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

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.

Share this Post