many intersex groups are run by parents, and though many committee members may wish to influence the them and the physicians they use, they do not wish to lead them to disengage, as then the commitee's educational purpose will not be able to be met.
    I have also asked the committee chair that they work wth the committee to consider changing the name to better reflect the work that they do, which is to educate medical professionals about best practice when there are, for example, 'Differences in Sex Development". I am still waiting to hear their response. Now to answer your specific points:
    Press for Change & THE GENDER RECOGNITION ACT 2005:
    You say that Press for Change damaged the rights of intersex people in the UK, through our role as stakeholders in the development of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA). Clearly their has been a misunderstanding of English and European law in this area. In English law, there has been *NO* change of the position of intersex people with the coming into force of the Gender Recognition Act. Since time immemorial, intersex people in the UK have been able to apply to have their birth certificates amended to better reflect the sex they are. This system is still in existance for those who wish to use it.
    There may be a few intersex people , who also identify as trans, who can chose instead to use the Gender Recognition process in order to obtain a completely new birth certificate - that is their choice.
    Intersex people who have their initital birth certificate amended, have complete and full rights from the time of their birth, in their real.chosen or preferred sex. - Trans people who obtain a new birth certificate, are recognised for all legal purposes in their preferred gender from the date of their application to the Gender Recognition Panel. To read a history of the legal claisifcation on Intersex people go to Stephen Whittle and Lewis Turner (2007), '"Sex Changes'? Paradigm Shifts in 'Sex' and 'Gender' Following the Gender Recognition Act?", Sociological Review Online.
    This did not change the law as it relates to people with an intersex body. Rather it was a case as to whether government would allow a child who was intersexed to have a 'new' birth certificate reflecting her own definition of her sex, and for that birth certificate to be as if she was originally recognised as that sex when the birth certificate was being prepared. The decision of government to allow Joele a concession to have a completely new birth certificate was a reflection of government's concern public opinion. What was exactly decided was that in a case of severe cloacal exstrophy, which is a rare and complicated defect that occurs during the prenatal development of the lower abdominal wall structures, a child who was 'Gillick competent' i.e. was able to give informed consent, or if not via their parents competence, could ask that their birth certificate, rather than be altered, reflect the child's preferred sex which may be at odds with what the apparent chromosonal structure might appear to say. Government agreed to this request on a 'one by one ' basis.
    As you can imagine, all of this was part and parcel of the 1990s liberalisation of UK attitudes and a retreat from the Corbett v Corbett model of sex determination. At the time of Joele Halliday's application, Press for Change provided some limited help, as requested, by discovering a 'secret' 1960s Scottish case (Fforbes-Semphill v Fforbes-Semphill, now available in the Scottish library) in which the court had decided a person's sex on the basis of a multifactoral approach, not just the gonads, genitals and chomosomeapproach of Corbett. This had some influence on government personel who were making the decisions. That took place long before the GRA was even concieved of in its current form. The GRA does not alter that position, nor does it alter the basic practice of allowing intersex people to apply for an amended birthcertificate. We do not have figures for how many, if any, intersex people insead choose the gender recognition process. However, I can assure any UK intersex person that if they are told they cannot amend their birth certificate, but must use the GRA process, they can seek legal advice from myself.

    My private position is well known; trans organisations have no place in voicing intersex issues, unless they relate to intersex people who are members who are also trans. For this very reason, Press for Change seperated many years ago from the charity it created , GIRES when GIRES claimed to be speaking on behalf of intersex people. PFC has expertise on trans issues not intersex issues.
    This seperation has cost us considerable financial benefits over the last 10 years, but Press for Change is still quite clear on this policy matter. Press for Change does not intervene or speak on behalf of intersex people. Nor do I, as a trans man. The best, and what is after all most appropriate, that I can offer is to pass on the messages from the intersex community to those that can make a difference.
    I hope this satisfies some of your enquiries.

    see more of this discussion here.