Call for Evidence

Transgender Equality: Parliamentary Inquiry

(Women and Equalities Committee)

1.This response has been prepared by FOCUS: THE IDENTITY TRUST, a Charitable Trust registered by the Charity Commission Northern Ireland (Charity number NI100557) and member of the Transgender Organisations Network (TON).

1.1 Our Mission Statement is:

“FOCUS: THE IDENTITY TRUST exists to provide social, educational and recreational activities for Transgender and Intersex individuals in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of the Republic of Ireland who have been referred to it by a Gender Identity Specialist or other medical professional. The Trust will endeavour to provide a welcoming, safe and secure environment for all its members at all times.

1.2Additionally the Trust exists to promote the development of educational information and advice, both to individuals and to policy makers and service planners and delivery agents, to raise awareness in all sections of society on Transgender and Intersex issues in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of the Republic of Ireland in regard to health, employment, housing, legal and general education issues in regard to how they impact on the daily lives of Transgender and Intersex individuals and their relatives and friends.”

1.3FOCUS: THE IDENTITY TRUST is the only organisation on the island of Ireland which exclusively represents this constituency of individuals.

1.4Obviously there are many differences across the devolved Administrations as to how issues impacting the lives of Transgender Individuals and their families. In Northern Ireland as you know we don’t have a single Equality Act , for Government and Public Bodies we rely mostly on the provisions of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1999), which also outlines 9 ” protected characteristics”. Transgender issues were commonly treated for policy and strategy purposes under the heading of sexual orientation. This was recently clarified as being inappropriate by the Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Wardlow in a written response to the Chair of the Stormont Health Committee, Maeve McLaughlin MLA (Sinn Fein) where he advised that Transgender issues should properly be considered for Section 75 purposes under the gender category ” Men and women generally”. Following this advice the Gender Equality Unit (GEU) within OFMDFM NI in reviewing its Gender Equality Strategy 2015-2020 has included Transgender issues as an equal and integral part of its Gender Strategy Review. To assist with this review GEU has created a Gender Advisory Panel (GAP) made up of the various stakeholder organisations in the gender sector within Northern Ireland, FOCUS has 2 seats on GAP as of right. It is intended that the strategy will identify measurable outcomes rather than outputs each of the Government Departments will be expected to deliver. Their delivery will be monitored by a Monitoring Committee comprising representatives of GEU, individual members of GAP (recruited individually by public appointment) and officers from NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency). The Monitoring Committee will report annually to Ministers within OFMDFM NI, produce an annual report on achievement of outcomes and update the stakeholders on GAP at least twice per annum and revise outcome expectations or set new/revised targets as necessary. The Monitoring Committee will operate on the basis of Outcome Based Accountability (OBA) which is a process designed to focus on the delivery of

outcomes rather than outputs. It is essential that the outcomes must be clearly defined. Outcomes are identified via the relevant issue, then baseline data are collected and a target set. Data can then be measured to determine any impact created by the intervention; the key questions asked will be:

 How much did we do? (inputs)

 How well did we do? (outputs)

 Is anyone better off? (outcomes)

1.5Focus would recommend that the Women and Equalities Committee could benefit from adopting a similar Outcome Based Accountability model across all its activities , not least in addressing Transgender Issues, the essential ingredient being the creation of the appropriate Monitoring Group(s) which should obviously be representative of stakeholder representatives such as those represented on TON.

2. Summary of our Response

2.1In common with the overarching response from the LGBT Consortium on behalf of the Trans Organisations Network we have attempted to group issues by UK Government Department whenever possible (allowing for distinctions in respect of our devolved administration in Northern Ireland). These can be summarised as follows:

 General Issues: Lack of population level statistics, Monitoring of Gender Identity, Gender Non –Conformity ( including personal non-binary identity),Data recording and privacy considerations

 Justice Issues: Incidence and under reporting and reporting of Hate Crime and Incidents, Review of existing gender recognition legislation, including spousal veto and lack of marriage equality legislation in Northern Ireland

 Health Issues: Mental Health, Treatment waiting times, Young people’s treatment, Transition from children’s to adult services.

 Education Issues: School resources, Teacher other staff and Boards’ of Governors training, IT records and exam registration

 Culture, Media and Sport Issues: Accessibility of sports facilities

 Suggested Further Reading

3. General Issues

3.1Population statistics

3.1.1As previously stated in the Trans Organisations’ Network’s (TON) response there is an obvious case for investment in research around Transgender issues at population level in the UK, there is very little information around incidence which means it is almost impossible to compare the situation in the UK with other population data sets anywhere else in the world. The UK’s reliance on issue of GRCs or referrals to specialist GICs is at best a very poor proxy for true population data sets which could properly inform adequate service planning and delivery in all areas of Government.

3.1.2We recommend the commissioning of robust research into trans populations so that a proper baseline at least may be established so that it may be possible to examine emerging issues and trends from an informed basis .

3.1.3Data Issues and Gender Non Conformity

We concur with TON’s overarching response and share other organisations’ concerns; further, in our recent response to OFMDFM NI’s draft discussion document on a Gender Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland, 2015-2020, we advised that reliable and robust data is an essential tool in achieving the effective monitoring of progress towards agreed outcomes and even in setting baselines against which we may measure achievement and progress. We pointed out the inherent difficulty in recording or recording agreed information, particularly around how to monitor and identify Transgender individuals without compromising

their ability to self-identify, and their right to confidentiality, which we acknowledged is very difficult, if not impossible, given the ever increasing number of individuals who do not self-identify within the current gender binary as legally recognised and the lack of agreement around language and definitions to be used. We recommended that the Gender Equality Unit within OFMDFM NI should lead the way in developing a set of definitions and monitoring tools which could be used to capture appropriate data in relation to Transgender and Intersex issues and further suggested this be one of the possible actions to be included in the eventual Gender Equality Strategy (We advised FOCUS would be happy to assist in such and initiative).

3.1.4We would commend a similar initiative to your UK GEU and would suggest member organisations of TON, including FOCUS would be willing to assist as outlined in TON’s overarching response around monitoring. We feel this would also assist better inclusion of those not represented nor bound by the binary male/female model within the framework of Transgender legislation, including employment, education, health, housing and social care.

4. Justice Issues

4.1Hate Crime and Incidents

4.1.1In common with the other TON members, it is our view that there is massive under reporting and reporting of Transphobic motivated hate crime and incidents, particularly gender based violence against Trans women, often domestic based violence. Police Officers, front of office reception and call answering staff, together with custody and victim support officers need specific training around Trans issues preferably delivered by individuals of Transgender history. We would draw your attention to the publication “The Luck of the Draw”: a Report on the experiences of Trans Individuals Reporting Hate Incidents in Northern Ireland , Belfast, OFMDFM

4.2Review of Existing Gender recognition legislation

4.2.1We are sure you are well aware of the recent passage into law of ground breaking gender recognition legislation in Malta and the Republic of Ireland which both now have some of the most liberal gender recognition legislation globally. Sadly the UK’s Gender Recognition Act (2004) falls very far short of these progressive pieces of legislation.

4.2.2We in Northern Ireland look on very enviously as our next door neighbours look forward to gender self-determination, equal marriage, the right in certain circumstances for Transgender children to have their true gender recognised by their State. We in Northern Ireland feel doubly disenfranchised compared to our Transgender brothers and sisters on the rest of the island of Ireland and the remainder of the UK. It is not too late for the UK Government to fully demonstrate its commitment to Transgender equality across the whole of the UK by introducing progressive legislation of its own.

4.2.3FOCUS now calls for

 The repeal of the current Gender Recognition Legislation and its replacement with Human Rights based Legislation a la recently enacted Maltese Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act and the Republic of Ireland’s Gender Recognition Act, both of which recognise an individual’s right to have their true gender recognised in law on the basis of self- determination i.e. without the need for pathologisation by the medical profession or judgement by anyone else or any spousal veto

 The right of Gender Non-conforming Children and Transgender and Intersex Adolescents to be empowered to be able to have their true gender recognised and respected on the same basis of self- determination without regard to age restrictions based on the Gillick principle of informed consent

 The right of Intersex and other individuals who do not self-identify within the gender binary as currently legally recognised and defined to be legally recognised in law in their unique gender identity as they alone choose to self-determine

 The UK Government to bring pressure to bear on the Stormont Executive to enact an Equal Marriage Bill immediately to bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK. It is incumbent on us at stage to clarify that whilst FOCUS: THE IDENTITY TRUST fully endorses and supports the current


campaign in Northern Ireland for the LGB Community here, that Transgender individuals who have their true gender legally recognised already enjoy the right to marry

 In the spirit of TRUE EQUALITY FOR ALL we further ask for the equal recognition under the law of all forms of committed relationships between those couples who for whatever reason want a legally recognised civil partnership rather than a marriage.

5. Culture Media and Sports Issues

5.1Media Portrayals

5.1.1FOCUS has worked very hard and successfully behind the scenes to have positive images of Transgender individuals, particularly Transgender women promoted by Government Departments and Agencies. Indeed Derry and Strabane District Council as one of its first commitments has just recently become the first Council on the island of Ireland to officially endorse and adopt our Trans Manifesto as an integral component of its overall equality policy and strategy across the entire Council area, departments and services.

5.1.2Council is in the process of appointing a “Transgender Champion “from within its senior management team to ensure all future policy and practice is appropriately “Transgender Proofed”.

5.1.3FOCUS: THE IDENTITY TRUST would commend the appointment of a Transgender Champion in all Government Departments, Agencies, Quangos and Local Government Authorities. It is essential however that the person appointed should be of sufficient authority to be able to review all Departmental, Agency or local Authority policies and practice and have real influence to achieve change in policy and plans prior to implementation. The other main tasks for these individuals would be to promote positive images of Transgender individuals and to forge active and genuine links with Transgender Representative bodies and activists.

5.2Accessibility of Sporting Facilities

5.2.1FOCUS: THE IDENTITY TRUST co-operated with Dr David Mitchell, University of Ulster at Jordanstown in relation to generic research on behalf of OFMDFM NI into Exclusion from Sport. We took part in various focus groups and introduced a number of Transgender individuals to undertake qualitative interviews into the exclusion of Transgender individuals from sport in Northern Ireland, both on the basis of self-exclusion and organisational exclusion. These interviews are the basis of a shortly to be published academic paper examining the experience of Transgender individuals and sport in Northern Ireland.

6. Health Issues

6.1FOCUS would draw your attention to the publication “Healthcare Issues for Transgender People living in Northern Ireland”, Belfast, Institute for Conflict Research, McBride, R. and Hansson, V. (2010)

6.2Mental Health

6.2.1Focus would point to the recent report “Speaking from the Margins: Trans Mental Health and wellbeing in Ireland”, McNeill, J. Bailey, L. Ellis, S and Regan, M.: Dublin, TENI (2014).

6.2.2FOCUS endorses the comments in the overarching response from TON. In Northern Ireland we, both as individuals and as FOCUS have contributed to shaping the agenda for change to the shape of Mental Health Services in Northern Ireland at Public Health, specialist services, generic services and peer support level to promote mental health and well- being amongst our Beneficiaries and their families. PHA NI has recently let a new contract to provide mental health and well-being services to Transgender individuals and their families in Northern Ireland.

6.3Young Peoples Treatment

6.3.1Services in Northern Ireland had been non-existent until recently. However , following research recommendations by Ruari-Santiago McBride in 2013 in , “Grasping the Nettle: The experiences of

Gender Variant Children and Transgender Youth living in Northern Ireland”, a new dedicated Regional CAMHS Service “KOI” ( Knowing our Identities) has been established in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s area. Already there are very strong links established between therapists there and therapists in the Adult Regional Gender Identity Service, Brackenburn Clinic, also situateded in the Belfast Trust’s area. This has facilitated easier transition for prospective graduands from KOI to Brackenburn Clinic, with the young people meeting and beginning to interact with their adult service therapist at least a year prior to graduation to the adult service.

6.3.2Focus would also propose that in regard to their own Treatment process that Transgender and Intersex children should have the right to give informed consent to their own permanent surgical or other medical interventions to align their bodies to best fit their individually self- determined and expressed gender identity irrespective of age , based solely on their Gillick competency.

6.3.3This is a model FOCUS and our relatives would recommend.

6.4General Health Care

6.4.1FOCUS would point out that Transgender Individuals don’t just appear out of the ether as fully developed individuals requiring specialist services only. It has to be recognised that Transgender individuals access all areas of generic healthcare services in all settings on a daily and continuing basis. We have found , however, that General Practitioners, Nursing Staff and PAMS staff are generally ignorant of the ongoing issues that Transgender individuals experience on a daily basis.

6.4.2In Northern Ireland individual members of FOCUS have been delivering on-going Trans Awareness Training to final year medical students in Queens University Belfast, all Social work Students in the Magee Campus of University of Ulster and are to deliver similar training to adult and mental health nursing students in the same campus in the new semester.

6.4.3We believe it an absolute necessity for all Health and Social Care staff including front line administrative staff to receive such training and recommend GEU should make this mandatory.

7. Educational Issues

7.1It is disturbing to have to report that in Northern Ireland, whilst the Department of Education NI falls within the remit of Section75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1999), individual schools are exempt from the provisions of Section 75. Hence how Transgender individuals are perceived and dealt with is largely down to the head of school and the board of governors, often with the denial of the existence of Transgender and/or non –binary identity.

7.2Clearly this is not an ideal situation, we have made some headway by succeeding in having some questions regarding Transgender in the Schools Omnibus Survey last year disaggregrated and separated from LGB issues for the first time. We also succeeded in having some Transgender specific questions included in the Young Life and Times Survey but were unable to get them inserted in the section on the experiences of primary school children.

7.3In an effort to eradicate the situation we are pressing for the introduction of a Bill based on the model of “The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act (FAIR Education Act {Senate Bill 48}) introduced by the Californian State Legislature in December 2010. In the interests of true Equality in the rest of the UK we would recommend a similar Bill in Parliament.

7.4We mentioned the passage of the landmark Maltese Gender Expression Gender Identity and Sex Characteristics Act (GIGESC ACT). In late June Focus Trustees had the distinct pleasure of meeting staff from the Maltese Equality Commission during a study tour of Northern Ireland. They informed us of the launch just that week of a comprehensive education policy focusing on the needs of transgender, gender variant and intersex children. The policy identifies several particular needs that must be addressed including confidentiality, adequate facilities, support, inclusive policies, the possibility to amend documentation and access to information.

7.5The policy is accompanied by a procedure, which outlines how the policy’s provisions should be implemented uniformly across all schools. Both documents focus on how to address the issues faced by Trans and Intersex students in schools and how to accommodate their needs. This policy highlights the fundamental obligation placed on all schools everywhere to provide all students with a safe and inclusive educational environment and aims to foster a school environment that is inclusive and safe, free from discrimination and harassment and promotes diversity.

7.6Focus would recommend the introduction of a similar policy in the UK which would hopefully be mirrored in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

8. Suggested Further Reading

8.1You may be interested in some other publications from the “Emerald Isle”

 “Supporting LGBT Lives” Maycock et al ,Maycock and Bryan (2009)

 NIPB (2012) Human Rights Thematic Review: Policing with and for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender Individuals. Belfast: Northern Ireland Policing Board

 Hansson, V. and Hurley-Depret, M. (2007) “Equality Mainstreaming: Policy and Practice for Transgender People”: Belfast: Institute for Conflict Research.

We hope you find our response useful and informative.


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