written by: Anonymous

NOTE: This is one of many testimonies regarding institutional capture, given to me by employees, students and service users in various sectors across the UK. See this page for more examples.

On SOP (the system which stores all our employment information, time recording data, etc.) I happened to click on a tab labelled ‘gender reassignment ‘. I presumed it would be blank but no, it had added an entry for me that said “My gender identity is actually the SAME (their emphasis, not mine) as I was assigned at birth.” I was horrified and deleted the entry. But I can assume that everyone in the organisation has had this information auto-populated, without asking us, and it is presumably collated and used in some way?!! I very much doubt anyone else has ever clicked on that tab, as it doesn’t apply to 99% of our staff.

I have worked for the Environment Agency (EA) for over 20 years. They’re a good organisation to work for and the staff are lovely. In over 20 years I’ve only ever encountered a handful of people who were unpleasant or hard to work with. A women’s network was set up many years ago and did such great work. The founder (or one of them) received an MBE for her services to the network. The network continue to be working on important themes such as menopause ….. but the problem is in the complete capture of the organisation by Stonewall. We have Director level Network champions – one of whom is (I think) our Head of Science. They seem like sensible, intelligent people but they are just repeating the Stonewall mantras (whilst also continuing to publish some really useful content). It’s very odd. 

Like in life, most staff would be completely unaware of the impact this capture has, or indeed ignore the excessive and repeated comms that come out from the LGBT network – but as a gender critical woman it makes me so cross, and scared to feel able to raise any concerns.

On SOP (the system which stores all our employment information, time recording data, etc) I happened to click on a tab labelled ‘gender reassignment ‘. I presumed it would be blank but no, it had added an entry for me that said “My gender identity is actually the SAME (their emphasis, not mine) as I was assigned at birth.”

I was horrified and deleted the entry. But I can assume that everyone in the organisation has had this information auto-populated, without asking us, and it is presumably collated and used in some way?!! I very much doubt anyone else has ever clicked on that tab, as it doesn’t apply to 99% of our staff.

The current Women’s Network Lead seems like a very lovely women who has provided some really supportive statements (such as when Sarah Everard was murdered). But she’s overseeing a network that is planning to move from being a Women’s Network to asking members in this years survey if they’d support a name change to the Gender Equality Network! 

In a thread on period dignity on their Yammer page, where a women had said single-sex toilets were needed, our Women’s Network lead responded:

Employee: In addition to supplying period care products to help with period dignity, I would also like to mention that it is important that single sex toilets are retained (which they are by law in public buildings) to allow privacy for girls and women on their periods. This is particularly important for women of certain religions. I am increasingly concerned by the amount of unisex toilets being provided as the only option. I agree that good single space unisex toilets with a full door are fine as long as they are kept clean and have sanitary disposal.

Women’s Network Lead: Well designed unisex toilets are a far more inclusive option than single sex toilets for a lot of reasons. This was recognised and explored in guidance for the design of toilets, happy to find it to share. Period dignity is about enabling all to have access to period care products and facilities needed to help manage their periods. This means non-binary people and men who have periods as well. Also, thinking more widely, unisex toilets which have disposal units can also be used by all people who need that private space to deal with continence issues for instance or other needs that are better served by self contained units rather than urinals, cubicles, public washbasins and so on.

The ‘men have periods’ comment did it for me. And obviously she also uses pronouns (despite quite clearly being a woman) and puts those on any Zoom calls she runs. 

The organisation is very keen on pronouns. My department’s EDI group made quite a play of asking us to add them into our email signatures a year or two ago. How it was an easy thing to do, how it would show you are an ally, etc. etc. It’s interesting to see that many people have plainly refused or ignored the request. I felt brave enough to speak to my boss about it, saying I felt it was compelled speech and didn’t understand why we were being asked to focus on that – and that there were more important EDI issues – he agreed.

The Women’s Network have also got very keen on ‘intersectionality’ over the last couple of years – so virtually every Women’s Network newsletter has a section on supporting men (International Men’s Day) or supporting trans people of colour or people who come into a number of different protected characteristics. And, for me, that dilutes all the good work they do do. See snippet from March newsletter below:

For me, the last month illustrates so much of where we are in society with gender equality, a mixed picture of visibility and invisibility. Gender inequality is a multi-faceted and complex picture. Addressing it involves supporting and understanding the viewpoints of all genders and all of intersectionality. On that, the 31st March is Transgender Day of Visibility and the LGBT+ network are holding an ‘Ask us anything’ event – find out more here. And our change make profile this month is about Megan Rapinoe, in time for Lesbian Visibility Week. This week is also Autism Week and the Autism network are running a series of events. Many women go undiagnosed and many stay that way throughout their lives due to their ability to mask autism, they may only seek a diagnosis if they have diagnosed children and make the connection or start having issues in their lives, so it is a really valuable opportunity to find out more about this.

Intersectionality working group: We have a new intersectionality working group, whose role is to raise awareness of cross-cutting issues that affect all genders but especially more marginalised women who fall under several protected characteristics. We are looking for volunteers to join the group and help develop this important area of work to support all of our members.

31st March 2021Transgender Visibility DayThe LGBT+ Network is holding their second ‘Ask us Anything’ event with a special guest from Sparkle. Trans Day of Visibility is an annual celebration of transgender people as well as a day to raise awareness about the discrimination they face. Register in advance for this meeting 

JULY NEWSLETTER

I have spent a lot of time throughout June reflecting on intersectionality and why it is so important to stand in solidarity with events such as Pride, Black History Month, International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day, to name but a few. For one, it’s such a great experience to meet and learn about difference and secondly, better understanding intersectionality can be a positive way to break free from some of the stereotypes that hold us back, especially when we stereotype ourselves. Understanding our different characteristics and how they interplay can give us the ability to look at past experiences through different lenses and tackle some of our engrained biases.

A section from their November 21 newsletter – including Munroe Bergdorf as a ‘change maker’ in a women’s network newsletter was a particular highlight (sarcasm). 

We believe that we can’t achieve gender equality without men: involving men, supporting boys, helping to understand the barriers that they experience and providing that support in ways that they can engage with and need. Men deserve to be their genuine authentic selves, without feeling pressure to conform to stereotypes, whether in the workplace or amongst friends.

We know that we live and work in a world that is often still biased towards men and we are breaking down these barriers, re-adjusting biased processes and gradually achieving greater equality. But maybe it is time to reframe our approach to gender equality, to see the stereotypes and expectations that men experience as equally valid and deserving of challenge as those that women experience.  Without addressing these for both men and women and seeking to support each other, we won’t achieve full equality or inclusion. There is more about this in our section on International Men’s Day.

This month has also seen us mark Trans Awareness week and the LGBT+ Network held a wonderful series of events to mark this week. You may have seen the stories also published on the easinet by (name redacted) and (name redacted), two very moving and inspiring stories that are well worth reading. To add to these, we have chosen to feature Munroe Bergdorf as our change maker profile this month in honour of trans awareness week.

Munroe Bergdorf

I believe passionately in inclusivity for all, no matter your race, ability, religious beliefs, sexuality or gender identity. I believe we should always stand up for what we believe in and call out acts of injustice when we encounter them. Only in this way can we become a better and happier society.’

Munroe Bergdorf is a British model and activist with a tireless passion and energy for inclusion. She is most well-known for speaking out against racism and transphobia and the intersection of both. In October 2020 she was nominated on the list of 100 Great Black Britons which celebrates remarkable Black individuals over the past 400 years.

Munroe Bergdorf is fearless in her continued activism and has openly talked about the backlash that she has received over the years, often targeting the fact that she is a transgender woman.  This was particularly acute in the wake of her dismissal from L’Oreal in 2017 following strongly worded comments that she made online about racism and white privilege. L’Oreal subsequently apologised this summer after she called pointed out the disparity between their public support of the Black Lives Matter movement and how she was treated by them. Following this apology, she re-joined L’Oreal as their UK Diversity and Inclusion Board lead.

While the main focus of her activism is calling out racism and transgender rights, she also uses her social media platforms to talk about all injustices that she sees to powerful effect. Her posts are informative and provide detail to help others understand better how to address the issues that she is speaking about. Because of this, she is highly effective at using her voice to speak out on behalf of others, while encouraging empathy and education. She is also actively involved in discussions over inclusion of transgender ethnic minority people in the beauty and fashion industries, is a patron for Mermaids, a charity that supports gender diverse children and their families and is also an advocate for UN Women UK.

In all of this she is a real role model for leadership and activism, using difficult situations to turn these around for the benefit of others.

The LGBT Network was one that I was very supportive of when it was set up – lesbians, gays and bisexuals need to feel safe at work. But it has been totally overtaken by the Stonewall demands.

The events that have really shocked me – and shown me how the EA simply accept any edict from Stonewall without any critical thinking – have been the comms sent around by the LGBT network in response to the following events in the media:

JK Rowling – when JK made her statement on Twitter and it all blew up, the LGBT network sent out a message saying how damaging this was to trans people (unfortunately I don’t have the message). Basically a cut and paste of the appalling things Stonewall and trans activists were saying. I genuinely haven’t dared ask any colleagues what they thought about that – it seems simply astonishing that an organisation with around 11,000 employees would think it acceptable to send that message out – but also that they wouldn’t think that there may be staff who feel a different way about it! Women’s rights – or rights of any group other than LGBT – are thrown to one side in the desire to reach the top of Stonewalls Workplace Equality index – they even say it’s harder each year and we have to do more.

Keira Bell ruling – this was a tough read – a really brave young woman talking about her experiences in order to seek some justice but also to avoid others befalling the same fate – and we get a message saying how hurtful this is and how if any employees have children who are trans they can seek support from Mermaids!! Again I’m paraphrasing (I’m cross I don’t still have the email).

Liz Truss – recently stating that government departments should reconsider their membership of Stonewall – our Chief Exec restated his commitment to Stonewall and our Trans Policy:

Stonewall (the LGBT+ rights Charity) is coming under a sustained attack, for its work on Trans inclusion.

You may have recently seen the headlines in several major newspapers attacking Stonewall. Or Liz Truss directing departments to stop membership of Stonewall diversity champions programme.

Liz Truss urges official withdrawal from Stonewall diversity scheme

EA Chief Exec has given his assurance that the EA will continue to be a diversity champion and said:

“I am happy to confirm that the EA will stick with Stonewall. What we get from the relationship is good value for money. Our membership of their Top 100 employers’ programme helps support our own equality, diversity and inclusion work and is a fantastic advertisement for the EA and people wishing to join us.

And for the avoidance of doubt we will stick too with our own trans policy, which is a model for others, and to which – having been part of the launch a few years ago – I feel a particular personal attachment.”

Alongside this, articles in the press are now increasingly commonly attacking Stonewall. These reports frequently quote an Essex University report which said Stonewall may have given illegal advice. Unsurprisingly the Essex report is incorrect. Stonewall defended and won a judicial review on its guidance. Indeed the opposition case was dismissed as unarguable.

So while the immediate public attacks are on Stonewall, this normalisation of hate toward LGBT+ people must be challenged. It was unfortunately only a matter of time before the anti-trans campaign set its sights on discriminating against all LGBT+ people. It’s for this reason the Network has always proudly been trans inclusive and has itself faced backlash from a minority of staff for being so.

Stonewall defends itself after ‘coordinated attack’ in the media

Indeed the Environment Agency was subjected to one of these transphobic and homophobic attacks, only last year. (The Lies They Tell joined an event). The LGBT+ Network will continue to call out these attacks for what they are, and continue to push the organisation to meet its commitment to embrace difference and include everyone.

As part of that it is vital we continue to use the Stonewall benchmarking criteria which is global best practice. This allows us to ensure the Environment Agency is as good an employer of LGBT+ people as it can be and that our processes and policies are inclusive for our diverse customer base.

What can you do:

·    Become an ally or member if you are not already. Be active. Stand with us against these attacks and reach out and support LGBT+ people. Who are rightly feeling attacked.

·    Donate to Stonewall or the Good law project Trans legal defence fund if you can.

Screenshot of emails sent after The Lies They Tell aka @sarahstuartxx wrote a thread referred to above:

(@sarahstuartxx reaction to these emails)

And to compound this, although most networks only use their own email groups and Yammer to circulate their shared messages, the LGBT network is very pushy and asks (I presume) for these messages to be circulated via other routes (our national weekly comms update – called the Weekly Buzz – and even replicating the message again via departmental email updates!)

I am a ‘friend of the LGBT network’ but I daren’t read the updates for fear I will get so cross – I simply have a rule to send straight to my deleted folder – as I also daren’t ask to leave the list. Bonkers.

Highlights of some other delights from our LGBT network (these definitions of the ‘+’ is quite something and obviously straight out of the Stonewall handbook):

PLUS

The Plus represents all of the other identities which fall within the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity family.

some you will have heard of, others may be new to you, but all are valid and accepted within the LGBT+ Network.

This is not a definitive list. It will be updated over time. If you are / know of an identity that is missing, let us know and we can add it to the page.

Third Gender is a concept in which individuals are categorized, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman. It is also a social category present in societies that recognize three or more genders.

Not all cultures have strictly defined gender roles. In different cultures, a third or fourth gender may represent very different things.

For example:

Two-Spirit is used as a modern term by some indigenous North Americans (Native Americans) as an umbrella term for people who fulfil third gender ceremonial and social roles in thier cultures. Not all Native people agree with using this term to describe the multiple third genders in different tribes.

Faʻafafine are people who identify themselves as having a third-gender or non-binary role in Samoa, American Samoa and the Samoan diaspora.

An option to attend a workshop on Trans and Intersex – they love to conflate the two. 

There’s always lots of opportunities to attend workshops about LGBT+ issues, and they also run the ‘Stonewall Ally’ workshops/training sessions! 

We are very pleased to announce that a:gender will be providing a Trans & Intersex Engagement Workshop for the Environment Agency on Wednesday July 7th 10:00-12:00.

Click on the Registration and add the MS Teams event to your calendar. The documents needed during the workshop can be found here (employee access only).

The workshop is being delivered across Whitehall and nationally, and demand for places is high. The workshop lasts for 90 minutes with Q&A afterwards if extra time is available.

Please note, the presentation is not shared and it must not be recorded – information changes and we risk reputational damage if the slides are used by others and not kept up-to-date.

The workshop covers the following topics: 

·        Understanding what the terms ‘trans’, ‘intersex’ and ‘nonbinary’ mean, 

·        How to use appropriate terminology and language, 

·        An overview of relevant legislation, 

·        Recognising the issues that trans and intersex colleagues might face in the workplace and wider society, and

·        Exploring how to support trans and intersex colleagues in the workplace

and another event:

A CIVIL SERVICE LGBT+ NETWORK EVENT FOR BI+ AND ACE+ STAFF

Beyond the Binary: listening circle

     15th July at 5pm

·      As part of BiSpace, the Civil Service LGBT+ Network and a:gender are hosting a listening circle to provide a safe space for bi+ and ace+ colleagues to discuss experiences outside the binary. Listening circles allow under-represented groups to come together and discuss thoughts and concerns in a supportive environment.

·      “Beyond the Binary” is a chance for you to share or just listen to colleagues sharing their identity journeys and lived experiences beyond sexuality, romantic and gender binaries.

And on their celebrating pride and achievements page they have this gem: 

You can’t mention the LGBT movement without mentioning Marsha P. Johnson, she was a transgender activist and a prominent member of the Stonewall Riots; and co-founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) along with Sylvia Rivera.

CELEBRATING PRIDE

June was Pride month, and the LGBT+ network held the second EA Pride week from 21-25th July through the #EA Pride Summary page (employee only access) and a number of events.

Pride is celebrated in countries across the world and is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of LGBT+ people as a social group.

It is a great opportunity for allies to step up and learn more about the issues that LGBT+ colleagues face and what we can do to support them, and you can do this by joining the LGBT+ network and joining their fantastic events. 

And finally, this is a very long piece but I thought it warranted sharing:

LGBT+ NETWORK

Ask Us Anything 31st March 2021

Trans Day of Visibility

(name redacted) Co-chair of the LGBT+ Network (He/Him)

(name redacted) Non-Binary Lead for the Network (They/Them)

(name redacted) Former chair of Sparkle (He/Him) transman

(name redacted) (She/Her) transwoman

(name redacted) Co-friends lead and Deputy Co Chair (He/Him)

Q1 ) WHAT IS THE BEST THING COLLEAGUES CAN DO TO MAKE YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE AND SAFE IN THE WORKPLACE?

Transwoman employee: I think in some ways it’s just nice to not make too much of a big thing of it, it’s really nice when you’re just doing the job and people are being respectful, and people are, but people will make mistakes but you have to be tolerant of that. But carrying on as normal seems to work for people.

Former Chair of Sparkle: The thing I’ve found is that, so long as the intention is there that you’re being supportive and inclusive then the rest of it goes with it, and it’s a learning experience. Although it isn’t the Trans persons job to teach you, we do  recognise  that  there  is  a  transition  and  an  adjustment  period  and  we  are  all  going  to  make  mistakes  but assuming the positive environment is there, that is the right environment for it really.

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: I think I would just say that’s good advice for all diversity strands – google is your friend – a lot of your queries can be answered by independent research, that’s what google is for, obviously from the right sources.

Co-friends Lead: Anybody who has access to the LGBT+ Yammer page I put some information on there about a workplace report about Trans people, and there’s some very interesting statistics in there.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I worked directly on that project and it’s a really eye opening set of statistics and they are going to do another project to judge the difference post Covid as well.

Q2 ) THERE’S BEEN LOTS OF TALK ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN BUT LITTLE MENTION OF TRANS WOMEN IN THAT CONVERSATION; WHAT SUPPORT DO TRANS WOMEN NEED IN THIS?

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: I want to agree with the sentiment here, for international women’s day Jess Phillips reads out a list of women who have been murdered by men, but there is very little mention, if any, of trans women, or Women of Colour, so I think this Is a really good question.

Transwoman employee: Trans women are very open to violence and it happens, and at the moment it really isn’t being reported on a national scale, I mean a trans woman was murdered a few weeks ago and someone was convicted but it didn’t get hardly any media attention and I think that is symptomatic of what happens with trans women, it just doesn’t get reported and going forward there needs to be more visibility, but how that is going to materialise, I don’t know. But it does seem to be kept in the background a lot of the time.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I personally think that one of the issues is that in the UK we have trans hostile media and trans people are reported negatively regularly. So if they were to highlight that a trans woman had been murdered, it would go against their rhetoric and stop what they are trying to achieve systematically, and that’s why we don’t hear about it. Across the world there’s something called the trans murder monitoring project which is run by the transgender European council; Sparkle feed into it and so do Stonewall, but when something like that happens it is recorded. Right across the world we are seeing trans women murdered, often they don’t have names and there is a wider problem globally, and I don’t think we are going to get to the bottom of it. It is more widespread than we even realise as a community.

Q3 ) I HAVE FOUND  THAT CHILDREN CAN BE VERY DIRECT IN QUESTIONING BUT ALSO VERY ACCEPTING; HAVE  YOU SPOKEN TO ANY CHILDREN, AND IF SO W HAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE? 

Former Chair of Sparkle: So I have my own toddler who doesn’t understand the trans world because I’ve taught him that this is absolutely normal – he’s got no idea. If you look at my nephew though – ooh those questions – we’ve also mentored a couple of high schools and one of the questions there was “does your wife know that you’re trans?” –Yeah she’s kind of worked that one out. Also “wow you’ve got a baby” –yes it’s not a modern miracle it’s called IVF. You know those small questions, I always find just being really honest –there’s actually a really good book called –INTRODUCING TEDDY –and it’s really good for kids. It starts off with a really young child who wants to introduce their bear and they get quite upset because they think their bear is a boy but actually their bear wants to wear a dress and it’s about the acceptance process of the gender changing. We actually went to see a local primary school recently and that was something that they were actually reading that day and they were saying that it had helped the acceptance process of other children who were gender non-conforming in the school. But it shows that if we start introducing this at that age we aren’t going to get the hard hammered questions as they get  older  as  they  will  have  already  begun  the  acceptance  process.  Especially  as  they  get  older  because  these subjects have already been broached. I think in the 90s and early thousands they would have never broached it especially at the schools I was in, but I think we are heading in the right direction. But children will be children and they will always catch you out.

Transwoman employee: Absolutely I mean I know some of the questions, they really cut to the heart very quickly but I think the parents get more embarrassed than anything, but they’re just being inquisitive and that’s what they do and you just do your best to answer it in a way that is on their level so they can understand it. It is part of it, I don’t have a problem with children asking questions at all, it’s not a problem.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I’d rather they have the answer from a trans person, rather than from a parent who’s trying not to get something wrong because they don’t want to come across badly.

Non-binary Lead for the Network: I agree with both of you and you know I’ve been in a lift and a child has turned to me and said “oh mummy is that a boy or a girl” and the parent gets so awkward and tell them to shush, but it can made more light hearted if you as a trans person can have that conversation and usually the kid will just take that and be happy they got an answer.

Q4 ) MY SON IS TRANSGENDER, WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE ME TO SUPPORT THEM IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE?

Former Chair of Sparkle: Time, nothing is solved over night, I came out 12 years ago now and had major family issues, and if someone at the time had have just told me – give it some time – I wouldn’t have understood that I could have the family unit I have now, and acceptance also if someone doesn’t accept you that’s ok, don’t stress about it. But time if you leave the door open might work, very much did for my dad. At the time I was very angsty but I couldn’t understand why there was an issue, but I’d had loads of time to come to terms with me being trans but id essentially dropped a bomb on everyone else and not given them that adjustment period either. But be true to yourself and stick with it, just do what’s right for you at your own pace.

Transwoman employee: I think supporting a trans child, you’ve just got to give them support and it’s not about passing judgement, they will find their own way and make their own decisions if the support is there for them.

Non-binary Lead for the Network: I would say along with support, just going with the flow, some kids might want to try out different pronouns but in a few month they may change, same with names, but you just need to respect their choices because they will figure themselves out.

Q5 ) WHEN STARTING TO TELL OTHERS, HOW DO YOU START DECIDING ON A NAME; IS IT SOMETHING YOU DO  ON YOUR OWN OR DO YOU HAVE HELP  FROM  FAMILY AND  FRIENDS?  

Former Chair of Sparkle: I picked mine out of a hat, quite honestly I asked about 6 -7 people who were close  friends to write some stuff on a piece of paper and that’s where my name came from. I was nearly called some really interesting friends, but I knew the people around me probably knew me slightly better than I knew myself as I was on the cusp of quite a lot of change.

Transwoman employee: Sometimes it can be quite difficult some people have a name they know they like or want, and others have a list, it’s what I had, names I liked and were sort of age appropriate, sounds a bit weird but you know, but that’s how it went and then (name redacted) was it.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I know a couple of people who went through a list of the most popular baby names the year they were born and did that and so they weren’t massively out of line with their peers, or asked their parents what they would have called them.

Q6 ) HOW DO WE ENSURE THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND THOSE WHO IDENTIFY AS WOMEN ARE EQUALLY PROTECTED AS SOCIAL MEDIA SUGGESTS A CONFLICT

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: Yeah a big question and an expected question so it’s good it’s been asked. For me as an ally I don’t think there is a kind of trade-off between the two. The people who say well Trans women aren’t women is the same kind of thing of saying black women aren’t women or lesbian women aren’t women. Of course they are. They all have different backgrounds or stories and what they went through to become who they are as a  person. People always go on about – oh what about single sex spaces and protecting women – it usually comes up and it’s one of those really difficult topics as an ally to talk about but again I haven’t seen any evidence from countries which allow self identification, where there’s been an increase in attacks on women. So there’s a lot of social media noise usually from a small minority of people but no evidence to suggest that it exists. Equally on the safe spaces thing, if for example trans men are a threat to men. Then so am I since I’m gay right? So I should have to use a different bathroom because I would be a threat to men – is that what we are saying? No of course not but that’s the logical extent. And when we are talking about bathrooms, if you’re expecting a monitor to check your bits before you go in, that feels a lot more unsafe to me rather than a trans person using the bathroom, in, out and done as quickly as possible. Especially since public bathrooms aren’t particularly nice places at the best of times so it’s one of those where it’s all noise on social media and there’s no logical basis for the argument.

Co-friends Lead: I agree, I find it difficult to understand what the obsession with toilets is, we all go in there to do the same thing, social media and the media are definitely anti trans and feeding this nonsense and promoting that trans women aren’t women or should use the women’s toilets. And the same thing goes on in prison where people aren’t fed into the right prisons because of the inability of a section of society to accept people for who they are.

Transwoman employee: All I would say is that I’ve only ever in the many years received one piece of abuse in a public toilet and on the whole people are really friendly and it’s not very nice when you do get abuse but it’s a small minority but it is a shame that certain sections of the media are trying to demonise trans women as a threat to other women because it’s absolutely not true, there’s no statistics to back it up. As a trans woman you’re almost living on eggshells in the case that another trans woman goes and does something in a toilet they shouldn’t do because I dread to think what  the ripples off that would be, it’s scary. I mean the 100s of 1000s of trans  people  in  the country they are very scared that something is going to happen with one trans person and it will be front page news.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I always hone in on trans and gender variant people are 1% of the population, which means you’re 126 times more likely to be attacked by a cisgender woman than you are a trans woman. Statistically it’s highly improbable. If you are on twitter, you might have seen this morning, “trans women aren’t the issue I’ve had a cisgender woman taking pictures of me in a changing room” and transphobic individual has misinterpreted the tweet, agreed with them, because they believed the original poster was a trans woman. So  cisgender women are allowed to  photograph transwomen in a changing room, but it just goes to show you how a small section of society are on edge. Social media is not the real world it just isn’t. If you look at fake news and other issues we have had it is no different for trans issues, and for a small group of people they don’t believe that trans people exist. Yes there will be people who are trans who do criminal endeavours that will always happen, but what we see is heightened awareness of it, so if a trans person is a victim there’s silence, but if they perpetrate the crime its everywhere. BLM and Trans Lives Matter, it will always be turned around that the victim is the aggressor in my experience. I would say the vast majority of cisgender people don’t feel threatened by trans people and to suggest otherwise, it’s wrong. We just want to get on with being successful humans and a small minority ruin it for the majority.

Non-binary Lead for the Network: With all the social media drama around toilets it’s having a knock on effect because people are on the lookout for people who are not gender conforming, in as much that I know several cisgender people who have used the toilets without an issue but are now getting challenged why it is, and learning that it’s the overspill from the hatred towards transwomen. 

Former Chair of Sparkle: It’s really important to say that the media, we see them as a public service, in giving news, but they’re not they’re a corporate entity that makes money and as soon as people see that the better. You wouldn’t expect ASDA to be impartial about their own brand beans and sausages so why do you expect the media to be impartial about what they’re making money off.

Q7 ) SHOULD WE ALL PUT PRONOUNS IN OUR E MAIL SIGNATURE AS STANDARD?

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: If you feel comfortable doing so it’s the best way to “normalise” people using their pronouns. It makes easier for others. But if you’re not comfortable then there is no pressure to do so.

Q8 ) DO YOU HAVE ANY EXAMPLES OF BOOKS OR TV PROGRAMS I CAN INTRODUCE THIS TO MY CHILDREN WITH ?

Former Chair of Sparkle: On Amazon Prime there is a cartoon called “danger and eggs”, how age appropriate it is for everyone I don’t know but it has great representation for LGBT+ and it is voiced by a number of trans actors. It’s similar to Adventure Time but it’s a really good one that’s wholesome in that it’s produced with actual trans and queer people.

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: One that’s definitely not for children but POSE on Netflix is great if you want to learn about the ballroom scene of NewYork and the trans actresses and the story they portray from that time period –but definitely not for children.

Transwoman employee: SheRa is another golden classic which is queer as heck but it’s really subtle it just talks about not being stereotypically gender presenting so that’s quite good.

Q9 ) HOW CAN I USE MY PRIVILEGE AS A WHITE CIS WOMAN TO SUPPORT TRANS PEOPLE IN THE WORKPLACE?

Transwoman employee: To a certain extent it’s treating it “normally” just being there and carrying on whatever you’re doing just being a friend. It’s a great thing. And I’ve had a lot of support at work from people and they’ve been absolutely fantastic, and it’s a big thumbs up from women-kind. Just be a friend and obviously sometimes an ear to listen.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I would say there’s a couple of things; I walk in a lot of pride parades, if you’re there show visible allyship for trans people at pride, as young people don’t have access to unbiased media. So if you’re involved in that process and are there in that space it’s amazing. Sparkle have done it at Manchester, Stonewall have done it at London, and the overwhelming feeling from the young people was “omg there’s people in the crowd that love us just the way we are” and that’s just such an inspiring thing to see so an ally pin, or a trans badge on your coat. So upping your visibility as an ally is an amazing thing.

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: Being an ally to trans people is no different to being an ally to other LGBT+ strands or any other group of people. It’s all about being a friend and an ear and there will be times when you can use your voice when they can’t use theirs, and you as an ally can be very powerful.

Co-friends Lead: Being an ally; be visible, if you join the friends of the network, you get your welcome pack, you get the sign for your desk and it’s that visibility that prejudice isn’t welcome here whether you are straight, bi, gay, trans. We can help make a more trans friendly workplace by doing that as it shows to the people that don’t like that that their opinion isn’t acceptable. I will say that the Sparkle in the Park is one of the happiest friendliest prides I’ve ever been to.

Former Chair of Sparkle: Over this summer if you’re not out, Sparkle isn’t running this year, however, we have an online event running the same event which is child friendly and so if you’re interested get involved. So our family will be having a garden party and playing the online event and hopefully having some people round – socially distanced obviously.

Q10 ) A LOT OF NARRATIVE IS  FOCUSED  ON TRANS WOMEN, HOW CAN WE RAISE GREATER AWARENESS FOR TRANS MEN,  NON BINARY AND AGENDER PEOPLE; AND WHAT DAY TO DAY CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE  BEING NON-BINARY?

Non-binary Lead for the Network: So day to day, I’m going on pre-pandemic life, the two issues I’ve always experienced are being invisible as trans and people thinking I am CIS, or people not knowing and therefore the problems associated with that. Obviously it’s not the same for all non-binary people some “pass” as one gender specifically but I think it brings difficulties with things like using the bathroom, you know it is a gamble, you know the one I’m less likely to experience confrontation; not such a big deal in the workplace where I know everyone in the office but in public spaces surrounded by strangers it can be problematic. But it depends on the individual – a lot of people have the problem with being erased, in that people assume that they are cisgender and it’s only when they come out as non-binary that they are seen as who they are.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I face a similar problem, I can be at a Pride parade with my wife and son and people think “what’s that straight couple doing here” I’m not overly visible as queer, I probably stand out more as a disabled tattooed person rather than trans, but that then puts over a layer of invisibility which at times is a real privilege, you know I must say I don’t feel particularly vulnerable for most of my life, however, at a time where I want to be visibly queer and visibly trans, I pretty much have to stick a giant trans flag on my chest that says “I AM TRANS”. I’ve had gender clinicians say to me – well when you transition what are you going to do with the beard – and that’s people who are trained in in the process of helping people transition, so Joe Blogs doesn’t stand a chance, it’s a double edged sword. Transmen often assimilate into society a bit easier but it can be difficult to find your place as you mature into that transition.

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: As a network we are trying to raise awareness where we can but we are also aware that a lot of our trans members of staff don’t want to be “the trans person” in the workplace, and are quite happy because they have assimilated into the cisgender workforce, and people don’t know they’re trans, or those who don’t get “passing privilege” are not necessarily comfortable being on video, so how we create visibility is a really important question whilst still keeping people comfortable and inclusive.

Transwoman employee: I suppose in my day job I’m pretty visible and I try to be a positive role model in that because I feel that’s the way we have to go to show that actually we are pretty normal really, and just I haven’t got that passing privilege really  and  you  just  have  to  be  positive  and  get  on  with  what  you  do  and  it  seems  to  work.  Once  people understand that’s who you are and you’re just getting up for work and going home again that’s the lot really.

Former Chair of Sparkle: I think it’s because people realise you’re just a human, because in a lot of aspects we are “othered” in every part of life, my parents said well you’ve picked that now you can’t have a family, you can’t have children, but that’s what their very 1960s preconceived idea of what it meant to be trans. CS:it’s to a certain extent people are scared, but I grew up in the 70s and it was such a different world, and thankfully we have moved forward. I just think some people haven’t moved forward as fast as the community has, and see us as something that has just popped up.

Transwoman employee: I had this conversation about “well why are there so many of you now” and I thought hang on, I was a trans teenager in the late 70s but there’s no way from the small town I lived in I didn’t even realise what it was, there was no information so it was impossible. Thankfully the understanding and information is there now so when it comes to trans children and teenagers they aren’t in the same position as I was in the 70s. And if their parents aren’t trans friendly they can’t stop them finding the information because it’s all out there now. The first I saw a trans woman was on the front of the sun and it was because a trans woman was in a bond film –a woman called Tula. And she was the first trans woman I had ever seen and it was about 1981. But yeah there was no information really

Former Chair of Sparkle:I think my earliest recollection was in high school around politics, which I wasn’t interested in unless it was gay, but I came across a book called press the change written by Christine burns and that completely opened my eyes and I thought I can do politics, but I think I got a U because I went off on a tangent, but yeah that really opened my eyes but I was then googling constantly to find where I fitted.

Transwoman employee: Yeah it wasn’t until unfortunately all the trans people you saw were all portrayed in a bad light and that was, which I hope has changed now despite negativity, but there is a lot of positive imagery of trans people out there. 

Q11 ) I UNDERSTAND THAT NORMALISING PRONOUNS IS AN IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD BUT I’M NOT READY TO COME OUT AS NON-BINARY, BETTER TO HAVE NO PRONOUNS IN MY SIGNATURE OR CISGENDER ONES?

Former Chair of Sparkle: It’s completely up to you, when you’re good and ready use the pronouns you want to use, even allies that chose to do that they should never feel that you’re doing something disingenuous to you.

Transwoman employee: Yep I completely agree.

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: Yeah I was going to say the same thing, you do you and use your pronouns when you are ready.

Close) THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS WERE ASKED BUT WE RANOUT OF TIME DURING THE SESSION. THESE HAVE BEEN ANSWERED BELOW AFTERWARDS BY THE PANEL.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALISE YOU WERE TRANSGENDER?

Co-Chair LGBT+ Network: I’m not Trans but will give the same answer that I would give for “when did you first realise you’re gay” – which is when did you first realise you were straight / cis? I know this sounds a little passive aggressive but if you think about it you will have always known, and the same is true for LGBT+ people.

WHEN BEING INTRODUCED TO SOMEONE IN THE TRANS COMMUNITY WHAT ARE THE ACCEPTABLE PRONOUNS? OR MORE SPECIFICALLY WHAT IS LIKELY TO OFFEND SO I KNOW WHAT TO AVOID?

Non-binary Lead for the Network: The best advice I can give is to never assume anyone’s gender or pronouns. It is acceptable to ask a person what their pronouns are at the time you are introduced so that you can get them right from the start, however, ensure that you ask everyone in the group rather than just the person you suspect is trans. If you are talking about someone and are not sure of their gender it is usually fine to use ‘they/them’, or their name until you know what their pronouns are.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU THINK DEFRA GROUP BODIES NEED TO DO TO MAKE SURE THE WORKPLACE IS INCLUSIVE TO TRANS PEOPLE?

Co-friends Lead: Make sure that firstly the different identities that come under the Trans umbrella or are associated with being trans are recognised. We have a policy for ensuring that Trans rights are protected, let’s make sure that it’s implemented properly and not just sitting on a (virtual) shelf somewhere to tick a box. Also, as allies to our Trans colleagues and friends we need to be visible. Whether it’s an item on your desk if we are back in the office or an email signature it shows that we are here to give that visible support. Like many aspects relating to people who are in the minority, in many cases being passive non-transphobic won’t have the results we want.

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