Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Transgender Europe adopts new demands STP2012 campaign

Transgender Europe (TGEU) Announcement & Documentation

Stephen: To update on my previous post, I am pleased to announce the Transgender Europe has reflected on the STP2012 demands to address the concerns of trans people in other parts of the world.

Please think about joining the campaign under the umbrella of TGEU to ensure it is known that you support these extra demands.

More than 160 groups worldwide oppose Trans Pathologization includign TGEU

Two weeks before the heyday of this year’s “Stop Trans Pathologization: Goal 2012” campaign already 7 international Networks and 161 trans groups and allies from 37 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America have joined the campaign of the Trans Depathologization Network.

On October 17th the heyday of this year’s campaign demonstrations will take place in 30 cities in 18 countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America (Date of information: 5.10.2009).

Transgender Europe (TGEU), which is supporting the campaign and calling upon its member organizations and other European trans organizations as well as our allies in other world regions to join the campaign and organise actions in their cities or countries, documents the campaign and its supporters on the TGEU website ( ) in English.
The Steering Committee of TGEU has adopted three additional demands in relation to the campaign’s principal demand:

“The Removal of Gender Identity Disorder from the DSM and ICD.”

These additional demands are:

  • The creation of an alternative non-pathologizing category in the ICD 11, recognizing that our gender identities are not mental health disorders while still enabling hormonal and surgical medical assistance to be provided for those trans-people who seek such assistance.
  • The funding of hormonal and surgical medical assistance for trans people by national health insurance.
  • The creation of processes for changing legal name and gender without compulsory treatment or any form of diagnosis.

    However, every trans organization joining the campaign is free to choose their demands as long as the principal demand is supported.
We encourage participating organisations to choose their additional demands to best reflect their current national medical and legal situations.

If you want to confirm the participation of your group, please send an email to research[at] with the subject “JOIN STP 2012” and the following information:

Group / organization name:
Message: We join the campaign “Stop Trans Pathologization-2012

It is also possible for individuals to support the campaign. If you want to support the campaign, please send an email to research[at] with the subject “I SUPPORT STP 2012” and the following information:

Message: I support the campaign “Stop Trans Pathologization-2012”

More information on the Trans Depathologization Network and their actual call for action n

Aviso y documentación de Transgender Europe (TGEU):

Más de 160 grupos en todo el mundo se oponen a la patologización trans
A dos semanas del punto máximo de la campaña actual “Alto a la Patologización Trans: bjetivo 2012”, ya se han adherido 7 redes internacionales y 161 grupos trans y aliados de 37 países en África, Asia, Europa, Norteamérica y Sudamérica a la campaña de la Red de despatologización Trans.

El 17 de Octubre, el momento clave de la campaña de este año, se realizarán manifestaciones en 30 ciudades de 18 países en Europa, Asia, Norteamérica y Sudamérica (información con fecha de 05/10/2009).

Transgender Europe (TGEU) que apoya la campaña y hace una llamada a sus organizaciones iembros y otras organizaciones trans europeas, así como a los grupos aliados en otras regiones del mundo a unirse a la campaña, y a organizar acciones en sus ciudades y países, está publicando documentación de la campaña y una lista de los grupos que la apoyan en inglés en la página web de TGEU ( ).

El Comité Directivo de TGEU adoptó tres demandas adicionales relacionadas con la demanda principal de la campaña:
“La retirada del Trastorno de Identidad de Género del DSM y CIE.”

Estas demandas adicionales son:

La creación de una categoría alternativa no patologizante en el CIE 11 que reconozca que nuestras identidades de género no son enfermedades mentales, a la vez de posibilitar que se proporcione una asistencia médica de hormonación y cirugía a aquellas personas trans que busquen tal asistencia.

La cobertura de asistencia médica de hormonación y cirugía dirigidas a personas trans por parte de los sistemas sanitarios públicos nacionales.

  • La creación de procesos para cambiar el nombre y el sexo legal sin tratamiento obligatorio o diagnóstico.
  • Sin embargo, todas las organizaciones trans que se adhieran a la campaña son libres de elegir sus demandas, siempre cuando se apoye la demanda principal.
  • Animamos a las organizaciones participantes a elegir sus propias demandas adicionales que mejor reflejen sus situaciones nacionales médicas y legales.

Si quieres confirmar la participación de vuestro grupo, por favor manda un e-mail a research[at] con el asunto “ADHESIÓN STP 2012” y la siguiente información:

Nombre del grupo/organización:
Mensaje: Nos adherimos a la campaña “Alto a la Patologización Trans-2012”.

También es posible adherirse a la campaña de forma individual. Para eso, por favor manda un e-mail a research[at] con el asunto “ADHESIÓN STP 2012” y la siguiente información:

Nombre y apellidos:
Mensaje: Me adhiero a la campaña “Alto a la Patologización Trans-2012”.

Más información sobre la Red Internacional de Despatologización y su convocatoria actual en:


Sunday, 4 October 2009


Over the last few months, I have expressed my support for the International STP2012 campaign, which calls for the declassification of Trans as a mental disorder.

It has been quite successful particularly in Europe and parts of Latin America.

Miguel from the STP 2012 campaign has put out a letter asking for some Trans people who are supporting the campaign to stop supporting it. The reason for this is apparently these trans people want to have transsexualism reclassified within another medical category. He writes:

“I just want to remember that the STP2012 campaign doesn't ask for the "reclassification”, and we don't think transsexuality is something biological, we don't think IN ANY CASE we have an illness, a trouble...nothing. So, if there is a movement asking for the reclassification please don't call it STP2012..?”

And he asks :

”I just want to understand what happens? In our groups everybody cannot read in English and all these discussions are in English. We are trying to follow your debates but it's impossible.

Being now a mature, middle aged, middle class and middle income trans man is a great improvement on poverty, the key feature of my transition and younger years. It has afforded me the luxury of thinking back over almost 35 years as a trans guy, to ponder some of these great questions. I believe, like many of us who have been around some time, andwho have seen the vast diversity in the trans community, that the answer is simple: 'I am here, therefore I am'. So let me live my life in peace, and do my own thing as a responsible world citizen and please do not try and put my life in a little box.

But that doesn’t answer the question as to why so many people are seeking a new ‘label’ within medicine. So I will answer that and try to give you the reasons as to why some trans people hold these views. My apologies that this is long, but I have tried to keep my English simple for the translation to the other members of Stp2012

Reason no. 1: these things happen – you do one thing, you inspire someone to do something else. That’s life, you can’t control it, it can be irritating, but you must just be grateful that your work has provided inspiration for another person and you may have even given reason to their life. If your arguments are sound, and you saty calm, they will win through in he end. Often people do respond, but it is very rare for one’s critics to commit themselves to the sort of dedication you will have put into getting this campaign going and keeping it alive.

The Other Reasons, 2, 3, 4 etc: There are some fairly straightforward reasons why some Trans people are calling for the removal of Gender Identity Disorder from DSM IVr where it is a classified as a mental health disorder to another sort of medical classification, maybe within endocrinology. So I will try and go through the reasons to help STP2012 understand:

The Label Provides Access to Treatment
Life is not simple. I agree – why should we be labelled by a group of 19 century white , middle class, middle aged, able bodied, straight men? I’ll take that back, many of them were gay (men).
One of the consequences of the taxonomy (categorisation) of Trans people by medicine, where it was wrongly assessed as an undesirable and abnormal behaviour and not as an identity, has been its placing within the framework of a metal health disorder. This has unfortunately meant that non-trans people treat us as if we are of less value in this world? That gets Trans people really mad (but not in a mental health way). We are not, as a general rule, mentally ill unless others persecute us, and then we can become very depressed, anxious and even suicidal.

Who Decides Who is mentally Ill: The patient or the doctor?
It might be asked, what makes us a special case? Why should our classification be changed, rather than the classification, say, of those who hear voices?

Just as we are not ‘mad’ how certain cane we be that the people who hear voices are mad. Well, often they are not, according to my friend Philip Thomas, former Navy doctor turned Psychiatrist and founder of the Hearing Voices network in the North West of England. Though a large number of voice hearers seek help from the psychiatric services, a similar number never do that, but rather see their voices as being inspirational, friendly, and almost ordinary.

Quite a lot off us will hear voices at some time, mostly after a close bereavement. My voice wakes me in the middle of the night; it either barks loudly or shouts at me to turn the telly over to Channel 4. It is so irrelevant to my life that I often forget about it for months, until one night it happens again. Many people, who hear the most grotesque voices, and who have sought out psychiatric help because the voices are ruining their life, according to Phil, can also start to place the voices into the background once they know why they happen. When they hear that it is just a crossed wire, and as common and ordinary, a natural variation of human life and brain, similar in numbers to those people who cannot taste tomatoes, or have the recessive gene to roll their tongue, or are colour blind, or have the urge to cross dress, or the knowledge that their gender is different from that normally expected from someone of your birth sex.

Being trans used to worry me, as did the voice, but the trans worry was huge compared to the voice worry. In someone else, the same combination of features might have the size of the worries reversed. Now I know that the voice is a common and natural variation on life, and just a little crossed wire between some neurons, it has never caused me to think about it again.

Until recently, people who heard voices were treated as having a schizophrenic disorder and were often heavily tranquillised in an attempt to control them. Similarly trans people who did anything to try and be themselves were also tranquillised, placed in asylums, or chemically castrated in an attempt to cure them. I use the comparison of voices, because the person most often thought of as persecuted for hearing voices, St Joan d’Arc was not burnt for heresy because of her voices, but went to the stake because she insisted on cross dressing in men’s clothing.

But to the point, if we are to be declassified, perhaps there are many other labels in the DSM IV should also be declassified.

I argue that if we hate being being labelled with a mental health disorder because that means being treated as less worthy, which invariably it does, by rights as Trans people we should be campaigning for the removal of all of the mental health labels and classifications that people are given, which result in them being held in less worth.

Is it because we believe we are more worthy than them, that we seek the ending of this classification or reclassification? We have vested interests; consequently our motives are everything in this debate.

Sort out society, there will be no need for psychiatry.
Ever since Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) introduced the new medical categories called mental illness, there has been an anti-psychiatry movement. Kraepelins’ taxonomy of types of ‘mental illness’ were a problem from the start – they were based in behavioural, what he referred to as symptomatic", observations rather than any pathological evidence of causation, bodily illness or disorder. How could we know these ‘illnesses’ were true. Why couldn’t these people just pull themselves together? We know the answer. Because they couldn’t.’

In the 1960s, the anti-psychiatry movement became internationalised through the mass media. South African psychiatrist David Cooper, and the more well known psychiatrist, and Philadelphian, R.D. Laing argued that mental illness was a “transformative state” - a coping mechanism in response to a sick society. Sort out society, there will be no need for psychiatry.

Perhaps a more familiar concept to Trans people, is Thoam Szaz’z work on mental illness. He argued that mental illness is simply a fiction, it does not exist, mental illness is a myth, counterfeited by psychiatrists to provide themselves with worth, value, status and a large income. Or as the psychiatrist J Geller said to describe Szazs’s work

“Schizophrenic" provides the necessary structure from which to hang stigmatised images of a person—a lonely person with inadequate social skills and poor hygiene in one language, and a person who is bizarre, grubby, smelly, a street person, or a zombie in another language.”

So, should trans people actually be campaigning that the entire DSM is also burnt at the metaphorical stake? Well let’s think of what the consequences of that would be?

My wife is a psychiatric nurse turned lecturer in rencent years. She believes in mental illness, though, she agrees, not all things labelled as that are in fact illnesses. And from her tales from the wards (always discretely anonymous)it is clear that mental illnesses can be devastating, and whilst not all , some can in fact be be ‘cured.’ By which she means people become happier, more able to cope with the behaviour they sometimes manifest, and able to go home and restart their lives in a more optimistic way.

If however, we destroy the bible of psychiatry, as is our desire, and it seems our moral obligation to do so, will clinically depressed people no longer be able to access anti-depressants because what they feel is just a normal variation of the human condition. If they were unable to access their medication, we know some would kill themselves, some would eventually feel better, and a large number would be inside our prisons raising the percentage of the prison population with a mental health disorder from 10% to many more.

Bio-medical companies would no longer research, make or supply the medicines – it is only by knowing that through evidence based medicine that doctors will feel they are worth supplying to patients , that they have the confidence to put millions of dollars into their research and development. Current supplies would run dry – or I suppose they would have never existed in the first place. Might we find the treatment of choice be as follows:


“’ave a nice cup of tea, dearie”


“for heaven’s sake Jim, your 16, I was working at your age. Now just stop floating around, get out of that bed, NOW, … pull your socks up, take some responsibility, get a job, put a grin on it …. And put that razor blade down .. NOW”.

“Mrs Brown, this ‘post-natal’ thing you have, what did you call it – depression, humph – never heard of it before. Well, anyway we have a solution for this very obscure thing that is happening to you. Well not that obscure it seems, apparently we have another 20 of you languishing in the hospital. And we have to get you out you know, budgets, and things like that.

Clearly, you have chosen not to pick yourself up and be a good wife and mother. But don’t worry, we have a solution. Tom is divorcing you, well at this moment he’s in the court, we felt clearly you were not up to attending that.

Rupert, your son is going to live with him and his new partner. Your 3 year old daughter Ellie, and the new baby are being adopted … …………….

Now, now, there is no point in screaming, it has all happened whilst you’ve been in here having this appointment with me. But as I said, don’t worry, you are sorted, you can carry on behaving like this for the rest of your life, which is what you would obviously like to do - and it won’t bother anybody. We have a place for you at a Nunnery, there are flowers, magazines, and a lovely set of padded straightjacket and shackles in your room.

“What was it you called it … depression? How do you spell that, oh right, d e p r e double S- ion. Is that some foreign, oriental, concept. … very interesting … perhaps you would be game for coming and taking part in one of my public lectures next week. I mean, it’s easy, you would just sit there and I would ask you a few questions. Then you would go behind the screen, undress, -- yes, yes - everything , and then -- well, well .. I’d examine you. You know, measure you head, the size of your nose, your clitoris, things like that, and then you could slip on your robe. And if you would like, I think I can make a special exception on this occasion, you could sit in the audience for the rest of the show. Of course there would be security, you would have to wear the shackles, and there would be a couple of armed guards – but no more than that.

“oh dear, you don’t look very well Mrs Brown”

The anti-psychiatry movement of the 60s and early 70s failed miserably, because people really do suffer, and I remember that suffering and how badly I wanted to get those hormones. There is the fear that if we do not exist within a medical framework, somewhere, those of us who wish to have medical treatments would not be able to access them.<-/em>

For many trans people; they really do feel the need to engage with the medical services (as I have done) because of the sheer scale of the dissonance they feel with their body. It is a long time ago that I transitioned and first started hormone therapy, and then later had my first chest surgery. I cannot really remember what that felt like, but I can still remember the absolute desperate need to be seen as the person I am, as a man – or as it turned out, in the end, as a trans man – and how driven I was.

It is in America, and other countries with similar private health insurance systems, where the community are most fearful of change without reclassification. Their health insurance systems are very different from those we have around Europe. Our health insurers are either like that of the UK; a taxation based insurance scheme whereby access to (unlimited) health care is guaranteed. In other European countries the private health insurers are very highly regulated by government, so much so, that they could almost be called government schemes. And here again there is a very strong guarantee that if a doctor says you need a treatment, it will be paid for.

Other parts of the world are very different. Trans people are dependant upon minimal provision schemes for the poor, or the alternative expensive, often work related, private health insurance. In those countries trans people have to work very hard to get most insurers to meet any of the costs of trans related treatments – whether it be for therapy, hormones or gender reassignment surgeries. It is only a label of some sort that has enabled most to get anything. The vast majority of trans people in this world have no access to free or insured health care, nor the money they would need to even gets their kids some painkillers.

With STP2012 you started an International Campaign without thinking of the International Consequences.

There is a great fear, in the US where these issues are most vocalised, because the community is most organised. There is real fear that without a ‘classification’ in one of the major standards (such as the DSM IV which is for mental health problems) the medical insurers will refuse to pay for anything. In that sense, they probably are right to be fearful. Health insurance is so very expensive, only those in work are likely to be able to meet the cost of insurance. And health insurance generally only covers those conditions recognised by medical professionals, through the consensus systems that develop the major diagnostic manuals.

Without insurance coverage, the cost of any healthcare treatment in the US is extremely expensive, and the costs of gender reassignment treatments are in themselves high up on the expensive scale. I have friends work dangerous jobs down mines, or as line men (they are the people whom climb large pylons and fit phone lines and power lines), for 10 years or more to raise the money for chest and hysterectomy surgery after being refused health insurance.
Of course it is not just trans related costs that are affected, it can happen for any other health problem also, if the insurers can find the way to disbar you from the benefits – they will. I have one US friend in his late 70s who is still working to meet the very basic health costs for his sick wife, even then only she gets minimal treatment – nobody will pay for life saving methods in her case, though they do exist, and if she had been a European citizen she would have almost certainly received the treatments by now.

Those who oppose Obama’s health care plans, most notably the elderly who say that treatment will be less available to them, if the plans to give more health care to others go ahead, are also quite fearful, of losing benefits as they see a very thinly spread pot of money now having be spread even more thinly to meet the costs of those people often thought of as the ‘undeserving poor’, the low wage earners, the single mothers, the chronically sick, the people with mental health problems and so on.

Their fears are unfounded; those I have described will have got free or low cost basic care under the current Medicaid system as it is. But despite all that is promised - and I believe it is promised in good faith by Obama, those elderly people may well find the pot becomes more thinly spread anyway. The fact that they are living longer is what will cause the problem. Care is bound to be spread more thinly in practice – but that is demographics, and not new patients.
US Health providers are loath, like in my friend’s case, to spend money when they can avoid spending it. Like the Health insurers themselves, they have shareholder profits to think about, so of course they will cut corners. Obama’s government will need to put in place strict controls at the managerial and board level of health care providers, but in a state where the very idea of government control in any aspect of private life is an anathema, they may find that very difficult.
It is the fears of any loss of the paltry levels of health insurance coverage that Trans people in the US have that leads to calls for reclassification. Obviously, any reclassification seems to fall into the trap of labelling our life experiences as abnormal, and as we know, that is something that intersex people have also been fighting against for decades.

I think there is a problem out here in the real world beyond the theoretical gender queer position some of us feel able to embrace, and the harsh realities of trying to life a safe, sane and healthy life as a trans person in the US. And there is a long list of countries I could add in here.

I advise many real Trans people out there in the wider real world beyond that of Europe and the US, in places where life can be really tough I know what they think, and that is they can not be doing with all this theory nonsense, they are far too busy as they need to access some low cost hormones, get a job, stop being beaten up by their pimp, or having their stuff stolen by their brothers, and so on, in a whirl of misery and a life barely worth living in many cases.

The Stop2012 campaign needs to stop – for a short while to spend some time considering the lives and health care access issues for those outside of the European context; the people whose health care access is virtually impossible within the chaotic and corrupt regimes of Africa for example. The people who need to access treatment within Middle Eastern and other Muslim states where as we know, having a medically recognised condition really can be the difference between life and a public hanging in a packed football stadium. Have you considered what happens in the former Soviet Block countries – when communism collapsed so did the provision of gender reassignment treatments as the constitutional laws collapsed, and health care workers were not paid for years. In Japan, gender reassignment treatments were only made unlawful after a campaign in the 1990s to claim it was an illness in the DSM IV and should therefore be treated. And does anybody really know what happens in China, or in the truly repressive states of Burma & North Korea.

My concern has always been, despite my support, that the Stp2012 campaign is naïve. There was always going to be this problem because of the corrupt nature of health care provision in the US, and the lack of health care systems in so many other parts of the world. Until that is sorted out, most Trans people will feel unable to express a position ‘in between’ or ‘outside of gender’ whist doing so prevents access to any, never mind low cost, basic trans related health care needs.

So, the campaign is great as an idea, but in the execution of it, you failed to realise that the very people you have tried to help, might have been better helped with engagement in the debate, rather than just simply brushing them and their healthcare concerns under the North Atlantic. To be united we must listen to each other.

I don’t think we should need classifications which fit us in little boxes which are specifically designed to lock most people out, but then I have the luxury of a social health care system that is free. Before we make pronouncements on other people’s lives, and by ‘we’ I also mean the West, and the medical establishment, as well as health insurers, governments and US, as trans people we need to be offering solidarity to those less privileged, rather than threatening to take away their only access to gender reassignment treatments.

We must engage with those people in the world who have no funding or insurance for health care and for whom, gender reassignment treatments are a distant dream. We must also engage with the many others who could have some health insurance but for whom their health insurers will do everything they possibly can to refuse to pay for care.

The Shame of Being Trans
We must also try and understand those many trans people who are still carrying a huge sack of shame for being trans. Most older trans people, and many young ones, year after year, have been told, firstly by their parents, then teachers, then priests, then doctors, then employers, then so-called friends, then loved partners and often their children, how unworthy they are of even the right to live. They are abandoned from the minute their ‘secret’ is discovered. Being told how disgusting, dirty, and perverted you are, how worthless, how you deserve to die, how it would be better if you committed suicide and how much you are hated, makes most of us very ashamed of themselves.

That shame can be so big it causes many to take their lives, for others though it means that even a small idea that perhaps this ‘mental illness’ is not so mental, but it might be physical – that it can be found by counting cells in a tiny part of the brain, or decoding the genome to find a tiny part of our DNA were the causes of our ‘condition’, ‘syndrome’ becomes a lifeline.
When people contact press for Change, or myself, for help, they are often very angry, and that anger can be so great that it is directed to us, the very people who are volunteering their time and expertise. We try to remember that they almost certainly have good reason to be angry. The STP2012 campaign group needs to recognise the privileged position they are in, and try and understand that when starting an International campaign, they must have an international perspective.

I hope that better explains why some people seem to want reclassification, and why some people are unhappy that the campaign exists at all.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Sex, Gender and Race - slippery ideas

The debate on what is sex and gender is interesting. In the context of trans people, particularly so. Some argue that they change ‘gender’, other’s say they always had their gender so ‘changed sex.’ Others argue all of that is impossible – sex is fixed and impossible to change by any number of operations, gender is what you do and it never changes – gender reassignment (or confirmation) simply places a different perspective on your original gender.

But I would say be careful, what we are discussing can lead to some very slippery slopes, and saying we know what Sex is, is just as controversial position, as saying we know what Gender is.

It is worth looking at this debate in the context of one very similar; one which determined people’s social role, which decided what they could or could not do, and who they could or could not be: Race.

A Short, Long History of Oppression                            

In the 1850's, when the Scottish explorer, and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone first saw Mosi-oa-Tunya, the source of the Nile (which he named the Victoria Falls after the Queen), he was looking for people with frizzy afro style hair, short loin cloths, beads round their necks and bones through their noses. Of course they did not exist, but 100 years later, as a child I would read story books and even a children's encyclopaedia, where the Africans were pictured as having just those features. Africans were ‘natives’, and different from us, we were civilised, and we did not put bones through our noses.

For centuries, mankind has a distinguished people based on Race. However, despite what Nick Griffin of the BNP says, we now know that the 'race' of a person is indistinguishable because it is not there, it does not exist. In science, there are no 'separate races' of people., any longer. We all have the vast majority of our makeup in common, and the bits that are different cannot be put down to 'race'.

Granted, there are some body differences between people from different parts of the world. For example, I might claim, "people of African-Caribbean ethnicity (descent), have a higher prevalence of sickle cell anaemia." But is that true? According to the US National Library of Medicine, it actually has a higher prevalence amongst people:
"whose ancestors come from Africa; Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Italy; the Arabian Peninsula; India; and Spanish-speaking regions in South America, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean"(1)

So the premise I started from was wrong. What I should have said, if I had taken a global perspective, is that: "African-Caribbean people are just one of the ethnic groupings who have a higher prevalence of sickle cell anaemia."

Nonetheless, what I initially said was true - but in a British context only, and then because of historical accident. One of the larger groups of mid 20th century immigrants in the UK were descendants of those people originally taken from Africa to be slaves in the Caribbean islands occupied by the British. In the early 1950s, the British government invited large numbers of these African-Caribbean’s to come to the UK on low cost subsidised tickets to become workers within the newly nationalised industries. Many already held British passports, because we still ruled much of the Caribbean. They had a right to come to the UK anyway - but it was the  encouragement of government and the promise of real jobs that persuaded thousands to get on the boat and come here to to take  up the low paid jobs (again) in the health, education, railway, coal and communications industries that English workers refused.

So it is true to say in the UK, that as an 'ethnic' group 1st, 2nd , 3rd, 4th, and now even 5th generation descendants of those have people who came to the UK in the 1950’s have a higher prevalence of SCA compared top the remainder of the British population. It just isn't true in a global perspective. So, let’s say a person has SCA, you might presume their ancestors were African slaves. But you may well be wrong, they may be descended from native South Americans, or Arabs, or in the case of an ex- colleague, from India.

From the 17th century, we began to see common folklore about human difference merging with the new scientific taxonomies of difference. Distinctions were sought to determine race. It could the width of the nose, or the height of the forehead, and by the 1960’s - intelligence tests.

Why did we do that , firstly it was to develop the 'ideology of race' which many of us grew up with, which would allow us to decide all sorts of things about people of other ‘ races’. Most especially we could decide they were inferior.

Until 1964, some US states used this pseudo-science to determine who a person could or could not marry. In South Africa, from 1948 to 1990, apartheid decided where you could walk, sit, drink, swim, even where you could live – a policy which left millions of adolescents and children eking out a survival in the vast deserts of the Bantustans where the economy depended much like Native American reserves do now, on casinos. Their frequently absent mother worked in Johannesburg or Cape Town, their absent father in the diamond mines. They visited maybe every 4 or 5 years, if lucky. A friend only saw her mother,who was a maid in Jo’burg, twice during her childhood.
Earlier, in Germany  inthe 1930s and 40’s similar policies decided who went to the gas chambers.

Interestingly as early as 1787, the New Jersey preacher, Samuel Stanhope Smith wrote that skin colour was simply a consequence of exposure (or not) to the sun, and that all human beings were of one race. But the idea was not going to catch on quickly. It took until 1984 for James Baldwin to declare that race was nothing more than a social construction which afforded a framework for power.

Finally it wasn't until 1984 that Henry Louis Gates Jr. was finally able to capture the zeitgeist of the anti-racism movement, when he said:

"race has become a trope of the ultimate, irreducible difference between cultures, linguistic groups, or adherents of specific believe systems which…also have fundamentally opposed economic interests" (2)
In other words, race is nothing more than a site of oppression - the greedy abusing those they keep powerless so as to gain economic supremacy.

What this says about Sex and Gender                  

But, back to Sex and Gender; Gender (as we now call it) has a long history of enabling oppression, particularly against women and trans folk. There may be more to gender than that, but its role in subjugating women and the gender variant is so strong and so powerful, I would argue that anything else it might do is so minute in comparison it is almost as if it doesn’t exist.

As for sex, just what is it. We now know of so many ways in which the body can be’ un-sexed’, differences in size of genitalia, in gonadal structure, in hormonal uptake, in chromosomal makeup, that we can no longer say what it is – it certainly is not something made up of ‘2’ any longer.

So let us ditch them both – at least in so far as they do oppress us. Instead, they should be sites, not of oppression, but sites of expression. Otherwise, and only if they are just things we can use to enhance our lives, I am all for keeping them. I like having both.

I know they are just part of my own personal construct of what makes me ‘Stephen’, but I like my beard, my baldness, my hairy chest, my libido (if it bothers to come out and play, nowadays) and the voice I can boom out and which makes people stop and listen.

Though none of that is what makes the man, some of it makes me feel like the man. A rather mad idea, as the French psychologist Colette Chilland would say.

(1) see
(2) Gates Jr, H.J., (1984) Preface to Blackness: Text and Pretext. In Ed. Dexter Fisher and Robert B. Stepto Afro-American Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction . New York: Modern Language Association, 1978. 44–69.

Friday, 10 July 2009

And not a trans person in sight.... Pride London 2009

Pride London
Originally uploaded by Downing Street

40 years on, Remember Stonewall.

So, who airbrushed the trans folk from Gordon's morning bash for [London]Pride, in 2009?

Gordon and Sarah's reception on the morning of [London] Pride 2009 was clearly enjoyed by the great, the good and the celebrity gay men and lesbians.

Maybe someone did arrange for a trans person to attend, but there isn't a face here I recognise, and yet we were there, in truth, we were there at Pride if not in Downing Street.

40 years on, Remember Stonewall

- the bar where a leather dyke was arrested for wearing 3 items of 'mens' clothing, that initiated the riots and sent Stonewall into the history books. The queens who then picked up their handbags and took to beating the police at their own game, by beating them.

40 years on. Remember Stonewall. 

It was Sylvia Rivera, trans person extraordinaire,  merely a 17-year-old Puerto Rican-Venezuelan trans woman who threw one of the first Molotov cocktails, out in Christopher Street.
 Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera (right) of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries or STAR, 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Photo: Leonard Fink/LGBT Community Center (, February 2012

Have you seen the grainy black and white film images of Sylvia Rivera, in that truly outrageous knitted lycra body suit, which I have always presumed was silver when she dressed that morning,.   She also had another, one I have presumed was red - but there she is  - grabbing the mic on the stage of an early Gay Activists Alliance stage at a Gay Pride march circa 1973.  If you haven't seen the film, and you are trans, then watch it now. Not only does the lycra suit grow both larger and dirtier, as the day goes on, but Sylvia grows with it. Smaller , physically, compared to it, but very so much larger in stature and shouting her lungs out for Trans Pride.

A few years later, shortly after the 1973 Pride March, the body of her friend, and collaborator at those early events, Marsha P Johnson was found floating in the harbour just north of Christopher St. The police investigation consisted of 2 phone calls and then they said she had committed suicide. Yet, as her injuries were to prove, she was murdered = like so many before and so many since. That a hero like Sylvia was to spend the next 25 years living on the street, or in doss houses, or sofa surfing -- well that is another story.

I remember how it felt 40 years ago to be here in this dark, dirty, chimney strewn, rain soaked, poverty filled cultural desert of slums and council houses in Manchester. And how Sylvia and people like her were far off in the dreams of my escape to a home that took many, many more years to materialise.

Twelve years ago Manchester City Council held a '25 years of service' reception for the founders of the Manchester Gay Switchboard. Not one trans person was invited other than Julia Grant who was by then a local dignitary.  But Julia hadn't been around in 1975 when a group of committed LGB AND Trans activists had collaborated to create the telephone service. Julia was not to enter the nation's consciousness until 1980, with that infamous television documentary of her struggle to get gender reassignment.  Carol, Linda,  and Stan and even little ol' me - not one of us was invited to the anniversary celebration.  It would have been easy to get in touch with me - by then I had been teaching at one of the city's universities for 10 years. Furthermore, I had by then been on tv, radio and in the news repeatedly in the battle for transgender rights.

When I demanded to know why we were not invited, I was told that nobody knew of our involvement. What a convenient way of explaining away their convenient forgetfulness. Yes, it is the case that I was not in the 1975 photograph of the founders of the switchboard - but that was because I was behind the camera. Are the rest of those people really saying they had forgotten my existence, and Carol's, Linda's, and Stan's.  If they  are,  then what does that say about the involvement of trans people with anything run by the LGB world.

Moonflower, of whom I am a big fan, writes on her blog 'Transpolical' on Wednesday, June 17, 2009, of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnsone, Miss Major and their friends, and says
"The Stonewall Girls and Guys? They virtually all feel they've been co-opted and tossed away by the modern day movement like a used condom."
It seems that is our fate - especially when we are no longer young and beautiful, and the trans lucky mascot type whom LGB people like to have their picture taken with: "Oh - didn't I tell you, that's my tranny friend ..... uuum, now what is his/her name?".

Back in London, at Pride 2009, in fact I wasn't there. Living over 200 miles away, with train tickets costing a minimum of £61 for weekend travel, even if booked in advance, it could have contributed to breaking the bank. Being unable to walk the distance is also a big issue. Why would I want to attend Pride to sit in a bus? Take a wheelchair, someone says. As I cannot push myself in a chair, even getting on a train would be a nightmare.  If I had made it as  far as London,  transport would be impossible(no tube access, and buses that don't stop!). I would have had to beg people to push me along the march route, and much as though I would be very grateful if someone did push me, the 'they are all up there and I am down here' wheelchair position makes conversation impossible. So - now you know, why I would not and still do not go to Pride.

But, there were lots of other trans folk there Maybe I am being unfair and some trans folk did visit Gordon and Sarah's for a glass of lemonade. But more likely they didn't. But either way, we are clearly not fit to be seen in an 'official' photograph with the PM, at least not in public. However, we WERE THERE - not just in 1968 but also in 2009.

So, if anyone out there has some photo's of OUR presence at Pride 2009, and the trans people in them are happy to be seen, then let me have them, I'll make sure we are seen here, and on the Press for Change website;

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