Category Archives: LGBTIQ

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Queer/Questioning and more sexual and gender diverse identities and natures

Trans Awareness Week & TDOR its Day of Remembrance for those killed

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018

Every 24 hours a trans person is murdered, 369 this year, nearly 3,000 the last 10 years – that we know about, i.e., it may only be the tip of the iceberg. It is a number that is rising annually and particularly affects those in the Americas but also in over 70 other countries around the world.

TDOR Candle lights
TDOR Candle lights

Since 1999, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) has taken place every November, now following the newer Trans Awareness Week. It is the day when we recall and respect those trans and gender-diverse people who have been victims of murder or manslaughter. It does not include the countless numbers that take their own lives through suicide. Trans women of colour are the most likely to be killed of all transgender people, especially, but far from exclusively, those involved in sex work. Also, everyone from hairdressers to artists and activists, and many who were migrants.

Just this week, 40 trans activists at a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, were attacked by far-Right radicals throwing smoke bombs and punches.

Read more about the numbers, the lives, around the world, ended through transphobia and transmisogyny, issues in the media and feminism, and TDOR commemorations on 20 November 2018.

The person picked up in the media for being trans and a victim of violent crime in England and hence the only UK trans person this year to be added to the long list of transgender people killed was Naomi Hersi. Sadly, she typifies the fairly common context for many. She was a trans woman of colour, and a victim of violence during or after a sexual encounter. Ironically, she last tweeted 3-years before her death about trans women of colour facing an epidemic of violence and murder.

Transgender Tipping Point or Crisis Point?

Sadly, around the world, trans people are often in the news for the shocking recurrence of their frequent murders. Not in the news are the statistics that trans women can be even more prone than cis women to sexual violence and abuse, as many as 1-in-2.

That flies in the face of the alternate narrative put out by those fearing Trans rights and suggesting that trans women are rapists and murderers in drag, abusing gender self-ID (which in the UK we haven’t even got yet). The statistics of male-born sexual assault perpetrators in prison who may now be transitioning actually shows that gender self-ID isn’t the problem, but abusers are. The majority never dressed as women in order to abuse.

Transgender people are in the news or online media nearly every day. Frequently, there are several trans-questioning or outright transphobic articles in The Times every 7-10 days, not to mention other papers such as the Daily Mail, (I counted 7 in a 4-day period during late October in the DM alone) and continuous TV and Radio programmes to boot.

Last year, Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall described Britain today as “at an absolute crisis point in how it treats trans people”, in no small part down to media attention.

“Britain is no longer considered a safe part of the world for trans people to live in…It should be considered a national embarrassment that this is where we now are as a nation.” – Ruth Hunt, Stonewall

Instead of the prurient public interest being in trans ‘sex changes’, former lives, and scaremongering fears of ‘sex pest perverts’ in toilets or prison (where they should be), the media should be concerned about the levels of abuse, bullying, murder and suicide that so blight trans lives.

The escalation to a “hostile environment” due to the ‘debate’ around an updated Gender Recognition Act (GRA) between some feminists (colloquially known as TERFs by trans people, but not a term owned by the so-monikered trans or gender critical radical feminists) and transgender people – mostly but not exclusively directed at trans women, has led to a toxic atmosphere.

Last year, Ed Miliband “hit out at the inaccurate coverage in the press, accusing newspapers of propagating a “moral panic” similar to the anti-gay coverage seen in the 1980s.” – PodCast

Trans people’s lives are already under a microscope as part of their transition pathway, but to be so in the media spotlight too puts their private and social lives up for involuntary discussion and invasive dissection.

Lucy Meadows took her own life in 2013 in strong part due to “the toll the press was taking on her mental health”, says her former partner. “The media later claimed, [that] by putting out an “official” letter, the school [where she taught] had “officially” placed Lucy’s transition in the domain of public interest.”

Katy Jon Went appearing on ITV Anglia news during Transgender Awareness Week
Speaking on ITV Anglia news during Transgender Awareness Week

More positive has been the campaigns of Stonewall, Comic Relief, various public bodies, and open-minded news outlets using the opportunity of #TransgenderAwarenessWeek to balance the negativity online. ITV Anglia broadcast a piece on transgender workplace discrimination and homelessness that can affect 1-in-4 trans people. 

2017-18 Transgender Monitoring Data

Two years ago, saw 295 trans and gender-diverse persons added to the list of those killed for being trans. Last year that number was 325, up 10%. This year it went up 13% to 369. Improved news monitoring could account for it but hate and visibility are also on the rise.

“These figures only show the tip of the iceberg of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people on a worldwide scale.”

The majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (167 static but up 40% from 2016 and who knows what climate Brazil’s new leader will bring), Mexico (71 up from 56), and the United States (28 up from 25 and 23 in 2016), adding up to a total of 2,982 reported cases in 72 countries worldwide between 1st of January 2008 and 30th of September 2018.

  • 16 trans people were killed in Europe (up 300% from 2017 and 60% from 2016)
  • 28 in the USA (4x more likely than in Europe, 6x UK)
  • 71 in Mexico (up 40% on 2017)
  • 167 in Brazil (37x more likely than in Europe, 53x UK)

You are 17x more at risk in the US than in India but 8x more at risk in Pakistan than India. Hate crimes against trans people in America were up 44% in 2016, according to FBI data. Donald Trump has recently tried to define sex in such a way that would make gender transition a legal non-entity.

“Since the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there has been a notable increase in the vitriol and anti-transgender rhetoric — from the top levels of government down through the rest of American society.” HRC Report

  • The majority of murders were of trans women (80% in the US)
  • Over 15% were sex workers (6% were hairdressers & 3% were activists)
  • Majority of the reported murder victims in W.Europe were migrants
  • Most of the victims in the US were people of colour
  • The majority of the victims were under 30 years old

In many countries, trans and gender non-conforming people live riskier lives, not by choice, but usually as a last resort due to the oppression, rejection and lack of rights within their cultures and societies. Many struggle to find work to survive, let alone to transition, and resort to sex work and/or flee their countries as migrants. Either or both of these paths putting them into the line of fire of greater exploitation and risk.

These numbers do not include suicides, the countless thousands who take their own lives – around 40% try, twice as many consider it. Sometimes it is the result of an attack:

These numbers are people. [Some of the names…]

These numbers are too many.

These numbers barely scratch the surface of the actual violence trans people experience, as much goes unrecorded, or are cause/status unknown.

Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017
Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017

Many countries don’t mention trans status in reports of violent death or in their internal statistics – particularly in anti-LGBT regimes and regions. Again, many may be killed in their acquired gender but the death not be because of it, or their pre-transition life simply not known about. 

In addition to violent deaths, 1-in-2 trans people experience domestic abuse and/or sexual violence (DASV). Trans men and women alike often suffer in silence and fear that shelters and services won’t be there for them.

81% of trans people have suffered physical and/or verbal abuse.

Are they not women if people and society perceive them as such and treat them equally badly?

Yes, their social and biological experience when growing up is not that of natal/cis women but many in medicine now recognise a biological rather than purely psychological basis for the origins of gender dysphoria.

“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity.” – The Endocrine Society

How then can some in society – conservative religions, some feminists, right-wing journalists, far-right radicals think that being trans male or female is something we need to fight against?

Intersectional Feminism?

The personal is political and it’s hard to avoid the political, for murder is as personal as it gets. The irony that this was a rallying cry of late 1960s/70s Second Wave Feminism and yet is also the lived and embodied risk of being trans is not lost on me. Women regularly experience sexism and discrimination because of their sex. Black women even more so, adding racism to the crimes against their person.

The majority of feminists recognise the intersections between sex, sexuality and colour, not to mention class. Again, most modern and particularly young student feminists recognise the further intersection with gender identity. A few do not, and instead regard trans women as a threat to gendered spaces and trans men as traitors erasing butch lesbianism.

The conflation of sex with gender and/or sexuality is an issue needing improved education to better understand people’s authentic ‘born this way’ identities. 

Don’t scapegoat us as perverts and rapists. Don’t harm us and kill us. Instead, be allies, support us to be ourselves, and let’s bring these murder, abuse, and suicide rates down in future years!

What can we do?

  • end discrimination at work, in training and employment opportunities
  • provide decent healthcare
  • create healthy environments at school to explore identity and expression
  • recognise that Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence happen to trans women and men too, at the hands of cisgendered men and women
  • ensure prejudice is rooted out of criminal justice and police systems
  • provide legal protections against online and offline hate
  • end the language of erasure and exclusion between TERFs, as well as other vociferous transphobes, and Trans
  • develop positive dialogues rather than debate our right to exist
  • foster greater unity with allies of the wider LGBT+ and feminist communities

TDOR Commemorations

Transgender poet, Roz Kaveney, wrote the brutally real, “Shot, Stabbed, Choked, Strangled, Broken” as a ritual for TDOR. It begins:

“It could have been me…”

And finishes:

“When people die
Their smiles are taken from us
Who might have seen them
And smiled back.
Their songs are taken from us
Who might have heard
And listened and been glad.
Their stories are remembered
By us, on this day
And always.”

TDOR remembrance meetups are held around the UK including London, Liverpool, Brighton, and Norwich, as well as worldwide including Paris and New York and dozens of other locations.

Norwich City Hall, Christmas lights during trans awareness week, pink and blue
Norwich City Hall, lit up during trans awareness week, pink and blue

Norfolk, my adopted home county is holding at least three TDOR events, one at the UEA – last year’s was attended by over 80 people (Concrete Online report), another at St John’s Timberhill, and a further

“Our Service for Transgender Day of Remembrance is a way of showing our commitment as people of faith; of declaring that the lives and the rights of transgender people matter to us all and ultimately to our community and our society if prejudice and intolerance are to be banished in the name of equality, diversity, justice and peace.” – Fr Christopher Wood, Rector of St John’s Timberhill Church, Norwich

Ten years of Norwich Pride and decades of trans support groups stretching back to Barbara Ross, OBE, Oasis and now more than half a dozen active groups supporting trans youth, non-binary, trans men, trans women, and families of trans, mean that Norwich provides a generally safe and supportive environment for trans people and gender dysphoric or questioning youth.

“These statistics are horrific and we all need to do more to support transgender people and ensure they can be safe and proud to be themselves.” – Michelle Savage, Norwich Pride

TDOR discussion on BBC Radio Norfolk with Nick Conrad and Katy Jon Went (1hr55m10s in)

Trans Day of Remembrance, TDOR, at UEA
Trans Day of Remembrance, TDOR, at UEA

First ever King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride 2018

After ten years of Norwich Pride, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk saw their first LGBT+ Pride with 1200+ people parading (double the expected numbers) through the shopping streets and weaving their way to the Walks for stalls, music and talks. There was a great community atmosphere, a same-sex marriage proposal (she said yes!), a solid presence by Norwich-based venues, organisations including the Catherine Wheel, Mature Gay Community, Proud Canaries and more, and people from other Prides.

Ely Pride had taken place the previous week (historically, the cathedral flew the Rainbow flag), Colchester the same day. East Anglian Prides are growing and our communities are changing. We need more rural and regional Prides like this, away from the mega city Prides in order to reach counties and communities that may not experience the level of LGBT+ acceptance that other places may currently enjoy.

To paraphrase Audre Lorde, “We are not free until every LGBT is free” to live authentically, without stigma or prejudice, love whom we love, and be who we are without impediment or challenge.

Rainbow drag queen Titti Trash & Katy Jon Went photo opp with Christian protester at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride
Rainbow drag queen Titti Trash & Katy Jon Went photobomb with Christian protester at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride

Allies outnumbered protesters by hundreds and thousands to one. Christians marching with Pride, in clerical vestments or other identifiable ways also exceeded by at least 10:1 the solitary protester with a cross – who at least consented to a photobomb by a drag queen and head-to-toe rainbow me chanting “love is love” and giving him a hug.

The tide is turning, history keeps being made, and society is changing. 

Julie Bremner speaking at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride
Julie Bremner speaking at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride

There were talks from Julie Bremner of Norwich Pride about why we still need Pride, another person spoke eloquently of our history of protest and activism to gain equal rights, and then after one of the organisers spoke, I was asked to say a few words – and “a few” is not in my vocabulary! It will always be a tad preachy and political, occasionally irreverent, but hopefully not irrelevant. 

Speech given at #KLWNPride

“Ten years of Norwich Pride from the original 500 expected to 2500 plus that turned up and quickly three to four times that is a sign of what can be achieved; mighty oaks from small acorns grow, as the saying goes – no wood jokes please 😉

Norwich Pride this year made me realise how much harder it would have been coming out for a decade without a local Pride to transform my city, my community, the bars, streets and shops to LGB and Trans positive places. To move from suspicion, persecution and opposition to tolerance, acceptance and welcome.

The growth of Norfolk LGBT visibility and services over the years has been primarily Norwich based. Our 10 trans and non-binary support groups, dozen LGB+ groups, half-dozen venues, are mostly Norwich-based, though they dwarf what is available in neighbouring counties let alone other parts of Norfolk. We had a North Norfolk Pride 9 years ago, Ipswich one year, Colchester for the first time last year and again today, Ely for the first time last week. Who would have thought ten years ago that Ely Cathedral would be flying the Rainbow flag.

Supporting rural and regional Prides and solidarity with distant persecuted ones such as Pride Uganda has always been a part of Norwich Pride’s hope and vision.

Supporting other places, other Prides, supporting each other is critical.

Unity does not mean we have to agree, but how we disagree and engage is seen by all, especially the cishet public and allies that have been a part of creating a city and a county that increasingly accepts and welcomes LGBT+ customers, residents, events etc

Katy Jon Went speaking at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride
Katy Jon Went speaking at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride

Division such as TERF v Trans, the online backlash against genderfluid queer lesbian Ruby Rose for not being lesbian enough to play Batwoman. The number of times I’ve been called the wrong kind of trans, not LGB enough, or witnessed pain or surgical point scoring in disabled, intersex and other communities. We shouldn’t be playing oppression bingo or privileging one discrimination over another.

Feminist Transphobes, Black Homophobes, Gay Racists, Disabled sexists, Transgender misogynists all exist. Love is love has no room for hate.

Unity is our strength against the tyranny of the majority but healthy diversity, united in our difference not monochrome uniformity is what makes us even stronger.

I was torn between wearing my trans colours outfit, Dr Martens, and flag, as I did at Norwich or the rainbow one today. I think the Rainbow symbol is more important than ever.

I mean it’s been great to see a dozen identity flags at Norwich Pride and here today but the Rainbow flag will always remind me of our history and unity.

The rainbow is our symbol because of its diversity. Red and blue, orange and purple, green and yellow, the whole gay, queer and minority sexuality and gender identity spectrum together. The rainbow is not just 6 stripes nor its original 8 colours, it’s all of us together. A common humanity, mutual respect, and human rights for all.

So, today, is a day to celebrate our diversity, but not accentuate our disagreements, to join together to get better respect, rights and resources, to fight together but not each other. Tomorrow we can discuss those things, today we Pride!

I’ll end with a quote from former United Nations leader and Nobel Prize winner Kofi Annan who died this morning.”

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there”

Rainbow umbrellas in The Walks at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride. Photo © Katy Jon Went
Rainbow umbrellas in The Walks at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride. Photo © Katy Jon Went

More images from King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Pride

International Transgender Day of Visibility as the Political gets Personal

For Trans People, the Personal is getting very Political

If the personal is political, then being trans has certainly become overly politicised in the last few months. Most transgender people just want to get on with their lives, not poke their heads above the parapet and be overtly public each Transgender Day of Visibility (#TDOV). 2014 was called the  “transgender tipping point” and 2015 the year of transgender visibility, but 2017-18 is fast becoming the year of the war on women and trans.

Sex Wars and Gender Recognition

The Gender Recognition Act (2004) aided that for some but not for all since it was not relevant to many transitioning people being mainly a requirement for pre-Equal, well Same-Sex anyway, marriage legal innovation. It is now front and centre of the new battle within feminism(s), the so-called “War on Women”, discussion of who or what is a woman, access to single-sex spaces and support services, and updates to the GRA.

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”

We divide and misrule at our peril. Surely, to stand on the right side of history is to be on the side of progress towards human rights for all, not resisting them. Fourth-wave feminism understands intersectionality and trans sisters far more inclusively than second-wave feminism. This unfortunate fight is as much a battle within feminisms as it is between genders. Interestingly, just 59% of Mumsnet users call themselves feminists yet many have joined the trans resistance, i.e., are resisting the extension of gender-identity rights.

That said, there are peaceful cooperative ways to discuss legal provisions among those that are affected by the laws. Though, to be honest, since the majority of trans people don’t even bother with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and have been accessing the most appropriate spaces and services to their gender or stage of transition for years, it hasn’t been a ‘problem’ until now. Equally, over half-a-dozen countries have introduced gender self-ID since 2012 to no known problems.

The UK seems to be unique in perceiving it as a massive attack upon the rights of and risks towards women. It is also tearing the Labour Party apart, much as the current discussion of alleged anti-semitism within it is. The vitriol of calling both trans activists and ‘TERF’s (see below) ‘Fascists’ is laughable since the majority of those fighting each other are Socialists, Marxists, and generally people on the Left of British politics, several of whom have been suspended or ejected from the Labour Party over this issue.

Who or What is a woman, BBC, 30 Jan 2018
BBC ‘Who, or what, defines you as a woman?’ Featuring Katy Jon Went and Linda Bellos

Visible Transgender History

One vocal opponent (aka ‘TERF’ or a Radical Feminist who opposes the inclusion of trans women in female spaces and a term considered a slur by them despite its reasonably accurate abbreviated description) said this week that “Transgenderism wasn’t a thing. It didn’t exist 30 years ago.”

That is akin to the Australian MP, Bob Katter, who recently claimed that LGBTI people had only been around for 60 years.

The willful ignorance of the history of transgender, third gender, and gender non-conforming individuals, is astonishing here. Not to mention, the nearly 50-years-ago trans-washing of the Stonewall riots (1969) and the numerous trans women and transvestites involved in protesting police violence and state criminalisation of LGBT people. 

“people have been crossing gender boundaries for millennia and in all kinds of civilisations” – Christine Burns, History Today

All of these transgender people (a third of whom are trans men) and thousands more clearly existed 30 years ago and had surgeries more than 40 years ago:

Lili Elbe (1882-1931), Alan L. Hart (1890-1962), Michael Dillon (1915-1962), Roberta Cowell (1918-2011), Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989), Jan Morris (1926-), Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy aka Coccinelle (1931-2006), Renée Richards (1934-), April Ashley (1935-), Lou Sullivan (1951-91), Caroline Cossey (1954-), Stephen Whittle (1955-). 

Medical Research & Mutual Respect

“Respectful, calm debate is necessary. How society and medicine deal with gender requires critical review in terms of the potential for unintended harms, even if there are no easy answers.” – Dr Margaret McCartney: Medicine must do better on gender, BMJ

Ongoing research is clearly needed and continues to show a biological/nature more than social/nurture origin of gender identity without it being a question of respecting people’s self-identity, whether part of gender dysphoria or not – something I struggled with for years

“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity. Individuals may make choices due to other factors in their lives, but there do not seem to be external forces that genuinely cause individuals to change gender identity. Although the specific mechanisms guiding the biological underpinnings of gender identity are not entirely understood, there is evolving consensus that being transgender is not a mental health disorder.” – Endocrine Society

We sorely need a message of mutual respect and inclusion not trans exclusion, but the way it is being discussed in a verbally violent polarised way is making it a debate about people’s identity, human rights, legal protections (I admit these go both ways within the EA, but not the GRA) and making it seem as if trans women don’t care about natal women’s rights to freedom from abuse.

We should be fighting abuse together

Violence towards women is something that should not be projected onto the vast majority of trans women as if it were some kind of demonising 1980s homosexual moral panic.

We need to fight and protect against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (DASV) together not apart.

The majority of the victims are indeed women (including trans women) and the majority of the perpetrators are men – 90% of whom are known to victims, so the idea of ‘stranger danger’ and men using female self-identity to access women’s safe spaces is an extreme rarity and not indicative of real trans lives. 

Transgender Day of Visibility TDOV
Transgender Day of Visibility TDOV, 31 March #TDOV2018

Norwich Reclaim the Night – Fighting for Safer Streets not Infighting

The third Norwich Reclaim the Night took place on International Women’s Day 2018, spearheaded by UEA students and young intersectional and international feminists. It was inclusive of trans and non-binary people, as well as men, focusing on safety for all not gender. Sex worker freedom from violence, intimidation and harassment was also signposted. This was feminism for all without any infighting or exclusion.

Rallying talks and emotive poetry (all with content warnings) raised the issues of violence against women, of “Yellow Peril” racism on the streets, of domestic and sexual abuse, of hate crimes, and of the need to take back and create safe streets for all. The evening began with a talk about Leeway domestic violence and abuse services and also fundraised for them.

“Many marches are women-only and sadly some groups have discriminated against trans participants… We came out to show that Norwich is no longer a place where you can be harmed or discriminated against for the colour of your skin, your faith, gender, sex, nationality or sexual orientation.” – UEA event organising group

March chants – and Poppy Rose was in good voice, included:

“Love, not hate
Makes Norwich great!”

and 

“Claim our bodies
Claim our right
Make a stand
Take back the night!”

Norwich Reclaim the Night marchers 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went
Norwich Reclaim the Night marchers 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went

The march of some 50-plus people was one of solidarity, safety, and sensitivity, looking after the welfare of everyone involved, several of whom spoke of surviving sexual abuse or other forms of harassment. 

Spanish feminist solidarity at Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went
Spanish feminist solidarity at Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went

A number of young Spanish feminists found the event on Facebook, and were surprised more wasn’t happening on International Women’s Day whilst reflecting with sadness that they weren’t home in Spain during its first nationwide feminist strike of some 5 million women.

During the march, some dozen men on the streets asked me what it was about – there was no mockery but positive approval. Women standing in the queue for nightclubs gave us whoop-whoops as we passed, a couple of times cars honked their horns in solidarity.

This is indicative of how positive Norwich can be.

Unlike other Reclaim the Night events across the country, such as in London, which is considered a ‘women-only’ march, Norwich’s variation promotes an all-inclusive attitude towards supporting all individuals who may be affected by sexual harassment. Second year student, Ryan Jordan, who also delivered a speech and performed several poems, said,

“When I performed, my heart was pounding at first. But in the second half, I thought, ‘I’m with people who are amazing, and in Norwich you feel that you can do anything, unlike London…You’ve got a beautifully different array of people. It feels so safe. And UEA has always been very accepting. I feel okay being myself, and I feel that’s what Reclaim the Night is about.” – Ryan Jordan, as reported by Chloe Howcroft

As an invited speaker, for the second year running, I was loathed to draw attention to the issues of trans people, particularly trans women, and especially on #IWD, but current media headlines necessitated it and it was a safe place to do so given how inclusive an event the organising team had made it.

Here’s what I had to say:

Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018 speech

“Reclaim the night is an annual march … intended to reclaim bodily autonomy and space that is often stolen from us by gendered and sexual violence”
Or so says CUSU.
 
Student-organised Reclaim the Nights tend to be women and non-binary, and male allies and victims inclusive – many don’t even mention trans inclusivity as it’s taken for granted that trans women would be included in women.
 
Meanwhile, “London Reclaim The Night is a women-only march.” and and some groups within the London Feminist Network have actively organised against trans or sex worker inclusivity.
 
Manchester, Brighton, and happily Norwich etc are all trans inclusive.
 
“All genders welcome. This is a sex-worker inclusive event, and we actively advocate for the decriminalisation of sex work. This is also an explicitly trans inclusive march. Given the chequered history of Reclaim the Night elsewhere in the country, we consider this vital to state clearly, and to do all we can to challenge the worrying rise of so-called radical feminism” – Brighton
The UEA-led Norwich Reclaim the Night proclaims “let’s make Norwich safe for everyone” 
 
Trans people are no safer on the streets than cis gender women, creating safe spaces on our streets, at our workplaces, in our homes (where 90% of DASV occurs among people we know, ie not stranger violence) is about protecting the vulnerable and policing the aggressors, not stereotyping and dividing down overly-simplistic/reductionist gendered lines. 
 
Solidarity, inclusivity, and intersectionality should be with all victims of violence and gender-based oppression. 
 
We should be fighting oppression, arm-in-arm, not fighting each other.
 
Artist and friend, Katherine Gilmartin, says:
 
“Boss babes see one another fighting for not with other women and systems.”
One Billion Rising, International Women’s Day and Reclaim the Night are all occasions when I prefer to emphasise women and girls and not draw attention to trans specific issues, but the current heat on trans women makes it unavoidable.
 
Katy Jon Went speaking at Norwich Reclaim the Night. Photo by Helen Burrows
Katy Jon Went speaking at Norwich Reclaim the Night. Photo by Helen Burrows

It is claimed that trans women mark the same level of risk to cisgender women as cisgender men do when in fact they are themselves at a higher risk of some types of abuse and attack (and ironically trans women as perpetrators of extreme violence pose a greater risk to men rather than women!)

 
This debate has not moved on in a year and trans women remain under fire for “Not being real women”. It’s time for all women, all minorities and/or oppressed to stand together for equality, human rights and mutual respect. It’s #PressforProgress not regress.
 
Reclaim the Night and Take Back the Night began in the late 1970s, a time when women and LGBT people had been standing side by side to advance gay rights and women’s rights. 1970s American lesbian radical feminists embraced their trans sisters until the 1979 publication of Janice Raymond’s Transexual Empire and attacks on Sandy Stone. Now it appears some women and media muck-rakers are trying to take us back to the 70s! 
 
It’s an age-old war fast becoming an old age war. It is dividing feminists of one generation from feminists of the next. It is defeating our common aims of reducing violence and oppression because we are divided against ourselves. 
 
Today has been used by a number of feminists as an opportunity to leave the Labour Party en masse for its defence and inclusion of trans women (in accordance with equality laws).

Transgender activists and the real war on women, Judith Green, The Spectator, 8 March 2018

The first attack, I mean “free speech debate”, that I saw in the media was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day and was by Judith Green of A Women’s Place UK calling it “transgender activists and the real war on women“.

I would have thought that the real war on women was from Boko Haram, Saudi Arabia, FGM, everyday sexism and stereotyping, Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo and
 
TimesUp, Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went
TimesUp, Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went

Not from a handful of trans people who in almost equal numbers now are traversing the gender divide and leaving biological birth essentialist determinism behind thus showing that neither the gender construct nor birth lottery need define you. Surely, that IS feminism?

We are stronger together than tearing each other apart. I am proud and pleased that the April WOW festival in Norwich, like Reclaim the Night, is trans and non-binary inclusive, male allies and victims of abuse and gender role oppression also.
 
It is time we stood together, 
it is time we rise up together, and
it is time we marched together, 
 
to reclaim the media high ground, 
to reclaim our study and workplaces, and
to reclaim the day and the night as sisters diverse but not divided!
 
For united we stand, divided we fall. 
Safe streets for women, trans and all!
 

Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went
Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018. Photo © Katy Jon Went

Human Rights Day – Born Free of Hate, Politics, Religion, Class & Status

70 years of International Human Rights

Inalienable, intersectional, international human rights. Do we ALL have them yet? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. This year, Human Rights Day begins a year-long campaign to mark its 70th anniversary.

All Human Beings are Born Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights UDHRWe’ve come a long way, but we’ve a way to go yet as injustices on individual, group, and national, scales persist.

“Many leading nations treat it as a pick-n-mix document, usually ignoring the principles against torture or discrimination on grounds of sex or sexuality.” IHRD 2015

Inequality

70 years – three score and ten (Psalm 90:10), was the life expectancy of some in 1948, six years fewer if you were black. As we approach 2018 many don’t reach 70 in areas stricken by poverty, famine, war, terror, femicide, homicide, mental and physical health issues, and countless other societal obstacles to living out free, equal, healthy lives.

Categorisation, Class & Checkbox

Instead of celebrating equality and diversity we are still categorising and stereotyping each other by those age-old categories of sex, class, colour, race, religion, sexuality and more.  Despite the proclamation of the UDHR:

Human Baby“…inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” – United Nations

Our focus, to this day, remains bitterly embroiled in judging and discriminating based upon whether a person is male or female (not to mention intersex or trans), white or black, rich or poor, Rohingya  or Buddhist (yes there’s such as thing as “ultra-nationalist Buddhists”), Jew or Muslim, Catholic or Protestant, Tory or Labour, gay or straight, Celtic or Rangers, City or United…and so on. 

Instead of seeing the human being before us with their unique experiences, journey, and personality, we immediately box people up and reduce them to a category, a caste, a label, a limiter. 

Intersectional Rights

Whilst JFK said that “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one are threatened”, Audre Lorde, echoed with something similar:

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” – Audre Lorde

No two men or women live identical lives, again Audre Lorde: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

They are called Human Rights because they are based upon our common humanity, not because of our sex, class, race etc but irrespective of them. Respect is due our humanity – that which unites us, not that which divides us.

Any movement that claims to be a movement of justice and liberation and yet commits oppression of, for example, Rohingya, Palestinians, Yazidi, Kurds, young women and girls, trans and many other minority or disadvantaged groups needs to think about its actions and motivations.

In 2012, Aamna Mohdin of Queen Mary’s College London, Feminist Society described “Transphobia [as] the great shame of modern feminism”. She went on:

“We cannot—as a progressive community—rally around notions of “progression” and, yet, be complicit in the very homophobia, racism and sexism that violently terrorises the lives of so many others. We need to create a movement where interconnectedness and unity is our priority. Intersectionality is not an option…You must commit to being intersectional in your thinking, your actions, all the time.” – Aamna Mohdin

We are not free and equal, until we all are. Doing nothing is not an option either, it allows oppression to persist. Wherever injustice is happening, to whomever it is being done, that is where we must be, if not in person, then on social media, in correspondence to embassies, and in protests and rallies of solidarity.

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.” – Elie Wiesel

Intersectionality is not optional, it is essential.
Inaction is not an option. We must act for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance – 325 Trans murders #TDOR2017

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

Every 27 hours a trans person is murdered, over 2,600 the last 10 years – that we know about. A number that is rising annually and particularly affects those in the Americas but also in nearly 70 other countries around the world. 
 
Whilst nobody in the UK was knowingly killed this year, nonetheless, Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall described Britain today as “at an absolute crisis point in how it treats trans people”, in no small part down to media attention. 
 
“Britain is no longer considered a safe part of the world for trans people to live in…It should be considered a national embarrassment that this is where we now are as a nation.” – Ruth Hunt, Stonewall

Double Jeopardy

Trans women of colour are the most likely to be killed of all transgender people. Instead of horrific headlines of transphobic killings it would be great to see more like this one, celebrating the political victory of poet, activist and social historian, Andrea Jenkin, winning a seat on Minneapolis City Council:
 

Andrea Jenkins makes history as first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in US – The Independent

Jenkins is one of eight trans people elected to office in America this November. That is what we should be making the headlines for and not the violence. 

Media Spotlight

TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went
TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went

But today, trans people are in the news for the shocking recurrence of their frequent murders. It seems recently, however, that they’ve been in the news every day. Frequently, there are 2-3 trans questioning or outright transphobic articles in The Times alone, not to mention other papers daily, and continuous TV and Radio programmes to boot.

 
Today, Ed Miliband “hit out at the inaccurate coverage in the press, accusing newspapers of propagating a “moral panic” similar to the anti-gay coverage seen in the 1980s.” – PodCast
 
Trans people’s lives are already under a microscope as part of their transition pathway, but to be so in the media spotlight too puts their private and social lives up for involuntary discussion and invasive dissection.
 
Lucy Meadows took her own life in 2013 in strong part due to “the toll the press was taking on her mental health”, says her former partner. “The media later claimed, [that] by putting out an “official” letter, the school [where she taught] had “officially” placed Lucy’s transition in the domain of public interest.”
 
A Day of Statistics, Sadness & Solidarity
Instead of the prurient public interest being in trans ‘sex changes’, former lives, and scaremongering fears of ‘sex pest perverts’, the media should be concerned about the levels of abuse, bullying, murder and suicide that so blight trans lives.
 
Last year, saw 295 trans and gender-diverse persons added to the list of those killed for being trans. This year that number is 325, up 10%. It went up 9% in 2015-2016 too. Improved news monitoring could account for it but hate and visibility are also on the rise.
 
“These figures only show the tip of the iceberg of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people on a worldwide scale.”
The majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (171 up 48 or 40% from the previous year), Mexico (56 up from 52), and the United States (25 up from 23), adding up to a total of 2,609 reported cases in 71 countries worldwide between 1st of January 2008 and 30th of September 2017.
 
  • 5 trans people were killed in Europe (down 50%)
  • 25 in the USA (11x more likely than in Europe)
  • 53 in Mexico (50x more likely)
  • 171 in Brazil (120x more likely)
You are 25x more at risk in the US than in India but 7.5x more at risk in Pakistan than India. For all its talk of being the “land of the free” you are just as likely to be killed (in the street, or your home, etc) for being trans in America as in Saudi Arabia! (More data)
 
Hate crimes against trans people in America were up 44% in 2016, according to FBI data. 
 
“Since the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there has been a notable increase in the vitriol and anti-transgender rhetoric — from the top levels of government down through the rest of American society.” HRC Report
  • The majority of murders were of trans women (80% in the US)
  • 62% were sex workers (4% were hairdressers & 2% artists)
  • 69% of the reported murder victims in W.Europe were migrants
  • 86% of the victims in the US were people of colour and/or Native American
In many countries, trans and gender non-conforming people live riskier lives, not by choice, but usually as a last resort due to the oppression, rejection and lack of rights within their cultures and societies. Many struggle to find work to survive, let alone to transition, and resort to sex work and/or flee their countries as migrants. Either or both of these paths putting them into the line of fire of greater exploitation and risk.
 
These numbers do not include suicides, the countless thousands who take their own lives – around 40% try, twice as many consider it. Sometimes it is the result of an attack:
 

These numbers are people. [Some of the names…]
 
These numbers are too many.
 
These numbers barely scratch the surface of the actual violence trans people experience, as much goes unrecorded, or cause/status unknown. Many countries don’t mention trans status in reports of violent death or in their internal statistics – particularly in anti-LGBT regimes and regions. Again, many may be killed in their acquired gender but the death not be because of it, of their pre-transition life simply not known about.
 
In addition to violent deaths, 1-in-2 trans people experience domestic abuse and/or sexual violence (DASV). Trans men and women alike often suffer in silence and fear that shelters and services won’t be there for them.
 
81% of trans people have suffered physical and/or verbal abuse.
 
Are they not women if people and society perceive them as such and treat them equally badly?
 
Yes, their social and biological experience when growing up is not that of natal women but many in medicine now recognise a biological rather than purely psychological basis for the origins of gender dysphoria.
 
“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity.” – The Endocrine Society
How then can some in society – conservative religions, some feminists, right-wing journalists, think that being trans male or female is something that we can fight against? 
 

Intersectional Feminism?

The personal is political and it’s hard to avoid the political, for murder is as personal as it gets. The irony that this was a rallying cry of late 1960s/70s Second Wave Feminism and yet is also the lived and embodied risk of being trans is not lost on me. Women regularly experience sexism and discrimination because of their sex. Black women even more so, adding racism to the crimes against their person.
 
The majority of feminists recognise the intersections between sex, sexuality and colour, not to mention class. Again, most modern and particularly young student feminists recognise the further intersection with gender identity. A few do not, and instead regard trans women as a threat to gendered spaces and trans men as traitors erasing butch lesbianism.
 
The conflation of sex with gender and/or sexuality is an issue needing better education to better understand people’s authentic ‘born this way’ identities.
 
Don’t scapegoat us as perverts and rapists. Don’t harm us and kill us. Instead, be allies, support us to be ourselves, and let’s bring these murder, abuse, and suicide rates down next year!

What can we do?

We need to:
  • end discrimination at work, in training and employment opportunities
  • provide decent healthcare
  • create healthy environments at school to explore identity and expression
  • recognise that Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence happen to trans women and men too, at the hands of cisgendered men and women
  • ensure prejudice is rooted out of criminal justice and police systems
  • provide legal protections against online and offline hate
  • end the language of violence* and exclusion between TERFs, as well as other vociferous transphobes, and Trans
  • develop positive dialogues rather than debate our right to exist
  • foster greater unity with allies of the wider LGBT+ and feminist communities

[*I denounce all #punchaFemiNazi, #punchaTERF, #punchaTranny memes and tweets, because no form of violence, real or humorous should be being encouraged.] 

Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017
Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017

TDOR Commemorations

TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went
TDOR Profile pic of Katy Jon Went

TDOR remembrance meetups were held around the UK including London, Liverpool, Brighton, and Norwich, as well as around the world including Paris and New York and dozens of other locations.

Norwich, my adopted home city held two TDOR events, one at the UEA attended by over 80 people (Concrete Online report), and another outside the Forum, with 40-50 people including the Lord Mayor and representatives of the CofE clergy. Speakers included me (Katy Jon Went) using the text above, Evie Thomas of UEA, and poetry read by Sarah Corke and Poppy Rose. 

I was most impressed by the number of allies that attended, showing that society and Norwich in particularly is openminded and accepting in the main, and supports the rights, lives and wellbeing of trans and gender non-conforming people, despite media articles to the contrary.

Nine years of Norwich Pride and decades of trans support groups stretching back to Barbara Ross, OBE, Oasis and now more than half a dozen active groups supporting trans youth, non-binary, trans men, trans women, and families of trans, mean that Norwich provides a generally safe and supportive environment for trans people and gender dysphoric youth.

Trans Day of Remembrance 2017
Trans Day of Remembrance 2017

Gender, LGBTQ, BME, Disability – MPs Diversity in General Election 2017

Representation in UK Parliament

Just how representative of the UK population as a whole were prospective parliamentary candidates and elected MPs in terms of gender, sexuality, disability, religion and colour/race/ethnicity? 97 new MPs joined the house, and Ken Clarke MP was re-elected as its oldest member and Father of the House. It is well known that, hitherto, the UK had the most LGB ‘out’ Parliament in the world, but not the most gender balanced, how has that changed after Theresa May‘s snap general election?

Gender | LGBT+ | BAME | Disability | Religion | Education | Summary

Gender: Female MPs compared to Male MPs

2017 sees 208 female Members of Parliament, up from 191 in 2015 (196 after by-elections). There were many seats where both the main candidates standing were female. 29% of candidates were women, 32% of those elected were – both records for the UK but not the world.

We were 46th in the world tables, we are now 39th. Guess who is first? Rwanda with 61% women, second is Bolivia with 53%. All others are less than 50%. Sweden (#6), Finland (#9), and Norway (#12=) are the top European nations, all Scandinavian. The first Western European nation is Spain at 14th and Belgium at 19th. Germany is 22nd but France 63rd! At this rate, 2062 would see gender balance in the UK Parliament. 

Labour fielded 40% women, the Green Party 35% (statistically, of course, 100% of their MPs are female!), UKIP had 13%. Of those elected, there is wide variation among the political parties. Labour have 45% (119) and their leader in Scotland but never England (except as caretaker). Meanwhile, there are just 21% (67) among Conservative MPs despite a history of two Prime Ministers and their leader in Scotland. 

Interesting that the DUP, the Conservatives in Scotland, and the Tories in England and Wales are all led by right-wing women, one of whom is anti-gay, another is gay, and another shifted to same-sex equality (through persuasion by a female LibDem MP) after a prior voting and campaigning record against it. Being a woman, it seems, is little impediment to political power in the UK. Indeed, add in Plaid Cymru, SNP, and for two weeks, even UKIP, only Labour (England and Wales) and LibDems haven’t been led by a woman.

Being female is no guarantee that one will hold pro-equality, pro-LGBT views. We now have a triumvirate of female-led parties forming a “confidence and supply” alliance to keep the Tories in power that may be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

LGBTIQ Sexuality & Gender Identity

With 45 openly LGB MPs (19 Tory, 19 Labour, 7 SNP) that’s also a record and 6 up from 2015 – at 6.9% that’s close to the supposed 6% openly LGB numbers in the population (much higher among young people, of course). None among the 12 LibDems, though their female MPs balance at 4 out of 12 is somewhat restored.

Seven Trans and two Non-Binary candidates stood (just 4 in 2015, so, more than doubling) but none were elected, several have stood in council elections before. Eddie Izzard continues to hint that he may stand as an MP.

UK LGB MPs are the highest proportion anywhere in the world. We have the most rainbow Parliament – quite an affront to the homophobic DUP with whom 19 LGB Tory MPs may now have to do electoral business with.

Since 4.5% of the people standing for election (147/3304) were openly LGBTQ, it means that LGB candidates are up to 1.5x more likely to win. Tories and Labour had 7% LGBT candidates, SNP 17% and 20% of their elected MPs, despite reduced numbers. Surprisingly, only 2% of Greens (same as UKIP!) and 4% of LibDems were. White gay men outweigh any other LGBTQ demographic 5x and are the most likely to be elected. Curiously almost zero LGBT candidates stood in Greater East Anglia! There’s an opening for me yet 😉

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic MPs

Of the 147 LGBTQ candidates, just one was BME, in 2015 that was two – both shamefully low, though we don’t know the number of non-out candidates. However, 51 BME MPs were elected on 8 June – an increase of 10. At 7.8% this is just over half of the 14% general population representation.

Britain also elected its first MP of Palestinian heritage as Layla Moran for the LibDems “overturned a Conservative majority of almost 10,000 votes to win the Oxford West and Abingdon. Moran won the closely contested election by only 816, gaining 26,252 votes.”

Disability Representation

Just four openly physically disabled MPs were elected, 0.6% of Parliament, compared with 16% of the UK. Mental health is so stigmatised, one wonders if it were possible for someone to be ‘out’ with a diagnosed long term condition and an MP, other than depression and anxiety that affect 1-in-4 of us, and undoubtedly affect MPs similarly. It would be great to see a bipolar MP, to show it is possible to manage a bipolar life.

Religion

The new Parliament sees the UK’s first female Sikh MP, Preet Gill and its first turbaned male Sikh, Tanmanjeet Dhesi. Both are Labour MPs. In the past we’ve had 5 Sikh MPs in the last 15 years but never wearing a turban in the House of Commons. 

In the wake of the Manchester concert bombing, it is perhaps significant that the city elected its first Muslim MP, Afzal Khan – who was also ten years ago their youngest and first British Pakistani and Muslim, Mayor of Manchester.

Education

It shouldn’t matter, but it is interesting nonetheless with accusations that the Tories were run by the Eton and Bullingdon Club set, and even many who stood as Labour leader being Oxbridge educated.

The Sutton Trust believes that 51% of MPs were educated in comprehensive schools, and just 29% at public schools (ie privately educated). It is still disproportionately biased to private education, therefore. 

Summary

In conclusion, our LGB representation continues to be the highest in the world, across the three largest parties – but not elsewhere, and close to the assumed proportion of the general population. Several Trans, Non-Binary and similar, stood but at 9 out of 3300, they are about 10x underrepresented in standing, and to date unelectable; are they being stood as no-risk candidates in unelectable areas, that’s an analysis I’ve not done yet. On gender, we are getting there slowly, but ranking 39th in the world is a poor result, albeit an improved one. Realistically with parenting issues, 45% of Parliament would be a good showing for women, rather than the 32% we have. BME and disability remain woefully underrepresented. How a Tory deal with the DUP, who are anti-diversity on just about every count, can be squared with Parliament and the electorate’s ever-progressive diversity, remains to be seen.

IDAHOBIT Day needs further evolution to combat Non-Binary enbyphobia

IDAHO has become IDAHOBIT Day

Happy IDAHO – IDAHOT – IDAHOBIT Day, perhaps now IDAHOBNoBIT Day! For the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, needs further evolution to embrace the increasingly prevalent eNByphobia (Non-Binary).

In the last few months, I both started a non-binary meetup and discussion group and also witnessed increased enbyphobia – mainly online. That it is coming from people whom you would otherwise expect to be intersectional and LGBT+ allies is worrying.

It has come from the same feminists and others who oppose transgender women (mainly) but also trans men (erasing butch lesbians, apparently), as well as from some 50-something gay men and women, and even trans women in the public eye such as India Willoughby.

Piers Morgan

Good Morning Britain‘s Piers Morgan seems to be the go-to bigot/Kelvin Mackenzie on all things offensive these days, despite saying he accepts trans people and their rights – so long as they’re not non-binary. Last week, he mocked Emma Watson after she accepted MTV’s first ‘gender neutral’ acting Award. This week it’s non-binary trans persons Fox Fisher and Owl Stefania who he argued were just talking gobbledygook and he could just declare himself a black woman or an elephant and demand elephant rights to be given a room at the zoo.

Piers took to mockery, yesterday, too:

“It’s an all girls’ school in this country and in one year, there are now eight non-binary students who do not identify as girl,” he said. “I think that’s dangerous. It’s creeping and it’s creeping fast. I don’t think that’s right.” – Piers Morgan, describing his friend’s daughter’s school

Non-Binary “not a thing”

The irony that some feminists who oppose gender roles and see it as a social construct would turn round and say that non-binary doesn’t exist, “it’s not a thing”, there are only two sexes and gender is social, seems somewhat biologically essentialist and reductive. Not to mention, only true to a limited extent. Yes, most babies take 2 differently sexed parents to be conceived, although 3-parent babies are now possible. 

Some people can also be intersexed, as many as 1.75% of people. These can include dozens of chromosome and endocrine variations producing differences in primary and secondary characteristics. Genetic sex chromosomes are far from limited to X and Y, since around 20 viable combinations from XO to XXXXY and XYYYY can occur.  Perhaps, the ‘I’ in IDAHOBiT should be for Interphobia and not Biphobia?

I’ve done a lecture at SOAS and UEA universities titled “Around the World in 80 Genders” looking at non-Western interpretations of “third gender” identities. Afterwards, I often get asked, “just how many genders are there?” My usual reply is, “around 7 billion”. Gender, and even sex, is more dissimilar than it is stereotypically binary. 

Non-binary people don’t know their sexuality

Just this week, I’ve been told that as I’m non-binary or even wrongly misunderstood to be genderfluid, there’s a small chance that I may be heterosexual, either all the time or some of the time. As a result, I should not be invited to speak at LGBT events. The same surely applies to trans people – who can be non-binary too. 

Surely, our issue is a common oppression, not an identical gender or sexuality identity? We are intersectionally united by not being a part of cis heteronormativity and the freedoms and rights that brings but which those who are different may not enjoy to the same extent.

When it comes from binary LGBT folk it is especially galling that our brothers and sisters are engaging in intra-community division and discrimination.

International Day Against Homophobia

The annual, since 2005, IDAHO Day celebrates the 1990 removal of homosexuality from the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD). That it took 17 years from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) initial tentative removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) demonstrates how long change in these areas can take. Aspects of gender dysphoria including autogynephilia (sexual arousal by thoughts, images of self as a female), autoandrophilia, and transvestic disorder, “unwanted” same-sex attraction, and even asexuality remain in the DSM and ICD.

May 17 was first known as the “International Day against Homophobia” and mainstreamed through its acronym “I.DA.HO”.

In 2009, Transphobia was added explicitly in the title of the name, in the recognition of the very different issues at stake between sexual orientation and gender expression. “IDAHOT” became another popular acronym used alongside the initial one.

Since 2015, biphobia is added to the title, to acknowledge the specific issues faced by bisexual people. A new acronym, IDAHOBIT, has started to be used by groups in Australia and the UK mostly. To acknowledge this diversity, we use increasingly all three acronyms in our communications.

Wherever we can only use one acronym, we favor the acronym IDAHOT, as being the one most in use at global level*

To ensure even more inclusion and reflect the diversity of sexual and gender minorities, we have created at global level the baseline “A global celebration of sexual and gender diversities”. This is probably the only “solution” to the issue of inclusion and reflection of other diversities, such as Queer, Asexual, Pansexual and regional identities such as Hijras, Weres, Two-Spirit, etc. – IDAHO

Read more about IDAHO day: 2015 | 2014

Protests continue at Chechnya Homophobia, Gay-Bisexual Torture & Killing

Chechen Gay ‘Concentration Camps’

The Chechen Republic is a Russian autonomous region that is around 95% Muslim. Reports over the last week or so have continued to come in that around 100 men suspected of homosexuality have been sent to a detention facility in Argun, and that allegedly 3 have been killed. Calling them ‘concentration camps‘ may be a reach, but as we don’t know what is going on there it may be appropriate.

Clive Lewis MP speaking at Norwich LGBT Chechnya protest
Clive Lewis MP speaking at Norwich LGBT Chechnya protest

The last few nights have seen protests in London at the Russian Embassy and around the country because of the 100 detainees. Norwich held its protest with around 50-60 attendees last night on the City Hall steps. The supporters were addressed by Norwich Pride’s Nick O’Brien, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Green’s Lesley Grahame, Katy Jon Went, Julie Bremner, Andy Futter, and Di Cunningham. (Gallery here)

Decriminalisation of homosexuality

Norwich City Hall LGBT Chechnya protest
Norwich City Hall LGBT Chechnya protest

We can keep the victims in the media eye, gain diplomatic and human rights traction by our voices, standing up for those who’ve lost their liberty because of their sexuality. This is poignant coming, as it does, on the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.

Sadly, over 70 nations worldwide still criminalise homosexuality and male on male sex which includes bisexuality, so let’s not forget that those imprisoned and beaten, even killed, may include gay and bi men, and trans – anyone who is an affront to the macho traditional image of Mother Russia and the two major religions in its regions, the Russian Orthodox Church and Islam.

What is happening in Chechnya?

One victim described how Interior Ministry SOBR police officers:

“stripped me naked. One filmed me on his telephone. Three of them beat me. They kicked me, broke my jaw. They said that this is a gay and that there shouldn’t be defects like this in Chechnya.” 

Rounding up the “defects”, the “abnormal”, speaks of sexuality eugenics and group genocide.

These are not just rumours, the Guardian spoke to two victims who were “subjected to torture on a daily basis” and activists report this is happening in multiple towns across the region. Helplines have been set up to help LGBT people leave the country and journalists who have reported on it are also fearing for their lives after threats and considering that the rare independent voice of Novaya Gazeta has had several of its staff murdered.

We have no Gays!

Denial that is happening is part and parcel of how this kind of abuse works. Spokesman, Alvi Karimov, for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov described the Novaya Gazeta report as “absolute lies and disinformation”, saying also that there were no gay people in Chechnya:

“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic. If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

According to the Guardian, Chechen television is reporting that thousands gathered at Grozny’s central mosque to pass a resolution against the “lies and libel” in the Novaya Gazeta stories – “chiefly for suggesting there are gay men in Chechnya”!

“The centuries-old traditions of Chechen society, the dignity of Chechen men, and our faith have all been insulted, and we promise that those behind it will face reprisals, whoever they are and wherever they are.” – Chechen Resolution

This is similar to during the Sochi Winter Olympics, when “The mayor of Sochi, said there are no gay people in the city.” 

Why ban what allegedly doesn’t exist?

Famous Gay or Bi Russians

Why forget and erase the history of your own great LGBT+ persons?

From Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, probably Stravinsky, the son of Rimsky Korsakov, Gogol, numerous artists, dancers like Nijinsky and Nureyev, to Ivan the Terrible with 7 straight marriages but a preference for cross-dressed men. Not to mention dozens of counts and princes of Russia’s past who were bisexual, open or closeted gay Russians.

Legal Prohibition of Homosexuality

Apart from religious condemnation of homosexuality in orthodox Christianity and Islam, I’ve encountered a secular Russian traditionalism that also condemns being LGBT on the basis that it destroys the family, the national image, and is just plain “abnormal”. 

In June 2013, Russia brought in a law banning the “propaganda of homosexuality among minors”, not unlike the UK’s Section 28, but given the street-based homophobia much more dangerous. Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act stated that councils should not “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.

Homosexuality “in private” was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but plenty of discrimination and prejudice remains. Actually, it was decriminalised in 1917 but re-criminalised in 1933. That’s a stark reminder that equality rights won can be lost again, just look at India and Uganda too. Russia is at least 25 years behind the UK on LGBT rights.

The law banning spreading “non-traditional” sexual propaganda to minors is so loosely worded that almost anything could be seen as illegal. Locals say they fear even holding hands or kissing in public for the risk of attracting a £100 fine or worse. Prides in Moscow (2006-2011) have been beset by homophobic violence and since 2012 banned for 100 years by Moscow courts.

Russia’s second-largest and hitherto most open city, St Petersburg, has seen a deterioration with city council members since 2012 pushing Putin to harder lines on LGBT freedoms. Marked homophobia and transphobia worsened in 2016 with LGBT persons and their supporters being hounded out of their jobs, attacked in the street, and denied civil freedoms. 

Vladimir Putin, himself, has linked homosexuality to paedophilia and stated strongly that Russia needs to “cleanse” itself of gays if it wants to increase its birth rate.  The tagging of population growth on the end of that statement in no way minimises the echoes of a homosexual holocaust that was part of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ in “cleansing” 1930s Nazi Germany of Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, and non-conformists, alike.

Chechen Laws and Attitudes

Chechen Republic, Chechnya FlagChechnya, in 1997, implemented Article 148 of the Criminal Code punishing “anal sexual intercourse between a man and a woman or a man and a man”. The punishment was caning but upon a third conviction, the death penalty by shooting, stoning or beheading. Since 1996 and repeatedly reaffirmed, Russia under pressure from the Council of Europe has had a moratorium on the death penalty despite a persistent majority of the population wanting its reinstatement. The death penalty thus remains on the books but not enacted since 1996.

In 2011, the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, is quoted as saying: 

“I have the right to criticise my wife. She doesn’t. With us [in Chechen society], a wife is a housewife. A woman should know her place. A woman should give her love to us [men]… She would be [man’s] property. And the man is the owner. Here, if a woman does not behave properly, her husband, father, and brother are responsible. According to our tradition, if a woman fools around, her family members kill her… That’s how it happens, a brother kills his sister or a husband kills his wife… As a president, I cannot allow for them to kill. So, let women not wear shorts…”

With these kinds of archaic gender stereotype attitudes is it any wonder that LGBT people are ostracised, given up, locked up, with little internal national complaint?

Freedom House included Chechnya in the “Worst of the Worst” list (2009) of most repressive societies in the world, together with Burma, North Korea, Tibet.

Toxic intolerance of Homosexuality

From the Russian Orthodox Church to Conservative Islam and extremist Islamism, religion, tradition and ideology are involved in the toxic intolerance of homosexuality in Russia and Chechnya.

We must support open-minded inclusive faith and practice, but not the closed-minded homophobia of secular and religious pronouncements and laws.

Keep Chechnya in the public eye, and don’t forget everywhere else we turn a blind eye to, like Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Uganda and the other 70+ nations that deny human rights to LGBTI people.

LGBT Concentration Camps Chechnya protest
LGBT Concentration Camps Chechnya protes

Your voice is your identity – Coming home to yourself

Your Voice is Your Identity

Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series uses this line in The Blood of Olympus. He goes on, “If you don’t use it, you’re halfway to Asphodel (Hell) already.” I have friends who’ve been scared to transition so as not to lose their voice or desperate via hormones or surgery to change their. I made the opposite decision, to keep my voice, but not other things. I had several partners who actually voiced their nonchalance with regard to my genitals, but said, “keep your voice, it’s part of who you are”. And so I did. 

“Your Voice is Your Identity”

I guess I’m renowned for talking, ad nauseum sometimes. I blame being born briefly silent for 7 minutes, making up for lost time since, and my mother, from whom I inherited an insatiable desire to both read, engage, and talk, much to my father and her husband’s chagrin. Yet, he too, has a lovely voice, as an actor and when doing poetry readings.

Speech Therapy

I remember in the Christian Union at UCL, long distant left behind days, that three-quarters of the members were women, and three-quarter of them were speech therapists. I went to innumerable post-college weddings, was even the photographer, best man and groom at some, but also one funeral, of a young Uni friend – a speech therapist. 

Katy Went Transgender Voices NHS NSFT photoshoot
Katy Went “Transgender Voices” NHS NSFT magazine photoshoot

Speech therapy is available to some MTF/AMAB trans women, others augment with vocal chord tightening and Adam’s Apple shaves.

I’ve continued to go to demos, deliver speeches and interviews, or appear on the Radio – can one appear? Surely, one announces and is heard but not seen.

There lies my dilemma, I did a lot of Radio work and still do but as Katy Jon, as that saved the explanation of why Katy had a deep voice – because she/they was also Jon, but at the same time. I still get the shocked apologies when Radio presenters introduce me and are not sure of the gender to go with the voice or name.

People say it’s all about the breasts or the beard, the skirts or the trousers, the long hair and makeup or shaved hair and stubble. It is, until you open your mouth. 

On aeroplane flights I’m frequently offered a “drink, madam” as they approach from behind, only for me to request a Whisky or red wine with a deep voice and them to say, “so sorry, I meant, ‘Sir'” and I reply, “No, you were right the first time”. They’re more embarrassed than me.

What irked me about the speech therapy for trans was training you to talk like a female cast member of Neighbours, allegedly, “because women’s voices go up at the end of a sentence”. 

Women with deep voices

Some, maybe, but I googled singers and “actresses with deep voices” and realised there were plenty from black jazz singers to husky female actors appearing in everything from the African Queen (Katharine Hepburn) to Star Trek: Voyager (Kate Mulgrew). In fact, google that same thing now and one of the top entries is a feminisation secrets blog page about the “Top Ten Women with Deep Voices“. Maybe Google knows I’m trans.

For some women, smoking and even the menopause and the resulting decrease of Oestrogen can lower one’s voice. For others, it’s a record of their life. I remember the before and after versions of Marianne Faithful’s voice, I actually liked the latter “whisky soaked” version.

“The rough, cracked, even scarred instrument that Faithfull possesses is as responsible for her legendary status as is her sordid past. Her voice is testament to that past, a lifetime of self-destructive behavior that included years of drug abuse and heroin addiction. The smoky rasp Faithfull now wields is hardly recognizable from the gentle, lilting teenage soprano that first put her on the charts in 1964, at age 17, with her rendition of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ ‘As Tears Go By.'” – abc news

As a teen, suffering from an endocrine condition that meant a delayed puberty I was teased and bullied for my high pitched voice. I was still paranoid about it in my 20s, so I practised deepening it, and slowly grew a goatee beard to pass better as a man. I noticed deeper older voices got listened to, got treated with respect. Indeed, studies show this to be true.

The irony was that I didn’t feel what I was pretending to be, certainly not the stereotyped version of manhood. Nor would I end up its polar opposite either. So, I am both “my voice” and “not my voice”.

When I think of singers whose voices are part and parcel of their identity and yet they make me question and reflect on that inner and outer journey of identity, I think of Antony and the Johnsons, Lady Gaga and several others besides, “I am what I am” by Gloria Gaynor but sung by John Barrowman, or even “She’s Not There” by The Zombies. Their songs so often give voice to my inner voice or like Lola by the Kinks perpetuate the confusion of myself or others.

Charlie Peck singing “Home”

My decision to keep my voice, as an unchanged part of my identity, is mine alone, and not a comment on those who transform theirs. My reflection, on this, in fact, came about because of seeing a YouTube video of a trans guy Charlie Peck who recorded their voice before and after 9 months (apt, the period of pregnancy and giving birth) of Testosterone. 

I cried at this, twice, three times, ok I’m still crying.

Contrary to this video, other parts of me changed, but I get the coming “Home” to oneself, and being both different and yet the same. This is something non-trans people may never get, but transitioning for most of us is like coming home, finding ourselves, doing what we have to do to accept ourselves, be ourselves.

Charlie writes:

“This video is a true ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. I am singing a duet with myself where one voice is recorded my first day on testosterone treatment (16th of May 2016) and the second voice 9 months later (16th of February 2017). The song is a tribute to the trans* community, but also to myself. It is a reminder that things actually do get better.”

Here’s another beautiful singer’s pre and post-T voice comparison, Nikolas Lima:

Voice has [no] Gender

The Greek musical composer Yiannis Chryssomallis, aka Yanni, said, that:

“There is no gender to my music. There’s no male or female voice, no trite lyrics or poetry. It’s much more abstract, so it lives with you longer.”

And yet, also:

“the human voice too can be the most expressive instrument known to man. There is power to it.”

“the voice is the netherworld, the darkness, where there’s nothing to hang onto. The voice comes from a part of you that just knows and expresses and is.” – Jeff Buckley

A Voice for the voiceless

I prefer to ignore the gender in my or other voices, I know trans men who haven’t taken a drop of T yet, meanwhile, I’ve never seen or heard them as anything other than male, and often their voices match that perception even without the aid of hormones. The same goes for many trans women, I don’t notice the pitch of their voice, rather I concentrate on what they have to say. That should be true for all of us.

In addition, the most powerful thing we can do with our voices is to speak up for those without one. Don’t be silent, don’t be afraid of your power, whether yours is a voice of creation or assent, let it be for good, whatever its pitch.