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Pride London - We trusted you, but you've let us down

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Despite the progress that has been made over the past few years in the rights of LGBT people in the UK, there have been regular signs that the rights of trans people have been lagging behind. First there was the refusal of the Government to grant trans people legal recognition - until they were forced to by the European Court of Human Rights. Then there is the requirement that married couples where one partner transitions have their marriage anulled before the transitioning partner would be granted a gender recognition certificate (a compromise originally aimed to get the Gender Recognition Act through the House of Lords, but which our supposedly pro-equality Government has repeatedly refused to review). More recently, the Government has failed to include protection for trans people in the Equality Act (despite assuring us that we wouldn't be forgotten - a piece of duplicity that has not gone unnoticed). On a wider scale, the homophobia exhibited by Home Office officals towards LGBT asylum seekers from countries such as Uganda and Iran is all too well known.

Given such a record, we expect governments to let us down repeatedly (they've been doing so for years, after all). However, we expect better from organisations which perport to promote diversity and equality. Which brings us to Pride London 2008...

Now, imagine the shock among trans people when we read the following (from this afternoon:

    "The Pride march and rally are now over for 2008. A lot of fun was had by many, but unfortunately transphobia reared its ugly head at the Pride rally in Trafalgar Square. At about 6:30 in the evening, Roz Kaveney, long time human rights campaigner, journalist and transsexual woman, needed to answer that most basic call of nature and use the loo. What happened next is the sort of thing one is used to reading about in reports of sexual discrimination cases against transpeople. In Roz's own words:

    "Official stewards who were running the toilets at Trafalgar Square announced that I, and any other transgender or transsexual woman, had to use the disabled toilets and was not allowed to use the regular women's toilets. I pointed out to the stewards that I transitioned and had surgery before they were born; I was more polite than a polite thing. No dice.

    I went and fetched a posse of trans women and trans men and we made a collective fuss. Their response - and remember these were official stewards AT PRIDE - was to radio in "we're being attacked by a mob of trannies! send backup". They were joined by a policeman, who was a LGBT liaison officer, who claimed that we had to be able to show our Gender Recognition Certificates if we wanted to use the women's loos and got quite upset when I explained to him that I had been involved in drafting the Act and that it did not take away rights that existed before it. At one point he threatened to arrest us for demonstrating on private property - those loos belong to Westminster Council, so you are not allowed to make a fuss there.

    At one point it was claimed that they had instituted this policy a few minutes earlier because a man had attacked a woman; at another they said it was official Health and Safety policy. I don't think it was particularly to do with how much I do or don't pass - I think I got read in part because I am so tall and turned up in the queue among a particularly short group of lesbians.

    It was one of the most wretched experiences I have had in thirty years, only made positive by the love and solidarity of my community - including various trans men who proposed that, since they had no GRCs, they should be made to use the women's loos. Beards and all.
I am quite frankly stunned that such an incident could happen at a Pride event. Those officials involved in this incident showed a disturbing lack of sensitivity and judgement. They need to be educated, and we need to be assured by the Pride organisers that this will NEVER happen again. At the very minimum, a personal apology from the organisers and officals concerned is in order.

Pride - it is time for you to show us the same support we've regularly given non-trans GLB people. Rest assured that the trans community are watching to see whether you can rise to the challenge.

Incidentally Dru Marland has also blogged about this in Pride that comes before a fall. A petition to the Pride organisers, Westminster Council and the Metropolitan Police has also been posted at Please consider signing it.

Update (11pm): There is now a growing volume of comment on this subject on various forums I've seen. I've also now heard back from the Gender Trust (I cross posted this to several groups, as well as organisations who have an interest) and they say they will be persuing this directly with the authorities. It will be interesting to see what Stonewall, the Mayor of London's office and the Pink Paper have to say on the subject...

Some more links (I'll add them as Google indexes them):

Posted by Anna at 18:57 | Get Link