Friday, 27 November 2015

Exeter 'Reclaim the Night' March

Women Unite to Reclaim the Night - Exeter 2015
Last night (Thursday 26th November 2015) saw four major feminist groups in Exeter combine to put on the largest Reclaim the Night march since they started in Exeter.  Devon Rape Crisis Service, SAFE, Exeter Feminists and the University Femsoc all came together to stage the event and well over 300 people joined the march through the streets of Exeter to raise awareness of how frightening and intimidating it can be for women to be out after dark.

It is really quite appalling that in this day and age of supposed equality that women are fearful of sexual abuse just by going out after darkness falls.

A few of the marchers
The Reclaim The Night marches started in the UK on the 12th November 1977, when torch-lit marches were held across England in Leeds, York, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Brighton and London. They were called by the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group, who were inspired by news of co-ordinated women-only ‘Take Back The Night’ marches against sexual harassment, held across towns and cities in West Germany on the 30th April 1977. These were reviewed in the UK Women’s Liberation Movement magazine Spare Rib and titled ‘Germany: Women Reclaim The Night’ (Issue 61). In America the marches are known as ‘Take Back The Night’ and the first formal march with this title was held in San Francisco in 1978. Reportedly, the first ever ‘Reclaim The Night’ march with that title was held in Rome in 1976 to protest against a rise in reported rapes.

Although the original marches were women only marches, latterly men have been allowed to join in the marches to show their solidarity with women - and it was heartening to see so many men amongst the marchers in Exeter last night.

Here is the slideshow video of the march

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Inequalities in Gender Identity Services.

Will Huxtor (left), the current chair of the NHS England Gender Task & Finish Group, is reported in his latest blog to be wanting to address inequality in the treatment of transgender people.  Unfortunately, there is already glaring inequality though in the way that the NHS commissioning services distinguish between the treatments for transgender women against those offered to trans men and these are weighted heavily in favour of transgender men.

One has to wonder if there might possibly be some sort of patriarchal bias against allowing transgender women equality in access to funding for surgeries which will allow them to transition in the relative safety that transgender men enjoy.

For trans men treatments which are funded by the NHS include:-
  • Testosterone therapy (much more expensive than oestrogen therapy)
  • Mastectomy (chest surgery)
  • Oophorectomy and hysterectomy
  • Metoidioplasty
  • Phalloplasty (3 stage operation)
It is estimated by some sources that the cost is 4 to 6 times the total cost of treatments for transgender women

For trans women treatments which are funded by the NHS include:-
  • Oestrogen therapy
  • Limited (8 hours) laser treatment to reduce the amount of facial hair (this is generally insufficient to fully remove facial hair - and if the patient cannot afford private treatments, it will grow back to its former density - thereby wasting the initial money spent)
  • Breast augmentation (allowed in selected cases, but not available to everybody)
  • GRS (includes orchidectomy, penectomy and vaginoplasty) - cost around £10,000
  • Tracheal shave (occasionally - but has to be fought for)
What is not included and is often vital are:
  • Hair transplantation (generally low cost surgery)
  • Facial Feminisation Surgery (high cost - similar in cost to phalloplasty in f2m patients)
  • Vocal cord surgery (only in exceptional cases)
The effects of testosterone for trans men is extremely beneficial - the voice will break naturally to give a very male voice, facial hair will develop so that the person will often grow a beard, hair loss will often result in male pattern baldness. The facial structure (underlying bone structure) will change the features to become far more masculine in appearance because of changes in the bone structure of the face. Features that do not change to a very large extent are the size of the hands or feet.

As a result of all this trans men tend to be assimilated back into society far easier than trans women and can therefore find it easier to gain meaningful employment and to hold down that job.

Although oestrogen therapy does bring about breast development (especially in younger people) very often very little breast development takes place - and funding for breast augmentation is a postcode lottery it would appear.

The NHS will fund 8 sessions of laser hair removal (or electrolysis) this is woefully inadequate in many cases and if the person cannot afford treatments (low income or unemployed) then the facial hair will regrow. This can make it extremely difficult for a trans woman to gain work/hold down a job (despite the EA2010 regarding employment non-discrimination). In many cases an additional 4 to 8 hours treatment would totally eliminate facial hair - and hence NHS money would not have been wasted.

The NHS will not under any circumstances fund hair transplants for transgender women - leaving them at risk of devastating humiliation should an accident occur or if somebody decided to play a “prank” and remove it.

The NHS will not under any circumstance fund facial feminisation surgery. This is as vital to many trans women as GRS. Oestrogen therapy will not reverse the effect of the radical facial masculinisation during a male puberty to any great extent (or reduce the size of hands or feet) which leaves trans women at far greater risk of transphobic hate crime - with the destructive loss of self-confidence which can lead to depression, anxiety attacks, suicide ideation or self-harming.

Whilst it is extremely important not to deny any of the existing NHS treatments that are freely available to transgender men, it is nevertheless vitally important that transgender women have equal access to surgeries which are vital to them and to how that can help them secure employment and assist in a good assimilation back into society.

In a survey which I did a short while back and which I have tried in vain to bring to the attention of Dr. John Dean (who has promised me appointments on two occasions now, but failed to deliver on either) it became absolutely clear that about half of all respondents to the survey felt it was as (if not more) important to allow transgender women to have access to Facial Feminisation Surgery (FFS) as the Gender Reassignment Surgery.

If you think about that, it actually might relieve a lot of the immediate pressure on the chronic waiting list length for GRS as many patients could be switch over to FFS surgeons hence relieving the pressure on the GRS surgeons.

If Mr. Huxtor would like to contact me about this, he can do so via the contact form on my website,

Sunday, 1 November 2015

If you are transgender, will you receive justice in a UK court?

Tara Hudson - jailed in a violent male prison
On the 23rd October Tara Hudson was given a prison sentence by Bath Magistrates for violent conduct assaulting the bar manager of a club in Bristol on Boxing Day of the previous year.

Tara is a transgender woman who admits that she also has alcohol and other mental health problems, so the magistrates decided that after several cautions about her previous behaviour she should be sent to prison.

We see this every weekend in towns and cities all over the UK and yes, most people are dismayed and angry that this happens - and every weekend people end up by being locked up in custody overnight and then released the following day with a fine.

Nobody is disputing that after a series of cautions maybe she deserved the short sharp shock of a 3 month prison sentence where hopefully she would get some help with her alcohol problems.

However what was truly horrific was that the magistrates decided to send her to HMP Bristol, a male prison which has been severely criticised by HM Inspectorate of Prisons as being an increasing violent institution where the morale of the prison staff and the inmates was at an all time low and that the prison was also castigated for the flourishing drug trade that occurs within its walls.

Tara is a young woman who has lived all her adult life in her acquired gender role, who has been on oestrogen hormones for 6 years (the Athletics Federation allows transgender people to compete in their acquired gender role after just two years of being on hormones as they have proved that after this amount of time the strength superiority acquired from testosterone has completely disappeared). She has also undergone various surgeries to change her body.

Despite assurances that she would be kept safe, she was allegedly locked in her cell for 23 hours a day and harassed and sexually abused continuously whilst she was there.  The prison staff were either powerless to stop the abuse or allowed it to happen.

A few days after reports about this surfaced in a local paper, a campaign was launched by Bath Gender Equality Network - which amazingly achieved 160,000 signatures in a little over 3 days, questions were raised in Parliament about what the DOJ was doing to rectify the problem which the Bath magistrates had caused. When questioned by reporters about this case,The Ministry of Justice, kept on repeating, parrot fashion, that until a transgender person had a GRC or new birth certificate, they would be housed in a jail that reflected their birth gender - despite their own guidelines published in 2011 saying that if a person had progressed a sufficient way into their transition, then a case conference should be called to decide which prison to house the person so as not to create additional mental stress to that person.

Demonstrators outside Bristol Crown Court ©BBC News
During the week she was housed in HMP Bristol an appeal was launched which was held a week after she had been sent down - this time at Bristol Crown Court. BGEN organised a demonstration (which myself and other people from Transfigurations attended) to be held outside the court during the hearing. A similar demonstration also took place outside the MOJ Department in London. The judge in the appeal hearing, although not changing the sentence, suggested that the prison authorities should reconsider where she should serve her sentence. Fortunately, the prison authorities decided to finally see wisdom and Tara was sent back from the hearing to a female prison in Gloucestershire.

Lessons do need to be learned from this terrible injustice as it was very apparent that Tara's Human Rights were breached by the original sentencing decision, so the whole legal system - from magistrates to prison authorities, need to learn from this terrible injustice and to apply the existing rules and guidelines as these were completely disregarded in this case.

I would like to thank Ceri Caramél Jenkins, Emily Senft and everybody else at the Bath Gender Equality Network who worked tirelessly long days and nights arranging the petition, twitter storms and everything else which you did raising awareness about this injustice - and most of all I would like to thank the great British public who responded quickly and compassionately in signing this petition - without your support I fear that Tara would still be in Horfield Prison and would bear the resulting scars for the rest of her life.

Thank you!!!!!

Later: As I mentioned in the message above, holding Tara in a male prison was a clear breach of her Human Rights and this is now being recognised as another petition has just been launched to bring the attention of the UN to the UK's treatment of transgender detainees and for them to take action against the UK government to stop this happening in the future.