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Sarah, The Bringer of Tea Below are 25 entries, after skipping 25 most recent ones in the "Sarah Brown" journal:

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9th February, 2012
03:54 pm


Is it House-Trained? Does it Bite? Has it had The Surgery?

Originally published at Sarah Brown's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

Yesterday, my dear friend, Paris Lees of Trans Media Watch appeared on Breakfast TV, prior to Trans Media Watch making a submission to the Leveson Inquiry. Now since Paris runs a WordPress blog, she’s able to see what sort of … Continue reading

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/253454.html - you can comment here or there.
7th February, 2012
06:15 pm


Journal Closed
One doesn't have to be particularly observant to notice that I basically don't post here any more.

I have had something of a break from blogging/journaling. I started this as a transition diary way back in 2005, and did keep it up for a long time. More recently I guess I moved on to other pastures (mostly Twitter), and the LJ community isn't what it once was either.

However, there are times I still want to say something, and it won't fit in 140 characters. For this reason, I've got myself a shiny new Wordpress blog. It's at:


Why not come on over and take a look?


Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/253127.html - you can comment here or there.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

06:14 pm


UniLad, Rape Culture and Regrets

Originally published at Sarah Brown's Blog. Please leave any comments there.

Online magazine, UniLad, which describes itself as “A place for university lads to share friendly banter. Not to be taken too seriously.” on its Facebook page, seems to have got itself into a bit of a pickle. In advice (or, … Continue reading

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/253360.html - you can comment here or there.
23rd October, 2011
08:13 am


Independent on Sunday Pink List 2011
I know I don't update this very much any more, but today is a special occasion, I think. Every year the Independent on Sunday newspaper produces a list of the 100 most influential lesbian gay bisexual transgendered people in the UK. I'm thrilled to be number 28 on this year's list. Apparently, this makes me the most influential "out" transgender person in the UK!

This has come about because of my position as a councillor, where I press very hard for equality issues, as a result of my ongoing transgender activism, and also because of my position on the executive of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, where I chair the organisation's transgender working group. Although I do not post here very much since I was elected, my activism has continued and if anything, sped up.

I feel honoured and humbled to be recognised by the Independent on Sunday in this way. I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to those who nominated me. There is still a great deal of work to do to push transgender equality in the UK, and I will continue to push for rights for transgender people. I very much hope that this recognition will help in that task.

If you are reading this as a result of seeing the Pink List, please feel free to read back in this blog. It goes back as far as 2005, details most of my transition, including surgery and also includes quite a bit of activism later on.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/252602.html - you can comment here or there.

(27 comments | Leave a comment)

19th August, 2011
06:13 pm


On Being a Woman on the Internet
In 2008, I happened to be walking near Cambridge railway station and encountered a van driver blocking the road, causing massive tailbacks. For those who know Cambridge, you'll realise when I say that she made the traffic back up to Hills Road that she was effectively managing to paralyse a large chunk of the city.

Anyway, at the time I videoed what was happening on my cheap and cheerful Nokia smartphone (this was before I made the jump to using iPhones) and posted it to YouTube. The video can be found here. The description text that goes with it reads:
The lady driving this van had decided to park in the middle of the road outside Cambridge station, in rush hour, blocking a bus, which in turn blocked all the traffic behind it, which in turn caused it to back up all the way to the main arterial route out of the city to the south. When I started filming, several people had come to remonstrate with her and all she did was move a couple of metres forward each time, which was no use at all. This continued for a few minutes after I stopped filming.
The video must have become associated with some other popular videos because over the years since i filmed it, over 21,000 people have seen the clip and it appears to be quite highly rated. I get a regular trickle of comments on it.

If you go to the video's page and read the comments, you won't see many of them. This is because I am forced to delete them. Despite it being obvious with a moment's glance that I, the video submitter, am female, lots of the comments I get are horrifically misogynistic, some going as far as to contain graphic descriptions of sexual and other violence. They started off as a slow trickle, but have increased over the years. Now I get one every few days, and have moved from being mildly offensive (I left some of those up) to being thoroughly nasty. They're getting worse, and a few weeks ago I left a comment myself saying that misogynistic comments will be deleted.

It didn't make any difference. The problem has continued getting worse, to the point where I am starting to think I may have to take the video down.

Here are some of the comments I have deleted.
Don't look at these if you're likely to be triggered by casual descriptions of sexual violence - some of them are seriously nasty.Collapse )

As you can see, they're now coming in at the rate of one every couple of days, and if anything they are getting nastier.

I have heard that many women on the Internet pretend to be men. Go figure.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/252209.html - you can comment here or there.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

9th August, 2011
01:45 pm


Dolomite Photo Art Project - Pair Photography
This is a cute idea I had after our recent trip to the dolomites - pair photography. Each pair of photographs is of me (in the orange helmet) and the_local_echo (in the blue helmet), taken by the other, at just about the same time (within a few seconds). It's more obvious to see than it is to explain - click on each photo for the full size version.

Pair 1 - 29th July 2011, Via Ferrata Delle Trincee:
We are both in fairly exposed positions here, but at least the ground under me is flat. Sylvia is pretty much hanging from her gear on the ferrata cable to take this.

Pair 2 - 29th July 2011, The bridge on Via Ferrata Delle Trincee:
This is just a few minutes along from the previous pair. I crossed first, and was able to take a picture of Sylvia as she followed me. The bridge is deliciously rickety and bounces beautifully!

Pair 3 - 31st July 2011, The ladder bridge on Via Ferrata Sandro Pertini:
VF Sandro Pertini (named after a much respected Italian statesman who rose to being president after being a resistance fighter against the Nazis in WWII) is a fairly new route, put up within the last decade. Near the top (marking the boundary between where the route is a pleasant grade 3 romp and a more strenuous and vertical grade 4 proposal) is this bridge, made from a metal ladder laying across a gap. While I am clipped to the cable, a fall would result in smashing my shins against the rungs, which would hurt a lot! For that reason, taking a photo requires a well balanced stance!

Pair 4 - 1st August 2011, Three quarters of the way up Via Ferrata Brigata Tridentina:
Brigata Tridentina is possibly the most popular route in the Dolomites, and it shows! I found it quite tame for a grade 3, and if you do an image search you will find lots of the spot where Sylvia is standing. It's possibly the best part of the route for getting a photograph of someone standing with miles of void behind them, but appearances can be deceptive. I am standing only a few metres away, and from Sylvia's perspective things seem rather less airy! Indeed, a few metres later the ferrata briefly interrupts itself to meet its upper escape route - a fairly standard hiking trail to the top of the mountain.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/252140.html - you can comment here or there.

(12 comments | Leave a comment)

5th June, 2011
01:18 pm


My Papers Are Not In Order
I'm a child of the Cold War. I grew up knowing that only a few hundred miles away, the two most fearsome armies the world had ever seen, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, were facing each other across a no-man's land that stretched from the Adriatic to the Baltic. That war could turn hot at any time. That the reason we had to do this was because we were Free and the people on the other side were Not Free; they lived in an Orwellian nightmare made real. This was what we grew up knowing, until it changed on that December day in 1989.

For my impressionable teenage self, the spirit of this was captured in film most memorably by the Clint Eastwood Cold War epic, "Firefox". In it, our hero, a US special forces veteran with who spoke Russian thanks to his grandmother, is recruited to penetrate the iron curtain and steal a web browser, er, top secret fighter jet, the eponymous Firefox. It's the ultimate air superiority weapon, a thought-controlled super fighter that could give the Soviets the crucial advantage they need to outmanoeuvre NATO.

Anyway, there's this bit where good old Clint is in Moscow, posing as an American salesman on a rare trade mission. He's in a loo in a metro station when the nightmare scenario happens - a KGB agent walks in and demands to see his papers, because that's how people live behind the Iron Curtain. Everyone knew that; they had to show their Papers all the time, to any petty official who asked, as a sort of constant low level harassment to keep them in their place. That's why the West was better.

After looking through Clint's papers, the KGB agent declares, "your papers are not in order" and goes for his gun. A fight ensues, Clint kills him and goes on to steal the plane and have gripping dogfights as he tries to fly it home over the icecap.

Some may be aware of the current furore over the new requirements to attend the Liberal Democrat party conference - we have to supply information to the police well in advance so they can perform some sort of background check (to be shared with the conference organisers) and determine if we're suitable people to be allowed in. Apparently the police insisted on this, apparently our insurance for the conference would be invalid if we declined, and it would bankrupt the party or something,. As you can imagine, many of us, who campaigned on the basis of scrapping ID cards and rolling back the security state are extremely unhappy with this, seeing it as the police restricting the right of freedom to associate for political purposes.

Many of us are also rather suspicious that the undisclosed nature of the threat this is meant to counter has less to do with preventing some sort of physical attack (the venue already has airport style security), and more to do with preventing heckling. The elderly gentleman ejected from the Labour conference under terrorism powers for heckling Tony Blair is fresh in the mind. Of course, terrorism is implicated - we live, we are told, in dangerous times (more dangerous, apparently, than when the was an active IRA bombing campaign on the British mainland). The spectre of the 1980s IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton at the Tory party conference is raised, apparently with a straight face despite the fact that the bomb in question was not planted by anyone at the conference.

I'm not going. I'd really like to go, but I object to this in principle, and also for personal reasons. Others have asked me why I don't go and campaign against it inside, but I cant do that because that requires me to submit to the vetting process and I don't want to do that. On one hand, it's a point of principle, and I wouldn't be able to live with myself. On the other, My Papers Are Not In Order.

Let me explain. My Papers are superficially valid. I'm a white, middle class, Cambridge educated, 37 year old woman with a clean criminal record, clean driving licence, good credit history. If anyone asked me that question they like to embarrass politicians with - have I ever taken illegal drugs, I can genuinely answer "no" (sorry, I know it's boring). The problem is, if you scratch the surface it becomes apparent that there is a problem. I didn't exist six years ago, and when that little bit of trivia surfaces, it leads to me being outed as trans.

Of course one might ask what the problem is, given that I am "out" anyway, but I'm in control of that. I'm out in a general sense, but not out to every supermarket cashier, every traffic warden, every policeman in the street and so on. I don't wear a metaphorical sign around my neck that says "Hi. Trans person here!"

That sign does appear, however, whenever someone looks into my background.

A few years ago I had a Criminal Records Bureau check. They outed me to the organisation requesting the check. They weren't supposed to, but they did.

Last year I bought a 3G SIM for my iPad. I needed a credit check. The was some sort of problem. I passed the check, but it involved phone calls and puzzled looks from the salesman, and took a long time.

A few weeks ago I went to the bank with Sylvia and Zoe to open a joint current account for the household expenses. This is the bank who've known me for 21 years. They're quite nice to me, I'm a good customer. Part way through the process the bank clerk noticed there was another signatory to the existing account. "Who's this person?" she asked, pointing to that name which appeared on the screen, which I'd assumed had been expunged. I was mortified.

For trans people, this can be a constant worry. Procedures set up to protect us often don't work because the organisations implementing them are institutionally incompetent. Some organisations don't even have any such procedures. Sometimes broken IT systems out us. That annoying verified by VISA thing? I can't expunge my old name from it - every time I try and buy something online it pops up. The name hasn't been on my credit cards for years.

And every time this happens the person I'm dealing with is in a position of power. In a transaction where it should be irrelevant, they are given information they could use to humiliate me if they were malicious, or possibly just tactless. I really don't like background checks.

And here they are intruding into a new part of my life, and I've had enough. Being trans isn't the only reason for someone's papers to not be in order - I imagine there are lots of minority groups to whom it happens, but I suspect something many of us have in common is the constant low level stress it causes.

This surfaced yesterday, quite unexpectedly, when I was feeling frustrated about this, and angry at colleagues who just didn't understand why I can't just go along with it this one time. Suddenly I found myself thinking about all those occasions when someone probably found out, like the SIM card, or the CRB check, or a whole host of others. I found myself thinking about those months I spent early in transition, in the so called "real life experience", which is a sort of ritual humiliation that the medical profession insist trans people go through because it's funny, or something, when I was constantly aware of being visibly gender variant. People would notice in public, laugh, stare, point, sometimes look at me with real hatred in their eyes.

The threat of having to deal with this yet again, and trying to explain to people who simply don't get it broke me. A huge mental scab was picked off and it all came flooding out. I realised as I sat there in tears that I was experiencing post traumatic stress. I expect it's there in members of lots of minority groups who are exposed to constant low level "othering" in society. Eventually it all comes flooding out.

Well I'm not doing it this time. They're not getting my details to store indefinitely, and grub around in my background, and have random conference officials who check my badge possibly find out how I got to be who I am now (one would hope the supporting IT systems aren't set up like this, but one can get nasty surprises as I found out at the bank).

My papers are not in order, and I can't steal a plane and just fly away to some magical wonderland where it doesn't matter. It's my life, forever, and I refuse to expose myself to more stress over this than I need to, because the routine administrivia of life will do enough of that all by itself.

My Papers Are Not In Order, and so I'm not going to the party conference.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/251810.html - you can comment here or there.

(34 comments | Leave a comment)

7th April, 2011
01:34 am


Chattin' With a Chaser, Part 7 Redux
So the chaser from last night seems to have found this journal (I have no idea how - maybe he was googling for some of his own choice phrases or something).

He's bad at quitting while he is behind. I almost feel bad posting this - I don't think it's as funny as yesterday's, and it's also a bit like kicking a puppy.

Ah hell, let's do it anyway.
Click for transcriptCollapse )

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/251637.html - you can comment here or there.


(34 comments | Leave a comment)

6th April, 2011
01:28 am


Chattin' With a Chaser, Part 7 in a Very Infrequent Series
This one started out jumping into an IRC channel and trolling. He got banned. A few hours later he returned in private message. I should warn you - the photograph linked to in the transcript contains a graphic depiction of vaginoplasty in progress. For that reason, I haven't enabled it as a link - you'll have to copy and paste if you want to see it.

Anyway, on with the fun.
Here be chasersCollapse )

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/251327.html - you can comment here or there.


(47 comments | Leave a comment)

27th February, 2011
05:58 pm


Gravity is for Other People
I know in theory how to "jug up" (that is ascend) a rope, using a pair of slings rigged as prusik hitches. It's not something I have actually done in practice.

There are some nice tall trees just round the corner, where the lowest branch is far too high to climb using conventional methods. I decided it might be something to do of a Sunday to go and play with ropes on them, just in the interests of developing my rope skills and messing about.

It didn't go quite as planned - there are pictures:
Have a look at me getting myself in a pickle - you know you want toCollapse )

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/251042.html - you can comment here or there.

(1 comment | Leave a comment)

26th February, 2011
08:15 pm


A Thought Experiment
During transition I had something called a Zoladex implant. This is a little pellet injected into your belly through the largest needle in the world, and it blocked your own body's sex hormone production for as long as the implant lasted, which was theoretically 12 weeks.

Now let's do a thought experiment - imagine something like Zoladex is invented, but it's permanent. Once the implant is in, you can never produce sex hormones until it's deactivated, by the injection of an antitdote. The antidote is strictly controlled so it's only possible to get it on the say so of a doctor (yes, I know, they try to do that with things like diamorphine and it hasn't been fantastically successful, but just imagine).

Now imagine a society where everyone gets one of these in childhood. In order to have it deactivated, you need to get a referral to a psychiatrist, who will only clear you to have the injection which will allow you to mature into an adult after you have spent two years proving you are able to live and function as an adult. If you fail for whatever reason, you spend your entire life with a body that is never allowed to progress beyond late childhood.

Most people would probably regard such a situation as horrific and dystopian, and would rebel against it.

But it occurs to me that if most people had to face the prospect of this sort of invasive indignity, then society might start to care rather a lot more about what the medical profession routinely does to trans people in its name.

Just a thought.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/250785.html - you can comment here or there.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

24th January, 2011
01:34 am


Imagine my Embarrassment
So for reasons mostly relating to irony, a bunch of us in a chatroom decided to take the ridiculous, gender stereotypical, misogynist, trans-male-erasing exercise in self-selection that is the COGIATI test.

Some of the questions I had to improvise a bit on. For "which choice most closely describes why you dress up 'en femme', as a woman" it was notable that there was no "public nudity is frowned on" option, for example.

Anyway, I scored 60, which means I am:

What this means is that the Combined Gender Identity And Transsexuality Inventory has classified your internal gender identity to be essentially androgynous, both male and female at the same time, or possibly neither. In some cultures in history, you would be considered to be a third sex, independent of the polarities of masculine or feminine. Your gender issues are intrinsic to your construction, and you will most likely find your happiness playing with expressing both genders as you feel like it.
And that
Permanent polarization in either direction might bring significant unhappiness. It is not recommended that you go through a complete transsexual transformation.
So there we are - the whole transition/hormones/sex-reassignment-surgery thing was apparently a hilarious mistake and I have only myself to blame for not being obsessively stereotypically feminine being honest with myself.

By the way, my wife, who is cis and has never shown any inclination towards any sort of gender issues scored almost exactly the same as me.

There's a serious point in all this - if you're at a stage where you are really distressed about gender issues, it can be entirely natural to seek validation, and I daresay most of us have done it, but this sort of nonsense is really no more accurate than reading fortune cookies, like the one I had yesterday that talked about the child I was going to have (hi, I'm neutered).

And by the way, if through some freak of quantum mechanics I woke up tomorrow with all my "bits" back where they started, or found out that the last 6 years had all been a dream, I would do it all again without hesitation, only quicker.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/250620.html - you can comment here or there.

(65 comments | Leave a comment)

17th January, 2011
01:14 pm


Why Ban "Ex-Gay" Therapy But Allow Sex Reassignment?
Yesterday, Roger Helmer, a Conservative MEP
tweeted in response to news that a Christian "Ex-Gay" reparative therapist may be struck off as the result of a press sting operation, to say:
Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex-change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to "turn" a consenting homosexual?
Now Mr Helmer seems rather unreconstructed - I find that looking at his website and some of the comments on his blog are like staring at the aftermath of a car crash. I can only imagine that he prides himself on "plain speaking and common sense", but one man's "plain speaking and common sense" are this woman's "ill-informed spouting of reactionary nonsense". Anyway, I'm getting somewhat distracted from the point I wanted to make here, which is that his question comparing sex reassignment and reparative therapy is one I did at least think about, rather than dismiss out of hand as tosh and nonsense (I'll leave that response to him).

It seems that Jack of Kent has also put some thought into how to answer this question (not that dismissing it isn't a valid response too - trans people are under no obligation to justify our existence to Mr Helmer), and I would really, really encourage people to read the article there and the comments - there are many thoughtful positions expressed there.

My own view, which I'll reproduce here (with the amusing substitutions from my iPad's autocorrect fixed), is as follows:
Where I think this gets interesting is where the gay person in question genuinely wants "turning", perhaps because they have internalised some sort of anti-homosexual message or pressure. Is it ethical to refuse to allow it to be provided to them, on the basis that it's likely to be very bad for their mental health? We allow people to consume things that are bad for their physical health, after all.

My views on this are twofold - firstly, reparative therapy is "quack medicine", and while I think it would be illiberal to ban the pedalling of quackery, I don't think it should be allowed to masquerade as real medicine. I would also apply this to homeopathy, etc..

Secondly, from the patient's point of view, such "services" should be delivered on the basis of informed consent. The patient should understand that it basically won't genuinely be able to change their sexual desire, but at best give them a set of strategies for repressing it, and perhaps coping with entering into a relationship which they may wish to enter into to fulfil some sort of perceived obligation (e.g. To marry and have children), but which will likely entail little or no sexual attraction.

In other words, the cards should fully be on the table.

I also think, by the way, that gender services would be much more appropriately delivered on an informed consent model than the present "gatekeeper" model, which I think is more or less broken by design.
I'd be interested in anyone else's thoughts on this too.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/250350.html - you can comment here or there.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

9th January, 2011
12:14 pm


A Brief Conversation
Me:Here is a cup of tea with no sugar in because we're out, and here is your mail, which I opened.
Sylvia:Examines mail, grumbles about officialdom That's not much notice! (regarding said officialdom)
Me:It had been sitting there unopened for several days; I figured I'd exercise my wifely prerogative and open your mail.
Sylvia:Oh, whatever
Me:After all, it's not like we have the sort of relationship where that would be a problem.
Sylvia:You could discover my secret double life!
Me:Oh, are they cute?

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/249894.html - you can comment here or there.

(1 comment | Leave a comment)

7th January, 2011
12:07 pm


El Camino Del Rey - My Full Trip Report
Here's the trip report I wrote for my outdoors forum. It gets a bit jargony in places, because of the audience it was written for, but I hope you enjoy!
It's longCollapse )

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/249606.html - you can comment here or there.

(19 comments | Leave a comment)

1st December, 2010
12:09 pm


A Bit of Public Speaking
I have been invited to speak for 10-15 minutes on women in politics, and the absence of women in parliament at an event Cambridge City Council is holding on International Women's Day next March.

I'm very proud of the city council's approach to equality issues, and feel honoured that as an "out" trans woman I would be asked to do this. I do suspect there may be one or two transphobic radfems who find themselves annoyed by this though.

Between now and then I have a speech to write!

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/249538.html - you can comment here or there.

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

29th November, 2010
12:44 am


Sneak Preview
I cut this - if you have a thing about heights, you may want to sit down before looking in here. You have been warnedCollapse )

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/249292.html - you can comment here or there.

(24 comments | Leave a comment)

10th November, 2010
11:26 pm


Charing Cross Myths
The following document has come to my attention. It is something that has been produced by clinicians at the West London Mental Health Trust (i.e. Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic), I guess as part of a patient/community relations exercise, and aims to detail some commonly held beliefs about the clinic and contrast them with their view. I am told that all the clinicians have signed up to it. Here's the document - feel free to pass it around, and I hope it proves helpful!

The WLMHT (“Charing Cross”) Gender Identity Clinic has existed in one form or another since the early 1960s, and clinical practice is constantly evolving. It is perhaps inevitable that, in that time, a number of false beliefs and misconceptions have arisen.

Not all these beliefs are “myths” in the sense of having always been untrue – some stem from the way the GIC operated in the past, or the approaches of previous clinicians – but all are outdated, and unreflective of current treatment protocol.

The following, then, are examples of commonly held beliefs about the WLMHT GIC which are untrue:

You have to wear a skirt to the GIC
Perhaps the most widely cited misconception, this is not the case. As part of the Real Life Experience (RLE), male-to-female transitioners are expected to present themselves in female role 100% of the time, and sometimes it is relevant to discuss this in clinic appointments. However, the range of feminine apparel is, obviously, wide and varied, and cannot simply be reduced to “wear a skirt”.

A less common variant holds that female-to-male transitioners must wear a suit and tie to be taken seriously at the GIC. This too is without basis.

You have to be living "in role"
Not the case. We see people who experience gender related distress; some are pre- transition, some do not undergo transition at all. All are valid referrals to our service.

You have to want surgery
Not at all. Not everyone needs or wants gender related surgery.

You have to be suicidal
On the contrary, it is important that those undergoing transition be stable, physically and psychologically. It is not unusual for us to see people who have, as a result of their gender distress, been depressed – sometimes to the point of suicidality – but we would hope that, as transition progresses, this gradually improves.

You have to be heterosexual
We have heard health professionals say this of the clinic, but it is patently ridiculous. It would be grossly unethical of us to insist on heterosexuality in our patients.

You can't admit to doubt
Transition is, for many, a major life change and it would be unusual to have no doubts whatsoever. You should feel comfortable discussing feelings of doubt with your clinicians.

You have to give a standard trans narrative
As the UK’ s largest gender clinic, we see a huge diversity of people, and neither wish nor expect you to tailor your own experiences to a set of clichés. Just be honest.

The GIC will start you at the beginning again
This was our practice in decades past. In the last decade or so, it has been standard practice to acknowledge previous time spent in the preferred gender role. Typically, we “back date” the start of transition to the start of living in role full time as well as making an official name change or equivalent.

The GIC will stop your hormones
No. Our concern is that you take hormones safely. We routinely carry out blood tests at the first appointment, and may advise accordingly, but we generally do not ask people to stop hormones on which they are established.

The GIC will penalise you for having gone private/self-medicated
Obviously, we cannot approve of self-medication as it can be dangerous and often leads to a poorer result than that gained under medical supervision. However, we recognise that it is a modern reality, though, and do not penalise you for it. The same is true of previous contact with private practitioners.

It will take forever
Within the limits of available NHS resources, we aim to provide a timely and efficient service.

They deliberately play Good Cop/Bad Cop
Different clinicians have different approaches, and will form different therapeutic relationships with their patients. Choice of clinician is determined by availability of appointment slots, not by any sort of organised Good/Bad Clinician policy.

November 2010

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/249079.html - you can comment here or there.

(34 comments | Leave a comment)

3rd November, 2010
01:00 pm


Not Quite Chatting With a Chaser
Last night saw another "hit and run" on IRC. As it happened in the middle of the night there was nobody there to respond, so I thought a little bit of parody this afternoon was in order:
[01:33] str8_but_curious_30m joined the chat room.
[01:33] str8_but_curious_30m: hi everyone
[01:35] str8_but_curious_30m: anyone there?
[01:36] str8_but_curious_30m left the chat room.

... time passes

[12:58] You are now known as gay_but_asexual_37f.
[12:58] gay_but_asexual_37f: Hi all. Anyone here?
[12:59] gay_but_asexual_37f: Does someone wanna talk about cats?
[12:59] gay_but_asexual_37f: Anyone?
[12:59] gay_but_asexual_37f: bye
[12:59] You are now known as sarahlizzy.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/248596.html - you can comment here or there.


(2 comments | Leave a comment)

2nd November, 2010
03:50 pm


They May Not Have Thought This Through
Recently in the news is the American TSA (you know, the nice uniformed people in airports who do security) and their new technique for discouraging people from opting out of those awful body scanner security theatre devices. Apparently they have gone in for very public, very intimate pat downs, presumably in an attempt to humiliate refuseniks into using the "perve at your naked body scanners".

One source quotes someone in the know:
An effective pat down "has to be invasive" and touch both breasts and genitals, says Billie Vincent, a former security director for the Federal Aviation Administration. "It is clearly a technique that most people would consider an invasion of their privacy."

Passengers have reported feeling unpleasantly surprised at the intimacy of the searches, but I can't help feeling that the TSA haven't thought this through very clearly, because there's an obvious problem with this from their point of view, which I think I can illustrate with this video:

Just saying...

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/248323.html - you can comment here or there.

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1st November, 2010
03:01 pm


Your Life is not Your Own
So now it's out - the world knows that both the victim and the suspect in the death of Sonia Burgess are transgender. In one of the most hateful pieces of alleged "journalism" I have ever seen on trans issues (warning, reading this reduced me to sobs and I had to resort to Valium. You have been warned), the Daily Mail casually strip both women of their identity, their dignity and their humanity.

Notice too how the legal system is doing the same. The police outed the victim, the judge apparently outed the suspect (I knew she was trans and who she was a few days ago - I was keeping quiet about it). Notice how the suspect was remanded in a male prison, notice how she appeared in court with significant male-pattern facial hair. Notice how the judge asked if Nina had "completed" her "sex change", which is, of course, code for "does she have a penis?". Notice how it's reported that Nina "wished to be referred to as Nina" (probably because that is her name). Wonder whether, in allowing this information to come out in this way, the state is allowing Nina to receive a trial which is fair and unprejudiced?

And, to reiterate, notice how this woman is currently in a male prison. Regardless of her guilt or innocence, she is now being punished beyond anything I dare to imagine. I can only hope that they have her in solitary confinement, because if she is exposed to the general male prison population ...

This then is what transgender people face every day of our lives - the possibility that on a whim of a policeman, or a judge, or a journalist, our identities, dignity and humanity can be stripped from us, and it can be done with impunity. Sure, in theory there is the Gender Recognition Act, the thing that supposedly protects us, only according to the explanatory notes for the 2010 Equality Act, it doesn't - not really. It should be noted that no case has ever been brought under the anti-outing provision of the GRA - zoeimogen checked using the Freedom of Information Act.

The Equality Act itself makes our precarious situation in society very clear, in perhaps its most chilling part for trans people. With respect to 8 of the 9 "protected characteristics", employers can create a position which requires someone to have that particular characteristic. You can, for example, require that applicants are female, or from a particular ethnic minority, or is a wheelchair user, or is gay.

For the last remaining "protected characteristic", gender reassignment you can't do this - it's not just that there is no provision in the Act to allow a job to require a transgender applicant. No, the sense of the Act is actually reversed at this point - you can only allow a job to require that the applicant is not transgender.

And if the explanatory notes are to be believed, the mighty GRA is, in this situation, irrelevant. That bit of paper that says I'm female, my birth certificate that says the same thing; the state apparently doesn't regard them as true, not really.

Imagine living your life faced with the constant possibility that who you are can be taken away from you, if you are a woman, that you can be dumped in a men's prison, and also that the thing that causes you the most pain in your life can and will be dragged through the press for the public's entertainment. That is what it is to be transgender in the UK in 2010.

There but for the grace of god go I, and all that.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/248244.html - you can comment here or there.

(40 comments | Leave a comment)

17th October, 2010
11:14 pm


Chattin' With a Chaser, Part 6 in an Infrequent Series
Been a while since I had one of these. For those who don't know the drill, check out this tag.

Anyway, this one appeared in channel while I was watching a film. The film finished, he was still there, bothering people, who were pretending ignorance in the hope he'd go away. I indicated my presence and didn't immediately tell him to die a painful death. That seemed to be sufficient. The conversation started in the main channel:
Cut for comedic predictabilityCollapse )

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/247821.html - you can comment here or there.


(14 comments | Leave a comment)

16th October, 2010
08:24 pm


Update - New Private Gender Clinic
I have mentioned this before, but now there is a shiny website for the new UK private gender clinic, operated by Dr Stuart Lorimer (also of the Charing Cross GIC and all round nice chap) and Christella Antoni (my erstwhile speech therapist - she's very good!)

They're at gendercare.co.uk

I'm declaring an interest - Stuart is a personal friend of mine, but I happen to know he has a very progressive, individual-centric approach to trans issues and is about as far from the old paternalistic model we all know and hate as you might be able to find today. If you're looking for trans-related healthcare and are worried about not having a "non-standard" narrative or identity, being judged, or not being taken seriously, you could do a lot worse than go and see him.

Update to the update: I am informed that Dr Lorimer's fees will be going up on the website shortly, but in the meantime I've been sent the text that is going to go on the webpage and will include it behind the cut.
How much it costsCollapse )

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/247747.html - you can comment here or there.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

12th October, 2010
10:48 pm


Strengthening Equality
It's well known amongst the trangender community that the 2010 Equalities Act gives us a pretty raw deal, explicitly exempting us from protections that others can take for granted. In two areas in particular, employment and service provision, the act states that a job opening can require that a successful applicant is not transgender, and for provision of single sex services, or separate services for the sexes, provision can be denied to transgender people. In both cases the refusal must be "proportionate", and towards achieving a "reasonable aim", but these are cold comfort. The way the act treats transgender people is, in my view, discriminatory and something called an Equality Act should not be doing that.

Which is why I am pleased to announce that yesterday (Monday) at a meeting of Cambridge City Council's Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee, I successfully persuaded the councillors present to move an amendment to the Council's equality policy. In the area of employment practices, it has added:
  • We will not exclude transgender people from positions which require a gender-appropriate candidate

In the area of delivering services it adds:
  • transgender people will not be excluded from gender-appropriate single sex/sex segregated facilities operated by the council

In other words, although the Equality Act allows discrimination in these areas in certain circumstances, Cambridge City Council (somewhat famous for appointing a transgender mayor a few years ago) has stated that it will waive its rights to take advantage of those parts of the act when employing people, or providing single sex/sex segregated services. In other words, it exceeds the act's minimum requirements in this area.

It is my wish that other councils, and other service providers and employers will see this as an example of best practice and incorporate something similar into their own diversity policies.

To this end, Cambridge Liberal Democrats have put out a press release. Here it is:
cut for press releaseCollapse )

Actually feeling quite proud of myself for that!

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/247308.html - you can comment here or there.

(24 comments | Leave a comment)

30th September, 2010
05:46 pm


Self Inflicted Fury
It's said that one makes ones own luck. I'm sure lots of us have met people who are perpetually angry, to the point of being enraged, by life's trivia. Being directly descended from such a person (who fortunately has decided he isn't on speaking terms with me), I have noticed that quite often, such people create the means of their own rage.

I feel the need to relate a particular example that just happened to me. I was not the enraged one, but was (indirectly) the instrument of someone else's rage. I very much expect right now she's complaining to anyone who will listen about the "terrible rude and annoying woman" she met today. I'll relate the facts of what happened, and let you decide if I am indeed such a terrible woman, or whether this person was entirely responsible for their own minor inconvenience, and subsequent (and seemingly quite disproportionate) anger.

Imagine, if you will, a shopping centre. Floors 0, 1 and 2 are retail floors. Floors 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are parking floors. I had paid my parking ticket on floor 1 and was making my way over the lift to return to my car on floor 3 (I wouldn't normally be so ecologically unsound as to drive there, given it's within walking distance, but I was passing it on the way home from elsewhere).

Standing by the lifts (for there are two - we shall call them LeftLift and RightLift) was a lady with a pushchair. Clearly not wanting to take the pushchair on the escalator down to floor zero, she had pushed the "down" button. It should be explained that LeftLift and RightLift are controlled by the same buttons - which one you get is up to the computer.

Wanting to go up, I pushed the "up" button.

By some coincidence, or perhaps design, both lifts arrived simultaneously a few moments later. A muffled sound emanates from LeftLift, "Doors opening". The same muffled sound emanates from RightLift. Above LeftLift is a display which has just stopped showing the floor number and now has an arrow pointing up. Above RightLift, the equivalent display shows an arrow pointing down.

"Going up!", announces LeftLift. "Going down!", announces RightLift.

The lady with the pushchair gets into LeftLift. I follow her in. She pushes zero, which illuminates, and keeps her finger pressed on it. She seems to be placing herself almost in the way of me accessing the panel. I am able to reach round without invading her personal space, so I do and press three.

The doors start to close. Pushchair Lady opens her mouth to speak. The words that come out are, "If this goes up, I will be really angry", but the actual meaning is clear, "I am using my eye lasers to give you cancer!"

The doors have finished closing. "The lift said it was going up, the other one had a down arrow", I volunteer.

The lift starts to rise. Pushchair lady gives me a stare designed to kill at a hundred metres.


She is not impressed, not impressed at all.

"Third floor! Doors opening!" I leave the lift and don't look back, but I can feel her eyes boring into my skull until the very moment the doors close. I have no idea if the lift carried on up, summoned from the upper floors. I expect that if it did, she may well have gone thremonuclear.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/247085.html - you can comment here or there.

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

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