en English

 

Sara Phillips is the chair of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), she has been a trans rights activist for the past 26 years and played an instrumental role in developing Ireland’s progressive GRA legislation in 2015, and the review of the act in 2018.

In this episode of the GenderGP podcast, Sara joins Dr Helen and Marianne to discuss the ways in which Ireland has forged its own very progressive path for trans rights and what other countries can learn from the steps they have already taken.

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Links

 

Twitter: @sararphillips
Website: https://www.teni.ie/
www.belongto.org – Response to the Gender Recognition Act

 

The GenderGP Podcast

TENI’s Sara Phillips talks trans rights in Ireland – The GenderGP Podcast S5 E2

 

Hello, this is Dr Helen Webberley. Welcome to our GenderGP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.

 

Dr. Helen Webberley:
So, hi everybody. I am very happy to be here with Marianne on our today’s edition of our podcast with Sara Phillips. And as usual, I’m going to pass over to Sara to let her introduce herself and tell us all about the work that she does and her ambitions for today, tomorrow, and for the future. So, Sara, welcome to our podcast.

Sara Phillips:
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning. As you said, I am Sara Phillips. I am the chair of Trans Equality Network Ireland. I’ve been in that position now for the past seven years. I have been out as an activist in trans rights for the past twenty-six years here in Ireland. I suppose most recently, I’ve been working quite a lot on gender recognition. I was one of the lead negotiators for our very progressive gender recognition legislation in 2015. And more recently I was on the government review group of that act in 2018, which provided some very progressive recommendations which have yet to be legislated for. I suppose as chair of our national organisation, I work across all areas of trans life, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s gender recognition, whether it’s support. And there is still a huge amount of work to be done over here in Ireland. Currently, I am also a member of the steering committee of the International Trans Fund, which is an organisation providing funding to small trans organisations specifically in the global south but also in Asia, who work to try and support trans communities in different ways.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
Oh, wow. That is one introduction. I’m so excited to quiz you on some of this. So, just going back to the beginning, you say that you have been an activist for twenty-six years. How have things progressed, changed, developed, reverted in that twenty-six years?

Sara Phillips:
Well, it’s changed quite a lot. I think when I came out first was 1992. And I suppose trans people in Ireland were few. In fact, for most of us who were around at that point, we had tended to have looked to the UK quite a lot. We did have some groups starting up at that point. We had had a longstanding group which started in 1977 (unclear 2:45) Beaumont society ironically. More for trans people over here, but also for trans people who are looking to transition. But they were still very much in the shadows. They were still meeting in private, very much trying to make sure that they lived in stealth, they met in stealth, et cetera. While the nineties, in the nineties Ireland itself changed dramatically because financially we became a different country, we became a more progressive country, lots of things changed, the old Celtic tiger roared, and we all kind of got on its back and followed. But for trans people then, they started to feel a little bit more comfortable being out. We had a kind of (unclear 3:30) of anything goes over here at that point. And then we eventually got into the early two-thousands, we start to form groups, and we started to come together, and the community started to become a little bit more visible. We were still very small in numbers. I think that changed in around 2005. There had been previous things going on surrounding a little bit of work, with (unclear 3:55) but also some legislative work right after Lydia Foy, who was taking a legal case to look for change on the birth certificate of her gender. So, an organisation for a gender equality network came together in late 2005, early 2006, in order, one, to support that case and provide support groups around the country. So I think that kind of process was very small, incremental changes over that long period of time. However, by 2010, we had received some funding, and there was a much broader outlook and a much more positive outlook for the community. We started to work in various different areas and started looking at how to get more appropriate healthcare and try and get gender recognition, et cetera. And also then start to work in places like employment and work on hate crimes, et cetera. And then for that matter then, I think things started to improve. People were more willing to be out, people were more willing to identify as trans, more so than just to move into the binary in stealth. It has been a long time coming, but it’s really moved very fast, especially in the last six, seven, eight years. Things have really moved. Our community now is much younger, it’s much louder. It’s much more visible compared to those of us who were out in the nineties, quietly going about our business.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
That kind of pathway that you talk about, that trajectory that increases, it’s certainly what we’ve seen in healthcare, isn’t it? If you look at the number of people coming forward to medical services for help, we’ve seen the same kind of thing. It was so so slow, people didn’t want to come forward, but then the last, like you say, seven or eight years, it’s been really, really increased. And in the same way that you said, younger, louder, and more visible. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen, isn’t it? People have the courage to come forward and to come out and speak loudly. And of course, that has caused some trouble, hasn’t it? Particularly, the younger group. And, you know, you mentioned hate crimes as part of the work that you do. And obviously, we do see a lot of hate directed at that younger group that you mentioned there. Is that something that you see in Ireland as well?

Sara Phillips:
Not so much to the same degree as you do in the UK. And I am quite aware of a lot of what happens over there. I also kind of do a lot of work over there, and I have a lot of friends. We don’t have—while we still try to press upon authorities, the problem with hate crime and the issues that occur, in reality, the percentage of hate crimes that we find on trans people are an awful lot less than they would be, say, in the UK. Even per head of population, they can be quite low. However, that shouldn’t take away from the seriousness of them when they happen. And they do happen, there is no doubt about that. I think they are starting now in more recent times, we are starting to see a lot more of us, especially now where there is a lot of negativity online. There are obviously campaigns across the UK, which obviously filters in here, across social media like Twitter and Facebook, and stuff that comes on in the likes of The Mail and The Sunday Times. All of these have an effect over here, because, well, while we have our own media, we will always still have that influence coming from the UK. And we will also have that seeping in of that sort of attitude sometimes. And then you get Irish people sometimes picking them up, and then running with themselves. We are seeing a little bit more of that at the moment, especially in the last two years, especially since the gender recognition review group put out their recommendations, there was a much more public submission process. And those who were very negative around that and started to become very public about it. I think some of the things that you have, say for instance, especially around social media, especially on Twitter, without naming names, we can name some of the people that are very vocal in those areas especially some Irish people who happen to be living in the UK. That they have an effect over here, and that will kind of have people take up those attitudes and who will then eventually seep into being violent, or even being transphobic, even verbally or whatever. And we are seeing that a little bit more. And again, because of the community is younger, and because we are starting to see more and more people who are visible, then the likelihood is that we are going to get more and more of it. And it is something that we find hard it now to work on and find it hard to guard against—

Marianne Oakes:
I just wanted to interject there. I’m not sure, are there young person services, transgender health services in Ireland?

Sara Phillips:
Yes, and we do have, and this is probably, even more, my colleague Vanessa Lacey’s place to talk about this, but we work very closely with the healthcare system, the HSE, which is our healthcare executive over here. And we’ve worked with them for the last eight or nine years. We proposed back a number of years ago that they should introduce healthcare services for under 18s, and we provided them with information. We gave them recommendations. They then partnered with Tavistock around providing a service here on a temporary basis, with eventually getting the service here up to speed and then providing a localized service for everyone in Dublin. That service from Tavistock is currently two things. One, it’s under pressure because of the same sort of pressure that is going on in the UK, but also it has also got one more year to run because by 2020, the healthcare executives are supposed to have had their system in place there, their service in place. Currently, that is very much a difficult situation at the moment because they aren’t really ready. With ten or eleven months to go, they really aren’t in a position to do that in January. But also then, the system is under pressure because they currently have 350 young people in the service, and that is just breaking at the seams. Tavistock can’t handle that, even with the fact that they are breaking at the seams in the UK. But the pressure of the controversy and the negativity at the Tavistock that is happening in the UK is now again filtering in here through some of the media.

Marianne Oakes:
Feels like it’s all very much intertwined, then. Both countries are mirroring each other in the political and social climate at the moment from what you say.

Sara Phillips:
I would kind of pull back a little bit on that, Marianne. I think, from a political perspective, there is very much a political will to be supportive. There is definitely a political will to advance our rights and provide proper services. The outgoing government was very positive to, one, implement the recommendations of the gender recognition review group, and hopefully to the full scale of that they will do that eventually whoever comes in afterwards. Because there is a lot of cross-party support. From a healthcare perspective, again, politically, at health care service executive level, senior level, we’ve worked with them, with their senior management. Also, at the department of health, the minister for the department of health, they have all been very positive towards implementing appropriate healthcare. The problem is that it’s like, you know, trying to turn that ferry in the bay. You don’t do it very quickly. You don’t do it quickly. Healthcare executive here is actually quite unyielding. It has a lot of problems generally. And therefore, trying to get people to move and the shift is difficult. We have introduced earlier this year the National Gender Service, and they have made huge improvements. They have recently brought out, as you may have seen, there have been some difficulties in relation to waiting lists. They are improving those. We are stills sceptical that it’s all going to be brilliant in the future, but we are trying to push and fight and work and at least talk to them about those changes that they are making. But again, there is some political, I suppose, debate and discussion at the lower level, at the actual service level, about the appropriate type of services that are being provided. And that is, on one level, politically, from a government point of view, but also, from a healthcare service point of view, the upper levels are all very much on board and approving international best standards. In very much the case that the clinicians and the people running the service are very much the ones we are having the problems with.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
In what way?

Sara Phillips:
Well, currently, the National Gender Service is supposedly running a model of international best practice based on WPath guidelines based on informed consent. However, in reality, that is not what is actually happening. They say that what they are running is a psycho-social model which is based on the looking at all the needs of the person in question. However, what is, in reality, is very much what you have a diagnosis, a diagnostic process which is quite onerous for most people because it’s quite intrusive and it’s really difficult to navigate and having to spend a lot of time. Because it is not just a one-hour assessment. It can be a three or four-hour assessment initially. It’s delving into areas of your life that really probably has no relevance to your healthcare in this area.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
I think people who have been through that system—I mean, I haven’t been through that system, but I’ve had people tell me about that—people who haven’t heard the line of questioning that Marianne and I often talk about, it’s actually quite traumatic to people to have to go down that line in order to convince a doctor or a therapist to give them a diagnosis of their own identity. As a doctor, it makes me shudder. The fact that we have a gender equality policy for every hospital, every healthcare organisation, every school, it’s all there in that policy, the wording in it. But if no one takes the slightest interest in it or any of its contents, what is the point of having that policy? And actually, it makes me quite cross. I just wonder at the kind of countries around this who are copying the UK model for gender healthcare conditions, when clearly ours is so broken. We are seeing other people copying it. We are seeing Wales, for example, creating their own gender identity service running along with the same model that England uses. And we know it’s broken. And time and time again, we at GenderGP are campaigning that we have so many good doctors. Every single town and village has a number of good doctors who could provide this care. And this patient could go to that doctor and say, “Doctor, I’ve got something to tell you. My gender is different from the one that I was given at birth. And is different from the one that everyone feels that it should be. My gender is different to that, and I need to switch my hormones to make my gender fit.” And every single town and village has a doctor who can easily facilitate that if they just believe that person. But of course, I do wonder what if we did that. And it’s becoming clear to me more and more recently that if we did that, what happens to those super-specialists? What happens to their jobs? What happens to the gender services where they spend so many years creating and nurturing. Because if this can be done by a GP, we don’t need those people in the first place. And what happens to their jobs? And sometimes, I wonder, politically, what is going on there and what the future holds. But as a GP myself, it makes me very cross myself, because this care can so easily be given by a general practice team. And I promise you one thing. That general practice team would not ask those invasive questions which actually are quite traumatic, and as you say, completely irrelevant. Irrelevant, intrusive, and traumatic. I’m sorry. I’ve gone on long enough then.

Sara Phillips:
I think the irony for Ireland is that when I went through that process, it was much more a psycho-social model. It was very much based on you not having to prove who you are, but being believed in who you are. Ironically, that is the same, some of the same people who are currently running the system have changed their mind. They changed the way they do things. Because initially when the service started up here twenty years ago, it was a much easier thing to navigate. It was, you know, you got your support, you went to your psychologist to talk about the usual needs or the support you need, whether your family is supportive or your work was supportive or whether you needed anything else, you talked all that through—but they weren’t diagnosing you as trans or for whatever gender you are. They were believing you, that that is what you said you are. But they were there to provide that support, psychologically going through what, for all of us, is a difficult process. But people should be there to support you rather than to actually gatekeep you. And I think that is what the difference is. It is very difficult for us here to know that that is something that I went through, but then young people today have to navigate this, what is basically a process that started in the seventies and the eighties. And really, we’ve moved on. We’ve learned so much more, globally, about trans lives and about these issues. It’s very hard to understand why these individuals haven’t moved on too.

Marianne Oakes:
Because I got the diagnosis through the NHS. And I remember just asking the doctor—they were asking me a lot of questions—and I just said, “Why are you asking me these questions?” And she said, “Because we’re going to give you a diagnosis of transsexualism and gender dysphoria.” And I actually physically recoiled. And I thought, “I didn’t ask for that.” I didn’t come to you needing a diagnosis. I’ve come to you because I understand myself and I need support. And I think that—I just get the sense that the people who want (unclear 19:20) and making it more complex to give more credence to their expert status. And I’m hoping Helen agrees with me, but the model of care that we operate is the patient is the expert. We’re just the professionals facilitating responsibly if that makes sense.

Sara Phillips:
Yes, of course. And I mean, that’s exactly what the specialists should be providing. That is what you should be doing. If you go to—the simple example, where you go to your doctor, and you say, “I’ve got a headache,” the doctor believes that you have got a headache. First thing, you know. I may sound very simple, but that should be the first premise of what the treatment is based upon. And as you say, you are going to your GP, or you are going to your specialist asking for support to do what you need to do, but you shouldn’t be gatekeeping. These things shouldn’t happen. And I think that’s currently what’s happening. We are regressing currently. Ironically, over here, we are taking some huge strides publically, legislatively, in various different ways. And yet in healthcare, we are actually regressing, which is really disappointing for us at the moment. It’s been kind of an eye-opener as to the work that we’ve been doing over the last ten years specifically. We’ve been able to have the ability to persuade politicians that we should have the right to self-determine our gender in a very simple administrative process, and we can make all the human rights cases for that and can provide all the evidence base that we need. And that people have come along on that journey and understood it. An actually when you come to healthcare professionals, you can’t make that same argument, and we still can’t do that persuasion. Because they still feel that they know better.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
We need a lot more. We just need a massive, massive uproar to get back the rights of people to live the way that they need to. I wanna ask you something. I was kind of waiting to pounce on you for using the word self-identification. Because I was watching a thread on twitter the other day, and a trans woman there she got quite upset at this concept, self-identity. And I couldn’t really unpick what it was all about. And I think what she was really saying is that this is my identity and I don’t even need to self-identify or be given permission to self-identify. I just identify. And you almost insult me by even permitting me to self-identify. You’ve obviously done a lot of work on gender recognition and that. If you could make that clearer for me to understand.

Sara Phillips:
I mean, I think for us, you know, when you step back first of all to what is the core principle of identification, it’s an innate sense of self. It’s understanding how you want to identify, how you want to present, how you believe you are, how everything about you, whatever it is, whether you’re funny, whether you’re loud, whether you’re quiet or whatever—all these pieces of your identity are formed in sometimes subconsciously by yourself. It happens. Nobody else tells you, “Helen, you need to be loud. That’s the sort of person we want you to be.” We always find our comfort in ourselves. I believe that gender is a very similar process. It is this understanding that somebody else is putting upon us gender at birth is not something that should happen, and therefore we should have the right to say to the world this is how we identify as our gender. And I understand that woman’s comments about, you know, I shouldn’t really need to self-identify. I suppose from an administrative point of view there is always going to have to be some sort of process to be able to—we’re not going to have a utopian world where we can just be. And I think for us, a lot of the arguments when we are negotiating gender recognition act in 2015, was around this right to identify in whatever way we would want to identify. So my argument, Helen, was what way do you identify? Who decided that gender? So if you identify as female, who decided that gender? In reality, is it wasn’t the person who wrote it on your birth certificate. In reality, it wasn’t your parents. It was you. And the reason why you, Helen, have decided to identify, say, as female, if that is what you identify as, is because you have accepted what they said. And you feel comfortable within that space, and you feel okay continuing to identify with that. However, for us, that is untrue. We do not identify with what gender has been put on our birth certificate. And therefore, we should have the right to identify with whatever way we want to.

Marianne Oakes:
Can I just put another twist in there as well?

Sara Phillips:
Of course.

Marianne Oakes:
Cause I mean, we had a peer support group on Friday talking about language. And we had a little discussion with the team on Monday about language, and how it develops. And I think a lot depends on the time and the fact that we are fighting. But for me, self-identification means that I don’t want somebody else to tell me my identity. I have got the right to decide myself. In the UK, a panel would have to discuss my identity who never meet me, based on psychological reports from psychiatrists that just confirm what I am feeling is genuine. And that is dehumanizing. That takes away my ability to be myself. And I think, for me, self-identity, it’s to stop other people driving me down the wrong road. That I will determine what road I want to go down, not anybody else.

Sara Phillips:
Totally agree. It’s our right to decide. Not somebody else’s right to decide. Which is important. And funny enough, as a side note, I met with the chair of that panel about a year ago at a (unclear 25:55) conference. I was giving a keynote speech there. And actually, we had this conversation. And she found it very difficult to understand, even leaving the meeting or the interaction, to understand that this was very dehumanizing for somebody to have to ask their permission to identify in the way we believe we should. And that was a learning process for me, that somebody couldn’t even get the core principle of that. She had the right to identify whatever way she wanted, really, just because she agreed with what everybody else said, the people who chose it for her. That was acceptable. If I was to turn around and say that it was not acceptable for us, she should have that right. So I don’t know. It is very difficult to kind of get to the core of people understanding self-identity. And then it causes all the usual knock-on effects on problems because people then start throwing in all their problems in all the ways. I don’t want to really go down all the arguments and stuff like that because we don’t have that issue here. And therefore, it’s not really a conversation that we have over here.

Marianne Oakes:
It kind of highlights, though, that somebody on that panel has not got the slightest concept of what it is to question your own identity. And they are passing judgement on people who are. So how can they be suitable for that panel? And that is really what this comes down to—they take on an expert status that they can funnel language, they can twist whatever is said to suit their own, what they feel, and try to look at it from their perspective—when actually, it’s got to be the person in front of you. You’ve got to see this from the other person’s perspective. And if you are unable to do that, you are not really suitable for the job.

Sara Phillips:
Exactly. And like I would ask, the question is, why is there no trans involvement in that panel? I mean, in any other sphere of life, say for instance, if this was an issue to do with women, if there were no women on that panel, there would be uproar. Because surely women are going to have an understanding of what those issues are going to be. The world has moved on so dramatically in recent years. And this concept of self-identity is finding more traction in more and more places. I think we were forced. I think at the time. And yet there are now eight countries in which you can self-identify in some shape or form. Some in good ways and some in bad. But still, the concept is there. And the understanding of the concepts should be available.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
It’s almost like every country allows self-identification. Unless you are trans in that country. I was told I was a girl, and I grew up into a woman, and I never challenged it. I didn’t need to. So I was allowed to self-identify with the label that they gave me when I was born.

Sara Phillips:
You put it in much better terms than I did.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
Thank you for teaching me much more about it. I am actually interested in that. Because I am a scientist by nature, and when I used to, when we did the science exam at school, if anyone ever said, if it was a multiple-choice question, if it had ever always or never, you’d be very, very careful about that question, because nothing is ever always, and nothing is ever never. And I think this is the same with the spectrum of gender and is anybody ever nought per cent or a hundred per cent? And so it makes me think where on that spectrum is the tipping point? If you are that far down the spectrum, you just accept the gender that they gave you at birth. And then somewhere along the line, you say, “Absolutely not, that is just not my gender.” And I am just wondering, where is the fulcrum? Where is the tipping point? Because there will be people teetering, do you know what I mean? Can I be half-accepting? Oh, it’s alright living like this, but actually, should I really be living this way and would that be more comfortable for me? It’s fascinating. I love that.

Sara Phillips:
When you get into conversations with people who identify as genderfluid, that is exactly where the issue comes.  There is a moment of, “I don’t really want to accept the gender that I’ve been given. I want to be somewhere in the middle, nor do I want to go to another gender.” And it’s just difficult to know when you are on the tipping point. And therefore today I might want to identify with the gender that’s been given to me or tomorrow I want to be a little bit more fluid or even nonbinary. Or the day after I might want to identify as the opposite gender. It’s an interesting area because that conversation is happening more and more now. More and more non-binary people are coming out, and I think those conversations are going to change the narrative over the next couple of years. Because I think the more people who come out as nonbinary, specifically, or genderfluid, I think it is going to change the understanding of that spectrum and the understanding of these hard facts of just male and female. And because again, that also focused idea of self-identification that we have to fit into a specific type of box. And that goes to all the problems and causes we talk about trans women in women’s spaces, or trans men being in danger. All these problems that we have actually focused on this binary box of male or female and going from one to the other. Part of that will start to slowly but surely, forgive me if I say this, maybe not in the UK, but around the rest of the world, I think it will start to slowly break down. And we see it an awful lot more in European countries and South American countries, where that understanding of gender is actually changing. That there is a spectrum rather than just a binary gender.

Marianne Oakes:
The saddest thing I am hearing today if I am honest with you, is that Ireland had a clean slate when it started becoming progressive. Unfortunately, it looked to the UK for models of care. Only if they had looked the other way, across the Atlantic, there are some far better models of care in operation. Very successful, great outcomes if that’s how you want to term it. And unfortunately, Ireland looked towards the UK. I think what I mean by that is that I agree entirely about the spectrum. The one thing with the room and they come in and they have a fixed idea and you know what trans means? When actually, it’s an exploration of gender. It’s about working out who you are and what you like. I heard your story earlier, I’ve got a link, and it said some of the stuff that you did when you were younger, one of them was play football. And I play football. I like football. But when I moved into the trans community, there was this narrative that genuine trans people don’t like sports, and genuine trans people don’t do this. And I think we’re breaking out. I think the young people are breaking out of that. And I love when a trans guy, for example, wearing nail polish and eyeliner. That’s who they are. And the fact that they identify as male does not negate their right to express their personality, character in whatever way they like. And that is what I am hoping to. That is why I have such a keen interest in the young people.

Sara Phillips:
Well, they are definitely the future. You’re right. To be truthful, I still play football. Even at my age. I am aching here after training last night. You know, I am looking forward to playing in the European gay games in August. I play five aside, seven aside football with a gang of girls. I think I am the only trans person. I don’t know. I haven’t questioned that either in the group. But yeah, you’re right. I think we’ve got a gang of young twenty-year-olds starting an organisation called Trans Sport over here. And they’re looking at different types of sports at the moment. And it’s literally only started in January. They are looking to try and provide situations where trans people would like to get into sports. Especially things like swimming where it is difficult sometimes, where you fear the spaces. Being in that vulnerable position in a swimsuit and a lot of people have always had that fear at that moment when they get into the swimming pool for the first time, having transitioned or having socially transitioned. You know, I think kids don’t see things the same way as we may have done back in the day. I think they see more opportunities. And I think kids demand more opportunities. They demand an expected—they have a belief in themselves that they should be able to do all these things, that it shouldn’t matter whether they are a trans guy who wears nail polish, or whether they are a trans woman and they play football. These things, they don’t see those problems. They only find those problems when somebody else has the problem for them, or they struggle with, say, a gym, where it’s not allowing them the place they need to change. Or they have a women’s football team who are not accepting. These sorts of places. But they’re in the minority, to be honest. And hopefully, that will remain the same.

Marianne Oakes:
I think if I understood correctly there, something just switched in my mind. I think we’ve moved—when we spoke about the eighties and the nineties, and how it was years ago, the fight really was for acceptance, and now the fight is for equality, there is a subtle difference there. People accept that we are around. I can walk into Marks and Spencers and pick up clothes and try them on, and people accept that, and I will do that. But actually, equality goes beyond that. It’s actually that we want that for life. We want to be able to go and experience life like everybody else can. And I think that is what young people are trying there, they are not happy with acceptance, that they are striving for equality.

Sara Phillips:
You know, I think even acceptance. I think I might kind of step back. I think tolerate is probably better. So, you know they are over there. And I think it’s not acceptance or toleration young people are looking for anymore. I think what they want is the full right to be able to live. We talk about being able to participate fully in all aspects of Irish society. I think that is exactly what kids want today. You know, about whether or not this is something safe they can do or somebody will be okay with them doing this. Or will everybody be alright with them coming out in school or whatever? I think these things should just be automatic. To be just part of life. And in lots of ways, that’s what’s of happening. And it’s a great thing that they don’t actually know or actually understand the previous struggle to get to where we are, so they don’t see a problem in pushing these boundaries. They don’t see a problem in saying their demands. And so they kind of can go and say, (unclear 38:20) got to where we are. We need to be vocal, we need to be visible. We also need to be positively visible. And continually use those words. Actually, I remember watching a documentary on BBC 2 in the early eighties about surgery. And it was that voyeuristic, kind of the camera following the trans woman around and looking at everybody else’s reaction to it. And that didn’t—that narrative didn’t change for an awful lot of time. And I think nowadays those sort of documentaries should be about the wonderful things that we do. The wonderful achievements that we reach. Because we have some wonderful members of our community throughout the world that do make huge achievements and that do create change in lots of other ways, in lots of other ways not just in trans healthcare areas. And I think that is what we should be highlighting rather than just the negative stories that people try to put out there. I think there is a hopeful future, but there is a battle to happen before we can get it all right.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
It reminds me, and I’ve told our listeners this lots of times, Abby and Marianne and I went to America last year to meet Johanna Olson-Kennedy and Aydin and Darlene Tando. And after the conference, we went to eat in a restaurant and Darlene went off to the toilet, and she came straight out, and Johanna was like, “Uh-oh. Triggered.” And Darlene went straight up to the bar area and spoke to the manager and said, “You’ve got cubicled toilets, and you’ve gendered them.” It’s like, you’ve got single cubicles, closed off, and you’ve got boy and girl on them. And she was just not having it. And she was having a big row. Darlene was really vocal about it. She wouldn’t let it go. She wanted to enforce change in that café. I don’t know whether they did it or not, and often when I go to cafes or restaurants or what have you and I see gendered toilets, I haven’t yet challenged it. But I thought to myself the other day, you know, I’ve started to challenge plastic straws. When I get my diet coke or my gin and tonic with a plastic straw, I say no thank you, no plastic straw, even if they had already put it in. Just to make the point across. To say that plastic straws aren’t acceptable. It just feels like that. And I haven’t yet been brave enough to do that bathroom challenge. And maybe the time will come when I do, but you know, as well we’ve got the youth of today who are accepting that. (unclear 41:00) that is exactly where I’m going to go in. And I’m going to try on in whatever place I want to try on. And I think cis people like me, we can do something to help equality, and that’s what we were talking about. Acceptance, tolerance, equality. And we’ve all got a part to play in that. Cis white female people like me wouldn’t accept colour segregation anymore, or sexuality segregation. We wouldn’t accept it. It has to become that we won’t accept gender segregation for somebody. We’ve all got a part to play in that, don’t we?

Sara Phillips:
Really vocal support, especially from young women, the feminist community specifically. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but back in the early part of 2018, when we were going through our repeal the 8 campaign, which is sort of around abortion, the Let’s Talk kind of group from the UK came over here and had a talk under the guise of the constitutional conversation, but yeah, we were quite well aware that the conversation was actually going to be about trans women. However, eventually, the number came around to somewhere like four thousand, which is quite a lot of number for here, wrote a letter saying, actually, you are not welcome here. Trans women have been very much part of not only the feminist community but also the lesbian community here for the last forty years, and we will continue to be so. And we are not going to let you come in here starting up trouble and starting up causing problems for us. And that message has continued in the last two years when you will see quite a very young, feminist, vocal community online really attacking some of those negative stories and attacking some of those negative views that are coming from people who are trying to stir up that narrative in the UK. And even when somebody here steps up and (unclear 43:08) there is usually twenty young very vocal feminists kind of there to defend you. And we’ve seen that this weekend. For instance, we’ve had some very difficult negativity on twitter on a project which is two young trans women had bee running as part of a female festival here called Herstory. And some people picked up on it on Twitter, and there were some really negative comments on one of the participants, and all of a sudden, huge swathes of support came in on Twitter specifically on here and in her defence on this project. Because it was very much about why are these ten trans women being included in what is a female story and a female festival. We can’t even have our own festival sort of thing. But yes, the community stood up and said. And it wasn’t the trans community. It was the feminist community. It was the lesbian community. They were the people who were stepping up and kind of going, no, we are not going to put up with this. The reason they are a part of that is that they are part of Irish society, they are part of their women who are in this community and in this society here, and that is why we stand with them. And that is very empowering, I have to say.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
It’s in numbers, isn’t it? it reminds me of the school bully who gets away with it until some kids are brave enough to go say, “Don’t do that.” (unclear 44:40) Can find something else to do. That’s a really warming story. It’s not something I see very often here. I don’t know about you, Marianne, do we see that?

Marianne Oakes:
I kind of just wanted to—I always have to make this point, that when I go out onto the street, what we see in the newspapers and what we read on Twitter and Facebook, the overwhelming majority of people in the UK really just don’t care one way or the other. Maybe ignorance allows some of this narrative to pent up a little bit. But, you know, people really don’t care that much. And we are allowed to go about our business. And I do think social media and the printed press, which is diminishing slowly, are painting a narrative that isn’t actually quite what the reality is, but it does keep the politicians at bay. It does stop the equality act going through. I spoke to my MP last year, and I said, “I just wish they could put it through and then we could just end that debate.” It would probably bring up another debate, but like Brexit, it just goes on and on and on and on. People just tire of it eventually. I think it would be wrong to say that people in the UK are intolerant on social media, trying to keep putting their views forward, but generally, on the streets, you don’t feel it. I get the sense that Ireland—I mean, I do work with one or two people in Ireland, and they probably get more issues than I do on the street if that makes sense.

Sara Phillips:
Yeah, I mean, I would have tended to agree with your own situation. For the best part, people always hear are exactly the same. They don’t really care. They are respectful, they are okay with trans people. They are obviously aware that they exist. I think the difficulty on the streets is twofold. One, I think it tends to be a particular cohort of people who are going to give you that problem on the street. I think, two, then obviously depending on how visible you are on the street if you understand what I mean. I think there is a certain cohort of people who will give you some grief. But I don’t think it is prevalent in any great numbers. I don’t think it is something that is really a serious problem as such. But when we have spoken to the police about this, they get very little issues with it. We run a program here called STAD, which is Stop Transphobia And Discrimination, through which people report their issues, from everything mild from name-calling to serious violence, through the process. But again, you do still get some incidences every week, but it’s very mild. And I agree with you that social media is a (unclear 48:00). I try to tell people that it’s a (unclear 48:07). There is a number of people watching it, but it’s not a wider population. Sixty-three per cent of the population here is on some sort of social media, but that doesn’t mean that they are all watching your story or your conversation or that negativity. In fact, very few percentages of that wider population is going to be watching that.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
So, I think, you know, once again, you taught me lots. There is so much to learn, and I hope you don’t mind me saying that I find it fascinating. And we’ve all got so much to learn. And clearly, someone like you who’s been working for twenty-six years as an advocate, and clearly you’ve contributed greatly to that acceptance and tolerance and equality that we all should be striving for. And it’s been a real pleasure talking to you today. And you have certainly taught me lots, which I always love. My mind will be mulling at work throughout the next few days. So thanks so much for joining us.

Sara Phillips:
Hope to meet you eventually. I’ve heard so much about you, too.

Dr. Helen Webberley:
Oh well. That’s nice. Anyway, lovely to talk to you. And I hope our listeners will have learnt as much as I have today. Thanks so much.

Sara Phillips:
Thanks so much. Take care.

 

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