Monday, 10 March 2008

worth the paper

There has been a heated debate going on in a group I'm in, about the relative merits of being 'stealth' and being 'out'. Being a wishy-washy liberal type, I can see some merit in both positions, and personally take the middle road, being neither loudly opaque nor invisible; don't ask, don't tell. Except for here, of course...

...some 'out' transfolk can tend to arrogate to themselves the moral high ground; "Stealth transwomen enjoy the advantages of any change for the better which we bring about, without doing anything themselves." To which a stealthy woman might reply, "I am demonstrating in my person that I am a normal and socially assimilated woman, which is surely what it's all about. And by the way, do not presume to speak for me".

That is a problem; if you aren't out there, then someone else may just do that. Like, as a recent example, Rebecca Dittman, Chair of the Gender Trust, writing about Iranian transsexuals on the Woman's Hour messageboard's not a major thing, but I felt uncomfortable reading it and hoped that people would not assume that she was indeed speaking for all of 'us'. The existence of a TS 'community' is also a debatable matter. As has been pointed out, sharing a medical condition does not a community make...

Coincidentally, I'd just resigned from the Gender Trust, which I'd joined, filled with the urgent desire to make the world a better place, after having just won my Employment Tribunal. After a while, I realised that I just don't work the same way that the GT does.

There is quite a growth industry in Equal Opportunities at the moment; much hammering out of policies and attempting to work out ways of monitoring workforces -there is an obvious difficulty in working out how many transsexual people there may be in a workforce if their trans status is, as it should be, confidential.

Take, for instance, this attempt by ACAS to 'audit' attitudes among a workforce towards 'transgendered' people.

Now, picture the scene. The questionnaire is handed out. A potential or actual harasser ticks all the boxes that say that they quite enjoy harassing people actually, and then hands the questionnaire in to their manager.

I don't think so, somehow.

And this is an audit of attitudes? -After which the company in question can say, "We have a demonstrably good policy in place" and everyone is happy.


When I began to put together my case for sexual harassment against P&O Ferries, I felt rather daunted at the prospect of going it alone. So I wrote to the Equal Opportunities Commission, to a member of Press For Change (the TS campaigning organisation) and to the RMT (whose departmental rep had threatened me with violence).

They weren't interested.

So I did it with the help and support of my friends.

No doubt the apparachniks of this brave new equalities world believe that they're doing good work; I recall a breathless account of the TUC's LGBT meeting, written by a transwoman who had been invited to participate. It reminded me somewhat of John Reed, in Ten Days That Shook The World, describing a Bolshevik meeting in Petrograd, where the delegates enthusiastically vote to ban smoking in the meeting... and then carry on smoking...