Some of us are transgender.
We dont choose to be trans - transition is a matter of survival - it is one of the most challenging journeys within humanity.
There are about half a million trans folk in the UK, and we are probably the most marginalised section within society. One-third of employers have admitted they will not employ a trans person for fear of upsetting staff and customers, and when we can get employment, often our wages are less than our colleagues.
Many of us suffer abuse - trans hate crime has quadrupled in five years because of 'bad press' - often ignited by comments from high-profile people such as J K Rowling and Rosie Duffield MP.
Galop, an LGBT+ charity, report that over 50% of trans people are too scared even to leave our home - that is, if we have one.
Many trans people are homeless and suffer from mental illness and self-harm, often caused by family rejection and waits of up to six years for medical treatment in specialist Gender Identity Clinics. The waiting time is torturous, and there is evidence that the trans suicide rate, especially for our younger trans folk, is between 7 and 10 times higher than the national average.
I am Steph, the founder of this website, and I am a 69-year-old local trans woman - yep, that's my pic at the top of this page.
My transition took me nearly ten years, and for sure, it was socially and physically a painful journey.
Telling family (especially my kids), friends, work colleagues that your sex don't match your gender is very difficult - even before starting the medical journey.
I had 'bottom' surgery in July 2019; my estrogen level is that of a typical female. My testosterone level is below an average female. I have a female driving licence and passport but must die as a man because I am not eligible for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
Only 1% of trans people have a GRC; the conditions to be awarded one is set at a threshold that is almost impossible to achieve. The government knows this and, back in 2016, announced that they intended to be "kinder" to trans folk by reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), the legal instrument that sets the threshold for a GRC.
One method suggested was that of 'Self-ID', where a trans person swears to live life in their new gender under oath. This is not something to take lightly - make a false statement, and it is a criminal offence under the 1911 Perjury Act with a potential penalty of two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
Sadly, Ms Rowling, Duffield and a few feminist groups objected to Self-ID and gained significant media and press support. They lobbied hard against Self-ID when the government activated a Public Consultation concerning GRA reform.
Over 108,000 people submitted responses to GRA reform, and over 64% of respondents agreed that Self-ID was the way forward and over 73% were in favour of GRA reform.
Many countries already allow trans folk to Self-ID, some of which we may consider regressive. Countries like Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Malta, Chile, Portugal, Denmark, Norway and our closest neighbour Ireland.
But our Tory government reneged on GRA reform.
Failed because Theresa May, who wanted to be "kinder to trans people" like me, was replaced by Boris Johnson.
Failed because the noise from the extreme right-wing press was so loud.
Failed because a few radical feminist groups had connections?
One organisation, who are holding a Conference in Portsmouth Guildhall on October 16th & 17th are FiLiA. Recently they gave evidence to the Womens and Equality Select Committee (WESC), who is reviewing the government's failure in relation to GRA reform.
In oral and written evidence (either to WESC or during the Public Consultation), FiLiA has said:
"Filia's position is that the GRA works for the intended purpose".
"We know that obtaining a GRC is not particularly burdensome".
"It is also important to retain gatekeeping around the ease with which individuals can obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate".
"We are aware of a growing concern in society about the prevalence of ‘gender ideology’.
"We recommend the Government do not widen the parameters of who is eligible to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate".
FiLiA would say they are not "anti-trans" and in fairness on other womens issues, many, including I, would support them. But in section 11.2 of their written evidence to the WESC, FiLiA conflates the GRA with the Equality Act 2010 and that is wrong.
GRA reform simply allows people to get married and die in dignity, change a birth certificate but not retrospectively. Single-sex spaces are protected by way of the Equality Act which the government has said they will not change. I am pleased that is the case, we all need "safe spaces" sometimes, especially LGBT+ people.
So I wholeheartedly object to FiLiA's approach to GRA reform, and in September, I launched the "Fly the Flag" campaign asking the Guildhall to fly the trans flag while FiLiA is in our city. I and trans allies will be holding other events in Guildhall Square and, of course, in the pubs close by! Events include speeches, poetry, open mic, dancing, mindfulness, filling in crosswords (just joking) and anything else we can think of!
A peaceful protest - an event in support of trans people and a celebration of transness.
Being true to yourself is a HUMAN RIGHT!
Other trans folk and I are very grateful to Amnesty International for their support both at my event and regarding GRA reform. We will be gathering in the Guildhall Square from 8:00 am - yes, a BIG ask on the weekend - sorry.
But human rights are essential, and we must ALL fight for them - irrespective of our personal politics!
We must fight homophobia, fight racism, fight sexism, fight transphobia, fight ANYTHING that is not right.
So I am asking the people of Portsmouth and Southampton, Brighton and beyond for your help in supporting trans rights.
See you in Pompey.
Thank you (:
UPDATE12/10/21............A timetable of events for both days has been agreed which is as follows:
0800 - 0900 Mini Breakfast
0900 - 1000 Introduction & Education
1000 - 1200 Open Mic to include speeches (mine is at 11:15) & performances, (singing & poetry).
1200 - 1300 Dancing
1300 - to close Open Mic to include speeches & performances, (singing & poetry).
Wet weather/announcements - watch for tweets from @PlaceSteph.
Right of reply to this letter? FiLiA knows how to reach me, and yes, of course.