Petitioning the government

If you care about something deeply, and want to make a difference, why not- start a petition on the UK government website? It’s so user-friendly. “What do you want us to do?” it asks. It wants a headline. Then, “Tell us more”. Why do you want government or parliament to do this? It only allows 800 characters, including spaces, for background and additional information, so you might be better to draft before going on site. Then you need five supporters’ email addresses.

It has to meet the “petition standards”, but this is a low bar. It has to call for a clear action within the government or parliament’s responsibilities. It should not contain false or unproven statements. It should not be “offensive or extreme”, which includes petitions that negatively focus on a group of people because of characteristics such as gender identity. This rule is interpreted narrowly.

The petition to find the 200 lost refugee children was rejected. It says 440 have gone missing and only 200 have returned, but an official refused it saying the state is already looking for the children. Though not very hard.

906,229 people signed to call an immediate general election, and were brushed off. The most signatories ever asked to revoke article 50: 6,103,056.

Recently, the site has allowed hate petitions, but these are in a sense reassuring: they get fewer signatories than petitions for rights. One wanted gender identity removed from school relationships education. It got 38,403 signatures in six months, less than the 55,947 for “Increase funding for NHS transgender services”. The government did not respond to the hate petition, but said it was increasing funding and seeking to offer access to specialist interventions in primary care. That would be great. Waiting lists are still long.

The highest petitions on a search for gender are 140,768 to recognise nonbinary which was debated in Westminster Hall and 137,271 to Reform the GRA, by removing the need for a medical diagnosis, which was also debated.

Petitions are closed after six months, so the same request can be made again and again. There is a current petition to recognise nonbinary, closing on 13 June 2023. Obsessive anti-trans campaigner Natalie Bird wants trans women not to be counted as women in crime statistics, and has gained just 297 signatures in more than two months. But when she claims “The GRA has resulted in violent males being placed in women’s prisons”, she is clearly “negatively focusing” on trans people. She has breached the petition standards, but got away with it.

Obsessive anti-trans campaigner, and profiteer from the huge sums of money available to haters Maya Forstater has done better, though not as well as allies’ petitions. She’s got 76,124 caring enough to click a link or two to demand that “sex” in the Equality Act means biological sex. She wants all trans women excluded from all women’s services, and she does not care if women with androgen insensitivity are also legally excluded.

This is an attack on trans women. Now, we can go into women’s services. If Forstater got her way, we could not. But the petition was let through. The government response says there’s no need, it is easy to exclude trans women without such a change in the law.

A mirror petition to commit to not amending the Equality Act’s definition of sex has run more than two months to get 12,728 signatures. The government response says they are committed to single-sex services, referring to the EHRC 2022 guidance, not the 2011 code of practice, which takes precedence.

Almost on level pegging is a petition to repeal the GRA, again scaremongering about trans women. It says the GRA “causes avoidable harm to women and children who fear male violence”. That is a clear attack on trans women because we are trans.

In only a few days, the petition to reverse the decision to block the GRR (Scotland) Bill has got over 25,000 signatures. The government has not yet responded.

Other petitions just started this month include one to recognise nonbinary people and remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis for a GRC, and one to require self-contained gender-neutral toilets with a basin in all new buildings, rather than stalls with communal sinks.

The hate petition to stop the GRR Bill was rejected on 19 December because it was the responsibility of Holyrood not Westminster at the time: it came out just before the 86-39 vote in Edinburgh to pass the Bill.

Holyrood petitions are only open for four weeks, rather than six months in Westminster. There’s one to withdraw the guidance to Scottish schools on supporting trans pupils. Well, at least from that, I learned about the guidance (pdf). The haters can’t avoid spreading good news.

Countering hate

How can I be understood, when my experience is so different from most people’s, and when some try to make me the out-group, the hated Other?

Miriam Cates’ speech in Parliament on Wednesday 18th distilled her transphobia: she wants everyone to “condemn more, and understand less,” as John Major said of criminals. She started with sex criminals, who will exploit any loophole to get access to children. She turned to a trans person, defined as “someone who is uncomfortable with their sex”. Then she spoke of women stopping going to a counselling class because there were men- trans women- there, and they were entitled to “the dignity of a woman-only space”. She spoke of herself feeling threatened by a trans woman. She said law “should be based on fact, and someone cannot change their sex”. As Lloyd Russell-Moyle said, that is disgusting, shameful, horrible, the worst transphobia, and pursuing a war on trans people.

Cates calls us people “uncomfortable with their sex”, an unsympathetic outsider’s view. Then she imagines dreadful consequences from allowing us to be who we are.

Cates sees us as an out-group, at best delusional, at worst sexual predators. You cannot change your sex. Nick Fletcher’s stupid incomprehension reinforces this view. Knowing nothing, he spoke of “wisdom”. He thinks removing restrictions is unwise, that trans children are just going through a phase, and their parents should tell them they were born in the right body.

Someone might not understand why trans people would want to do that, look like that. Cates and Fletcher tell that voter we are not just weird, but dangerous, someone to punch down at and relieve their everyday frustrations. After a hard day at work, they could come home and get likes and upvotes for sharing endless variations on Trans Is Bad.

People differ, in the way they understand the world, think, or feel, and in what they desire, but unconsciously, you expect people to be just like you. It is hard to see other people.

Many people understand the value of diversity. It makes life more interesting, and our way of coming together to solve problems more effective.

A woman who moved from the US to England said that there were ways people indicated they were using irony, but they were different in each country. Possibly they differ between regions, and are a reason English Northerners and Southerners find each other so weird. You learn the signals in childhood, and noticing becomes unconscious. Bringing it into consciousness and seeing the different signals is difficult.

I start with a type of diversity everyone knows exists, few people now think of as harmful: lefthandedness. I want to persuade not only the person who values diversity, but those who find difference incomprehensible, or even threatening.

I am lefthanded. It seems a bit weird to me that people use their right hand so much, so I can see that for a righthanded person it might seem weird the other way. Lefthandedness was seen as bad, gauche rather than adroit, even sinister rather than dextrous, “cack-handed”, meaning clumsy, because people wiped their bottoms with their left hand and ate with their right. Children were forced to write with their right hands, and this was traumatic. Let us use our hands as comes naturally, and we flourish.

Angelina Jolie, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are all lefthanded. I got the names from this list, which is almost all British and American. That site encourages lefthanders to play guitar lefthandedly. It shows that people diverse in one way don’t necessarily promote diversity generally.

I am not “uncomfortable with my sex”. I am reconciled to my Y chromosome and my narrow pelvis. I have a whole, integrated personality, wounded but healing. My identity as Clare allows me to express who I really am. Trying to present male was miserable, and in the end unbearable. My friend saw: it was as if I was acting when I was Stephen, I was just me when I was Clare. It is like writing with my left hand: you might not want to do it, but when I do life is much easier. It comes naturally to me.

Tories want to spread incomprehension, disgust and fear, to foment a culture war distracting from their economic incompetence and plutocratic exploitation. I want everyone simply to be able to be themselves. People are different. You have to make an effort if you are going to understand them, but how much better to see the world as it really is, rather than to reject it!

Parliament debates blocking Gender Recognition Reform

“Transgender people deserve our respect, our support and our understanding.” Alister Jack and the Tory government proceeded to give us their contempt, gaslighting and othering. He made the most blatantly hypocritical statement in the debate:

“We need to take the heat out of this debate. We are dealing with a reduction in safeguards for women and children.”

No, he was talking about demonising trans people. Stewart Hosie said he should apologise to us. Instead, Stephen Flynn, leader of the SNP at Westminster, made “an apology to those people… who have hopes and aspirations for the future and who have fought so hard for a piece of legislation for so long and now see their hope being taken away from them.”

There are three debates recorded in Hansard: Continue reading

Keir Starmer dodges the Trans question

Keir Starmer is only not likely to be the next Prime Minister because Mr Sunak is unlikely to last the two years during which the Tory party can deny us an election. So he had a long interview on the BBC Sunday politics programme. Of a 27 minute interview, 6.20 minutes were spent on gender recognition reform, which will marginally affect a few thousand lives. That’s longer than they spent on anything else, including NHS reform, which has the possibility of changing the lives of everyone in this country.

Laura Kuennsberg asked Keir Starmer if he would allow gender recognition without a diagnosis, and if he would introduce self-ID. That’s two ways of asking the same question, and he dodged both. He said he would “modernise” the system. That sounds great, but he did not say what it means. The ICD does not call trans a mental illness, so a diagnosis by a psychiatrist is inappropriate, and doctors resent having to make it. He wants to take out the indignities of the process, and he wants trans people treated with respect. That depends on definitions: I don’t think it’s respectful to exclude me from women’s services, but some disagree.

He said for 99.9% of women the issue is biological. Well, how else could anyone be trans, or gay, or aphantasic, but by biology? A fairy curse? About 0.4% of people are trans, as the census showed. That may be undercounted.

He said, “What I don’t want to be drawn into is the usual toxic political football which this always seems to become.” Unfortunately he is: he’s on the football pitch whether he likes it or not, and people keep kicking the ball at him. Hence all the waffle about “modernising”. It could mean anything.

He said he had concerns about getting a GRC aged 16. He did not think people were old enough. They are old enough to vote in Scotland, to marry or join the army. He’s pushing the lie that cis children change their gender then regret it. In Norway a six year old can get GR if their parents consent.

Starmer said he’s very keen to preserve women’s safe spaces. Well, I’m a woman. That, again, means nothing. But the haters may hope that he means, women’s services according to gender assigned at birth, which they call “sex”. He waffles, and leaves a back door he can dodge through.

He would not say if he would vote to block the Scottish Bill. He said he would wait to see what the Government proposes. He’s being lawyerly- don’t commit to opposing before you know what the proposal is- but he should oppose any attempt to block, as a threat to the Union and against the Labour government’s devolution settlement.

Labour in Scotland introduced an amendment to the GRR Bill to ensure the primacy of the Equality Act. Starmer said he’s very concerned that it was not accepted. I don’t know if he does not know about s15A, which says, “Nothing in this Act modifies the Equality Act 2010”. And the Scotland Act says anything in a Scottish Act affecting Equality law, with specific exceptions, is “not law”. Is that not enough?

Kuennsberg asked the actor Brian Cox about it all. He said he is very proud of Scotland for the GRR Bill. She then asked Caroline Nokes, a Conservative MP. Nokes chaired the Women and Equalities Select Committee when it reported that something like the Scots GRR Bill should be enacted in England. She thinks it’s an odd issue for the Scottish secretary to pick a constitutional fight over. She too is against the toxic allegations thrown around in this debate, though for her this included the use of the word “terf” as an insult.

Nokes agreed that some in her party were trying to use this issue as a “battering ram”. She wanted GR simpler and kinder.

The BBC had two reports on the interview. The one on GR had more views than the one on the NHS, even though the NHS affects everyone and GR only affects trans people. It’s as if people read news for entertainment, or to get riled up, rather than to be informed. The Guardian did a report on Starmer’s comments on the NHS, but not those on trans.

Kemi Badenoch and international gender recognition

The government proposes to take away legal rights from trans people. This is new. Previously, they have denied our legal rights, or proposed additional rights only to refuse them, or threatened to block rights. Now, the Minister “for” women and equalities, Kemi Badenoch, proposes to take rights away. But, will this happen? Probably not. If it did, would it affect any trans people? No.

The Scottish GRR Bill proposes to recognise the gender of people who have changed gender in their country of origin automatically, but now anyone who comes to the UK after a gender change has to apply for another GRC, under GRA s1(1)(b).

Immigrants can get a British GRC if they already have GR abroad. They need evidence of that GR, probably some sort of official document, and a statutory declaration of whether they are married or in a civil partnership. They need to be from a country or territory approved in a list. That list is in The Gender Recognition (Approved Countries and Territories) Order 2011. It includes most of the US, Australia, Canada, and EU, and some other Council of Europe countries. It includes South Africa, South Korea and Uruguay.

Kemi Badenoch proposes to remove those countries if their GR system is not “equivalently rigorous” to the English system. She writes, “It should not be possible for a person who would not satisfy the criteria to obtain UK legal gender recognition to use the overseas recognition route to obtain a UK Gender Recognition Certificate. This would damage the integrity and credibility of the process of the Gender Recognition Act.”

This does not affect Scottish GRCs under the new system. They will still be UK GRCs. But someone from Uruguay or Malta, say, with GR at home, would need a diagnosis by a specialist psychiatrist. That makes no sense, and doctors object. This is ridiculous. The English system has no credibility.

From the UN report on gender identity, these countries use self-declaration: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, and Uruguay.

So, what if someone trans from that list comes to the UK after the UK no longer recognises their GR?

Well, they will still have their original passport, which will give their correct gender. If their driver’s licence is recognised, you don’t need a GRC to get a British licence showing your correct gender (it’s coded in the driver number). If they get “Indefinite leave to remain” in the UK, then they still use their original passport. If they get British citizenship, gender on the passport does not require a GRC.

If they get married, their gender on the marriage certificate will matter to them, but might not require a GRC. Would a registrar insist on writing that a trans woman bride’s previous status was “bachelor” rather than “spinster”?

If they married abroad, that should be recognised whether their gender is recognised or not. Britain recognises gay marriages. England recognises a foreign marriage if it was valid according to local law when it was carried out, and if any previous marriages of the parties were dissolved in a way English law recognises.

Certainly it won’t affect what toilets they use, or even if they can use a women’s refuge.

The GRP gives statistics of the number of GRCs granted, but not whether they are granted to British people or to immigrants. There were 256 in July to September 2022.

Possibly, nobody will be affected by the new regulation. The government, unable to govern the country or avoid recession, resorts to mindless posturing. If they wanted to take action about sexual violence they could fund refuges or prosecute rape. There is no potential incident of sexual violence now, which would be prevented by the regulation. It is done solely for Badenoch to pretend to be protecting cis women by reducing trans rights, and demonise trans people.

They are removing trans people’s rights. They have not done this before. It is the first time LGBT+ legal rights have gone backwards in the UK since Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.

But, the regulation cannot be introduced without a vote approving it in Parliament. This is the procedure. First, it would go to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. They must ensure it is legal. They should recognise that it breaches human rights and international human rights treaties, and block it.

If it got past that committee, it would be referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee, where any MP can speak. In rare cases, SIs go to the House of Commons for a debate.

If passed, the regulation could be challenged by seeking judicial review. The challenger would have to be a native of one of the countries removed. They might not need to have had their gender changed, or even to be trans. They could show that a potential right had been removed, and argue this was wrong.

It makes me terribly sad. Kemi Badenoch does this not to prevent sexual violence but to attack trans people and foment culture war. The civil service time spent looking at other countries’ GR procedure could be used to imitate them, but instead is used to condemn.

The Scottish Daily Express linked their report to the GRR Bill. The Times claimed that this would allow Westminster to cease to recognise Scottish GRCs, but there is no such power in the Gender Recognition Act. The Guardian did a hostile article, calling it a “trans travel ban”. Well, it is quite unpleasant if New Zealand recognises your transition but your paperwork reverts when you come to the UK. You would still be socially transitioned but there would be this state hostility to your transition.

Lisa Keogh

There is always an infinite supply of money for anti-trans hate campaigners to pursue legal action, however pointless. Several students accused anti-trans hate campaigner Lisa Keogh of “referring to women as the weaker sex and…. asserting that racism isn’t a real thing”, and becoming “hostile and aggressive”, shouting at her tutor. She also made a number of hateful comments. The student who formally complained alleged Keogh was misogynistic, prone to disruptive outbursts and behaviour in class and ignored repeated requests by students and a lecturer to desist. The university investigated, but decided the allegations were not proven. It found she did not shout “intentionally”. Nevertheless she managed to raise £26,000 to sue the University: she tried to argue the very act of investigating a complaint was discrimination against her on the grounds of her “gender-critical” beliefs. One donor gave £8000. There are deep pockets available to fund hate.

She wants abortion illegal after twelve weeks, but her twitter bio claims she is “pro-choice”. I conclude she is untruthful. She is prone to ridiculous and intemperate outbursts: she argues abortion is murder, “by definition”. This aspirant lawyer has a strange idea of what a definition is.

Keogh failed to argue that someone who did not share her disgusting beliefs would have been treated any differently. Anyone who was the subject of a complaint would be investigated. Keogh’s claim did not “narrate even a hypothesis upon which her case could be founded”. On indirect discrimination, she did not allege any practice which would disadvantage an anti-trans campaigner, so her case was irrelevant.

Keogh raised arguments about the Public Sector Equality Duty, which applied to the University, but did not base her case on them. So the sheriff did not determine that point. She made vague claims that her human rights were infringed, but did not say how.

The case was thrown out after a “debate”. In Scottish civil procedure, the defender may argue that even if everything the pursuer alleges is true, she would still lose her case. So there was no evidence heard of the allegations.

I dare to hope she is not on course to be a lawyer. June 2021 was the end of the final year of her law degree, after which she would take the one year Diploma in Professional Legal Practice then work for a period before qualification for a firm of solicitors. She says it was her dream to work in the law, but her twitter account describes her as an “eternal student”.

The case decides nothing of importance, and a sheriff court does not produce a binding precedent anyway, even in Scotland. Its main interest is how far the haters will go to attack any institution that dares to criticise, or even investigate, their hatred, and how much money they have. They want to make institutions too frightened to protect trans rights. However the sheriff quoted settled law, that an investigation the University was obliged to undertake could not be a “detriment” under discrimination law. The transphobes have unlimited funds for court actions, and their every loss makes the law in our favour clearer.

In May 2022, Keogh stood in the Scottish local elections for the Alba Party in the Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim ward, winning 86 first preference votes, coming last of ten candidates. Nevertheless The Times saw fit to report on her candidacy, quoting Keogh saying some inane pablum, and also Trans Is Bad. It gave them yet another excuse to print that women’s rights are under threat from trans people. Altogether the Times has seven articles to date on Keogh.

Keogh is a mediocre and ridiculous person, devoid of interest to anyone. But an individual pays her £8000, and the Times lauds her, because she is not ashamed to hate trans people.

Download the pdf judgment.

The Council of Europe condemns transphobia in Britain

The Council of Europe condemns “toxic” transphobia in the UK.

Since 1949, the CoE has upheld human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Britain is a founder member. It now has 46 members: the Russian Federation was expelled after invading Ukraine. The Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, visited the UK this Summer, met young trans people as well as politicians and civil servants, and condemned “an increasingly toxic discourse against trans people” here.

Her report (pdf) is written in diplomatic jargon but is still hard-hitting. I have had to translate parts of it.

She found the stories trans people told of intolerance, discrimination and violence “harrowing”. The media reports a great deal on trans, focusing on questionable allegations that we are dangerous, or that the rights we seek to live our lives quietly are dangerous. She quotes the CoE Parliamentary Assembly resolution condemning highly prejudicial “gender critical” and anti-trans narratives. The UN Expert said the press assumes “predatory determinism”- trans are dangerous by nature. Press and politicians frequently assert we are a threat. When we speak up for our human rights or even just talk about our lives, this is called “gender ideology”, a bad, dangerous thing. MPs and government ministers should oppose this slander, but instead spread it. Some politicians seek to get votes out of anti-trans hate, she says. So, the LGBT+ community does not trust the government.

The government and media claim trans rights are incompatible with women’s rights or LGB rights. The Commissioner says this is false. Trans women and cis women “have a shared experience of prejudice, gender inequality, harmful stereotyping, and … violence”. The government and media attempts to provoke conflict make it more difficult to support human rights generally. There is no evidence we are a threat.

She notes that in 2018 the Tory government recognised gender recognition procedures were “intrusive, costly, humiliating and administratively burdensome” and “perpetuate[d] the outdated and false assumption that being trans is a mental illness.” She says there are barriers to legal gender recognition and they should be removed. The World Health Organisation confirms trans is not a mental illness. The English gender recognition process still requires a psychiatric report, and that is stigmatising. It causes human rights violations. We need self-determination, say the CoE and UN: we know who we are. Nine countries have self-determination for trans people, and there is no evidence that the procedure is misused or infringes others’ rights.

The Commissioner fears the media and political attacks on trans people will weaken our legal protection in the Equality Act. Trans people suffer frequent discrimination, she says. Politicians and media constantly claiming a Trans Threat pressures organisations to exclude trans people.

Kemi Badenoch, minister for Equalities, has decided not to proceed with a conversion therapy ban. The commissioner condemns this. She says conversion practices inflict severe pain and suffering, even long-lasting psychological and physical damage.

She recommends:

Politicians should stop saying trans people are a threat, and refute allegations in the media that we are dangerous.

Children should have comprehensive relationships and sexuality education including about the existence of LGBT+ people.

The government should combat intolerance, discrimination and hate crime.

The government should rebuild trust with LGBT+ community and organisations like Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation.

There should be “quick, transparent and accessible” gender recognition, self-determined, not obstructed by psychiatric gate-keeping.

Trans exclusion should be exceptional, only occurring when justified by “concrete, objective facts”. Normally, we should be included by services and society. We know those “concrete, objective facts” are unicorns, never observed by objective investigators.

There should be a comprehensive ban on conversion practices, including attempts to convert trans people. She does not mention the government’s assertion that there is conversion from cis to trans, because it is ridiculous.

It’s sad this has to be said. But the European human rights body Winston Churchill campaigned to create has utterly condemned the British government and large parts of our news media.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomes her report, in particular her call for self-determination of trans gender recognition. They said hostility to trans rights affects women’s rights. Sadly, I could not find a similar statement from the EHRC.