Monday, 2 August 2010

Welcome to the Occupation

Here is a picture I took at Newcastle's Star and Shadow Cinema during their recent seaon of gender non-conforming films and events:

I was very impressed to see signs like this, not least because earlier this year the politics of bathroom use were very much on my mind. I was proud to be involved with the Katrina Harte campaign, especially on the night when, waiting for the bus after another day at work, I got a Facebook message from one of the organisers confirming that the pub which had refused her access to the proper toilets were going to give in and let her use the ladies', after our campaign of letter-writing, contacting MPs, setting up a Facebook group, and generally causing a ruckus.

Ensuring that trans women are able to use the toilets which accord with their gender-identity is not some right-on, theoretical thing. It can, literally, be a matter of life and death. Make a trans woman use the male toilets and you're exposing her to potential abuse and violence from cis male toilet users who - let's be honest - are not the most enlightened and pacific people at the best of times, never mind when they've got three pints of cooking lager inside them. Having a trans-only toilet would be just as bad: you're essentially outing someone in public who might otherwise have 'passed', again exposing them to potential violence from users of your premises.

I can understand this and I'm assuming, dear reader, that you do too. So it boils my piss to find that the people responsible for implementing the Equality Act 2010 either can't grasp this point or don't give a fuck, as Helen from Bird of Paradox points out.

I feared that the Coalition government would roll back some of the great progressive pieces of legislation introduced under Labour, including the Gender Recognition Act 2004. It never occurred to me that they'd do it using a piece of legislation crafted by the very 'progressive' administration they'd replaced.

Right now, I honestly feel as if they ran a game on us. We spent so much time during the election focusing on issues like the Tories being in bed with people like Philippa Stroud, and Christopher Grayling's opinions on the bed-and-breakfast trade, and feeling that if we could just get the Tories to commit to honouring Labour's equalities programme, we'd have held their fucking feet to the fire. But all the time, at the heart of the very policy we were trying to have honoured, the bomb was ticking away. The transphobes, the radfems, the family values mob, the sort of scum who write that trans people should be 'morally mandated out of existence' were going to get their special little a piece of legislation which purports to be about equality.

Now, in the name of equality, it will be legal for businesses to exclude trans people from the right facilities. It will be legal to bar them from employment on the grounds that their presence might offend cis people. The 'equality' act will force trans women out of the public sphere, even more than they already are.  The 'equality' act will force them out of legitimate work, into the murky demi-monde of the sex trade, where they can work alone, from their own homes, where they won't have to go out and face a world that can now, legally, exclude them without facing any sanction.

And where they can be picked off and murdered by scum.

An 'equality' act which disenfranchises a whole group of people, legitimises prejudice against them, and increases the likelihood of their being prey to harassment, intimidation and violence, isn't worthy of the name. Please, if you're reading this and truly believe in real equality, do everything you can to ensure that these provisions of the act are repealed as soon as possible.

1 comment:

  1. I've just been given permission to cross-post this information from a Lawyer regarding this:

    "Sorry, but I'm going to put my lawyers head on for this one... ... -guidance/

    "A business which is providing separate services or single-sex services must not exclude a transsexual person from the services appropriate to the sex in which the transsexual person presents (as opposed to the physical sex they were born with) unless it can objectively justify this, taking into account the needs and wishes of everyone involved. Different treatment in this situation will rarely be justified. Businesses and their staff should take care to avoid a decision based on ignorance or prejudice, as this may lead to unlawful discrimination."

    I emphasises the area in bold as I've just spent the last hour reading the relevant parts of the Act and the guidance under the above link.

    Essentially, objectively justify is quite a high criteria to reach and is certainly more stringent than the current test under discrimination. For some types of discrimination, an organisation (employer, service provider etc) has a defence if it can 'justify' how it treated a disabled or transsexual person. The different tests currently used will be replaced by a single objective 'justification' test. The organisation will have to show that its conduct was a 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'.

    "What effect will the new 'justification' test have, compared with the present one? The Government has said that under the new test service providers will potentially have a wider range of circumstances in which they could justify discrimination - because a 'legitimate aim' would no longer need to be one of the specified conditions. However, the need to show 'proportionality' is, says the Government, a considerably stricter test than the subjective ('reasonable opinion') part of the current justification test. So the new test of objective justification, while widening the circumstances in which discrimination can be justified, also applies a stricter test of whether the discrimination is in fact justified."


    The way I interpret it, service providers will actually have a harder time "objectively justifying" anything. Even with legitimate aim removed, they will likely fail on the proportionality test.

    B&Q have already highlighted how the imposition of the objective justification (as opposed to subjective justification) test will affect their business.

    "In respect of the provision of goods, facilities and services, B&Q supports a less prescriptive justification however we oppose the introduction of an objective proportionate test in place of a subjective test. The removal of the subjective element from the justification would place an unmanageable responsibility on our business. B&Q, in order to comply with discrimination law, would be required to assess which of our many thousands of customers were disabled with no defence if a mistake is made. This is a very difficult task especially given that our direct contact with those customers may be for only a very short time."

    Now admittedly they were discussing disability discrimination rather than discrimination against transsexuals, but the principles remain the same and you could just swap the categories about.

    It seems to me that service providers are the ones who will be having problems and not us."