Why Jersey States members are homophobic and transphobic

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Yesterday the States of Jersey (the local government) voted to delay the introduction of equal marriage laws because they want undertake a study to look into it’s long term effect. Eighteen States members voted for equality, integrity and respect, nine didn’t bother whilst a whopping twenty four voted for homophobia, transphobia and bigotry.

I do not call these Jersey States members homophobes, transphobes and bigots lightly. Those are words that should be only used when a person truly deserves it but I feel that in this case my use is appropriate. Voting to delay equal marriage is sending a clear message that the right to love and marry another person is only for straight people, and that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents of Jersey do not deserve that right. The Senators and Deputies are saying that people who are LGBT are less equal, they don’t deserve to marry their partners.

These Jersey States Members are hiding behind a flimsy excuse, do they think that their (expensively publicly funded) study is going to uncover some previously unknown effect of equal marriage? Seven hundred million on this planet live in a place where they can marry whoever they love, and what, the States of Jersey thinks that their study is going to find out something new? Their refusal to make a clear stand on supporting equality and justice says it all. Equal marriage exists all over the world and society hasn’t collapsed, the moon hasn’t exploded and the Alderney hasn’t won the Murratti.

Perhaps that is what they are scared of, gay marriage changing the social fabric of Jersey so much that we become rubbish at football and Alderney takes the cup forever more. Because I can’t think of another even slightly more logical reason.

The arguments for and against equal marriage have been gone over far too many times, battles have been fought and won in the highest courts of the world and it has been proven over and over again that the result of equal marriage is simply that more people get married to the ones they love.

I put it to you that ANY argument which tries to assert that gay couples should not have the same right to marry the person they love, just the same as straight couples is intrinsically homophobic. History will show anybody who makes a stand against equality to be the homophobic, transphobic bigot they are.

I wish I could be in Jersey this Saturday for the first ever LGBT rights parade Hopefully soon the local government will see the error of their ways and fix this.

 

These are the names and email addresses of the politicians who voted against equality should you want to let them know your thoughts, as a regular tax paying voter, on the matter.

 

Votes for delaying a decision on equal marriage -

Senator Sarah Ferguson – s.ferguson@gov.je
Senator Ian Le Marquand – i.lemarquand@gov.je
Senator Francis Le Gresley – f.legresley@gov.je
Senator Ian Gorst – i.gorst@gov.je

Trinity
Constable John Gallichan – j.lesueurgallichan@gov.je
Deputy Anne Pryke – a.pryke@gov.je
St Clement
Constable Len Norman – l.norman@gov.je
Deputy Gerard Baudains – g.baudains@gov.je
Deputy Susie Pinel – s.pinel@gov.je
St Peter
Constable John Refault – j.refault@gov.je
St Lawrence
Constable Deidre Mezbourian – d.mezbourian@gov.je
Deputy John Le Fondré – j.lef@gov.je
St John
Constable Phill Rondel – p.rondel@gov.je
St Ouen
Constable Michael Paddock – m.paddock@gov.je
Deputy James Reed – j.reed@gov.je
St Saviour 
Constable Sadie Rennard – s.rennard@gov.je
Deputy Rob Duhamel – r.duhamel@gov.je
Grouville
Constable John Le Maistre – j.lemaistre@gov.je
St Helier
Deputy Jackie Hilton – j.hilton@gov.je
Deputy Richard Rondel – r.rondel@gov.je
Deputy Mike Higgins – mr.higgins@gov.je
St Brelade
Deputy Sean Power – sp.power@gov.je
Deputy John Young – j.young@gov.je
St Mary

Deputy John Le Bailly – j.lebailly@gov.je

Stonewall UK and trans people

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As regular readers of this site will know, I have written to Stonewall UK in the past asking about the way they have treated trans people, I received a response at the time but to be honest it was just a long winded fob off and it annoyed me too much to publish.

Ben Summerskill stood down from the position of CEO earlier this year and in the aftermath I was aware of trans people speaking in hushed tones about whether Stonewall would change their view of the T in LGBT.  I decided to write to the new acting CEO, Ruth Hunt an email to send out the feelers and try to gauge her reactions about the trans question. She called me yesterday and we had a long chat about Stonewall UK’s future and I was pleasantly surprised  by her position.

Ruth was keen to say that she and Stonewall do not want to act on the trans communities behalf, from the sounds of it they are not going to suddenly hire some token transgender people and call themselves an LGBT organisation. They want to draw a line under the past, move on and open up a conversation about how best to enable the trans fight for equality, allow us as a community to continue leading this process and actually listen to our concerns.

This seemed to me to be genuine, I told Ruth that this sounded like a very well thought out position but I that can’t speak for anybody else. In my experience holding grudges only causes more harm than good, Stonewall UK have changed their leadership and their new CEO sounds like a breath of fresh air. I’ve included my email to her below.

What do you think? How should the trans community react?

 

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Dear Ms Hunt,

As a somewhat militant trans woman I felt I must write to you for three reasons, first it would be rude not to congratulate you on your new role. I have never met you but a person has not got to where you are now without being passionate about the same rights and equality issues that are close to my heart, so you have my respect and best wishes.

I must say that these views are my own here and that is because we must have a frank and honest discussion about Stonewall UK of the past and how the future is looking too. There is no point going into details but I have felt let down and ignored by the organisation. Admittedly I identify as a trans woman who is pansexual and don’t fit into the three LGB boxes which have defined it in the past, even though men and women are some of the people who I’m attracted to.

The second reason is to ask for some understanding, compassion even. Just like the LGB community, trans people are only bound by something which they have no control over, something they are born with and each live individually and as such have vastly different views. Many feel aggrieved by Stonewall UK of the past, some are hurt and some are angry and this has led to all kinds of strong words and actions in times gone by. These feelings may take some time to subside so please, take some time to understand just how much previous policies have impacted on the transgender community.

In America last year, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Lesbian and Gay Alliance Against Defamation formally changed their name to GLAAD, stating that they felt their work had expanded beyond fighting defamation to changing the culture. It was inclusive of their work both with allies and on transgender issues. A Greek philosopher once said that nothing endures but change and this is especially true for the LGBT equalities fight, even ten years ago the landscape was completely different from how it is now. There have been so many small successes over time, all adding up to a huge step forward for acceptance and equal human rights.

But for people whose gender identities and sexual orientations don’t fit into a binary, time feels like it’s passing slower than for everyone else almost like they’re being left behind. Only a small percentage of people in this world identify as LGB and an even smaller percentage of those are transgender or define themselves outside of the binaries, some trans people are straight, but they shouldn’t be excluded either.

When trans people shout about injustices it is difficult for our voices to get heard in the right places, even if it’s over similar issues which have happened in the past with the LGB community, nobody seems to listen. Transgender organisations just aren’t well funded enough to raise awareness on a wider scale, when a person transitions and their employer realises that their equality training doesn’t cover transgender issues, it’s that vulnerable person who suffers.

Which brings me to my third reason for writing this, I’m asking you to be more of an ally to trans people, can Stonewall UK move forward, evolve even, to be more inclusive? Allies are so important, especially when you’re part of a tiny minority within an already small community, The Vice President of America recently said that transgender discrimination is the human rights issue of our time and from my perspective, there is never a truer word spoken.

Our links may be tenuous, gender and sexuality are different things but our fight for acceptance and equality are so similar and to be honest, the trans community need all the friends and allies we can get.

Sarah.

Trans Activism, Cerys Matthews and me

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I’ve noticed that there are two ways to approach trans activism, every time a trans story hits the headlines and generates discussion across the community there is always one section who are shouty, issuing rallying cries for direct action, boycotts and more. I’ve written passionate blogs in the same vein, hell, I’ve even taken part in protests and called for people to be fired from their jobs. I do this because it works.

The second theory of trans activism is often talked about on social media and follows the idea that all trans people are activists in a sense, these people argue that the most effective way of gaining acceptance and educating the cis masses is by just living your life with quiet dignity, getting on with it by interacting with the people they meet in their lives, winning them over one person at a time. Again, this works too as some of the most surprising acceptance stories in my personal life have come from people I meet in everyday life.

The problem I have though, is that both sides always seem to be absolutely certain that their particular brands of gaining acceptance, of activism, are completely right. Conformation and commitment bias run rife and sometimes there is friction between the two camps.

Recently someone brought my attention to an issue about a trans woman being talked about on the radio who had transitioned more than 40 years ago and is a successful musician. The presenter, Cerys Matthews used the wrong pronouns to describe this woman and when I listened back to the show she seemed confused in general about how to address her. A discussion followed about how to respond to this with one side literally braying for blood, saying that enough was enough, she should be sacked and it’s time to start fighting fire with fire. Maybe it was all those years of walking to school in the morning, blissfully listening to Catatonia but this time I couldn’t bring myself to go all out on the attack over this.

I decided to send Cerys a tweet, no shouty shouty, just a calm message and see where that took me. I didn’t really expect a reply, I just like to speak my mind at randoms on Twitter, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

To my surprise, she answered me and we swapped a few tweets and Direct Messages…

And it concluded with:

I think we can call that a success.

As usual when two opposing ideas clash, neither of these theories are one hundred percent right or wrong. I had a very strict rules and regulation based upbringing and have always delighted in the idea that there is always an exception to the rule. Hard and fast ideologies are weak to the fact that every situation is different and deserves to be judged accordingly and we as a community need to realise that in general, people just aren’t educated enough about trans people. They don’t have the vocabulary to describe transgender issues like we do, remember that we’re are all human, we make mistakes occasionally.

What makes a person is how they respond to their mistakes and kudos to Cerys Matthews for admitting it, apologising and promising to learn from it. If the shouty shouty crowd had been listened to, there is a chance that the outcome would have been completely different.

Fundraiser for Rise video with Julie Burchill

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I’ve never really talked about it much but two years ago, when my life was first splashed across national television, I was homeless for a while and eventually found a place in a women’s’ refuge. Much like when I first arrived off the boat in the UK, I had landed in Brighton with all my worldly possessions in my car, and it was my new friend Fox who suggested that I call Rise. Little did I know it but this charity had a history of being very inclusive of trans people, they had a dedicated LGBT officer and had policies in place that made sure that gender variant people’s identities were respected. I was assigned a key worker who for the first time ever, asked me how I identify and how I wanted to be addressed. It was a complete breath of fresh air.

My whole life was in complete chaos during those first few months, I couldn’t tell anyone where I lived for fear of putting the other women in danger by exposing exactly where the refuge was, the immense pressure I felt from the TV thing, the breakup of a relationship and being homeless yet again took it’s toll on me. I met some great people and it gave me the space to think and to plan a way to put my life back together so in a roundabout way, I’m glad things worked out how they did, if it wasn’t for Rise, my life wouldn’t be what it is, my confidence wouldn’t be where it is now and I’d probably be living in a tent on the Outer Hebrides or something.

Fast forward two years and the Trans Alliance, one of the organisations I volunteer with, heard that notorious transphobe Julie Burchill would be organising a fundraiser for Rise in Brighton called End Of. The reactions from the local trans and feminist community varied from quite strong ‘burn the witch’ the responses to the more moderate and although last year I had helped organise one of the wave of direct action protests against her sickening rant in the Observer, I felt that the bigger picture needed to be taken into account on this occasion. The Trans Alliance reached out to Rise and we talked about how best to manage the situation and they asked me if I would like to say a few words on the night to highlight how the charity supports women, regardless of whether they were trans or cisgender.

Rise is a charity which can only offer such a wide range of support services because of the fundraising efforts of women like Julie Burchill. Rise doesn’t discriminate who they help so of the tens of thousands raised last night, trans women will be among those who are helped to recover from abusive relationships. Wonderfully Ironic, isn’t it?

When I was deciding what to say for my time on stage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people I was very aware that I was walking a tightrope, on one hand I had to be respectful of the real needs of Rise as a charity, and on the other, I couldn’t miss up an opportunity to call out a transphobe on her bullshit. I was super nervous waiting to go on stage, which wasn’t helped when Burchill and my eyes met over a crowded corridor, she must have known that I helped organise those protests, I mean who doesn’t Google themselves from time to time, right?

In the end, I kept my protest low key, focussed on the positive that had came from my interactions with Rise but still made the point I had come to make. The most surprising thing that came fro the evening though, was bumping into a woman I had met while in refuge, her story was more harrowing than anyone can imagine and it made my week to see her happy, strong and getting on with her life. positivity rocks.

If Julie Burchill happens to read this, let me say this to you; we obviously have some things in common, the Sex Pistols and a desire to combat domestic violence for a start, is it time to drop the transphobic rhetoric? Let’s talk and see if we can find some more common ground.

Homesickness sucks and a book update.

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My head has been in a fuzz for weeks, it feels like I’ve felt overwhelmed by everything lately and I think I’ve figured out why. I’ve been so homesick. As I write this I’m watching 15 minute long YouTube videos in which some guy has strapped his camera on to his scooter and films himself riding it around the roads of Jersey with some crappy background music. And I’m crying my eyes out. Every landmark, every building, every road, in fact every corner is bringing back memories of some dearly loved friends. I miss them all so much.

I moved to the UK almost three years ago now and I came here for only one reason, to answer the question of whether transition was right for me. I knew all too well what the tiny island’s gossip grapevine thought of trans women and well, the grass is always greener… I used to hate making plans but I reckoned that transition would take two years, three tops, but then the thing with the cameras and the meeting of some new friends who completely changed my perspective on everything about life happened, and now I’m sitting here drying the tears from my cheeks facing a completely new reality and a stark choice. Do I go or do I stay (now)?

My sudden realisation came after about an hour of scooter guy, I can’t go home. Beyond the practicalities of where I am going to live and how to earn enough to live, I have things I want to achieve over here in the UK. Fox and I are about to release our book, Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl? (That’s an official announcement, I guess!) Trans* Pride is something I’m immensely proud of helping create, all the other things I love doing would be be impossible to do if I have to get on a plane to make appointments, I find it hard enough to be on time as it is!

Times change and I have to accept that a permanent return to Jersey just isn’t realistic for another few years and who knows what I’ll be doing then so I’m gonna have to focus on what I want in the short to medium term. For now I need to make sure this book goes well, I need to be at my best and in an ideal world I need a holiday back home.

Very soon Fox and I will be asking you to pre-order and invest in us and our idea of a children’s book introducing a character whose gender is left for the reader to decide. We’ve decided to use the Kickstarter.com crowd funding platform and have total control over the marketing and production process so we are about to ask for your help for the initial printing costs. Details are still being finalised but I really believe the time is right for an idea like this, this will hopefully be the first in a series of books which inspires a generation of children and families to talk more about gender and what it means to each individual. I am really excited about what the next few months hold.

Tomorrow is another day.

The Beaumont Society

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Scottish Sun

 

Ok, I’ll talk about my opinion on the recent opinion piece in the Scottish Sun about people with non binary identities. Janett, please understand that I’m not having a go at you personally, none of us are perfect and a mistake has been made and you have apologised and are listening to the constructive criticism. From what I understand you and the Beaumont Society have been campaigning for trans rights and acceptance for more years than I’ve been alive so I respect and thank you for that immensely.

My issue with the Beaumont Society is that in recent years these faux-pas have happened with some regularity, correct me if I’m wrong but there was the Paddy Power thing, the issue with the trans guy who gave birth and now this. Each of these times it would seem apparent to me that while the intent was good the result was that it caused people upset, three times opportunities have been missed and although hindsight is a wonderful thing, it should have been clear that when something is outside of an organisations knowledge base, outside help should be sought. There is no shame in that as we are all in this together and have broadly the same goals.

For what it’s worth I self identify as non binary, I’m female but value the male traits that make me who I am and when I talk about ‘trans’ issues I mean to include all facets of gender variance, from cross dressing to acute gender dysphoria and this is where I believe the Beaumont Society could give more thought. The gender landscape is changing fast with young people growing up in a world where expressing their gender in a non binary way is becoming widely accepted and I think every trans organisation should shape their policies in such a way to be totally inclusive of any and all gender variant expressions.

What is important is how we all move forward, everybody needs to work together as nothing is achieved by infighting and placing blame.

Why ‘transsexual’ should be a word of the past.

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I’ve been talking with a few people recently about the labels and definitions we all feel like we’re pushed in to and there is one thing all of these boxes have in common. Transsexual, transgender, cisgender, gender queer, transvestite and all the other identities which people feel define them fall somewhere on the spectrum between 100 percent male and 100 percent female. An identity can be fluid, fluctuating or fixed but from what I can see these labels just serve to divide people into smaller and smaller boxes.

Gender variant is a phrase not used enough in my opinion, the majority of people in this world have never had to think twice about their gender but the fact of the matter is that most cis identified people are not binary in their gender expressions. Men who society would call ‘in touch with their feminine side’ still fall on the male side of the spectrum but display gender variant behaviour, the hundreds of thousands of transvestites and crossdressers who identify as their birth gender fall under this definition too, the same goes for women who some people would call ‘tomboys’ and a multitude of other behaviours which go against the traditional stereotypes.

When we as a community talk about trans rights and acceptance I can’t help but feel that we are missing a trick here, using words like transgender and transsexual creates an ‘us and them’ mentality, it excludes the millions of people who are by definition gender variant. When I explain to the people I meet about gender being a spectrum instead of the male versus female binary system, it’s like a light bulb has been switched on in their heads, they get it, they finally understand why I say that I never felt like I was a woman trapped inside a man’s body or any of the other misconceptions they have about why a person transitions.

I truly believe that the whole of society is on the cusp of a gender identity revolution that will be on the scale of the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, more and more young people are freeing themselves from the binary handcuffs of the traditional ideas of what it means to be a man and a woman. One of the reasons which held me back from attempting to transition for so long was that I just didn’t feel that I fit into what was expected of me to be transsexual, up until a few years ago I just thought that the word queer was just another gay insult and as I have learned more about the complexities of gender theory, my own identity has evolved.

I’m not knocking the people who identify as totally male or female, it’s their right to be true to themselves and I understand the merit of medical based definitions but I can see in ten years or so words like transsexual and transgender being viewed as old fashioned and exclusionary, while the conversation about gender variant people evolving and whilst it is yet another label, it’s one whose meaning is wider and helps society to understand that the fight for acceptance and equality isn’t one of a tiny minority but something that is relevant and means something to millions of people.

 

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F*ck your gender binary

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The last few days I’ve read some disgusting views, some written by cis people, some by trans women about that ‘transsexual murderer sleeping with women in prison’ story. (I’m not linking to the Daily Fail, find it yourself.) The ‘popular’ opinion is that she can’t be transgender because she likes to have sex with women, like, actually puts her penis in a vagina! Oh my fucking god, what horror, a trans person who uses their genitals to feel pleasure! If these idiots are to be believed, she can’t be a ‘true’ transsexual if she wants to have a sex life that doesn’t involve pretending that her arsehole is a pussy and ignoring her primary sexual organ!

Bullshit. Two points here, first of all, who the fuck is anyone to enforce their own idea of a gender binary on someone else? What right has one trans woman got to say who is a ‘true’ transsexual and who isn’t? It pisses me the fuck off when people moan that society won’t accept trans people for who they are when they themselves won’t accept other trans people without placing arbitrary rules upon them, saying they have to feel this, do that and say whatever before they are allowed to define their identity by some bullshit label? Since when does having a penis or a vagina make a person a man or a woman? I thought society was starting to move away from these antiquated definitions?

Second point, what right does anyone have to interfere with a strangers sex life? Perhaps the lady in prison has chosen to make do with what she has, make the most of a shitty situation regarding her genitals? Perhaps she wants gender conformation surgery in the future but for the moment, she’s working with what she’s got? What if she has a phobia of having a major operation or a medical condition which means she can’t have surgery?

She is an adult, the people she allegedly slept with are adults, I’m 100% sure that cis lesbians and gays have sex whilst in prison, why the fuck does it matter to you who she does or does not sleep with and how she does it? I could tell you things about my sex life that would make your grandmother spin in her grave and sing Waltzing Matilda but I don’t, it’s my private business what I do with my body, and the same applies for any other human on this planet.

Perhaps, just maybe, what you’ve read in the shit face transphobic Daily Fucking Mail is all a lie and you’ve fallen for their thinly veiled hate speech, stirring up the right wing ‘trans people are scum’ witch hunt crowds? It’s her business who she sleeps with and how she does it, stop judging people for having a sex life.

 

*I originally wrote this a few weeks ago on BookFace but am republishing it here because I’m just testing site functionality*

 

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You’re a filthy tranny!

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A young woman who’s gender identity is different to the one that was assigned to her at birth, describes herself to her friends as “a tranny” and is in bed late at night with her husband of five years, they have just finished having sex and are indulging in some pillow talk.

 

“You’re a filthy tranny!” He says softly, “that was amazing! I love you so much”

 

Contrast that with another young woman who’s gender identity is different to the one that she was assigned at birth but describes herself to her friends as “a woman with trans history” is alone and walking home from work late at night, she is very self conscious about her looks and doesn’t think she passes very well. A group of drunk men stumble out of a pub in front of her so she lowers her head and quickens her step, hoping they won’t look at her too closely.

 

“You’re a filthy tranny!” A man shouts.

 

I’ve always loved language, I can speak and understand some of the English, French and Spanish languages and it’s always been fascinating to me how very subtle changes in the way a word is spelt, the grammar used and the setting the word is used in can change it’s meaning entirely.

 

If someone wants a label with which to describe themselves, who am I to tell them that they’re wrong? Who am I to tell them that their choice of identity is not my idea of what is ‘the done thing?’ This kind of identity policing is exactly what the cis world is guilty of and a trans person would quite rightly call it out so why does it happen so often in the trans world?

 

The way that humans use words and language evolves over time, it happens organically and banning certain words never achieves anything, it just makes something taboo and  likely to be used more often than not as a slur.

 

Replace the trans women in my earlier story with cis women (Female at birth) and replace “tranny” with “bitch.” The story is the same and the meanings behind what is said are the same, why should the use of the word tranny be any different from bitch? Some women choose never to use either word and some choose to use both, why the judgement? Both can be used to mean both positive and negative things and everyone has a right to use their words however they wish.

 

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