Trans Inquiry – Session 4

So I watched the final session of the trans inquiry today (a bit piecemeal, as I was nipping in and out of meetings, so I didn’t see it all live). Today it was the evidence from the ministers, so I was going to blog about  what they said. Then I went off to a rather different kind of meeting, a meeting of a university student trans and non-binary group, a place where students can talk about gender issues. Most of the students who attend are 18, 19, 20 years old. I doubt any of them have watched any of the trans inquiry, nor submitted evidence.

So I’m not going to just talk about what the ministers said. I’m going to compare what they said to the conversations I had 2 hours later. (All names are pseudonyms)

  • Ministers said they were on a “journey” with regard to understanding trans identities. They want to listen and understand. They sort of acknowledged that there may be some issues around non-binary identities in terms of recognition and equality protection and they were open to looking at it, but it would take time. They outlined the guidance they make available to employers, though they acknowledged guidance isn’t always taken on board.

Cass was leading the group meeting that evening and explained to the group that they have a gender fluid identity: some days they present as masculine, some days as feminine, and some days as androgynous. They have no intention of medically transitioning. Cass is in their final year of uni. In about six months, they will be applying for jobs. At the moment, Cass is not guaranteed any protection against employment (or any other) discrimination regarding their gender presentation.

  • NHS England Commissioners explained that they were working on “growing capacity” in gender identity services, will “model through” service demand and had made progress in improving stakeholder relationships. They were taking clinical advice on how gender services should assess patients, and were working on developing GP awareness of referral routes.

Two hours later, Katie said she didn’t feel that ready to talk to medical professionals re: transition and wasn’t sure what, if any, medical interventions she wanted. I advised her that the waiting list for the GICs in her region ranged between 12 months and 3 years, so she might be best off asking to go on a waiting list now, even though she didn’t really feel ready to talk to her GP. And Sarah told the group that because she’d written the date of her gender clinic appointment down wrong, she’d now been discharged, and would have to be re-referred.

  • Ministers said that they were determined to tackle hate crime, and were interested in hearing about any legislative changes that might be helpful. They needed to do more training to ensure that police are always supportive and believing to victims of transphobic abuse. They didn’t know what the current conviction rate was

Rose told us that, once again, she’d had abuse shouted at her in the street. This has been an ongoing issue for Rose for some years, to the extent that she largely treats this as routine. I’ve encouraged her to report, but she’s reluctant.

  • Ministers were “interested in hearing the evidence” for changing passport application procedures and allowing non-binary recognition. They stressed that a passport is a travel document

Again, Cass will be applying for jobs in 6 months time. To do that, they will need to show a passport or a birth certificate (despite the statement that a passport is a travel document). They would prefer to describe themselves as something other than male or female.

  • Ministers said that gender was very important in terms of identification but they were open to listening as to whether less focus was needed on gender, and open to debate on self-identification. They thought gender was important for monitoring issues like equality in education. They thought some trans people might need time to adjust and make decisions regarding living in their permanent gender, and might need medical support. They stressed the obligation to protect personal data re gender change.

Katie asked me why it cost £140 to have her gender recognised in the UK. She asked why it was assumed she needed time to consider how she wanted to have her gender recorded since, after all, it wouldn’t do irreversible harm if she did decide later she wanted paperwork changed again. As already noted, she’s going to have to wait at least a year for medical support anyway. She was worried about approaching tutors to start the process of getting gender records in the uni changed, since she wasn’t sure they’d understand their duties regarding recognising her change of details and keeping this private. It is also worth noting that the UK government manages to monitor the impact of issues such as ethnicity and socioeconomic status on Katie’s educational participation without requiring her to write it on her exam scripts nor have these details centrally and permanently recorded.

  • Ministers said they had struggled to find and talk to partners of transitioning people, and that they understood that marriages were personal and sensitive area. However, they thought changing gender could be a significant change in the basis of the marriage, and some partners might need protection.

Cass and Sarah’s girlfriends both said that they were happy with their partners’ trans/genderfluid identities, and that this had not caused them to rethink their relationships. Conversely, another (non-trans) couple I know have recently broken up because one of them took a job far away. Transitioning is something that may make a significant difference to a relationship: so is changing from a cohabiting to a long-distance relationship. I am unclear why the government feels the need to decide for people what counts as a fundamental change in their relationships.

If I’m honest, after first watching the ministerial session of Trans Inquiry through, I was mildly positive. The right noises were made, there seemed to be some willingness to budge. After spending the evening with young trans people, I’m embarrassed by how little I was willing to settle for. And I’m embarrassed that I’ve been having these same conversations with young trans people for over a decase now. I shouldn’t be telling them that this is the way the system is, and change will happen but it will be slow, and take time. They deserve better. They should be angry, and we should be angry on their behalf.

Gender Recognition for All

The case of Tara Hudson, a trans woman sentence to be imprisoned in a UK men’s prison is unjust. Not only is it patently wrong and unsafe for someone who has been living as a woman for several years to be placed in a male prison, it also goes against existing guidelines. I hope that this turns out to be an error, and is quickly corrected.

However, it brings into sharp focus the issues with the UK’s current gender recognition process. Before I start, I should say that I do not know the specific details of Tara Hudson’s circumstances, and I do not know what factors lie behind her not seeking legal gender recognition, or a female passport. But I do believe that the UK gender recognition is less accessible to trans people who are socially marginalised or facing multiple sources of discrimination, and I believe that social marginalisation and multiple sources of discrimination disproportionately affect trans people in prison.

The problems are:

  • Applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate costs money. It costs £140. There is a fee remission scheme, but it is rather complex. The guidance notes run to 31 pages, including explanations of what a “contrary interest” is, and how to correctly apply a “disposable capital test” and a “gross monthly income test”. I would consider myself highly literate and fairly numerate, and it took me a couple of readings and a few minutes with a calculator to work out whether a friend of mine could get a partial discount. If English was not your first language, you had poor literacy/numeracy skills and/or you simply don’t like paperwork, I think you would struggle.
  • Getting together the paperwork for a GRC can cost money. You need two medical reports, and doctors can charge you to provide them. That can run to £50 a report, maybe more. You also need to pay £5-10 for a statutory declaration in front of a solicitor.
  • You need to provide at least two years’ evidence that you have been living in your acquired gender. If you have moved repeatedly, especially between temporary/shared accommodation, been kicked out by family members/former partners, had a disaster such as a fire or a flood, or are someone who doesn’t cope well with paperwork, you may not have two years’ worth of evidence readily available (those transitioned for less than two years are not eligible to apply at all.)
  • The Panel can ask for more information if they don’t think you have sent enough, or see what you have sent through as in some ways unconventional or contradictory. One example is that they have a tendency to ask for more information where an applicant has recently had a child. That may mean gathering more paperwork, paying for more medical reports, and writing more letters. Some people simply give up.
  • If you are legally married or in a civil partnership, you will also need your partner to complete paperwork, and/or may need to formally end the relationship, and/or convert a civil partnership into a marriage.
  • Non binary people are not recognised at all
  • You need to know and understand the above information, and apply it correctly. There are still many trans people who do not know gender recognition is possible at all, or think getting a new passport is the same as gender recognition. For most day to day purposes, gender recognition is not in fact relevant. It can however turn up very suddently and bite people on the arses in fairly dramatic ways: when they’re sentenced to prison; when the validity of their marriage is questioned; when their ex-partner claims sexual assault

As it happens, I have got gender recognition. But I’m someone who files his old bank statements, who knows pretty much what a GRC is and how to apply for one, and who can find £140 without it leaving me short on basic necessities.A gender recognition system that works for people like me, and excludes the trans people who are likely to need it most is not fit for purpose.

Narratives of Trans maculine Identity #4

There’s been a little bit of a hiatus with these, partly because I’ve been distracted with the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into trans issues and various other media issues but also partly because I think this next bit of narrative is the one most potentially open to misunderstanding. However, I do want to include it.

To recap for anyone who hasn’t read the earlier posts on this (stories one, two and three), I’m giving short little stories which show how aspects of my “trans story” could be narrated. Sometimes they’re things other people have said to me, sometimes they’re things I’ve wondered about myself. Afterwards I discuss them.

This one’s the sex story.

Story Four:

My earliest memories of thinking about sex were always been about myself as a man, with a man. I fantasized about men having sex before I knew exactly what men did together (my parents told me where babies came from when I was about two, we watched sex education videos in school from ten onwards, but I was told about anal sex in the playground by classmates when I was about eleven). I used to have male fantasy alter egos, which tended to have names which started with a particular letter. When I picked my final name as a male, I deliberately chose one which has the same initial.

I can’t remember ever thinking about sex involving women before I transitioned, except for having a crush on a very butch member of my year group when I was about 17 (but I think that was more because I sort of hoped she might be a trans man too). Funnily enough since that point, my sexual fantasies have become much more diverse, though I’ve only ever had relationships with men.

Discussion

I think in part the reason why I’ve been a bit uncomfortable about this one is because there is such a strong history in the trans community of insisting that sexuality and gender identity are entirely different. On an intellectual level, I don’t think that’s true. Sexuality and gender identity are certainly not exactly the same thing, but they’re not absolutely separate either.

However, often trans people are very keen to stress the distinction between sexuality and gender identity because sexuality has been inappropriately used to categorise us. If a trans woman gave the same sort of story as me in reverse, it would be open to categorisation as “autogynephilia”. That’s an extremely controversial concept, which has received a lot of criticism from trans people, which basically holds that trans women who are bisexual or lesbian are really just living out some kind of fetishistic fantasy about having sex as a women. Among the arguments against it are that there’s no absolutely evidence that subdividing trans people based on who they are attracted to is meaningful or useful, unless maybe you’re trying to set people up with dates, and some rather clever research by Moser which has pointed out that (rather obviously) a lot of non-trans women are turned on by the thought of having sex as women.

There has been a lot less focus on trans masculine sexuality, possibly because the early writers on trans people seem to have largely assumed trans men were very rare and largely just some kind of extreme butch lesbian; possibly because there is just generally more of a voyeuristic gaze on trans women. Nonetheless, I think there is still in general a tendency to insist that who we are attracted to develops entirely separately from our own gender identity. And for me, I personally don’t think that’s true. That’s not to say who I’m attracted to is the whole of my gender identity: it isn’t. But I do believe there is some kind of connection.

Channel Four – “Girls To Men

So I contacted Ofcom yesterday about the Channel 4 programme ‘Girls to Men’

One of the participants within the show has raised major concerns that the programme as produced was not what they thought they was agreeing to participate in, and that old footage was used in a way they had not intended. This person has explained this eloquently in his own words and I’m not going to attempt to speak for them.

I had wider problems with the show. In fact, let’s start a level further up still. Channel 4 has badged this show as part of its ‘Born in the Wrong Body’ season. Many trans people do feel that ‘born in the wrong body’ is a useful way to summarise their experiences, and that’s absolutely their prerogative. I do not feel it is useful to describe me. In fact, I tend to think it’s unhelpful. There’s about eleven stone of me (I’m trying to make it ten stone, but that’s another story). The sections of my body that I wasn’t that happy about were a pretty small part of the whole. In fact, the bits of my body I was most unhappy with were my breasts, and I emphatically was not born with them. As for my body now: I have two feet: they’re my feet. I have two hands: they’re my hands. I have one liver: it’s my liver. You get the picture: I believe that my body is my body.

And in fact, being unhappy about my body was really never the major issue for me, it was the social and cultural expectations that go with that. Screening a series of documentaries about trans people under the title ‘Born in the Wrong Body’ implies all trans people identify in that way and we don’t. Indeed, All About Trans, an organisation that was involved in making one of the programmes in the series, has stated via social media that it did not know the ‘Born in the Wrong Body’ subtitle would be used, and objected when they found out about it. So it’s not simply a problem with finding language that all trans people are happy with (which admittedly can be difficult), they also specifically used language that they knew the trans people they had been working with did not like.

Down a level – the title of the programme, ‘Girls To Men’. Well, immediately this seems to clash with the ‘Born in the Wrong Body’ way of thinking. Born in the wrong body tends to be associated with a view that trans men were always male, they were simply in the wrong body. ‘Girls to Men’ clearly suggests they were once girls. Both views are controversial and not shared by everyone. It is clear from the link I gave above that at least some participants did not appreciate being described as ‘Girls to Men’, and that that should have been obvious to producers. Additionally, it’s simply unnecessary – the participants seem to have agreed to participate under the title of ‘Testosterone Diaries’, which seems to me to be pretty inoffensive. The obvious reason for change was sensationalism.

The actual trans men in it came across very well, as articulate, pleasant young men. They were mostly treated sensitively, though there were two specific sections I was unhappy with. One was where a 17 year old was placed in an apparently staged and rather aggressive discussion with someone who referred to transmen as ‘glorified dykes’. There seemed no obvious editorial reason for this, and I don’t think it meets welfare duties to a young participant. The other was where a guy who’d just come out of surgery was filmed in his hospital bed, saying that it hurt to breathe and he’d never want to go through that surgery again. That seems to show a lack of regard for his welfare – if he was in that much pain, why was the cameraman filming him rather than going to find the nurse? It also seems an unfair representation of his overall decision to have surgery (especially since C4 issued a screenshot of this moment and the dialogue as a standalone image via Twitter). Many pregnant women would probably say ‘never again’ if you interview them straight after labour – that does not mean that they do not in fact want more children, or that they regret having their baby.

The major problem was the overall focus of the show, reinforced by the narration. Again and again we got images of surgery, discussion of surgery, images of packers, injections going in. We got photos of the participants prior to their transition, references to their old names, and every other sentence seemed to be ‘X used to be a girl’. The narrator also told us a young couple “considered themselves to be heterosexual”. I wonder if the narrator would be happy to be described as “considering himself to be” his preferred sexual identity term, or would he see that as somewhat invalidating?

Channel 4 have said they hope the show raises awareness – awareness raising is not helpful if it raises awareness of precisely the wrong thing. Most trans men do not want people constantly asking them about their surgery, asking them about their old names, asking for old photos of them. They do not want to continuously be described as “previously a girl” (especially if this is not how they identified at all). Including this in a documentary encourages the view that this is socially acceptable, when in fact it is rude and insensitive. Again, it seems that at least the participant who spoke out (and most likely others) had made this clear to the programme-makers.

There were also a number of medical ‘facts’ provided in the programme in very absolute terms which are at best unproven, at worst simply false. We were told testosterone makes you infertile. Except Channel 4 itself has screened at least two previous documentaries about guys getting pregnant after several years on T. Testosterone may well affects your fertility (though even here I don’t think there’s much quality evidence) but stating that it makes you infertile is patently incorrect. It’s also highly irresponsible, since some viewers may incorrectly conclude that trans men do not need to use contraception.

We were told mastectomy (not most trans guys’ preferred term) is a highly risky procedure. Not true. Major complications in a planned operation on otherwise young healthy patients are always possible but pretty rare. There is a risk of loss of nipple (the only specific example of the ‘high risks’ which was given) but that risk can be significantly reduced by healthy choices such as not smoking. In any case, many trans men would consider losing a nipple less significant that remaining with breast tissue.

We were told testosterone raises the risk of ovarian cancer. This has been a theory for a while. It’s certainly possible, and health policy in the UK take a ‘better safe than sorry’ line on this. But since there are no reliable stats on cancer in trans men, the statement about increased risk is based on theory and a few anecdotes. It should have been qualified with ‘may’ or ‘possibly’

The really sad thing is that we’ve had these conversations before. I complained to Ofcom (the broadcasting regulator) five years ago about an otherwise sensitively made Channel 4 programme that misrepresented young trans people’s gender. Ofcom did conclude (after a couple of challenges) that using terminology in the narration which the participants might not like could come across as insensitive or offensive (well, duh!) and at the very least the programme-makers should have given some explanation or justification. Organisations like All About Trans and TransMediaWatch have gone out of their way to talk to media organisations about these issues. Media representation of trans people has been raised repeatedly within Parliament.

Thus far, Channel 4 is being bullish. It claims that it is proud of the programme, and participants gave their consent. However, consent is not as simple as signing a one-off form to agree documentary footage can be used. The Ofcom code makes it clear that participants should understand the purpose of the show, and be informed about changes that might materially affect their consent. In my view, if you take even the most sensitively shot documentary footage in the world (which Girls To Men was not) and screen it under a misrepresentative title, or overlay an objectional narrative, or edit hours of complex discussion down to a focus on surgery and genitals or a couple of shots of someone with his shirt off, those are changes which could materially invalidate consent.

The other thing to point out is that Channel 4 are, ultimately, shooting themselves in the foot (as well as, of course, damaging us). Trans people are not going to positively engage with them if they keep misrepresenting and sensationalising our lives. Instead, we end up with a downward spiral where few trans people will work with them, so they target naïve or young participants, who may later feel misrepresented, so even fewer trans people engage, and so on. It’s not like Channel 4 are short of people trying to have these conversations. It’s not like they didn’t have people they could have called for advice once it became clear that there was a controversy. They need to start rethinking how they engage with communities.

X passports

So the trans parliamentary inquiry discussed the issue of X gender passports today. I have to admit, I’m still somewhat puzzled by why this needs debating. The international rules allows them. Australia issues them. As far as I know, Australian border control has not collapsed into anarchy. All that has happened is some people have a passport that better suits their identity.

This is particularly important as, in practice, passports are not simply a travel document. To work in the UK, you have to show either a passport or a birth certificate, and both those documents show gender. It is not possible to get a job without showing a document to your employer describing you as male or female, even if you don’t identify in that way. This is despite the fact that there are very, very few circumstances where a UK employer needs to make a technical distinction between employees on the grounds of gender.

The UK government has given a sort of response to why it won’t issue X passports, but it seems rather muddled.

Issue 1 is that it’s expensive to update the computer systems. That’s probably true, though their estimate of £1 million seems a bit on the high side – can’t they tie it in with some other updates?

Issue 2 is a series of be several waffle-y points about people might select X accidentally, or select X and then be offended if they are treated as non-gendered or asked about their gender by border control, or gendered people might ask to be listed as X, or if trans people ask to be listed as X it might contravene their rights to not disclose their trans identity. I don’t think any of this constitutes a reason why adult human beings shouldn’t be trusted to take a decision about what gender option they want to be listed as. Rather oddly, they also state that a reason not to have an X gender is that other people might ask whether listing gender is proportionate. If the passport office can’t justify listing gender as proportionate, then why are we even having this debate?

Issue 3 is the risk that people might be stopped at the borders of non-LGBT+ friendly countries and harassed. That undoubtedly is a risk. But it’s a risk for me now. If I fly into one of those countries, and the border control there decide they need to search me, they will probably work out that my anatomy is not conventionally male. In fact, last time I went abroad I ended up getting down to my T-shirt and pants with border control. As trans and non-binary people, we already have to take decisions about our safety when we go abroad.

Issue 4 is a question of how people would prove that they are non-binary, because apparently ‘self-identification would not be appropriate’. I think this is also, in a roundabout kind of way, touching on the unspecified ‘security’ and ‘identity’ and ‘fraud’ issues mentioned elsewhere in the report (and also hinted at when the Parliamentary Inquiry mentioned that US border control might not think X gender passports met their identity standards).

I am unconvinced that gender is a particularly useful marker for preventing fraud. If I were a male criminal, and I was stealing or counterfeiting passports for nefarious purposes, is getting a specifically male passport that high an additional barrier? Random selection gives me a fifty: fifty chance, and presumably I could to some extent target my passport-stealing activity to tip the odds further in my favour.

I think the conversation we are not quite having here is probably that border control operates risk algorithms, and those probably assume that men are more likely to be terrorists and criminals. I think if that is the issue, we might as well actually discuss it. Firstly, on a pragmatic level, it doesn’t seem to me all that likely that we would have a rush of criminals and terrorists seeking to register themselves as X in the hopes of circumventing the algorithms, especially given the current system is scarcely foolproof at preventing bad guys from flying. In any case, for the purposes of behind-the-scenes risk calculations, you could presumably treat the (probably relatively small number of) X passports as being the same risk level as M, at least until more detailed data emerges.

More philosophically, there are probably many pieces of data the US security services would like to be able to collect and use about people entering the States. What colour is your skin? Are you a Muslim? Have you ever belonged to the British Communist Party, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? Got a criminal record? Ever smoked dope? Who are your friends? That doesn’t mean the UK government should oblige everyone to have that information recorded on their passport. There is a balance to be struck between privacy and public protection, but it’s not okay to take that out on minority groups without at least having an open discussion about it.

Trans Inquiry (again)

And we’re on to the trans inquiry again – full details and documents available on the UK Trans Info site . Again, there were two sessions

The first session opened with a discussion of the UK Gender Recognition Act. Peter Dunne of the Trans Equality Network Ireland outlined the law. James Morton of the Scottish Trans Alliance and Ashley Reed, who submitted a petition on the subject, gave a good summary of some of the actual human impact of being asked for personal medical details, or being unable to be recognised in a non-binary identity, as well as some of the bureaucracy.

Perhaps the committee were being deliberately naïve in their questioning strategy, but some of their questions on non-binary recognition came across as if they had simply failed to grasp the issue. There is no legal recognition of non-binary people. That’s the problem. That’s what people are complaining about. If you’ve reached the third session and not got that, there’s a problem.

Equally some of the questions on why there are no test cases seemed naïve, or perhaps coming from a position of privilege. Not that many people have the time, energy, legal knowledge and financial resources (or meet the narrow qualifications for legal aid)  to launch a test case. Trans organisations and charities are generally underfunded and have little capacity to offer support. For the section 22 provisions in the Gender Recognition Act, it isn’t especially clear how those would be prosecuted, or who you’d seek advice on.

The first significant input by the a:gender representative was unfortunate. She was very clear that their organisation represented transsexual and intersex people and that there’s a need to ensure the law only recognises those who make a permanent change. She didn’t give any reason why the law should only protect that group, and I entirely disagree with the point.

The issue of disclosure of trans identity in the courts was also raised, and in particular that it appears to be the case that it can be raised where it is not relevant to the case. The problems with protected records were also raised – that this often results in trans people’s records not being found, and therefore problems when doing things like claiming benefits or registering to vote.

There was a rather odd section in the discussion on passports, where the chair of the committee asked the trans people present why the UK government wouldn’t issue X passports if other countries did. Why is it our job to tell Parliament why its policy is less affirming than that of other countries? Surely it should be justifying the policy to us.

Finally, about an hour in, we got what (to me) is the obvious question – why does the government actually need to record our gender at all? Shouldn’t be working to phasing it out? James Morton wasn’t in favour of that: he thought having documentation in preferred gender was potentially validating. I can absolutely understand the argument, but that’s not my view. I have a strong identity as queer. I do not have ‘Queer’ written on my passport or my driving licence. Where states decide to record ethnicity, religion or sexuality details for their citizens, we usually take that as a sign of an oppressive regime: it records those details because it intends to impose restrictions or discriminate. The reason why we have gender in UK law is because until very recently there was widespread gender discrimination throughout UK legislation. A lot of that is now gone, and some of the transitional arrangements (e.g. for pensions) will be ending shortly. We should of course promote gender equality, and allow people the right to determine their own gender. That does not require that the state recognises our gender.

Incidentally, another interesting point (not raised in the Inquiry but sort of relevant) is the difference in equality law on gender and other characteristics. Gender is defined in the legislation as being a binary choice between two option. Non-binary issues have often been dismissed on the grounds that they affect very few people. This logic doesn’t apply to other equality characteristics, such as religion or ethnicity. They do not provide a list of religions or ethnic groups, and say that only those groups will be protected. If you genuinely hold a religious belief, you would be protected, regardless of how many people share it. In my view, this again comes down to the insistence that gender is something the state needs to recognise.

We then had a discussion of the position with spousal consent. Again, the witnesses were rather strangely asked to give the pros and cons of the spousal veto, when clearly all of them were opposed to it. The chair of the committee suggested that marriage is a contract, and both parties have to give consent to it continuing when there has been a fundamental change. I’m unclear why gender is considered the only thing which makes a fundamental change to a marriage contact. For example, if two Christians marry, in a Christian ceremony, in front of a priest, and then ten years down the line one converts to another faith, isn’t that potentially a fundamental change to the marriage contract which they entered? Should we require the spouse to consent to the religious conversion before it can be completed?  Quite rightly, the state takes the view that that’s a private matter between the parties involved, and if they want to divorce then they can. It should be the same for gender. In our current system, you have to have been living for two years to be recognised in your preferred gender anyway – so it’s not like the spouse hasn’t had some warning, and an opportunity to exit the marriage.

Then we came onto the lack of protection for intersex and non-binary people. James Mordon succinctly pointed out that it is scarcely fair for the government to not fund or conduct research, and then insist (against the evidence from the community) that there is “no specific detriment”. He also followed up with another excellent point that if you see trans women as women, how can you justify excluding them from women’s services? In some cases you may need to make special provision for trans women, as you might for other women with specific needs, but this is not justification for not offering them services. Peter and Ashley also made the very valid point that trans people are more at risk of violence, and so excluding them from those services is particularly harmful. Another good point made by Peter is that the legislation is based around proportionate means of achieving legitimate aims – and often in practice the aims behind policies which mistreat trans people are based on stereotypes, and pursued in disproportionate ways.

Session 2 was based on trans people’s experiences. Unfortunately two of the four people originally scheduled to attend this panel didn’t attend. There’s a significant difficulty in having even four trans people representing trans experiences: with two it was definitely very limited.

Both the speakers spoke very eloquently on theirs experiences and the issues they had encountered. In particular, they highlighted some of the problems in the NHS, the problems with record-keeping, exclusions from services, etc. We also saw misgendering in practice, since a committee member misgendered one of the speakers (after per had already spoken in detail about per experiences of not being recognised in per preferred gender). We also saw that the two attendees did not have GRCs, which for me demonstrated the extent to which the GRC process is not suitable for many people and something of a bolt-on. However, I didn’t feel that either of them had experiences or identities particularly close to mine. More importantly, as one might expect, the parliamentary inquiry has probably tended to over-represent the experiences of white, articulate, affluent, able-bodied trans people, who are connected to activist or community networks (a class of people which includes me). The evidence session from trans people could have been an opportunity to at least try and redress this but, whether due to the no shows, a difficulty in identifying witnesses from diverse backgrounds, or simply not bothering to try, that didn’t seem to happen.