Saturday, 31 October 2015

On gender recognition

"It's perfectly legal to be gay, but only if we put you on this secret government list of gay people".

    If I ever need to explain UK gender recognition certificates to a Muggle, that's how I do it. There is usually a shocked moment of incomprehension, then the penny drops that something they considered to be a perfectly reasonable identification requirement is in fact a bit sinister, not to mention rather unnecessary. I don't think there's a gay person alive who'd be happy to be put on a government-held secret list of gay people, and when put in those terms it becomes rather unreasonable to expect the same of a transgender person.
    They're funny things, gender recognition certificates. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get the evidence for one, pay a rather steep fee, then convince a panel of cis people that you're trans enough to require one. All for a bit of paper that it's a criminal offence for someone to ask to see, the right to a reprint of your birth certificate with your correct gender on it, and your name on that secret government list of transgender people. And the idea was that it also put you in the right jail if you commit a crime, though that last point's taken a bit of a battering this week. The trans woman without one who was sent to a men's jail came out for her appeal and then went straight back to a women's jail. Yes, the subject of my last post didn't get let off on appeal, common sense prevailed, and she's back on her diet of porridge. Girl porridge.
    So we're left with a new birth certificate as the main prize. And if that's one which some people among our community consider to be a big one, then good for them. I just can't say I'm one of them.
    What gender recognition certificates really do has very little to do with us. They exist as just one more Thing To Appease the Panicking Cis People Who Can't Handle the Idea of Trans People. If we bend over backwards to appease them, we're rewarded with a dog biscuit, oops, I mean shiny bit of paper. 

    Sorry, I'm all done with sit-up-and-beg tail-wagging, I want to get on with my life.

    Funnily enough, there exists a fabled land in which gender recognition is as simple as deciding how you want to be recognised. No panels, no secret government lists.
    Where is this place? The Irish Republic, a short ferry ride to the west. Has the world stopped turning on the Emerald Isle since they passed this enlightened law? Have cats married dogs? Hardly. Instead they're just getting on with their lives, just like we should be.

    Wish it could happen here in the UK? You could always petition the Government about it...

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Finally listening

    Every now and then as you observe the trans community's path through the world, you become aware that a watershed moment has been passed. A few years ago we had one when we held a vigil outside the offices of the Daily Mail following the death of Lucy Meadowes, bashing us in the way they had became something tabloids couldn't do without censure.
    And the last few weeks. The Parliamentary Women & Equalities Committee holding a wide-ranging enquiry into transgender affairs, and the noted feminist Germaine Greer facing the threat of a no-platforming at Cardiff University over her views on trans people. When she angrily pulled out of the event and launched an astonishing hate-speech diatribe on the matter there was none of the chorus of defence from feminist worthies we've come to expect, instead she finds herself a pariah, damaged goods.

    It's almost as though a switch has been flipped, and people are finally listening.

    Of course, it's not all plain sailing. One of the absurdities of the gender recognition system is laid bare as a trans woman sentenced to twelve weeks for assault finds herself heading for a male prison because she doesn't have a gender recognition certificate. After tens of thousands of signatures on a petition the latest news is that she's likely to be granted an appeal. The word is that she may escape a custodial sentence and have some form of community punishment instead. The Ministry of Justice is so anxious to dodge the prospect of a trans woman in a female jail without a gender recognition certificate that they're prepared to forgo the sentence altogether. Good news for her, but isn't the point of equality that we should be treated the same in all situations as anyone else? Shouldn't she just serve the time in a women's jail? I'm not sure "Embarrass the MoJ as a trans woman criminal, get let off" is a message I want to come out of this.

    Still, at least people are expressing outrage. A decade ago they'd have been a metaphorical pitchfork waving mob yelling "Burn her!".

    I await the Women & Equalities report with interest. I'm not holding too much hope though, as a friend once said to me: "Politicians take our rights away, we get them back in the courts".

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Oh it must be so nice...

    "Oh it must be so nice to live out in the country!" they say. I don't quite know what they really mean when they say that. It's an aspiration thing I guess, when they say that they're thinking Darling Buds of May, an extremely bucolic never ending summer.
    They don't think about the moment the countryside slides from autumn into winter, when the first winds come howling in across the North Sea from the Urals and the gold of the retreating season turns into the rotting vegetation of the next. They probably aren't considering the gelatinous mud that pervades every moment outdoors either, nor are they contemplating the crushing loneliness of life in a settlement where you rarely interact with anyone else.
    The fact is, it is nice to live in the country, but not in a way anyone who is whisked from Chelsea Tractor to centrally heated des res and never really comes into contact with the place at all will understand. It's nice to have a mental map of miles of countryside with a detailed knowledge of where the good blackberries are, where you sometimes find mushrooms, or where you can find a pear tree unexpectedly growing in a hedge. It's also nice to have a store of hidden places, small turnings from the beaten track into which you can fade away if you want to avoid being seen, corners you've known since childhood that are magic even in a cold and damp October.
    With the advancing winter comes something I remember from years ago when I last lived here year-round. Your life shrinks to the domain that remains comfortable, so the horizon moves a lot closer. And with that comes that loneliness I mentioned: for the first time in years you find yourself caring about TV schedules.
    I have to move on a bit, but I don't know how. I remarked to a friend a couple of weeks ago that I hadn't really realised how much my travails over the last two years - my mother's death, departure of Mrs. J, my problems at work - had affected me. She said it had been rather obvious to those around me, I had a period of losing interest in life. I guess you could map it here, count the number of posts by month over that period.
    I don't know how to move on really because I haven't moved on in myself as much as I'd like. Losing a partner is something I'm not sure how to get over, I'm certainly not there yet. But even if I was, how on earth could I move on? Dating? Wasn't really something I cracked back in the day, I can't honestly see it being a success now. What do I even want from it anyway? All I ever wanted was to settle down and have a family, something which seems a very distant possibility at the moment.
    I'm spending my days at the moment building a small business. An abrupt right-turn from my original business model into my training as an electronic engineer, and making some electronic stuff for a living.
    So how's about this for a pitch, I'm in my 40s , live at my parents house which is miles and miles down bad roads, and have a small business that's yet to make any money to speak of. And I'm looking for a relationship.
    I can see them falling for that in droves, can't you?