Welcome to my blog, which I started way back in December 2002 - long before social media was a thing! With the advent of Facebook, Twitter etc. I don't write that often here now, but you never know when I might feel the urge to do so.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
This is interesting. As they've previously indicated, PFC are now piling on the pressure about the state and ethos of medical treatment for transpeople in the UK.
Certainly, if my own experiences are anything to go by, change is well and truly overdue. I've lost count of the number of people I've heard from who've been treated badly by some unsympathetic and out of touch so called "health professionals".
- There's been, for instance, the controversy over James Barrett's remarks, in a memo we weren't apparently supposed to have seen. Those views are perhaps even more important to keep in mind now, since Dr Barrett was appointed clinical lead of the Charing Cross GIC a couple of months ago.
- During the course of the year, work has continued in drafting a new set of guidelines for UK care, in a joint Royal College of Psychiatrists and Royal Society of Medicine committee, under the chairmanship of Dr Kevan Wylie. Although that work is still at a draft stage, there will come a point where the committee seeks wider stakeholder feedback on the proposed content later this year. Before that time the entire trans community really does need to think about what it wants, independently from what it is offered.
- From time to time we see trans people in other countries questionning the whole basis on which care services are conceived. In France and Belgium, for instance, the stage is being set for what may be a very bitter confrontation with practitioners who seem infinitely more blinkered and conservative than our own brand. (See http://www.pfc.org.uk/pfclists/news-arc/2005q2/msg00031.htm). And, in the US, debate about the much-revised (and often reviled) "Harry Benjamin Standards of Care" resurfaces on a regular basis. Interestingly, no matter how many times people may tinker around the edges with that particular bible, it is no more loved today by trans people than it ever has been. That should suggest something about the foundations it is built from.
- Society has evolved a far more understanding and accepting attitude towards transsexual people, culminating in several changes to the law in recent years
- Healthcare philosophy has transformed in the last decade particularly, with significant emphasis on evidence-based medicine, patient-centred care, and a sea change in the relationship between doctor and patient. The latter is now characteristically described in terms of the equal partnership of provider and informed service user.
- Transsexual people have also become more self-aware and demanding of treatment standards which match contemporary norms in other areas
- Service users require access to informed and impartial advice from which they can achieve the knowledge necessary to make meaningful choices. This form of choice leads to the empowerment of the individual to make further informed choices and to take responsibility for them.
- Service users also require access to a diverse range of services capable of providing (and permitting them to follow) those options.
- It is recognised that some providers may have particular specialist approaches which they favour. Some may wish to pursue approaches which remain grounded in a traditional approach to treatment and a dirigiste approach to service user compliance. Some service users may favour this too and it is not the goal for standards of care to replace one sort of rigidity by another.
Introduction by Christine Burns
Six weeks ago you may remember that I drew attention to a petition which someone had organised about the state of treatment services for trans people in the NHS.
And for the current state of that petition see now:
At the time I sought to put the petition into its context with quite a lot that's been going on over the last year or so in the UK:
There is of course a lot more context than this. I covered some of it in my previous article on this topic. However, I would now like to come back to that petition, and what we may derive from it.
At the time that I drew attention to Christopher Pearce's petition it had already earned 100 signatures. Those early statements of support were well worth reading for what they said about people's views of the treatment on offer.
You can of course debate the usefulness of petitions as a campaigning tool. A badly subscribed motion can be worse than useless. Even a widely supported petition can be questionned and be ignored.
Nevertheless, Christopher's petition specifically interested me because of a phenomenon which was quite different from things we've seen in the past when the question of care service quality has been raised.
It wasn't so much the fact that people were signing for what the petition stood for, but what they actually said in the comments accompanying their signatures.
Now, as the signature count seems to have come to rest at 424, it is really interesting to read back through those comments. I say that because, in the past, the problem has always been the reluctance of people to stand up and put their feelings into print.
I see none of that reluctance in this case though. What I do see is considerable anger .. And people who appear to be sufficiently riled to overcome any previous fear of speaking out with their name attached. It is as though a threshold of tolerance has been passed within the UK's trans community. Healthcare providers would do well to consider the significance of that change, from which there is unlikely to be any going back.
The comments form an awful indictment on a whole area of treatment within the NHS. They read more like a dossier about abuse than a commentary on a small and neglected area of healthcare. The picture that is painted suggests a system that is not merely ragged at the edges, but sick to the very core. To me this suggests that something very fundamental is wrong.
One of the fundamental faults is shared with all public health service provision, of course .. lack of resources. However, even badly resourced services can often still deliver good care to the few service users they are able to help.
This is different. People in this case describe being treated in ways which, if substantiated, are scandalous.
One can of course deal with such complaints if people are prepared to take the next step and press their grievances. But would that change things? Probably not, in my view. Individual complaints may deal with the symptoms of the malaise, but is that really dealing with the root causes?
Besides, if the fault lies with the whole way of thinking, and the methodology which stems from that, complaining about the conduct of individual practitioners is unlikely to achieve very much.
I said earlier that no matter how many times the Harry Benjamin Standards have been tweaked, people still fundamentally hate and oppose them. My own personal view is that the attempt to write UK-specific guidelines for the UK will fare no better if the fundamental flaws are copied over from existing regimes like a thread of viral DNA.
What I would therefore like to introduce through the remainder of this article are some fundamental ideas which are intended to challenge the very pillars on which ideas about "standards of care" or "best practice guidelines" are constructed.
Trans campaigners have done this a few times before over the last couple of decades. Those previous attempts to articulate some fundamental principles have been very helpful in moving all our ideas forwards. On this occasion, however, the invitation is to take a far bigger LEAP than before .. A leap into the 21st Century where, in the UK at least, a fundamental rethink of healthcare has been going on throughout the present Government's eight year tenure in office.
If that sounds overambitious then consider this however: There is nothing about the ideas which follow which isn't already being promoted as a necessary form of culture change within other forms of medical practice within the NHS.
The most fundamental change demanded by trans people is that that modern-day thinking about healthcare principles should be applied to an area that has
seen no UNDERLYING change in belief systems for decades. The challenge is not for trans people to justify why these principles should be applied to their health care, but for conservative practitioners and NHS healthcare managers to justify why they should not.
A MANIFESTO FOR TRANS HEALTHCARE IN THE UK
The concepts outlined below are intended as a generalised set of criteria by which care services for transsexual people, and their underlying governance protocols, can be evaluated against contemporary healthcare principles and in terms of acceptability to the client group.
As explained below, the history of the way in which services for transsexual people came into being and have been governed has tended to muddy the waters in terms of understanding whether ways of working are reasonable or not.
Three key factors have changed in recent years:
Proposals for the overhaul of care services in this area are only just being considered, yet it has long been clear that providers and service users both need some overall points of reference to refer to when debating change. That is what the ideas articulated below seek to provide.
Most of the ideas are not uniquely trans-related. In fact they are drawn from contemporary references such as the Government's "Valuing People" white paper, the "Changing the Balance of Power" vision for the NHS, and principles which run throughout legislation such as the Care Standards Act 2000 and the Mental Health Bill of 2004.
The terms used are familiar in other care contexts - accessibility, appropriateness, choice, timeliness, autonomy, independence, privacy, dignity, empowerment and respect for individuality.
Above all, the ideas set out here are entirely in keeping with a general drive towards what is known as "Patient Centred Care" (PCC).
Often the history of treatment services for transsexual people has been deficient in some (if not most) of these areas. In particular, there is a danger of doing things in a particular way because "that's how they are done". It is easy to forget the historical reasons for past ways of working and the ways in which the world has changed. A point of reference is therefore needed for sense checking both governance proposals and existing services therefore, so that evaluation can be anchored in modern thinking.
Healthcare and related services catering for the needs of transsexual people have evolved very little during the fifty years since Harry Benjamin first described the phenomenon which he labelled "transsexuality".
Although there is ample historical and anthropological evidence that gender variant people have existed throughout recorded history and are to be found in every culture around the world, Western medical treatments were defined at a point in time where transsexual people were perceived by society to be sick and perverted.
Whilst many practitioners rapidly came to realise that gender variance was an innate characteristic, there was a shared presumption by physicians and clients alike that medical assistance in transition (as opposed to deterrence) was something that wider society would scorn. This wariness of public opinion and potential disapproval for caring strategies led to the received wisdom that patients should keep their heads down, and that people should be grateful for what they got. The consequence of this belief was the idea that transsexual people should accept the unusually defensive and restrictive terms and conditions which surgeons and psychiatrists stipulated as a condition for sticking their necks out for the patient.
The result of this history is not only an enduring "sickness" model for the phenomenon of being gender atypical but also the retention of an anachronistic power relationship between people seeking medical assistance to transition between gender roles and those holding the keys.
Nobody has ever actually needed PERMISSION in order to undertake a process of gender transition. Gender crossing has never actually been ILLEGAL in Western Society. Insofar as transition can be accomplished without hormonal or surgical interventions, anyone can change their name, the hairstyle and clothes they wear and a range of official documents without needing "diagnosis" or permission.
Unlike almost any other self-initiated major life change, transsexual people do however reach a point where the assistance of medical technology is desired to optimise the outcome. Administration of sex hormones is desired to bring about bodily changes to match expectations that accompany the gender role. Surgery is often sought in order to take the process further and mould the primary and secondary sexual characteristics to the desired
appearance and function.
The only major life event that equates with this patient-led desire for medical support and collaboration is the process of carrying a foetus from conception to birth. Being pregnant is not an illness and permission is not required to start. Some doctors and commentators behave as though they believe otherwise on both counts. That does not make them right, however. Becoming pregnant is not a reason to set aside the principle of patient autonomy. The same is true of seeking medical assistance to express one's gender identity.
Both examples of engagement with care services have historically suffered from the same problem that physicians are generally uncomfortable with inversion of the power tradition in which they have been raised and trained - the arrangement that traditionally places the doctor in the position of power and the patient in the role of compliance.
Seven Big Ideas
An understanding of the history leads to an appreciation of the fundamental ways in which transsexual people seek to promote a change of underlying emphasis in the underpinning of care services. This is a statement of expectation from a service user perspective.
1. Not Sick But Different
Researchers have tried for many years to determine a "cause" for people expressing cross-gender identification and wishing to live their lives accordingly. Such searches have led to some interesting insights into how it is possible that people can feel and identify in this way. This is no different to understanding how people can be short or tall, light or dark skinned - or just "different" in any other way. In examining all of these parameters, it is understood (in medicine if not universally in society) that no characteristics in nature are strictly binary; all are infinitely variable. So it is with gender and sex:
To be differently gendered is not itself a flaw. The flaw lies in the assumption that sex and its relation to gender should be a unique exception to nature's otherwise universal principle of diversity.
Transsexual People therefore seek the reflection of this understanding in the way that approaches towards care are conceived and described. It can be
Big Idea Number One:
Gender Variance is not an illness but a natural form of variation in humankind which is only conceived as a problem when it is incorrectly assumed that sex and gender are strictly binary.
2. Different Ways To Be Different
>From this it also follows that it is wrong to approach transsexual people are though they are homogeneous as a group.
People may experience and conceptualise their gender variance in different ways. Some may look upon their difference as something they wish to be rid of or "saved" from. Others may look for help in accommodating their feelings without making major changes to their lives. A proportion of people may look for help in discovering how they really do feel, and to explore options with the benefit of impartial advice. A further group may have worked out such questions for themselves already, with or without assistance, and simply know what they want to do and merely seek medical help to realise their
It may be tempting for researchers to try to simplify people into categories for the purposes of study and statistical analysis; however it is important to differentiate this from the goal of good care, which should be to treat each person as a unique individual, with different needs and an essential stake in meeting them.
Putting individuals into one box ("transsexual") or a set of boxes ("Type 1", "Type 2", etc.) is no more scientific than labelling all patients as "Tall" or "Short". Dictating a care pathway on the basis of such reductive taxonomies is an abuse of the patient's rights to be viewed and treated as an individual with responsibility for their own destiny.
Big Idea Number Two:
Transsexual People do not wish to be labelled or categorised but to be respected and treated as individuals whose care pathway will always need to be individually tailored. It follows that the individual must be at least equal in the process of determining that pathway. Service users need to be empowered to achieve autonomy and to be offered real choices so as to achieve independence and maintain responsibility for those choices.
3. Help To "Be", Rather Than to "Not Be"
Some people may express the desire to be "cured" of their cross-gendered feelings. In these circumstances, practitioners must be honest in their evaluation of the likelihood of achieving this goal, and of their capabilities to offer that.
The majority of service users are not seeking to be changed from who they are but are looking for the means to be at peace with their feelings, in whatever form that accommodation may take within themselves and within society.
As explained above, the means of achieving that goal may be as unique as the individual. The goal should be to help individuals, if they so desire, to explore any options they have not already considered and rejected. This is a normal part of empowerment. The emphasis must be upon respect for the individual's right to determine which path to take. The care provider's role is not to seek to normalise the individual or pathologise their process of discovery by labelling the service user's difference as an illness.
Big Idea Number Three:
Unless there is clear evidence of a mental impairment serious enough to affect the individual's ability to make informed decisions and assume full responsibility for outcome(s) there can be no place for any approach which seeks to impose a specific regime of compliance or an unwanted course of treatment on a service user seeking help with gender issues.
4. Autonomy and Independence Requires Choice
None of the foregoing fundamentals can be realistically offered or achieved unless the individual has access to meaningful choices.
Choice in this context operates on two levels:
For those service users who wish to learn about and pursue other approaches, however, it must be possible for a range of services to exist, and for individuals to have the option to choose from a range of options in accordance with contemporary NHS policy.
Big Idea Number Four:
Standards of Care, local (PCT) commissioning policies and the operation of individual services must not (directly or indirectly) deny service users the ability to access a range of accessible choices for how and where to receive professional help. Standards of Care must also be flexible enough to permit different service approaches to flourish subject only to normal regulatory standards for quality.
5. Where Care Begins and Ends, Succeeds and Fails
The traditional model of "treating" people with gender issues has assumed that the process, once embarked upon, has only one goal and one way in which to get there..
Whereas the individual should be thinking in terms of facilitating a major and enduring life change and seeking help with that, practitioners appear instead to have been focussed upon specific stages where they perceive risk and want to mitigate that for themselves. This is why many successive revisions of the Harry Benjamin "Standards of Care" have been principally been accused of caring for the practitioner to the detriment of the client.
Thinking only in terms of genital surgery and upon getting to that point is unhealthy for all concerned. Such thinking ignores the whole person, and the essence of what they were seeking help to achieve. Surgery-led goals lead to the assumption that the means is the end - that the seat of desire for transsexual people is to be rid of (or obtain) certain body parts, rather than to lead an enduringly happy life as a complete person. The logical failing in that line of reasoning is that one or both parties may also see no purpose in continuing a therapeutic relationship after surgery has been achieved.
Big Idea Number Five:
The proper goal for care services designed to help transsexual people should be to assist the individual to successfully navigate all the stages of change and adjustment necessary to achieve a comfortable and sustainably happy life for themselves. Procedures such as hormone administration and surgeries should be viewed by service user and provider alike as (optional) steps in the overall journey and not the goals. It follows that they should also occur at the appropriate time in a mutually agreed approach and not be unnecessarily delayed or withheld.
Above all, progression should never be offered as a reward or denied as a punishment for service users making autonomous choices. There is no specific end point in such a process (nor one specific starting point). Approaches that listen and respond to needs and aspirations will need (as always) to negotiate a mutual understanding about when the relationship should end, and how the disengagement should occur.
6. Determining Responsibility - Achieving Partnership
An unfortunate by-product of the past conservative and highly controlled approach to every stage of "traditional" treatment in this field is the removal of responsibility from the individual and its complete transfer onto the shoulders of the care provider.
The rationale for this approach has always been the disproportionate concern on the part of practitioners (surgeons especially) that people may come to regret and then seek to blame them for having provided the services they had sought.
The concern is disproportionate because similar concerns are not in evidence when almost identical treatments are offered in other circumstances. A woman may seek private cosmetic surgery to drastically reduce or remove breast tissue through surgeons who advertise these services, but a transsexual man seeking essentially the same process as part of gender transition is required to provide one or more diagnoses of a condition that is still classified as a mental illness. It is only this insistence (and similar limits on provision of hormones) which require such men to submit to therapy in order to obtain the services they require. Similar provisions dictate the autonomous options for trans women.
There is nothing wrong in trying to persuade people that professional help might be able to help them in their quest. Relying upon indirect compulsion of this kind can never be an honest way to begin or form a partnership which requires mutual trust and respect however.
The paradox is that, by building a process of care provision which insists on such overriding control, practitioners are actually set up to bear the responsibility in the rare event that a client does feel regrets. It can be argued that, by taking away the obligation for the client to take responsibility for the process, the client has also been encouraged to place undue trust in the provider. Thus, if anything does go wrong it is clear whom they should blame.
This vicious circle is counter-productive in terms of all the aims of empowerment, autonomy, choice and responsibility which have been articulated before.
Big Idea Number Six:
Service users must be encouraged to take responsibility for decisions they have made with informed consent. Ways of working which disempower the user, or which remove responsibility from them in any way are not to be encouraged in care standards or practice.
7. Second Opinions
It follows from the above that the only person who should logically be seeking a second opinion for any stage in a process of this sort should be the person with the responsibility for the decision to be taken. Moreover, in that case, a second opinion must have specific goals.
When traditional practitioners have sought second opinions then it has always been unclear what kind of opinion they are being required to provide. Are they for instance seeking to confirm the diagnosis of a "condition" which mandates a particular "curative therapy", or are they being asked whether the individual is sufficiently sane to give the normal form of informed consent?
In the former case there is a paradox. Gender practitioners generally insist that they need considerable time and familiarity to arrive at their "diagnosis". The norm demanded of service users is at least 7-8 hours of face to face time spread over at least 12-24 months. It is hard to see how an equivalent second opinion can therefore be delivered on a complete stranger in a single hour.
If the question is one of competence to make an informed decision and to take responsibility for it then this also contradicts contemporary practice in other areas. It is increasingly accepted that merely thinking a person's decision is ill-advised is not sufficient reason to prevent them from doing it.
Big Idea Number Seven:
Second opinions should be for the benefit of the service user as opposed to the provider. They should have clearly stated objectives so that everyone is clear about the purpose. The purpose should not be to protect practitioners to any greater extent than normally provided through consent forms. If the provider genuinely feels in an individual case that the service user is incapable of giving informed consent then they should state this.
Coming soon ....
Seven equally fundamental TESTS to see whether services come close to achieving modern health service principles.
Christine Burns, 24th July 2005
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Saturday, July 23, 2005
I received this from a Christian group this morning. Words fail me that any society could be so barbaric and cruel.
Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the 'crime' of homosexuality.
ILGA publishes press releases and statements as submitted by its members. Conflicting information has been circulated around this information.On this case, apart from the press release of Outrage below, please also read the statement from other ILGA member IGLHRC.
The youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in north east Iran. They were sentenced to death by Court No.19.
Iran enforces Islamic Sharia law, which dictates the death penalty for gay sex.
Shocking photos of the execution are at the links below
1 2 3
One youth was aged 18 and the other was a minor under the age of 18. They were only identified by their initials, M.A. and A.M.
They admitted to having gay sex (probably under torture) but claimed in their defence that most young boys had sex with each other and that they were not aware that homosexuality was punishable by death. Prior to their execution, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes.
Their length of detention suggests that they committed the so-called offences more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16.
Ruhollah Rezazadeh, the lawyer of the youngest boy (under 18), had appealed that he was too young to be executed and that the court should take into account his tender age (believed to be 16 or 17). But the Supreme Court in Tehran ordered him to be hanged.
Under the Iranian penal code, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be hanged. Three other young gay Iranians are being hunted by the police, but they have gone into hiding and cannot be found. If caught, they will also face execution.
News of the two executions was reported by ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency) on 19 July. A later news story by Iran In Focus, allegedly based on this original ISNA report, claimed the youths were executed for sexually assaulting a 13 year old boy. But the ISNA report does not mention any sexual assault.
A report of the executions on the website of the respected democratic opposition movement, The National Council of Resistance Of Iran, also makes no reference to a sexual assault.
The allegation of sexual assault may either be a trumped up charge to undermine public sympathy for the youths (a frequent tactic by the Islamist regime in Iran).
Or it may be that the 13 year old was a willing participant but that Iranian law (like UK law) deems that no person of that age is capable of sexual consent and that therefore any sexual contact is automatically deemed in law to be a sex assault.
If the 13 year old was sexually assaulted, why was he not identified and also put on trial (under Iranian law both the victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes are punished)?
Full story in Farsi from ISNA, with three photographs
"This is just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran" said Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay human rights group OutRage!
"The entire country is a gigantic prison, with Islamic rule sustained by detention without trial, torture and state-sanctioned murder.
"According to Iranian human rights campaigners, over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979. Altogether, an estimated 100,000 Iranians have been put to death over the last 26 years of clerical rule. The victims include women who have sex outside of marriage and political opponents of the Islamist government.
"Last August, a 16 year old girl, Atefeh Rajabi, was hanged for 'acts incompatible with chasity.'
"Britain's Labour government is pursuing friendly relations with this murderous regime, including aid and trade. We urge the international community to treat Iran as a pariah state, break off diplomatic relations, impose trade sanctions and give practical support to the democratic and left opposition inside Iran," said Mr Tatchell.
Protest to the Iranian Ambassador:
Tel: 020 7225 3000
Fax: 020 7589 4440
Embassy of Iran
16 Prince?s Gate
London SW7 1PT
If you live outside the UK, protest to the Iranian Embassy in your country, and press your government to break off diplomatic relations and impose trade sanctions against Iran.
Email this news release and photos to your friends. Urge them to protest.
Iran has had some positive press recently for its tolerance of transpeople. This story just illustrates the darker side of their society.
We have much to be thankful for in Western Europe in particular. Sadly, our brothers and sisters elseware aren't so fortunate.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
A quick update from Press For Change containing some news we've been waiting for for a long time.
The Gender Recognition Panel (GRP) has just published the forms for applications under the "standard track".
You can find the forms at: http://www.grp.gov.uk/forms/forms.htm.
More information on the application process is available on the GRP website at http://www.grp.gov.uk, and also on the GRA-info website at http://www.gra-info.org.uk.
As you probably know, applications under the standard track are open to those who can provide evidence of having transitioned more than TWO years ago. Applicants under the standard track are NOT required to have undergone surgery ... but please do read the GRP's guidance at http://www.grp.gov.uk/info/info_app.htm and the FAQs on the GRA-info site at http://www.gra-info.org.uk/node/6.
In particular, it would be a good idea to use "GRACE" (the GRA Computerised Expert system) to see whether and when you are eligible to apply: see http://www.gra-info.org.uk/grace/.
Best wishes, Claire McNab
Vice-president, Press For Change
Tel: 01274 - 424 500
That includes me.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
This weekend is one we've been looking forward to for some time - the weekend of the second Bourne Free Festival - quite literally a riot of colour and laughter celebrating the diversity that is so part of life in the town.
A bit of background first. Bourne Free started last October, when the LGBT community in Bournemouth discovered that Christian Voice - probably the most extreme "Christian" group in the country - were planning to mount an anti-homosexuality demonstration in Bournemouth town centre. Not surprisingly, this wasn't something either the local LGBT community or the council (which strongly supports the community in the town) were particularly happy about.
With only two weeks notice, the local LGBT groups and the North London and Bournemouth branches of the Metropolitan Community Church organised a counter demonstration and diversity celebration named "Bourne Free". Beth and I attended that march - our first - and a great deal of fun it was!
The good news is that the march went so well that the organisers decided to make it an annual event. With no fundamentalists to contend with this year (not that that adds up to much, as events at Pride last weekend proved) this year's celebration (organised with a lot more notice!) was bigger, more visible and generally higher profile.
Rather than march from the Branksome as last year, the organisers decided to start the parade at Alum Chine and march along the seafront to the Lower Gardens in the centre of town. With the weather being as good as it was the beaches were busy so we had no shortage of spectators - a sure way to guarantee we would be noticed!
We arrived early and had time to relax for a while before everyone else started congretating. It was a perfect day for the march - not too hot, but sunny and bright, without a cloud in the sky.
As we waited, more and more people arrived - including a very vocal contingent in a double decker bus! Members of the local Metropolitan Community Church took the opportunity to circulate around the crowd distributing their familiar "God Made Me Gay" stickers.
Everyone was full of smiles and optimism. You could just feel it was going to be a great day.
One nice touch we hadn't expected was two absolutely huge rainbow banners, which were certainly a fun way to attract attention:
Before too long it was time for us to set off, led by a jeep emblazoned with a rainbow flag and towing a trailer carrying drummers. As if that wasn't loud enough, it was followed by a rolls royce - complete with chauffeur (very Lady Penelope. Pity it wasn't pink!) ahead of the MCC with their banner.
A roving whistle seller ensured that we made even more noise as we marched towards Bournemouth Pier. The Branksome brought along two very exotic looking characters (I believe they are partners), who added a real touch of the exotic to the march.
It was interesting to watch the reaction of people on the beach and seafront as we passed noisily by. A few looked unimpressed or bemused, but I'm happy to say that the vast majority seemed happy to see us, with a few even waving at us! I even spotted quite a few people filming us with camcorders as we passed...I imagine we made quite an unexpectedly colourful addition to their day out.
The march eventually arrived at Bournemouth pier and made its way under the seafront road and into the Lower Gardens. That area is an extremely busy one - containing not only a mini-funfair but also several busy bars/cafes and a Harry Ramsden's chippie - so we had quite an audience there too! I can't imagine many people expecting to see such a colourful procession come working its way up from the seafront, but that's exactly what happened.
When we finally arrived at the Bandstand in the Lower Gardens, it was time to pack away the flags and prepare for an afternoon of chilled out music. Although the lineup mostly consisted mostly of local acts, David Bedella put in a (very) enthusastic appearance too. Of course, although the event started with just those taking part in the parade involved, by now our numbers were swelled by many people in the gardens themselves, just enjoying the sunshine and entertainment. That's what inclusion is all about, after all.
It wasn't all music though. After the appalling events in London on Thursday, the celebration was of course tinged with sadness. As a mark of respect, one of the pastors of the local Metropolitan Community Church (Revd. Dwayne Morgan) led the crowd in a minute of silence, following which balloons were released in tribute to the fallen. It was a beautiful and sensitive touch.
In memory of those who fell victim to the appalling act of terrorism in London on Thursday, MCC's pastor Revd. Dwayne Morgan led the crowd in a minutes silence, at the end of which balloons were released in tribute to the fallen. It was a beautiful and sensitive touch.
We stayed in the vicinity of the bandstand for an hour or so before heading off to Legends for a light lunch. On returning we found our friends (aren't mobiles useful?) and spent a relaxing couple of hours chilling out on the grass. With the days staying warm and bright it's just as well we had suntan lotion with us!
Today has been an equally chilled (though less colourful day). After a relaxed lunch with Emma, Billie, Carol and Kira we drove back into town so that Carol could buy a bikini, then headed down to the breach - again at Alum Chine. We took a frisbee with us too.
Believe it or not, although I've been spending a lot of time down on the coast since Beth and I met, until today we've never actually gone sunbathing on the beach! It was wonderfully relaxed, and a great deal of fun. As well as a little sunbathing we also went swimming in the sea...nice except for the taste of salt in the mouth!
To pass the time we alternated between sunbathing, swimming and frisbeeing on the beach - which soon migrated into the water. Ever tried catching a frisbee which was just out of reach while standing in three feet of water?
Lets just say that I've now got some interesting aching muscles from all the running (and splashing) around. No sunburn for this kitten this weekend though.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Beth and I have just spent an absolutely fantastic weekend visiting our friends Jo and Gabs up in Manchester for a party. This is an event that's been planned for quite some time, and we've been looking forward to it immensely. Although at times it didn't look like we'd make it (it's a long, long way, after all), We're so glad we did.
Jo was expecting 40 people, and with so many of us coming from quite a distance it looked like accommodation would be a bit of a problem. To add to that all of the local hotels were booked up because of some big conference, so that option was out. To cut the travel costs we'd arranged to travel up with a friend, and we thought we'd got our sleeping arrangements sorted out when she managed to arrange for us to stay with a friend of hers in Oldham, of all places (quite possibly one of the most transphobic areas in the UK. Not surprisingly we were a little nervous! It's also on the opposite side of the city from Salford, where the party was being held).
The arrangements seemed pretty straightforward. After dropping off our bags and getting changed the four of us caught a cab in mid afternoon from Oldham to the party in Salford. We always enjoy walking into a new place and meeting new people, so Beth and I were in our element. In particular, although I know Jo's partner Gabs from a couple of years back (another party, this time in Stevenage) it's the first time Beth and I have met Jo in person, although we've been chatting by phone and IM for ages. Sometimes distance really is a pain.
The party was a chilled out affair, and as the weather was good we spent most of our time in the garden. As well as the BBQ (of course!) and obligatory plastic garden charis Jo and Gabs had erected a large gazebo with a couple of sun loungers underneath, which I certainly appreciated after that long drive!
Unfortunately (as so often happens) a lot of people called off at the last moment. Jo was a little dissapointed, but to her credit it didn't dent her enthusiam and sense of fun one bit.
We had a huge selection of drinks to choose from. Between the afternoon, evening and early hours of the morning, I must have sampled white and red wine, beer, baileys, malibu, bourbon, ti-maria (my favourite!) and a few more I just can't remember. Amazingly enough, I never felt in any way drunk, and the following morning none of us had a hangover.
The music was varied and fun. Saturday was of course the day of the Live 8 concerts (I hope they can make a difference, I really do), so we also had that on in the background. For most of the day the volume was muted though, which led to some rather entertaining lip sync spectacles.
Later in the evening as the party wound down we turned the sound up and watched it. I have to say that some of the performances were incredible...I was particularly awed by Pink Floyd's performance (who'd have thought Roger Waters would ever rejoin them?).
With the smaller number of people who turned up, crash space wasn't the problem we all thought it would be, so Beth and I were able to sleep on the lounge floor. Of course, with our bags being back in Oldham we had no change of clothes for the morning. We can laugh about it now, but at the time it was a real pain!!! Never mind...
When we finally said our goodbyes on Sunday afternoon it was with the knowledge that we had a long, long drive ahead of us. When we finally crossed the border from Berkshire into Hampshire several hours later it was with a sense of relief that the long drive was nearly over.
Finally, for those who've been asking what I've had done to my hair (just a subtle change really), here's a pic of Beth and I chilling out at the party on Saturday evening. I hope you like it.
A big hi to everyone who was there!