Gender Recognition, Feminism, Intolerance, and Food Poverty. Linkspam!

A few things I think everyone should be reading today:

Why society still needs feminism

Just in case you were wondering:

Because to men, a key is a device to open something. For women, it’s a weapon we hold between our fingers when we’re walking alone at night.

..Because a girl was roofied last semester at a local campus bar, and I heard someone say they think she should have been more careful. Being drugged is her fault, not the fault of the person who put drugs in her drink?

..Because out of 7 billion people on the planet, more than 1 billion women will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes. Women and girls have their clitorises cut out, acid thrown on them and broken bottles shoved up them as an act of war. Every second of every day. Every corner of the Earth.

And also, yeah, nobody burns their bras. Not on purpose, anyhow.

Poor little rich girl… Without the rich bit.

If you’re not reading Jack Monroe, you should be. I came for the cheap&tasty recipes, and stayed for the social commentary. And the recipes.

There’s a queer sort of juxtaposition that comes with Being Ms Jack Monroe at the moment.

I spent this afternoon emailing Councillors and other people regarding the recent decision to suspend my Housing Benefit claim based on the (incorrect) assumption that I am sitting on a £25k cheque from my publisher (I’m not) and am sitting on a pile of cheques from newspaper interview and TV appearances (I’m not).

But I was doing that, on the 1414 train from Southend Central to Fenchurch Street, as I’d just been invited to a fundraising dinner by a friend with a spare ticket, via the Soho Food Feast in Soho Square.

But it’s a queer kind of juxtaposition, when you have a beautiful dress to wear to dinner tonight, but on quick inspection of the shoe collection, decide that the soft chiffon dipped hem just won’t go with the shoes you were issued in the Fire Service, your brogues, or your one pair of trainers, so you hang it back in the wardrobe and decide you can’t justify buying a pair of shoes. Not even in the sale at Primark.

Transgender people seek State recognition to escape gender ‘limbo’

Orla Tinsley (who is excellent, by the way, and you should go follow her on Twitter immediately) has managed to do the impossible: write an article about trans* issues in a major national publication that isn’t going to get you a line, never mind a full house, on a trans* discussion bingo card.

Nineteen-year-old student Tyron (he wants to be identified only by his first name) says it is easier to be young and transgender today but the lack of legislation does enable discrimination. “It’s easier than it was and it’s becoming a more known term,” says theNUI Maynooth student, who is currently looking for a job to pay his way through college.

“In interviews I only bring up my gender identity if they want to contact a previous employer,” he says. “Of the last three job interviews, only one was willing to hire a transgender person. The other two said it was not suitable for their working environment.”

It is also extremely important that you click that link in order to admire the extremely stylish tie which Ben borrowed off me for the photo. Yeah, I know, it’s a serious topic. But that’s my tie in the Irish Times!

Is intolerance prevalent in Ireland?

Aileen Donegan- another person with an excellent blog and twitter to follow- in TheJournal. Bet you guess the answer before you click. This, by the way, is a brilliant example of why we need to Shut Up And Listen when we’re privileged. Because otherwise we just don’t see whats going on.

As recently as April I asked a friend ‘Is racism big in Ireland?’ We were attending the same training course on hate speech. I guess my innocent question caught him off guard: ’Yes Aileen, racism is a hugeproblem in Ireland,’ he said with a tone of awe and surprise that offended me. Though Ireland, my home, has never seemed intolerant to me, the last week in news has given me some much-needed insight into Irish attitudes.

…The ECRI quote a disturbing statistic from the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study, which states that 7.6 per cent of Traveller families have no access to running water. Resistance from local residents, and the “lack of political will” of local authorities are cited as reasons why Traveller accommodation is difficult to attain in Irish society. This is hardly surprising. Remember when local residents set fire to a house that Travellers were set to live in?

(By the way? Don’t Read The Comments.)

Disabled man refused entry to nightclub after Scottish Charity Awards

Didja hear the one about the guy who had the police called on him for the crime of trying to get into a nightclub while disabled?

Actor Robert Softley Gale, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, attempted to enter the Polo Lounge in Glasgow with his husband Nathan Gale after attending the Scottish Charity Awards with the Equality Network.

They claim that the bouncers informed them that they could not enter because the nightclub didn’t have disabled facilities.

Despite the couple explaining that they wanted to enter the popular gay nightclub anyway, they say staff continued to refuse to allow them to enter.

“The manager came and said that they didn’t have disabled facilities so they weren’t letting us in,” Nathan told TFN. “We said, you can’t not let us in just because we’re disabled, that’s a violation of the Equality Act, but he still wouldn’t let us in.”

Charming. Oh, and Robert Softley Gale is yet another person to follow on Twitter. You guys, it’s all about the Twitter today. And speaking of disability and ableism, have something from Captain Awkward:

#487: I use a wheelchair, and people are condescending as fuck.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m woman in my late 30s who uses a power wheelchair due to a medical condition that causes severe physical fatigue.

Often, strangers – retail staff, waitstaff, members of the general public – assume that because I use a power wheelchair, I have an intellectual disability. I don’t. I have a university degree and I read widely.

How should I respond to people:

– talking loudly to me;
– talking to me in a sing-song voice;
– being condescending/patronizing;
– calling me love/sweetie;
– telling me that I remind them of their 12 year old daughter with Down syndrome;
– praising me for putting rubbish in a rubbish bin as though I’ve won a gold medal at the Olympics;
– telling me that you eat cupcakes?

Signed,

Smart Crip Girl

You know that you want to hear what the Captain has to say.

A Racist B&B?

Speaking of intolerance, Tara Flynn’s husband got an unpleasant reminder that Ireland isn’t above blatant racism lately. Here’s what happened then:

On a recent trip home, I got a reminder that Ireland Of The Welcomes can be conditional.  By now very familiar with Kinsale, my husband offered to take the dog out for his last walk of the night. I sat chatting with my mum. 20 minutes later, my husband returned. He looked angry. “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been called those names in a while.” A group of young people standing outside a bar in the centre of town had shouted racist epithets at him. Some of those epithets have made it into my clip but we’ve decided to cover them with sound effects. They’re just too vile. They are shocking in the abstract and absolutely horrifying when applied to someone I love. In my hometown. In 2013.

My husband is a tolerant person. He just stared the namecallers down and they – like most cowards – shut up when faced with this silent challenge. He tried to laugh it off in the re-telling, saying it wasn’t his first time and that he’d heard worse. But that’s not the point.  I was mortified. Stunned. Fuming.

So I wrote a sketch about it.

 

One more thing

That’s all the links I’ve got for ya, but one more little thinglet before I go. Nominations have just opened for 2013’s Irish Blog Awards! Now, I’m not saying that you should immediately go and nominate me- I’m far too Irish for that sort of carry-on. Although I’ll admit that I do like getting the chance to dress up fancy and eat free canapes and photobomb legit fancy people. But shure have a think about who your favourite Irish bloggers are- I’m lookin’ at you, Geoff’s Shorts– and give a nomination to the people who deserve a bit of recognition. Remember: attention is to bloggers what money is to everyone else.

Gender Recognition, Feminism, Intolerance, and Food Poverty. Linkspam!
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Dail Eireann and the Amazing Time Travelling Gender Recognition Legislation

Check out my latest post over at Gaelick!

like Skywalker and Baggins before her, Lydia went on a quest. Through the courts of the land – for this is where such battles took place – she voyaged. When her first case failed, she traveled even further afield to Strasbourg. Here, she finally seemed to achieve her goal when ten full years after she had begun, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the state had “failed to provide for ‘meaningful recognition’ of her female identity”. Surely with this, she could go home and get on with her life, secure in the knowledge that her state would now start recognising her identity?
But this story, like many a much more profitable franchise before it, just wouldn’t end. Five long years have passed since Lydia Foy won her case in Strasbourg. And like the series that just kept going on and on and on, the Irish Government’s plans for gender recognition legislation never quite come to fruition. Every year we’re told that they are oh-so-close to being ready.

 

Dail Eireann and the Amazing Time Travelling Gender Recognition Legislation

Recognition Not Pathologisation- how bad could it be?

With tomorrow’s International Day of Action for Trans* Depathologisation, there’s a lot of talk going around about why and how we need to recognise trans* people’s legal rights. And I’m struck by how much of a big deal is being made over what is, in essence, the simplest thing.

Ally?

What do we want?

It’s been five years today since Lydia Foy won her case for gender recognition. Five long years. In those five years, we’ve seen the publication of the GRAG report and, uh, very little else. By the sounds of it, gender recognition must be a complicated thing, right? Requiring all sorts of intricate legislative bits and bobs (the technical term) to sort out?

That depends. As with so many things, what it depends on is perspective. It turns out, the complexity of gender recognition legislation seems to depend mainly on whether you see being trans* as a tragic medical condition, or a normal part of human variation that should be recognised. On whether you’re determined to Other trans* people or to acknowledge that gender is a thing that lives between our ears that we get to define any which way we like. Turns out that if we go with the second definition, things get simple really, really quickly.

Legalise Trans*

Medical Tragedies or Self-Definitions

So what is being trans*? Is it a bizarre medical tragedy, an affliction that a small minority of people have to live with? Something a little bit scary that some people ust can’t help but that we should absolutely not be encouraging? Or is it a perfectly normal, if a bit less common than being cis, way to define yourself? And how does the answer to that question change what laws we put in place?

The recommendations of the GRAG report indicate that it tends toward the former definition. Here’s Maman Poulet:

The FF/Green Government formed the Gender Recognition Advisory Group in May 2010 to look at the issues which presented themselves following the Foy case. The group was entirely composed of Civil Servants and even though they received submissions and met with many groups from the rights and LGBT communities it is very evident that they really didn’t get it if an unnamed expert hadn’t told them.

Why was there no Trans rep on committee to at least provide an alternate view if even dissenting one? When the Government formed a group to look at the options for recognition of same sex relationships GLEN got a seat at the table….

The report recommends that Trans People applying for their gender to be recognised will have to have a formal diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder with evidence of medical treatments or will have to have had Gender Reassignment Surgery. This means that one has to have had hormones and mental health treatment and assessment or gender surgery (and hormones and mental health assessment/treatment and everything else)… There is no understanding of the issues facing InterSex here at all..

…The report proposes that there is a panel which people will have to appear before made up of medical and legal representatives and one other where the applicant will will be told if they are a man or woman in the eyes of the state.

I know Trans people who are married and happily so, I know others who are divorced or separated. The report recommends that those applying for Gender Recognition be required to divorce or end their Civil Partnership before they can apply.

Let’s go over that again. In order to change their legal gender, a person would have to:

  • Present a formal diagnosis of GID (defined as a mental illness)
  • Have had medical treatments and/or surgical intervention
  • Appear before a panel of medical and legal representatives to make their case
  • If married, divorce.
  • Oh, and also, because of the definition of GID, you can’t be intersex.

That’s a lot of barriers. You have to be diagnosed as mentally ill. You have to chemically or surgically change your body- which means that gender recognition would be denied to those who, for financial or medical reasons, can’t do this. Never mind bodily integrity. You have to convince a panel of strangers. And if you are happily married, you need to split up your family. And, most bizarrely of all, you need to have a binary-sexed body.

Can I diagnose you too?

I could go into why this is ridiculous, but I’m going to trust that my lovely readers can work that out for yourselves. Instead, I want to show you a different model that is in place right now in Argentina. Let’s check out what TENI have to say about it:

The Argentinian Law is based on self-determination and provides full recognition of self-defined gender identity. Transgender people in Argentina will not need to prove they have had surgical procedures, hormonal therapy or other psychological treatment such as a diagnosis of a mental illness. This law clearly separates a legal right from medical interventions.
This law has been heralded as the most progressive in the world and signals a new era for transgender human rights. Justus Eisfeld, Co-director of Global Action for Trans Equality told press, “The fact that there are no medical requirements at all — no surgery, no hormone treatment and no diagnosis — is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries.”
However, while clearly separating medical interventions from the legal recognition process, the Argentinian law also provides a right to access any desired medical treatment which firmly enshrines the importance of transgender healthcare.

Huh. Well. Um. That was easy. So in order to get your gender legally recognised in Argentina you have to:

  • Fill out a form. Probably take it in to be stamped by someone because this is a bureaucracy we’re talking about. I’ll bet there’s some queueing involved, so you might want to bring a book.
  • Receive new documentation with correct gender.
  • Continue to be able to freely access whatever medical transition you need to. THIS BIT IS IMPORTANT. Gender diversity is awesome. Gender dysphoria is really, really not, and depathologisation without ensuring access to treatment for dysphoria for everyone who needs it is worse than useless.
  • Have a cup of tea, read the paper, give out about things on the internet, watch TV, go for a run, get on with your life, etcetc.

That last bit, by the way, is optional and can be adapted to your own preferences. As is the first bit. You might prefer a few podcasts to a book.

Note, by the way, how this involves vastly less hassle for everyone than the proposed Irish model. And how it also guarantees any trans* person the right to the transition-related healthcare that they want or need. So what, precisely, is getting in the way of Ireland doing the same? What are we so scared of? What’s the worst that could happen?

Time to do a poodle

If we make it easy to change your gender, everyone will want to do it!

Fearmongers envisage a society where you, me, your ma and your entire secondary school history class are changing our genders like we change our shoes. In my case, that would be as rarely as possible, when the old ones are worn out and full of holes, with an awful lot of grumbling. But I gather that I’m not representative of everyone.

So there we are, with everyone changing their genders whenever the mood strikes them. Down is up, left is right, nobody knows what to call anybody and everyone’s in such a panic that they can’t even remember how to make a nice cuppa anymore.

Shocked woman with a cup of tea
It’s okay, scared lady from the internet. It’ll be fine, I promise.

What nobody seems to have explained is why this would be such a bad thing in the first place. If gender is all about how we identify ourselves, then why shouldn’t we get to change it? Why shouldn’t you, me, your ma and your entire secondary school history class get to cheerfully toddle down to the relevant department, sign a couple of dozen forms, hand over the inevitable fee and then do it all again a few weeks later when they change their mind? Why on earth would that be so terrible?

In fact, it might be pretty great.

For one thing, we’re in a recession here, and changing documents always costs money. Wouldn’t the hordes of people changing their gender markers be a fantastic source of revenue?

For another thing, this scenario inevitably means that people are going to magically forget that they live in a world filled with cissexism and transphobia and instead cheerfully (and with legal recognition) explore all the gender possibilities that they can. Nobody would get to assume just by looking, or by having known what it was last week, that they knew a person’s gender! Asking “what’s your pronoun?” would become as ordinary a question as “Jaysus, will this rain ever stop?”.

Of course, this scenario- as delightful as it is- is ridiculous. I’m sure there are some people in the world who like filling out forms for the lulz. I’m equally sure that it’s a minority sport.

So with that scenario out of the way, what else is there to be scared of?

Dogs And Cats Living Together

Did you notice that in Argentina, there’s no requirement to divorce the person you love in order to get your gender markers changed? That’s because in Argentina, they’ve reinforced their buildings from falling skies and reinforced their umbrellas for downpours of (literal) cats and dogs. All necessary precautions in order to allow same-sex marriage.

Terrifying gays getting married
Under your very nose!

That’s right. If you let trans* people’s genders be recognised without forcing them to get divorced first, you’re going to have a situation where perfectly normal het couples, through a magical process probably involving radioactive spiders, start morphing into gay marrieds. Before your very eyes! WHO WILL BE SAFE? YOUR OWN NEIGHBOURS COULD TURN INTO THE GAYS AT ANY MOMENT.

So, uh, that’d be scary, right? Right? …….right?

What’ll we gain?

Oh, you know. Just little things. Dignity. Trans* people not being forced to out themselves whenever they have to present legal documents. Embracing people for who they are. Honouring bodily integrity and the sovereignty of each of us. Massive symbolic recognition throughout the country.

Little things like that.

Why’re you telling me all this now?

You can’t have forgotten, can you? Tomorrow is the International Day of Action for Trans* Depathologisation! If you’re in Dublin or can get here, and you’re even half as sick as I am of ridiculous, unnecessary barriers put in the way of trans* people’s legal rights, get that (remarkably attractive) ass of yours out to Kildare Street for 2.30pm.

Rally for Recognition Saturday 20th October 2012, 2.30pm

Edited to add a Very Important Thing:

In writing this, I’ve realised- almost instantly after hitting ‘post’- that something that I’ve left out here is anything about gender dysphoria. As I’m running out the door right now, I’m going to leave you with some quotes from the wonderful Quarries & Corridors. Listen up, because this bit’s important!

There’s an incredibly important distinction that needs to be made clearly, front and centre in any debate about depathologising trans people. Having a gender that differs from that assigned to you at birth isn’t illness, it’s the gender dysphoria resulting from this that is. That may seem like semantics, but there is nothing wrong with me for having a nonbinary gender, I used to have gender dysphoria, now treated. Similarly, no one is ill for being a trans man or a trans woman, but the gender dysphoria from not having that recognised and affirmed hurts. The DSM-5 is already removing ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ & replacing it with ‘Gender Dysphoria’, pathologising our dysphoria not our genders. I think this is the right approach. It lets me be transgender without that being seen as disordered, it maintains access to medical care. Anyone making a lot of noise about depathologising trans* without making these important distinctions up front’s likely to do serious damage.

So let’s not forget that, k?

Recognition Not Pathologisation- how bad could it be?