Focus: The Identity Trust, launched a mere 7 months ago has come far in such a short time. We thought we would take this opportunity, at the beginning of a new year, to update our friends and allies of some of our achievements to date and how hard we have been working on behalf of transgender and intersex individuals here.
As a fully constituted charitable body, listed and recognised by HMRC, we are a 100% operational, above board, legitimate Trust, run with integrity, honesty, and transparency.
- Focus: The Identity Trust has enabled transgender people themselves to speak for and represent themselves.
- We have established a number of successful support groups for transgender and intersex individuals, offering genuine, safe, and confidential support.
- We have developed our own professional website to educate and inform, and which is being used for teaching purposes within universities in the North.
Individual members of our Trust have secured vital funding to sustain and develop clinical services for transgender and intersex individuals in this region.
- Last year, owing to funding issues, there was a curtailment of service within the Regional Gender Identity Clinic. In June, individual members of Focus: The Identity Trust responded by writing to the Chair of the Belfast Health and Social Services Trust and to the Chief of the Health and Social Care Board. Individual members of Focus also attended a meeting in Derry/Londonderry and personally lobbied individual MLA’s, including the Chair of the Health Committee about this situation.
- Directly as a result of these representations from individual members of Focus, the service was reinstated with additional funding to secure the immediate future, and also to allow the service to develop to meet emerging needs.
Focus: The Identity Trust has also taken great strides in raising awareness of transgender and intersex issues, and in ensuring that these issues are categorised correctly.
- In Northern Ireland we have Equality Legislation enshrined in Section 75 of the N.I Act which affords protection under nine separate classes. Formerly, transgender issues were included under the ‘Sexual Orientation’ category. We made representations to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland on the distinctions between transgender and sexual orientation issues with the result that the Chief Commissioner and his Commission moved ‘transgender’ to the category of ‘Men and Women’, as being transgender or intersex is an issue of gender NOT sexual orientation, and also advised revising their advice to employers, to state that ‘transgender’ properly sits within the Gender Section.
- Additionally, most public bodies in N.I. now recognise these distinctions between transgender and Lgb issues, and that it is inappropriate to view or treat ‘T’ and Lgb as one group, and now produce separate reports based on their distinct issues.
- Focus have also 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. They too now firmly place transgender and intersex issues within the review of the Gender strategy and removed it from the review of Sexual Orientation strategy, as in their view transgender issues and Lgb issues are distinct and separate.
Focus have also been granted two seats on the Gender Advisory Panel (GAP) which is currently advising OFMDFM on the Gender Strategy which over arches all government departments and agencies within N.I.
We have also established lasting links and good working relationships with a large number of agencies, charities, and other organisations. There are many ‘irons in the fire’ for future progress and we look forward to updating our friends and allies more at the appropriate juncture.
In 7 months we have made great progress, based on the hard work of our volunteers, and the collaborative effort of our allies. Thank you to all who have supported us so far. We know there is still a long way to go and we promise to continue our hard work in 2014 and will bring you further updates as appropriate.