Focus: the Identity Trust is delighted to now publicly report their recent productive work on the Department of Education’s School Omnibus Survey 2014, whereby Focus have (again) successfully redirected departmental policy and separated the T from the LGB. We are continually contributing to the creation and development of emerging policy and practice in relation to Transgender issues and this is again, significant progress. (Our explanation on why T and LGB issues are distinct and why it is inappropriate to view or treat them together follows below).
DENI’s School Omnibus Survey (a multi-purpose survey of all Principals in grant-aided schools) poses questions to School Management in relation to a variety of topics, which include homophobia/transphobia and information/support provided within schools on sexual orientation/transgender issues. Initially, the survey had questions designed that dealt with these issues together; keeping T and LGB together.
Focus met with DENI’s Equality Unit, and following our representations, and upon our specific advice they agreed to split the T from the LGB. Additionally, at their request Focus: the Identity Trust not only redesigned the questionnaire, splitting the T from the LGB, but formulated the actual questions that would be contained in the Transgender section of the survey.
We thank DENI for their commitment to recognising Transgender issues as separate, their positive and fruitful engagement with Focus, and we look forward to further co-operation between us in the future.
As the questions FOCUS designed now keep as distinct the issues of T and LGB within schools, this has given real merit to the results of the School Omnibus Survey, and ensures that they accurately reflect what is going on in schools with regards to transphobia and transgender issues. This is not just important for transgender issues, but is also incredibly important for LGB issues as the revised questions allow for accurate and representative results regarding definite issues of homophobia and sexual orientation.
Our separation of the T from the LGB in this survey represents another significant success for Focus: the Identity Trust, and a huge step in the right direction of ensuring that the distinctions between transgender and LGB issues have been recognised and acted upon at the highest levels, and that it is now understood there that it is entirely inappropriate to view or treat T and LGB as one group.
In the past year, Focus: the Identity Trust have made other huge strides in this direction and we are delighted by our success in our contribution to the creation and development of emerging policy and practice in relation to Transgender issues, and in ensuing they are dealt with appropriately as distinct from the LGB community. Here is an update of just some of our work in the past year alone;
- Focus met with Ministers within the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), which has the lead role in reviewing N.I strategy on Gender Equality and the separate strategy on Sexual Orientation. Following our representations they now firmly place Transgender and Intersex issues within the review of the Gender strategy and removed it from the review of Sexual Orientation strategy,
- Following our representations to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, they moved ‘transgender’ to the category of ‘Men and Women’, as being transgender is an issue of gender not sexual orientation,
- Following our efforts, nearly all Government Agencies and Departments have recognised and accepted that it is no longer appropriate, or acceptable to attempt to address the issues of LGB and T together
- Working with various other public bodies, most now recognise that it is inappropriate to view or treat T and LGB as one group; and now produce separate reports based on their distinct issues.
As stated, we have made huge strides in the last year alone, and we pledge to continue our hard work on behalf of Transgender and Intersex individuals.
Why are T issues distinct from LGB issues?
For those who are unaware, or unfamiliar with the distinctions between Transgender and LGB, which make the issues so different that it is totally inappropriate for us to be viewed or treated as one umbrella group, here is a brief explanation.
The issues of Transgender people and the LGB community are quite distinct and separate and cannot and should not be addressed as if we are the one homogeneous group.
Transgender issues are about gender and gender identity, whilst LGB issues are about sexual orientation, attraction and expression. Transgender individuals have as little in common with LGB people as we have with any other group in society, e.g. people with disabilities, people with learning difficulties, ethnic minorities, or travellers. The one and only issue we all share is that we are all marginalised by and from society at large.
Some members of the community we represent may identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual. Equally some may identify as asexual or heterosexual but these are all separate from our Transgender identity and issues.
Additionally, being Transgender is a recognised medical condition, known as Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder. It is a whole of life condition which affects us as individuals from birth when we are assigned the wrong sex, through childhood and adolescence, into adulthood and on into older age where we will, no doubt suffer from all the conditions of old age we can all look forward to. It also has an effect on our siblings, families, and friends.
The condition doesn’t stop to affect our lives and health just because we transition: the very treatments we go through to achieve our gender confirmation themselves produce conditions which uniquely affect us in our old age. Additionally we will continue to be at risk from diseases to which our genetic gender predisposes us. These are quite distinct from healthcare issues for LGB individuals.