11 October 2009

London trans activists call for boycott of sham demo on October 17th

I am passing on the following letter.  Please feel free to copy and repost it.
London trans activists call for boycott of sham demo on October 17th

We are a group of trans activists who wish to make known our concerns about a demo, claiming to support the depathologisation of trans people, in London on 17th of October. The facebook group for the demo can be found here:


The description of the event reads:

"Being transgendered is not a mental illness. We are simply part of the diversity of humanity. Gender Identity Disorder is therefore not a valid diagnosis. Homosexuality we removed as a mental health diagnosis diagnosis in 1987. For us to achieve true liberation and recognition we need to throw off this unjust stigma. We are not ill, just different"

A large number of people were invited by the demo organiser, a non-trans man by the name of Dennis Hambridge, and some of us were initially concerned by the rationale for the demo. In particular, we were worried that campaigning for the removal of Gender Identity Disorder as a medical diagnosis without proposing an alternative mechanism by which transsexual people would be able to access medical transition resources was premature and dangerous, especially in a climate where NHS primary care trusts need only a minimal excuse to deny funding for our hormonal and surgical procedures. We do not support the labelling of our gender identities as disordered, and realise that our relationship with the medical community is far from ideal, but do not wish to support a movement which may give the impression that we seek complete divorce from the medical community.

These concerns were put to the Facebook group by a number of trans activists. Rather than address them, Mr Hambridge entrenched his position, making claims that gender dysphoria was an artefact of society and the medical community, and that removal of any form of classification of gender dysphoria by the WHO was "non-negotiable".

In moves more reminiscent of the actions of transphobic radical feminists than supposed allies of trans people, Mr Hambridge started deleting some of the comments from those trans people who were concerned about our future access to hormones and surgery. Subsequently he banned a number of those trans people from the group, silencing them in that space.

To reiterate - Mr Hambridge, who is organising a demo which is allegedly supporting the rights of transsexual people is using his position as a group organiser to silence and shut out the voices of the very people he claims to support.

In light of Mr Hambridge's intransigence and refusal to listen to the voices of actual transsexual people, we are calling on all activists who support the concept of transsexual people having a say in our own medical care to boycott this demo. We further call on Mr Hambridge, who is not trans himself, to stop claiming to speak on our behalf when he is ignoring our protestations and silencing our voices, and to call off his demo.

Please spread this open letter widely.

I'd like to add some personal commentary on this.  As some of you know, I will be moving to the UK after I graduate university.  Thus, this issue matters quite a lot to me.  I'm already concerned about the fact that treatment in the UK is more gatekeeper-oriented than in the US because of the fact that the National Health Service (NHS) is an organised, unified health system unlike the situation in the US which is at best a mash of health systems.  Thus, I am able to get my hormone treatment through my GP here while I would most likely need to see a gender specialist in the UK (which means I might even have to be rediagnosed, with a possible interruption of treatment).  As the letter says, without a diagnosis in place, I would not be able to continue treatment at all.  I would have to see about obtaining hormones illicitly, which I would like to avoid because of concerns about quality and lack of health monitoring, not to mention the legal issues.  That's my stake in the matter.  I wish I could do more than simply repost this letter, but that's all I can do for now.  Please do as the letter asks and spread this widely, especially if you are in the UK.

Update:  I have been informed that because of the cancellation of the protest, the counter-protest has been called off as well.  Apparently, members of Dennis Hambridge's  STP facebook group received the following message:
After due reconsideration and-> most valued advice from Transpersons, Intersexual persons or those who work in conjuntion with them, in majority<-it as been agreed and/or decided to cancel the above rally for this years STP 2012 campaign.
If you reposted this letter, please pass along this information.

02 October 2009

I'm Coming Out More

In my previous post, "I'm (Mostly Not) Coming Out", I talked about my exception to not coming out as a trans woman at university this semester.  Since then I've talked to my professor and added another exception.  So, here's a follow-up on my meeting with my professor and what the new exception is.

As a quick refresher, I'm taking a Women's Studies course entitled "Gender & Technology" which covers transsexuality as a "technology of the body".  I was concerned given feminism's problems with transphobia, problems with other students when this was covered in the Intro course I took, and the presence of Bernice Hausman, former head of Women's Studies and still an affiliate professor of the programme.  So I decided to talk to my professor about this and to consider coming out to the class when we cover transsexuality based on how that talk went.

I was nervous about meeting with my professor, but also somewhat hopeful given a statement on the syllabus about confidentiality and having an open and trusting classroom environment.  My meeting opened with my professor saying that she was primarily concerned about my comfort in the course and that she would under no circumstances out me.  Things only got better from there.  At the end of a lengthy, pleasant conversation, I left with the slides she'd prepared for the transsexuality lecture so that I could make corrections, additions, and subtractions as needed and with the agreement that we will meet again in a couple weeks to further discuss the slides and how we're going to teach the material.  Yes, I'm co-teaching the session on transsexuality.  I believe this is called a win.  Except now I need to find non-pathologising material to introduce undergraduates to transsexual technologies, preferably written by trans people.  I would be extremely grateful for leads and suggestions from any of you.

Buoyed by my success with my professor, I decided that I would participate in the monologues performance that we're having at the university as part of National Coming Out Day.  I realised that "I'm (Mostly Not) Coming Out" was a good basis for a monologue.  I've replaced the section on making an exception for my "Gender & Technology" course with a section talking about how being known as trans can be a bad thing.  I'm still working on it, but hope to finish it before it's time to perform it.  And, while it was an option to have a volunteer perform it for me, I decided I'd prefer to personally perform it.  Which makes it an ironic performance and thus appealing to my sense of humour.  Talking about not coming out on National Coming Out Day?  And, outing myself as trans by doing so?  How could I resist?

So, I'll be coming out more than I thought.  How much depends on attendance at the performance and how much attendees talk afterwards to others, I suppose.  I might be fooling myself in believing that I can be strategically out.  I'm not sure.  I do know that I think that educating cis people about trans people is important enough to do this anyway.  I'm relatively privileged and in a much safer place that many other trans people, and if I can't leverage that privilege and safety to help those who are more vulnerable, then why have them?  Yes, there's the risk of being de/misgendered by some people.  But I think it's a minor one, especially compared to the need.  Only time will tell if I'm making the right decisions and if I actually accomplish anything.