Posts Tagged ‘NUS Women’s Campaign’

NUS Women’s Campaign recognises gender complexity

15/03/2012

I have a special place in my heart for the National Union of Students Women’s Campaign. The Campaign is (broadly speaking) a truly inclusive, progressive body. I met some amazing women and learned a great deal about the contemporary feminist movement during three years as an elected volunteer on the Women’s Campaign national committee.

However, I was disheartened to hear about the Campaign’s poor record on trans issues in the past year; most notably, a female-assigned genderqueer committee member’s very place in the Campaign was called into question after they explained to other committee members that they do not exclusively identify as a woman. The poor manner in which this democratically elected representative was treated flew in the face of both the spirit and the letter of trans-inclusive policy passed in 2009.

I therefore find it heartening to hear that NUS Women’s Conference 2012 today passed new policy to ensure that this never happens again. Delegates voted unanimously for a motion that will change the Women’s Campaign standing orders in order to permanently clarify the membership of this autonomous liberation campaign.

The motion, entitled “Gender complexity and inclusiveness in the NUS Women’s Campaign“, notes that:

That not all those who are oppressed as women necessarily identify exclusively as women, or would choose the word ‘woman’ or ‘female’ to encapsulate their gender identity [...]

Whilst the NUS Women’s Campaign does not have a large amount of explicit policy on issues specifically related to people with complex gender identities who self-define into the campaign, it has a duty to make its spaces safe and welcoming for them.

The following is therefore added to the Women’s Campaign standing orders:

The NUS Women’s Campaign is open to all who self-define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities which include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women. The NUSWC affirms that self-definition is at the sole discretion of the individual in question.

This really should have come about without an individual being treated poorly, but it’s great to see Women’s Conference so ready to address the Campaign’s mistakes. Full credit to everyone who voted through the change!

Psychiatrists plan transphobic conference

05/04/2011

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group (an organisation clearly well-qualified to meddle in trans affairs) are planning a delightful meeting in London next month.

Described as an “extremely stimulating meeting exploring the most recent academic, clinical and contemporary thinking on transgender issues, for all people interested in this field, Transgender: Time to Change will include contributions from a number of disturbingly transphobic speakers.

Let’s have a look at the programme for the day, shall we?

A meeting organised by the
Royal College of Psychiatrists’
Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group
Friday 20th May, 2011
15 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PG

9.30am Registration

10.00am Morning session: Chair: Professor Michael King

10.10am Dr Domenico Di Ceglie: From Disorder to Diversity: Current views and controversies in the management of Gender Identity Disorder in Young People

10.45am Ms Julie Bindel There is no such a thing as a real woman (or a real man, for what matters). A feminist perspective on Gender Identity Disorder

11.20am Ms Christina Richards: Trans: What the empirical literature tells us

11.55am Discussion

12.30pm Lunch

13.15pm Afternoon session: Chair: Shawn Mitchell

13.20pm Dr James Barrett: Disorders of Gender Identity – what works

14.00pm Dr Az Hakeem: Deconstructing Gender and Parallel Processes: Features specific to a Specialist Transgender Psychotherapy Service

14.40pm Panel discussion – all speakers

15.15pm Finish

15.30 – 16.15pm GLBSIG AGM – all welcome

My, what a line-up. Where to begin?

The most obviously questionable speaker is Julie Bindel, a woman with a long history of transphobia. Bindel makes it her mission to subject trans people in general – and trans women in particular – to the very same treatment that she (rightly) decries as sexism when it is aimed at cis women. She has consistently argued against the provision of medical treatment for transsexed individuals. She has threatened to sue trans individuals and feminist organisations that dare condemn her damaging actions. What the hell gives her the right to comment on the psychiatric treatment of trans people?

However, Natacha Kennedy rightly points out that Dr Az Hakeem is considerably more dangerous. He runs a “specialist psychotherapy service for patients with transgender and other gender identity disorders” (source) at the Portman Clinic, meaning that he has a great deal of power over trans patients. Let’s have a look at what he has to say about us:

“The experience of many psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists working with transsexual patients is that they are individuals who, for complex reasons, need to escape from an intolerable psychological reality into a more comfortable fantasy. By attempting to live as a member of the opposite sex, they try to avoid internal conflict, which may otherwise prove to be too distressing.”

Regarding Hakeem’s approach to trans research, Kennedy points out:

There is so much wrong with Hakeem’s 2010 paper in which he claims to be able to ‘cure’ trans people it is hard to know where to begin. These kind of claims have been repeated throughout the chequered history of psychiatric engagement with trans people. His kind of treatment “talking therapies” as Julie Bindel calls them, “reparative therapy” being one of the many euphemisms employed by the “treatment has also been tried on gays and lesbians and been shown to fail, causing only feelings of trauma, guilt and suicidal tendencies.

His paper makes assertions for which he provides no evidence and his methods, selection of research participants and the nature of their participation in the study appear to be opaque in extreme. In addition there is no mention of research ethics which are particularly important when one is publishing research about individuals with whom one has a professional-client relationship.

Gosh. I’m sure glad this man is going to be sharing a platform with Bindel.

Who else do we have? Ah yes, Dr Domenico Di Ceglie. The conference blurb points out that he works for the Tavistock Clinic, a service that offers approximately sod all a very limited “service” for trans children and adolescents. Contacts of mine who have attended this clinic explain that therapists have patronised them, steered the conversation away from any real discussion of gender, and refused to offer treatment. Realistically, hormones are banned until you’re 18 for the vast majority of trans teens in the UK. Looks like you’re doing a sterling job, doctor!

James Barrett is a controversial fellow, to say the least. He’s deeply unpopular with some of his patients at Charing Cross, whilst others like him. He’s provided a great deal of help to many, but is a bit obsessed with the idea that people need to be in employment or education in order to earn treatment. He has been known to block treatment for individuals who have disabilities that prevent them from working.

Finally, we have Christina Richards, another Charing Cross psych. Shockingly, Christina brings the number of trans people speaking at this conference up to a grand total of one.

As a community, we shouldn’t simply let this pass. Most of these speakers aren’t just dodgy, they’re downright dangerous. We need to be asking the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group what the heck they think they’re doing, raising awareness of this travesty in the LGBT media, and if necessary picketing the meeting. If we let this go without a fuss then the vile propaganda of individuals such as Hakeem and Bindel will only spread unchecked.

NUS Women’s Campaign condemns transphobia in the Equality Act

18/03/2011

Student representatives at the annual NUS Women’s Campaign Conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion that condemns transphobia in the Equality Act and within the women’s movement yesterday.

The motion in question – entitled “Transmisogyny in the Equality Act” – addressed the horrific exemption which ensures that:

“A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.”

The trans community has blogged about this exemption at length, exploring how it could result in trans people being denied access to numerous public services, and how it massively undermines the Gender Recognition Act. We’ve also discovered that the clause in question was pushed by certain individuals representing Rape Crisis Centres.

It’s really positive that a feminist organisation is keen to unite behind trans rights. It should, of course, be a given that this is the case since we fight the same fight against patriarchy and gender essentialism, but the attitude of those women’s groups who pushed the offensive clause in the Equality Act shows that we cannot take trans-positive feminism for granted. I was therefore really pleased that NUS Women’s Campaign policy now includes a commitment to lobby the government on changing this unfair law alongside the aforementioned condemnation.

For those who might be interested, the new policy is as follows:

1. To condemn the offensive clause within the Equality Act 2010 in the strongest possible terms.
2. To lobby the government for an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 that ensures that trans women have fair and equal access to women’s shelters and rape crisis centres.
3. To support campaigns which seek to persuade transphobic women’s shelters and rape crisis centres to revise their approach.
4. To oppose any campaigns that seek to shut down transphobic shelters and rape crisis centres.

Full details of the motion can be found here.

I take this commitment entirely seriously because the NUS Women’s Campaign has demonstrated many times that it is fully behind trans rights during the last two or three years. This is a feminist campaign that refuses to share a platform with Julie Bindel (and was prepared to face legal action from her after doing so), supported a trans block at Reclaim The Night London, and ensured that trans individuals were included in groundbreaking research on women students’ experiences of harassment and violence. It’s a women’s organisation that broadly “gets” non-binary gender identities, and has a permanent trans representative on its elected committee (two people are holding this position as a jobshare this year).

I also noticed at this year’s conference that a number of cis women were keen to mention trans issues in relevant speeches. Meanwhile, prominent trans activist Roz Kaveney was invited to participate in a panel on intersectionality.

This post has turned into a bit of a positive gush but I honestly only have good things to say about how this liberation campaign has dealt with trans issues, and that’s a rarity that deserves celebration. I can only hope that the campaign sustains this momentum in future years, and wish its members the absolute best for this future.

A Trans Presence at Reclaim The Night London

22/11/2010

The annual Reclaim The Night march takes place in London this weekend, on Saturday 27 November.

A number of trans activists have launched a Facebook group to promote a trans presence at the march.  Since the group is currently private in order to avoid potentially outing anyone, I’ve offered to replicate the information from that group here for individuals who might not use Facebook or be able to access said group.

This group is for anyone who exists at the intersection of “TRANS” and “WOMAN” who wishes to participate in the national Reclaim The Night march in London this year. 

This group is also for ALLIES who wish to support us.

We are not always welcome at women’s events, and are often excluded from women’s spaces. Reclaim The Night is meant to be open to “ALL” women, but the official literature does not make it clear that women who happen to be trans, genderqueer or otherwise gender-variant are welcome.

Rather than boycott the event, we propose taking to the streets, and peacefully marching alongside our sisters at Reclaim The Night.

We march because violence against women is endemic in our society.

We march because rape conviction rates are shockingly low.

We march because the harassment of women in the street is an everyday occurrence.

We march because intersecting oppressions mean that some women are particularly at risk (let us not forget that the majority of known trans murder victims in the west are black trans women).

We march because cuts to everything from education to legal aid will disproportionately affect women: particularly those women who have been subject to violence.

We march to oppose the closing of shelters and rape crisis centres.

We march to oppose the fact that it is legal to discriminate against women who are trans and/or genderqueer in shelters and rape crisis centres.

We march because misogyny and patriarchal transphobia are our real enemies.

We march because we should never have to feel afraid on the streets at night.

We ask that the organisers of Reclaim The Night acknowledge the continuing transphobia within women’s movements.

We ask that, in the light of this, the literature advertising Reclaim The Night makes explicit that we are welcome.

We deeply respect the arguments of those trans women and cis allies who have called for a boycott of Reclaim The Night, but wish to take to the streets and march with our sisters.

We wish to note that many women’s groups who participate in Reclaim The Night (such as the NUS Women’s Campaign) are explicitly trans-inclusive.

We ultimately wish to move beyond the “trans wars” and participate in the women’s movement without our transness having to even be an issue.

We ask trans (and trans ally) participants to respect the aims and intentions of Reclaim The Night. There is a separate protest and a mixed rally and after-party at which all are welcome, but the march is for those who identify as women. The manner and nature of this identity is, of course, your personal decision and understanding.

Reclaim The Night London exists to protest against – and raise awareness of – violence against women. Organisers explain:

“In every sphere of life we negotiate the threat or reality of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. We cannot claim equal citizenship while this threat restricts our lives as it does. We demand the right to use public space without fear. We demand this right as a civil liberty, we demand this as a human right. The Reclaim The Night march gives women a voice and a chance to reclaim the streets at night on a safe and empowering event. We aim to put the issue of our safety on the agenda for this and every night and day.”

http://londonfeministnetwork.org.uk/events/reclaim-the-night/

Please share suggestions for banners and placards! Some ideas we are thinking about include:

“Women who are Trans – Marching with our Sisters”

“Women who are Trans and Genderqueer – We’re victims of the Patriarchy too”

“We Need Access To Shelters”

“We Need Access To Rape Crisis Centres”

“Censoring Julie Bindel”: a response

31/01/2010

Beatrix Campbell has written a delightful article about Julie Bindel’s involvement in feminism’s “trans wars”. I couldn’t help but noticed that it’s riddled with inaccuracies…

“Airing the complications and troubles of transgender politics is being traduced as “transphobia”.”

No. Arguing that transsexed people shouldn’t exist, consistently belittling and propagating prejudice is being characterised as transphobia. It’s possible to air the complications and troubles of ‘transgender poltitics’ without being a bigot.

“Transgender people who used to live as men and now live as women persuaded the May 2009 NUS women’s conference to mandate its officers to share no platform with Julie Bindel.”

The motion wasn’t proposed by trans women.

Moreover, characterising trans attendees of women’s conference as ‘transgender people who used to live as men’ merely demonstrates your own ignorance.

“The NUS women’s campaign shows no solidarity with women who are offended by the presence in their safe spaces of people who used to be men.”

That’s true! Well, minus the ‘used to be men’ bit…but that’s a whole other kettle of fish which I’m sure others will address at length. We also show no solidarity with straight women who are offended by the presence of lesbian women, or white women who are offended by black women. In fact I might go so far as to argue that it is these ‘offended’ people who undermine the ideal of a safe space…

“This month, her enemies mustered a picket outside Queer Question Time in a London pub. They’re not censoring her, they say, you can read her, they say, just don’t go to hear her.”

“The transgender vigilantes should listen up, wise up and grow up, participate in, not proscribe, the debate they started.”

First off: it’s worth noting that the NUS has nothing to do with the picket outside Queer Question Time, which was organised by independent activists.

Also, you’re inaccurately depicting the arguments of those who would prefer not to see Bindel given a high-profile speaking slot at a supposedly queer-friendly venue. Unlike journalists with newspaper and magazine columns, we usually don’t have access to an audience to listen to our side of the story outside of blogs and community publications. We don’t have the opportunity to ‘participate’ on the level that Bindel does.

This doesn’t mean that we want transphobes to be entirely censored: rather, we wish it to be recognised that there are events at which it is inappropriate to invite a bigot to speak. Moreover, in what way is it fair for people to ‘debate’ our very existence? This, incidentally, is why we’re so ‘offended’ – and why we don’t give much credence to the ‘offence’ experienced by those who would discriminate against us.

NUS Women’s Campaign No-Platforms Transphobic Speakers

05/03/2009

The NUS Women’s Campaign passed a motion at its annual national conference today to ensure that it never again offers a platform to transphobes.

The clauses ensuring this read are copied out below in full.

That the women’s officer or members of the committee shall not share a platform with Julie Bindel or others transphobic speakers.

The NUS Women’s campaign shall not offer a platform to a transphobic speaker, nor shall it officially support any event that does.

The motion makes an example of Julie Bindel, a journalist who has frequently written articles attacking trans people, amongst others. A couple of years ago, the NUS Women’s Officer found herself in the difficult position of sharing a platform with Bindel at the rally following London’s Reclaim The Night march. The new policy means that similar incidents should not happen in the future.

The motion, entitled “T is NOT for Tokenism”, also calls for a broad discussion with trans students about how best to advertise NUS Women’s events in a trans-inclusive fashion, and ensures that the NUS Women’s trans caucus is open to FtM spectrum individuals who “experience discrimination rooted in their having been assigned a female gender role” or “their being perceived as women”.

The NUS Women’s Campaign is already inclusive of trans women. Policy passed in 2007 ensured that campaign events are open to all women on a self-defining basis. There is a trans representative on the Women’s Committee elected by members of an autonomous trans caucus at the campaign’s annual conference. This year’s event featured a workshop exploring links between LGBT activism and feminism, and another discussing the role of trans people in women’s spaces.

Other significant policy passed at the conference included a call for greater representation of black women within the campaign (the vote for which followed a dignified protest the previous evening by most of the few black women present at the conference), a condemnation of sexism from student marketing “specialist” NUSSL, and continued support for pro-choice organisations, sex workers’ unions and groups fighting against the exploitation of women’s bodies in the media and Student Unions.


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