Tuesday, November 20, 2012

International Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today November 20th is the 14th International Transgender Day of Remembrance when the trans community in particular and anyone else disturbed by the statistics, should take a few minutes to remember those trans people who were murdered or took their own lives in the previous year.  Sadly around 40% of trans people will attempt to commit suicide and trans people are 12 times more likely to be murdered that other people.   The most frightening statistic however is the 20% year on year rise in the number of reported deaths each year,  especially in Central and Southern America. This year 265 trans people have been reported murdered.

In the UK we are not immune from this transphobic violence and one of the recorded deaths was a young trans women from Finchley in London. Some time around May 1st 2012, 22 year old Chrissie Azzopardi died in her apartment in suspicious circumstances. The really sad thing about her death was that her body was not discovered until a month later. A man was arrested and later released on bail and nothing has been reported about the incident since. Every year in the UK at least one trans women is reported being murdered but often in cases involving attacks against trans women the fact that a person is trans is with-held to spare the family from harassment so the actual numbers may be more.  

However the worst thing about transphobic attacks is the level of violence inflicted on the victim.  Trans people are not just shot - they are shot or stabbed multiple times, their genitals are cut off and stuffed in their mouths, they are beaten to death or burned alive. Many of the victims are sex workers killed by clients but some are just children who fail to comply with gender stereotypes killed by their parents. You can find the full list the trans people reported murdered last year at Trans respect versus Transphobia

Since 2008 when the project to record all transphobic deaths began there have been over 1000 reported deaths and it is possible that some of the increase each year is simply a result of the better recording of information.  That does not make the problem any better.  "We are witnessing a significant increase [of murders], which points to the extreme level of violence many trans people continue to be exposed to" said a statement from Transgender Europe. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today October 11 is the International Day of the Girl!

Why would we need an International Day of the Girl?

Watch this 30 second video for the answer to that.

The reality of life as a girl, especially in the developing world, it one of exploitation and abuse. Poverty has a far greater impact on girls and women then on boys and men as does sexual exploitation and trafficking. The campaign to raise awareness of the challenges facing girls started in Canada with a Because I am a Girl campaign and has become international when the United Nations decided to declare October 11 International Day of the Girl

Of course this not just about a day - This may be a day to raise awareness of the issues but hopefully after today we will all take a little time to explore the web sites, read the social media and watch the videos that have been created to inform and inspire us to take action.

The best thing you can do is share information. 

Post this blog on your Facebook page, visit the links above and share them,  like their Facebook pages and follow them on twitter - create a viral movement to raise awareness and create a buzz.

Visit Let's Inspire 1,000,000 people to speakOUT for Gender Equality and share and like the page - and like some of the posts and links.

That's all you need to do to speakOUT  for gender equality - simply amplify the message - add your comments read posts, watch videos and inform yourself about the issues.

Today its about Girls - tomorrow it will be another gender equality issue. But above all its time for Gender Equality to become a reality - for everyone to be treated fairly irrespective of gender, whether that is male or female OR some other gender that may be neither or a bit of both.

Finally have a quick look at this short video produce by a group of university students to challenge the way self esteem is undermined for girls as part of the and Dove Self Esteem Fund project

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Let's Inspire 1,000,000 People to speakOUT for Gender Equality

This may seem like an impossible goal - but it is beginning to happen - slowly at first but with your help we can make it go viral.

I posted about my GREAT vision a month ago and since then have set up a facebook Page and redesignited the GenderSpeaker Social Network to support this project.  The Facebook Page is beginning to work and as this is the easiest way to bring about a viral reach, I am concentrating on that.

What I am asking people to do is simple

Take some action to promote gender Equality and/or Gender Diversity: 

I will be constantly looking out for any a interesting articles, blogs post, Facebook posts, videos etc to promote Gender Equality and Gender Diversity and will post them to the Facebook Page. and If you are still wondering why?  Watch this video from the Women and Public Policy Programme of Harvard Kennedy School

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Friday, September 21, 2012

The Food Waste Scandal

I always have a bit of a rant about food waste whenever I see people leaving, especially members of my family leaving food. I hate it when a tin of beans is opened, half used and the rest left int he fridge only to be thrown a few days later. I find some sell by and use by dates crazy.

I can see when potatoes are no longer edible, but I see people throw whole bags of perfectly good ones away because they have started to sprout or are a couple of days past a sell by date. The same applies to all fresh vegetables. I still buy them loose from a greengrocers if I can, that way there are no sell by dates and we can all use our heads.

Now I am not silly about this. I have been known to eat tinned food a year or so past the sell by date - but I usually chuck it if it is fish or egg or meat. But lets face it if biscuits or crisps are old you can tell from a bite if they are too soft or have lost their flavour and they are not going to cause any health problems.

So knowing that I throw away over £20 worth of perfectly edible food every month because it was not eaten, or passed its sell by date and having seen plates of food bined because they had been served up at a meeting for more than 2 hours, I was aware that food waste was a problem. But I had no idea of the true scale until I saw this video.


And if you are wondering what this has to do with Gender Equality,,,

Well food shortage always impacts women and children more than men. It is women who are largely responsible for domestic food management and women who are most impacted by poverty. And because it is women in the developed world who manage food consumption in the home, hopefully those same women will begin to realise that their actions, however small, to cut food waste can together have a huge impact on the the global food crisis. If the USA and Britain cut its food consumption to the level we need, that would create food surpluses that could ease the food shortages elsewhere and perhaps cut back on the levels of deforestation in the developing world.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Culture Secretary Maria Miller comes @Out4Marriage

Well Maria Miller has joined the Our4Marriage campaign producing a short supporting video and defending her record.  Having listened to the video it did sound a little party political to me, but she is clearly doing everything she can to address the barrage of criticism she has received from equalities campaigners.

I hope that this is for real and will watch this space with interest. I still want to see what she is going to do to back the entire LGBT and Trans action plans which seem to have gone a little quiet.

Video: Culture Secretary Maria Miller comes @Out4Marriage and defends record - PinkNews.co.uk: 'via Blog this'

A Passionate Speech About Feminism

This speech by Isobelle Allende is one of the most outstanding speeches about change and the role of women in that change process I have ever heard,

Filmed at TED in 2007 but is a relevant today as it was then...

          and sadly I suspect I will be saying the same thing in 10 years time

Novelist Isabel Allende writes stories of passion. Her novels and memoirs, including The House of the Spirits and Eva Luna, tell the stories of women and men who live with passionate commitment -- to love, to their world, to an ideal.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What is Equality and Why is it So Important?

Over the past decade the term Equality has come more and more into popular use, particularly with the passing first of the Equality Act 2006 and then the Equality Act 2010 which replaced and harmonised most of the discrimination legislation from the past 40 years.  And that’s one of the fundamental changes – previous legislation included the Sex Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination Act.

There has been the shift of emphasis away from the negative act of discrimination to the more positive act of creating equality which has characterised the past decade of legislation.

So what is Equality? 

Equality is about fairness  - it does not mean treating all people equally because actually we don’t all want to be treated the same.  I don’t want equal treatment, I want fair treatment. When I apply for a job I want to know that I was considered on the basis of my skills and ability, and that the decision was not based on arbitrary beliefs or stereotypes.   

In Africa there is a word Ubuntu which translates literally as “I am what I am because of who we all are”. Both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are strong proponents of the philosophy which is difficult to translate because we don't have a directly comparable concept.  The nearest is probably the Golden Rule or Ethic of Reciprocity - Do unto others as you would have then doe unto you.  

But Ubuntu is much more because it focuses on the benefit to the tribe not the individual . An African speaker friend Billy Selekane explained it to me as “What is good for the trive is good for the individual, but what is good for the individual is not necessary good for the tribe."  In wealthy countries we are a long way from this philosophy... and a long way from equality. 

Richard Wilkinson, co-author with Kate Pickett of The Spirit Level spoke in July 2011 at the TED conference which you can see below.  This speech has had over 1.4 million views and looks at a disturbing connection between inequality and the health of a nation.  What Richard has found is that the wider the gap between the incomes of the top 20% and the bottom 20% the worse the problems become - mental health, education standards, crime, teenage pregnancy, trust... in virtually every primary measure of the health of a nation, those with the biggest gap between rich an poor, which includes the UK and the USA, have the worst performance... by a huge margin. 

Listen to any of the recent speeches by Danny Dorling and you will hear many of the same findings - and the fundamental truth that inequality is bad for everyone, including ironically the rich people.  What also emerges is that inequality between states or counties reflect the same underlying problems, as does inequality between "tribes" or minority groups or people with protected characteristics. 

My personal passion is with Gender Equality and I will be addressing this in more detail in separate posts as part of a G.R.E.A.T.Vision to inspire 1,000,000 people to speakOUT about Gender Equality and Gender Diversity.  If you have not read it, I do recommend my post a couple of weeks ago - Lies, Damn Lies and the Gender Pay Gap.  

It is hugely difficult in any organisation to build trust and inspire peak performance when there is inherent inequality in the organisation,.  If we feel we are not being treated fairly, especially at times like now when we are being told "we are all in this together", we are unlikely to trust managers. 

How can anyone expect harmony in the workplace when tall men hold a disproportionate number of senior positions; when women represent less than 15% of senior managers; when jobs undertaken primarily by women are paid lower average rates than jobs primarily undertaken by men; when men expressing femininity and women expressing masculinity in their dress or behaviour are ridiculed and bullied.  

Equality is all about Fairness - and because all equality law is ultimately driven by Human Rights, it is about treating everyone with Dignity and Respect. It's not that hard - but it does take commitment from the very top to make it happen.  

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Tomorrow I will address the question – “What is Diversity and why is that so important to us all? 

My G.R.E.A.T. Vision is:

I came across a web site yesterday that has inspired me.  The site is www.OUTstandinglives.org and it tells the story of Sharon Love’s success in 2010 in getting over 2 million people to sign up to her campaign to get a million people to support equal marriage.  I have been vaguely aware of this campaign and the many lookalike campaigns since but hadn’t appreciated that the original campaign was actively encouraging other people to start their own synergistic campaigns. 

The web pages on OUTstanding lives are a bit confusing, but I got the main message quickly and it helped me to see my own G.R.E.A.T. vision very quickly despite the slightly chaotic mix of web pages,  Survey’s and Facebook pages and groups. 

I have been inspired to set myself a HUGE goal that will probably change my life forever.

I am now going to be very rash.  Usually when I get an Idea I keep it to myself for a while so avoiding public failure. It also is a good way to avoid commitment and I think that right now what I need is to make a HUGE commitment to a BIG goal and make my GREAT vision public.

My G.R.E.A.T. Vision is:

To Inspire 1,000,000 People to speakOUT for Gender Equality and Gender Diversity.

Now to be honest I am not sure yet how I am going to do this, I just know that I am going to do it and having made that decision, ideas are coming thick and fast and I am going to publish them here – and other sites - and trust that the people I need to help me make this vision a reality will come.

What OUTstanding lives is doing as well as inspiring people like me to create G.R.E.A.T. visions,  is to promote the idea that we can all “make a living making a difference” and this is really important. 

The past two years have been two of the worst years of my life.  I set up a Social Enterprise, GenderShift, with government funding and set out to make it a profitable business delivering training and consultancy services to the Public Sector. Then there was a change of government and the public sector across the UK stopped spending money on training, the Community and Voluntary sector collapsed and the Private Sector carried on ignoring equality and diversity or whinging about the cost.

So I have spent a few months
  1. Questioning my life purpose and rethinking my goals
  2. Rebranding and updating my web and social media presence.
  3. Reconnecting with my network connections
There is still a way to go – but my encounter with OUTstanding Lives has meant that I now feel really connected with a new life purpose that harmonizes my passions and skills.  That’s the great thing about action – all we have to do is start moving in the right direction and the universe starts throwing opportunities our way.

I was inspired to write this blog when listening to some music from a 70’s band called Osibisa. They were a fabulous Africa Rock band but what struck me was that this was not music to listen to, it is music to engage with.  It felt as if I should grab my guitar or bongos or harmonica or even a cow bell and join in.

A group of musicians all doing their own thing would just create noise.  But as soon as those musicians start to listen to each other and work in harmony, they create something magical that has a life of its own and empowers the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts.

1,000,000 people all speaking their own messages compete with each other’s messages and create noise.  But a community of people, passionate about Gender Equality and Gender Diversity speaking in harmony can create a movement that will change the world and make if a fairer and safer place for us all.  

Have I piqued your interest; aroused your curiosity?  I hope so – enough for you to visit www.OUTstandinglives.org?  Great - but before you go:

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Tomorrow I will address the question – “What is Equality and why is it so important to us all? 

Sunday, September 09, 2012

A Very Bad Week for Equalities

It has often been said that a week is a long time in Politics – but last week was simply a very bad week for equalities.

Not only has David Cameron removed three women from the cabinet and added just one women, she is Maria Miller, now the new culture secretary and also responsible for Women and Equalities, an appointment that has immediately attracted significant criticism from equality campaigners . Gone is equalities champion LibDem Lynne Featherstone, off to a new role in the Department of International Development, but as far as I can see her role as Equalities Minister is not being replaced, signalling that the equalities agenda is being further marginalised by this government .

Instead the Women and Equalities role which had been part of the overall responsibilities of Home Secretary Theresa May is now part of the overall responsibility of the New Culture Secretary arguably because she is a working mum and will champion the cause for women.

Unfortunately other protected characteristics may not be as lucky.  Maris Miller has a long and questionable record when it comes to voting on LGBT issues. She has voted against gay adoption and fertility treatment for lesbian couples and has managed to be absent from every other vote regarding LGBT issues since she became an MP in 2005.

For trans people this is a sad time.  Lynne Featherstone has long been a champion of Trans rights helping to get the gender recognition proposals in to law and more recently publishing the transgender action plan.  I have to wonder what will now happen to that.  Will the Transgender Action plan simply get left on a shelf never to be revisited?

After the criticism for reducing the presence of women in cabinet by 20% last week, David Cameron has apparently now ordered Maria Miller to draw up plans to appeal to women voters – and with quite a lot of feminist pressure in the news I suspect that the trans issues will move to the back burner.  

At the same time with a huge campaign underway by the Catholic Church in Scotland opposing same sex marriage and a new minister responsible for equalities who has a record of opposing gay rights and seems opposed to same sex marriage, I suspect that much of the work that Lynne Featherstone had done to progress equal marriage will also be undone.

So what action can we take - On the Change.org site a petition has already started asking the Prime Minister to remove Maria Miller as Minister for Equality – I have signed it – Please consider doing the same - She is simply the wrong person for the equalities job.

Sign the petition to remove Maria Miller here

Friday, August 24, 2012

Glad to be Out4Marriage

This morning I saw three short video's that made my day and I just had to share them with you.

First if you are reading this post because you have seen it on a social network site or received it via email because you subscribe to my blog then you will need to follow the link to the blog to see the short videos.  I highly recommend that you do because they are all well worth watching and hopefully will make your day just as they have mine - don't forget to follow by email while you are here - its just to the right 

You may be aware of the C4EM - Coalition for Equal Marriage Campaign set up to counter a petition against same sex marriage. This campaign features a short viral video from film director and producer Mike Buonaiuto to support the campaign for same sex marriage. If you have not see that video yet, here it is.


That video has at the time of writing been viewed over 800,000 times in 4 months - and and has been followed up with a further campaign encouraging people to publish a short video in support of Equal Marriage.  I have been amazed at the growing list of celebrities and politicians who have taken the time to make a short video supporting this campaign which you can see at the Out4Marriage web site

But this is the video that really made my day - I think that is an act of considerable courage in the face of significant opposition from the entire Anglican church (Who have already distanced themselves from his views).  I am grateful to him for his action in publicly declaring his support for same sex marriage.

The Bishop of Buckingham is Out4Marriage

I think one aspect of this campaign that is not highlighted is the plight of hundreds of trans people who have been married, go through the trauma of one partner changing gender and still the relationship survives until at the last hurdle when the partner changing gender applies for Gender Recognition in their acquired gender they are told No. You first have to get divorced - Then you can change gender and then you can have a civil partnership. For many partners this is a bridge too far.

I know how difficult it is for partners of trans people; I know the kind of discrimination and harassment they face from friends and family; I know they are the ones who see people giggling and pointing and commenting; I know all too often the unsung heroes in a trans persons life - and many simply don't want to be publicly identified as gay or lesbian.

Marriage should not be about sexuality is it about love and commitment to the person you love whoever they are and that is the message from the Bishop Of Buckingham - I truly hope that others from the church who have remained silent will now follow his lead and come Out4Marriage.

Then while looking at the videos on this topic I noticed this title:

Don't wanna be Gay? Let me Cure You 

I expectd the worst and decided to just watch a few minutes.  Trust me - You have gotta watch this - I won't spoil the experience but this is awesome - and the reactions in the video from the USA give me great hope for the future.  Enjoy! and please do comment on the blog

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies and the Gender Pay Gap

Popularised by author Mark Twain who attributed t to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the quote Lies, Damned Lies and statistics has never been more appropriate than when applied to the issue of the Gender Pay Gap as I will demonstrate in this article. But first this EU video is really excellent at highlighting the issue of gender inequality and the gender pay gap.

The definition of the gender pay gap statistic is the percentage by which the average hourly pay for women in full time employment is lower than the average hourly rate of pay for men in full time employment and for Europe generally that figure is 17%.  UK statistics show a lower figure 14.9% - those are across the board.

However term average means that about half the population are doing better than that and half are worse. Once we start to unravel the4 statistics we find a number of very disturbing facts. Some employment sectors like health and financial services are a lot worse.  In Financial services the gender pay gap is a staggering 55% - but even that figure has been massaged to make the problem seem better than it really is.

This statistic tells us that on average women working full time earn £450 for every £1000 earned by a man.  So in order to equalise pay we need to increase women's pay.  If we increased average pay for women by 100% ie another £450 in my example that would be £900 - still not equal to men.

In fact the hidden statistic is that in the financial services industry men in full time employment earn on average 122% more than women in full time employment. And this all gets a lot worse when you look at part time earnings where the gender pay gap is higher and is made worse by the fact that 78% of part time workers are woman.

So why after more than 40 years do we still have such an insurmountable problem with gender equality. I came across a very male oriented site today that might give a clue - unfortunately I have seen many of the same views expressed.
the 22-cent “pay gap” is neither a result of gender bias nor workplace discrimination. It can be explained entirely by the fact that women as a group tend to make certain very logical and legitimateemployment-related choices which, while affording them a number of benefits that they value highly, tend to suppress incomes Male Matters USA
Women earn less because they choose work more suited to women which pays less. In fact women are socialised into expecting to work in female suitable work and to make caring and reproduction important. Check out this video and see how embedded gender roles become in our children

The choices we make are not made entirely free from bias. More importantly the recruiters are already biased in the same way and that unconscious bias means that women are encouraged away from higher paid jobs. If a man works long hours he is applauded, where a woman will be criticised. If a woman negotiates hard and is money orientated she will be viewed as unfriendly and selfish - where a man is considered dynamic and successful. 

It is very difficult for a man to see and understand that unconscious bias and hidden prejudice- I could not see it as a man - but when you are subjected to it that is a different story, especially when you lose the natural privileges granted to men. 

Imagine a world where most women did, as most men apparently do, seek work primarily for the purpose of accumulating wealth or refused to work in low paid industries like health care and education, or chose not to have children or handed them over to low paid child carers. The problem is that women are good at caring, and enjoy caring and without that function our society would be much poorer.  Unfortunately we don't value the work we expect women to do and until we change our values we will continue to have gender inequality.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Transsexual v Transvestite - is there really a difference

Transsexual, Transgender and Transvestite candidates for
Philippines Beauty Pageant - can you tell which is which?

I  asked this question on RosesForum - the leading UK online forum for trans people, on 21st  December 2005 in conjunction with my masters degree in gender research. The discussion was closed a month later on 21st January, partly because of some of the passionate responses to the discussion which by this time had become one of the most active discussions of all time.

In 30 days over 500 posts had been made, many of which were 2000 word essays.  In all over 250,000 words were written on the subject with no clear consensus.

What I surmised from the discussion was that most people who identified as transvestite saw themselves as occasional cross dressers and had no intention of permanently living in a new gender or undergoing any surgical or hormonal changes to their bodies. On the other hand most people who identified as transsexual were undergoing, were planning to undergo, had undergone some degree of permanent gender reassignment.

However what totally surprised me was that a high proportion of those identifying as transvestites said that the reason they were not planning to undergo gender reassignment was due to some form of social pressure. In 2007 Stephen Whittle undertook research on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and revealed that 42% of transvestites were "too afraid to transition."

Shortly after the Equality Act 2010 was passed the Government Equalities Office (now part of the Home Office) repeatedly stated that transvestites are not protected under the Act - and strictly speaking that is true.  However this does not really help people who identify as transvestites and is really difficult for everyone else.

How would anyone know if someone was transsexual or transvestite.  Take a look at the picture of the Philippines Beauty Pageant candidates above - Which ones would have protection under the law?  All you will see is a person who presented themselves in the gender different to their birth gender. No point in asking them because if they are transsexual and have a gender recognition certificate - they are legally entitled to keep their previous gender completely secret.

Labeling the protected characteristic "Gender Reassignment" within the Equality Act was clearly a mistake. Gender reassignment is not a characteristic, it is a process. The characteristic is a persons "Gender Identity" but the government backed down on this because of pressure and the belief that this would provide protection to people who cross dressed for fetishistic reasons.

In reality it really does not matter because the definition of Gender Reassignment was also changed.  The original definition was any person who is undergoing, has undergone or is planning to undergo a "medically supervised  process of gender reassignment.  The medically supervision is not longer required so anyone who can evidence that they planned to undergo gender reassignment - whether they do so or not - is automatically protected.

All anyone needs to do is to speak to a GP or therapist about the possibility of changing gender and they would be protected as would anyone who cross dresses in public and discloses a desire to change. And this is as it should be, because we know from research that most people born gender variant would transition were it not for the social and family pressures on them.

I have a growing dislike of all labels - especially as most trans labels are medical labels and say too much about a personal medical history.  What I do with my body is a personal matter and not a topic for public discussion. Legally in the UK I have to have to identify as either male or female and with that comes a set of unwritten social rules about how gender should be performed.

I personally wish there was a third gender option and perhaps then many more people would be free to express themselves in any way they wish without breaking the gender rules and running the risk of discrimination and harassment.  Perhaps then more people would feel that they do not have to undergo surgical or hormonal body changes in order to fit in to other people expectations of them.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dignity and Respect Campaign

The driver behind all Equality and Diversity legislation is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought about in 1947 as a result of the condemnation of the atrocities by Nazi's against various minority groups.

The underlying principle of Human Rights legislation is to:

Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect

How do you feel about that as a principle for life?

I ask this question often in workshops and seminars and generally the initial response for most people is positive.  We all want to be treated with dignity and respect so we all initially will feel that this is the right.  This is after all in harmony with the Golden Rule or Ethic of Reciprocity that appears in every major religion as far back was records exist although I like the version promoted by the Dignity andRespect Campaign  - “Treat others the way they want to be treated”.

The challenge comes when I ask people if they understand that this does mean everyone – that includes murders, paedophiles, sex offenders, rapists, terrorists...  When we say everyone, that’s what it means.  The moment you say everyone except... then who decides on the exceptions.

Who is going to have the power to decide whether you are entitled to dignity and respect and do you have the right to challenge them... can you see where this goes.

Treating everyone with dignity and respect does not mean condoning unacceptable behaviour or failing to punish people for transgressing our laws – but it does mean that we treat such people with dignity and respect in the way we punish them.

I was once the victim of a month long hate campaign by a group of children and young people aged from about 10 to 15. Every night my house was targeted with stones, mud and abuse. By the end of the month I had abandoned the human rights principles and I was ready to attack these kids with anything I could lay my hands on.

When I confronted them they backed off and began asking questions.  I put down the iron bar I was holding and started answering their questions. By the time we finished I had more than 20 young people engaged in an impromptu seminar on the grass outside my house.  The left better informed about transgender issues and there was never another incident.

If I had resorted to violence all I would have done was to have gotten myself into trouble and aggravated an already difficult situation.

Most discrimination and harassment arises out of ignorance – We are afraid of difference and react to information we have gained about those “other” people. That information is largely based on stereotypes promoted by the media and misinformation suggesting that certain people do not deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Researching this article I came across Dignity and Respect Campaign.  It’s a campaign I knew nothing about – largely because it has started in the USA in Pittsburgh, but I really like whey they are doing and have decided to see what we can do to promote the campaign her in the UK.

Watch this slide show featuring 30 Tips to highlight how you can incorporate acts of dignity and respect in everything you do created by the Center for Inclusion at UPMC.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am

I was introduced to a powerful little book by John Powell in 1974 when participating in the first of many personal development training programmes in the early 1970's. 
In the book Powell says, "I am afraid to tell you who I am, because if I tell you who I am and you don't like who I am – Thats all I have."  So we create masks – we present to people an image of ourselves that we think they want to see. That way we can avoid the risk of rejection.  Because if I present a mask, and you reject that mask, I can always create a new mask.
I spent my life until I was 50 living a lie.  I know I should have been born female, but I was not. So to express myself the way I felt, would have led to ridcule and rejection.  Instead I tried to be the man everyone seemed to believe I should be,  I missed out on so much. When I finally did change gender and showed people who I really was I did experience a huge amount of rejection and ridicule. But the joy I experienced from the real acceptance I encountered, the real friends who accepted me just as I was, was worth all the rejection. 
There was another benefit.  All my life I lived in fear of being outed, of people discovering my terrible secret self.  Once I showed the world who I was, all other fears were easy to face. It was like going through my own room 101 and coming out of that experience was the most liberating I have ever encourntered. 
I spend a lot of my time coaching people to speak in public and most people believe that speaking to a group of people is the number one fear.  In fact very few people are really afraid of speaking in public, What they are afraid of is making a fool of themselves... ridicule, embarassment – and standing up in front of a group of people and speaking without any training is a pretty good way to guarantee embarassment and ridicule. The problem is that many of us had teachers at school who did not understand this and ritually embarassed us. So we grow up belieiving that we cannot speak to a group of people, when actually we are just trying desparately to avoid the early humuliating experiences of speaking in public.
 There are consequences to being yourself – not everyone will thank you and you have to be prepared for the worst – but I found that when things were even worse than my worst fears, when it happened, it was never nearly as bad an experience as I had expected. Our greatest fear is actually fear itself.. As a speaker I have had every possible thing that can go wrong go wrong. I don't often make the same mistake twice, instead I try to use the experience to prevent it from happening again  - which in turn helps me to be more confident and successful. 

Visit me at the GenderNetwork.com

Unconscious and Hidden Bias and Prejudice

“How do you cope with it?” said my colleague leaning forward so as keep his voice down.

“Cope with what? I said.

“All the people staring at you, talking about you, sniggering... ?”

“Where?” I said, turning in my seat to survey the people sitting around in the hotel lounge, apparently getting on with their own meetings.

“Oh, they’ve stopped now you’ve looked,” replied my colleague.
“Who was making comments?” I asked, raising my voice a little.
“Leave it” he said quickly raising his hand a little, obviously mortified by the thought that I might make a scene and further embarrass him.
I relaxed.  “I cope with it because I don’t see it,” I said.  

“People do it behind my back – they hide their prejudice.” 

That was a real incident 10 years ago when I first changed my gender and started on my journey to change attitudes towards people who break the unwritten rules of gender. Since then the law has changed beyond recognition and most organisations now have in place equality policies to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and protected from discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

People have learnt over the past decade not to be seen to discriminate and rightly they will be disciplined if they behave inappropriately.  But changing the law does not change attitudes and beliefs.  That is much more difficult and the challenge organisations face today is the unconscious and hidden bias and prejudice that is impacting the way people are treated every day.

People still talk about me behind my back, refer to me a “he” instead of “she”, point and snigger when I pass and I still seldom see or hear any of it.  But my friends, family and acquaintances do. Where people hide their deep prejudice from me, they openly show it to people to know me, even confronting them for being with me. 

What they don’t understand is that my friends, family and acquaintances are just as hurt and upset by their behaviour and comments as I would be if they didn’t hide it from me.  And this is happening every day in most organisations.

So how can the issue be addressed? 

Well my experience over the past decade has demonstrated to me to me that the most people hold prejudices through ignorance. Many have never met and spoken to anyone who is trans or gay, and they have been hugely influenced by homophobic and transphobic comments from friends, family and the media.  They see and hear trans and gay people and being humiliated and ridiculed, often behind their backs.  They see the friends of trans and gay people receiving the same treatment and fear that if they befriend or stand up for someone who is gay or trans they will get the same treatment and feel bullied into silence.

Feedback from my workshops indicates that participants are much more likely to challenge homophobic and transphobic comments, contribute to creating a more harmonious and supportive workplace and treat all service users more fairly and equally after attending an awareness workshop.

If organisations do not run regular awareness workshops on this topic the chances are that anyone who is or is perceived to be in anyway gender variant or is associated with someone who is gender variant in the organisation will be subject to unconscious or hidden bias or prejudice.  

I trans friend of mine Michelle was shopping in a large retail clothes shop some time ago and was standing in one queue for the tills while her female friend was being served in another queue. The check out clerk spotted Michelle and made some really offensive remarks about her. 

When she was told about the comments Michelle was upset and mentioned it to me so I suggested that she contact the store management and complain.  She did and all credit to the store, the staff member was sacked the following day. But when I told this story to a number of other trans people they all agreed that they would not have complained and some said that they would probably have used the store  again perceiving it to be transphobic. 

If you would like more information on Sex, Gender and Equality awareness training please check out my GenderNetwork web site  

As one of the UK’s leading motivational speakers and trainers, I have been delivering equality and diversity workshops and keynote presentations for nearly a decade and work with over 250 organisations, particularly local authorities, housing associations, educational, NHS and criminal justice organisations.

My workshops and presentations are always highly interactive and entertaining, exploring the impact of the Equality Act in regard to sex, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation and human rights, while demonstrating how the principles discussed apply equally across all protected characteristics.  I use a variety of presentation methods - video clips, music, lecture, discussion, groups exercises, questions and answer, case studies and where I use PowerPoint - it is a visual aid.  No death by slides presentations.

Most importantly my presentations are based on real life experience.  I take participants on a journey to help them to really understand what it’s like to grow up and cope with being trans or gay, and provide an open environment where they can ask any questions no matter how personal.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Government Launches Transgender Action Plan

In December 2011 equalities Minister. Lynne Featherstone launched the coalition government’s Transgender Action Plan, the first ever government action plan to advance transgender equality.  This is the latest in a series of government plans to address basic inequalities for the LGBT community following on from the Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender equality: moving Forward report and action plan issued in March 2011.  I am posting this as a reminder and because I am transferring content from a site I am closing down. 

The Transgender Action Plan sets out the areas that the government feels that following extensive research , are those issues of transgender equality that need to be addressed as a priority and falls in to four sections
Section 1 – Early years,education and social mobility
Section 2 – A Fair and Flexible labour market
Section 3 – Opening up public services and empowering individuals and communities
Section 4 – Changing culture and attitudes

What I feel is good about this action plan is that it places emphasis on tackling prejudice and discrimination in schools and in the workplace in private sector. Tackling prejudice in schools in particular is an area that has not been effectively addressed by previous equalities legislation prior to the Equality Act 2010 and this action plan puts some additional emphasis on the duties of schools.

Tackling transphobia, homophobia and all gender based bullying, prejudice and discrimination early at school is, I believe the most important step needed. Children are far more receptive to equalities ideas and will often encourage parents and older people to change attitudes rather than the other way round. Often by the time someone completes school their prejudicial attitudes are fairly well embedded and they are likely to pass those negative attitudes on to their children.

Empower LGBT Toolkit

In February in conjunction with LGBT History Month I had the pleasure of facilitating a training workshop in York for equality staff in Further Education for Pinnacle Training Solutions which went really well.
Colleges are presently at the forefront of tackling LGBT discrimination which it really important because so many LGBT people fall far short of their academic potential at school due to the relentless bullying and harassment they have to endure. 
All too many schools seem to have ignored the widespread introduction of “gay” slang to describe anything considered to be “gross”, “minging” or “bad”. Similar discriminatory words referring to race religion or disability have not been tolerated, whilst LGBT based slang has been allowed to become acceptable. Recent research has shown that negative associations with the word gay, does increase anti gay bias, 
The government is now beginning to tackle homophobia and transphobia with the publication of their Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality. action Plan and more recently the Trans Action Plan.
These two publications set out a clear strategy by this government to work with all sectors, especially education in tackling discrimination and bullying.
By far the best way to address the issue in education is to engage students in open discussion about LGBT issues and apply a zero tolerance policy to prejudicial language and behaviour. 
To help with this process Pinnacle training Solutions have produced an excellent online training too called the Empower LGBT ToolkitAll participants in my workshop were asked to complete this programme before attending which helped to encourage better discussion and debate.
Whilst this could work as a good standalone training tool, I feel it is better employed as a preparation tool prior to an interactive session where students and staff can then raise questions that have arisen from undertaking the online training.
The toolkit is available free to anyone – and is especially recommended for all FE colleges or Schools.
I know we are well past LGBT History Month but I still recommend that you forward this link to all staff and encourage them to use it in the new semester to work with students.

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