THE GENDER TRUST BLOG: Debt, Depression and Detox

Happy New Year? Of course -your favourite blog’s back!

Hope you enjoyed the winter festival and are now feeling suitably fat, spotty and generally blue. Well, I wouldn’t want to be the only one…

But let’s start this new decade off positively. It may still be the bad old days for us trans people but history proves that, for minorities, a decade or two can make a major difference:


Rosa Parks – what a gal!

Women had already won the right to vote, and slavery in developed countries was old news, yet society was far from equal. Back in 1955 Rosa Parks decided not to give her bus seat to a white passenger; earning her a conviction for ‘Civil Disobedience’ and kick-starting the African-American Civil rights movement. The USA may have a black President now, but back then landlords and employers would evict and sack African-Americans just for registering to vote. Women did men’s jobs whilst the men were off killing one another and Harry Benjamin coined the term ‘transsexual’.

Legendary orator Dr Martin Luther King progressed equality and as racial discrimination became outlawed, reformers set their sights on dignity and respect through the Black Power Movement. In the UK, the NHS offered cheap contraceptives to the woman on the street, allowing her to decide how, if and when to have children. Everyone started having sex left, right and centre, so the British government gave up and decriminalised homosexuality between men over 21.

Feminists campaigned for equal salaries and legal rights, leading, in 1975, to the Sex Discrimination Act, an Equal Pay Act, and an Equal Opportunities Commission, plus the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. Things weren’t so good for trans people though, as the Corbett v Corbett case ( made fake gender-tourists of us, though David Bowie’s androgynous image and The Kinks’ ‘Lola’ managed to make transvestism look uber-cool.


The 80’s. A queer, queer decade…

Everyone was either race-rioting or dancing to gayer-than-gay Soft Cell, Bronksi Beat and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, this gender-bending decade. The music clearly had an effect, because in 1982 Northern Ireland decriminalised gay sex and Chris Smith became Britain’s first out-and-proud MP. Eastenders broke ground (and outraged The Sun) by broadcasting soap’s first gay kiss in 1987. Madonna came out as bisexual. Queers were everywhere and everything was fabulous… except our cross-dressing-for-power Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She was good for being a woman, but bad for introducing Section 28 – which banned ‘the promotion of homosexuality’ (including full sex education) in schools. Unfortunately, HIV had just turned up.


…though the 90’s were hardly butch.

The Church of England courted controversy by ordaining its first women priests, gay pressure group Outrage was formed by Peter Tatchell and Press For Change began lobbying for trans-rights. Also, a perky little organisation called the Gender Trust popped up. In 1994 Edwina Curry tried (unsuccessfully) to get the age of consent legalised for gay men, and the British Government removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Disease list. Correct: just 16 years ago. Oh, and Channel 4 showed the nation homosexual anilingus ( in Queer as Folk. Makes Eastenders look rather tame…

Things started picking up for us in the noughties. The age of consent was finally legalised, civil partnerships came in, and Nadia Almada became one of the most popular winners of the population’s most popular pop-culture popularity-contest: Big Brother. (Did you read that back? Don’t lie to yourself).

By 2005 British trans people could legally change gender, meaning we can now marry appropriately (not quite in the Jane Austen sense), and amend our birth certificates (except the date of birth, sadly). However, those already married effectively have to choose between legal recognition of their true gender, and divorce. In 2006 the Equality Act established a Commission for Equality and Human Rights, as well as promoting gender equality in the public sector and in 2008 the Sex Discrimination Regulations started protecting trans people from discrimination in the areas of goods and services. They HAVE to serve us now!

Lady Gaga came out as bisexual, with no detriment to her career, Cher’s child Chaz transitioned from female-to-male, and super-gay Adam Lambert won American Idol. Phew.

Early signs are promising – Ireland will soon allow trans people to
change the sex on their birth certificate and rocket scientist (yes, really) Marge Simpson, (OK, not really: Amanda) has just made history by becoming the first transgender woman in the United States government:

That’s right smile, Amanda Simpson.

Simpson stated “I am truly honoured… (I hope) I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others.” And the first trans man? 30-year-old Dylan Orr, a law school graduate who began work for the Obama administration last month. Congratulations folks!

So how many trans people does the UK government contain? Is it a) 5-10, b) 10-20, or c) 20-30? Actually, it’s none. But they do have an Equality Bill baking which includes provisions for transsexual people; though these are neither full protections, nor inclusive for all trans people. How this legislation turns out could be this decade’s trans-rights-and-wrongs defining moment.

Also, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) just told off Belfast newspaper the Sunday Life for its offensive 2009 article, ‘Tranny worked in rape centre’. We didn’t pick up on the story, though we retrospectively award the Sunday Life with our STOP Award. Congrats. Keira McCormack was deeply insulted by the piece which questioned her suitability as a transgender rape counsellor. The paper hadn’t apparently considered the ‘T-word’ to be offensive, but the PCC did, (though it dismissed claims of harassment and inaccuracy).

Is the PCC taking us seriously now? Does the Pope shit in the woods. To read more about the case please check out the recipients of January’s virgin NICE Award, Pink News:

And to top it all off we may not be nutters anymore… 130 mental health experts from around the globe recently got together for a meeting on HIV Prevention and they suggested the American Psychiatric Association and World Health Organisation reclassify transgenderism as a ‘medical health condition’. This would create a diagnostic category giving us to access medical care without the stigma of having a ‘mental disorder’. Sweet.

So cheer up you bunch of tarts.

Paris Lees

(The views expressed within this blog are those of the author, and may not reflect those of the Gender Trust

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