Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: Gender identity

Posts related to gender identity

Ace and Agender – Turning Discomfort into Confidence

Ali Gibson (any/all pronouns) is the current Vice President Education (Health) at King’s College London, and a third-year medical student as of September. Ali’s blog talks about experiences growing up and the euphoria of finding a gender identity.


I was 16 when I first found and started using the label ‘Asexual’ to describe me, after at least two years of feeling different. Whilst my friends entered and experimented with sexual relationships, my teenage years came and went without sexual feelings and as you do, you put it down to something else; I was yet to hit puberty, or to meet the right person, when I would be magically fixed and all about the sex. It never materialised, and so I ended up internet searching ‘no sexual attraction’ and found Asexuality. Labels can be contentious but for me, finding that there was a group of people who didn’t experience sexual attractions or desires in varying forms was eye-opening. It didn’t cause a revelation of something I wasn’t already, instead it just made sense and came with a community who had all been (at least similar) boats. 

The one thing I neglected confronting as a teenager was my gender. It would be wrong to look back now and not think I have probably questioned my gender for about the same length of time as my sexuality. It’s hard to explain what it feels like as all our references come from within the binary society we live in, but I never felt like a ‘girl’, and I never felt like a ‘boy’. Nor did I really aspire to either perception I had of what that meant. As I grew up I was proud of the fact I didn’t own any make-up, skirts or dresses, things I considered feminine, and I spent most of my childhood scraping my knees on scooters, bikes and rollerblades. I was a ‘tomboy’, and proud. But that label fades and I went through puberty to find myself confronted with being a woman, with breasts and periods and a reproductive health condition to boot. I have long hated my tight curly hair, despite much adoration from others, shaving it off at 17 under the guise of raising money (which I did do, so not all selfish). I’ve had an unnecessary complex around being able to wear a baseball cap and not look like cartoon character Crystal Tips, which has bothered me for seemingly no reason. 

At the end of January just past, having bought a baseball cap on sale, I twisted my short but significant curls up onto the back of my head and (with great skill) put on the cap. I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in an immeasurable amount of time saw someone who looked like me, who looked like I want to. Full of emotion I laughed in surprise at myself and this person I saw in front of me. It followed weeks of wondering if I should change my label; I was four months into my time with KCLSU in a job where there’s a short time to get things done, nevermind having to reintroduce yourself. And I knew I wasn’t unhappy being a cisgender woman (someone born biologically a woman who also identifies as a woman) – but could I be happier and more comfortable as someone non-binary? 

Ali, KCLSU Vice-President Education (Health) and soon to be third-year medical student

I took time off at the beginning of March and came back using my new name, Ali – a name I used online which had been wholly accepted by the people I met there and felt like a name and a person I had created for myself. This was the new me, the me that university had bloomed, the me that felt I had a place. I am so thankful to all of my colleagues across KCLSU and King’s who have wholeheartedly accepted my name change, some astute colleagues even picking up on it before I formally let people know. If I had to stick a pin in it, I’d say my gender is ‘Agender’ – I have none, I just don’t feel it, and I’ll keep my hair short and wear t-shirts with television references and baseball caps as long as it feels good. Where in the past I was uncomfortable with someone drawing attention to my non-femininity (bullies would jeeringly ask me, a complete stranger, whether I was male or female, a common sentiment used by transphobic people), I now actively don’t mind what pronouns someone uses for me, and find it quite liberating when someone’s assumption differs from my biological sex.

It’s taken me five, maybe seven years to get here, but meeting people who are transgender, non-binary and gender diverse has shown me the alternative, and is one of those things I wish 14-year-old me had been exposed to. Because it’s only when we break out of the binary, and share with our young people the vibrancy and inclusivity the LGBTQ+ community has to offer, that we can turn discomfort into confidence. 

Ali Gibson (any/all pronouns) is the current Vice President Education (Health) at King’s College London, and a third-year medical student as of September. Ali’s blog talks about experiences growing up and the euphoria of finding a gender identity.

LGBTQ+ Inclusion and the Church

For LGBTQ+ History Month, EDI Project Officer, Jemma Adams, pens a blog about her experience of the church and its attitudes towards LGBTQ+ lives.


My personal faith and belief meanders sometimes away, sometimes alongside, the mainstream Christian church, but what I do believe is that Christian scripture, tradition and experience reveals a God who transcends gender and sexuality, a God who did not create, nor do I believe they would condone, the heteronormativity that has come to consume much of the church. As a theologian I am fully convinced that the church can only be authentic to the message of Jesus Christ and its own scripture if LGBT+ people are fully included and indeed central to the life of the church. Others would disagree with me, but I do not want to give them space and use my words here to argue against them (there are also many theologians and writers who have done this far better than I ever could here). Instead I want to reflect on the experience on the ground for individuals and churches and offer a glimpse into what the full inclusion of LGBT+ people in the church might look like.

Whilst the Church of England and other denominations continue to tie themselves up in knots with statements and ‘conversations’ about sex, sexuality, gender and marriage, LGBT+ Christians have to endure the heartache and hurt of statements made about them, demeaning their relationships, identity and the validity of their very existence in the eyes of the church. But whilst this goes on in the governance and leadership of the Church of England there are church communities who are flying the pride flag from their spires (sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically), who are actively campaigning for equal marriage and ensuring LGBT+ people are at the centre of their leadership and expression.

In my experience, however, most churches sit somewhere in the middle, often tolerant but not active or explicit in their LGBT+ inclusion. Such churches often want to be welcoming and inclusive, but my message to them is that tolerance and silence are just not enough. Such an approach requires people to be neutral, to mute themselves and hide their identity. That is not equality and inclusion and nor do I believe it reflects the fundamental Christian principle that we are made in the image of God. If that is true, and humans reflect the person of God, then ‘when anyone is invisible, aspects of God, too, are also rendered invisible’.[1] God is beyond sexuality and gender, yet paradoxically contains all within, just as God is both transcendent and embodied (in the person of Jesus).

If a church community wants to be fully inclusive they must be explicit about being welcoming to LGBT+ people and they must follow this through in every aspect of church life and worship. In other words, they must work to challenge the heteronormativity and the patriarchal structures that can be present, and this must be done by the whole congregation and not just left to LGBT+ individuals. They must think about the language and imagery they use about God; LGBT+ dating and relationships need to be talked about just as straight relationships are; different types of families should be remembered in prayer and sermons and discussion should include references to LGBT+ lives as much as straight or cis lives.

My hope is that the church becomes a place of equal marriage, where all loving and committed relationships are respected and supported and where LGBT+ lives are recognised in the rites and symbols of the church. I long to see a church where people are not othered or excluded no matter what their gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, ethnicity, neurodiversity or cultural expression. My confidence in that vision often wavers, but the faith and strength of those I know in the church actively working to bring about this vision gives me hope, and I think we’ll get there… eventually.

  • This blog was inspired and influenced by Siobhan Garrigan (2009) Queer Worship, Theology & Sexuality, 15:2, 211-230.
  • If you’re interested in the theology of sexuality and gender, I recommend Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
  • If you’re interested in finding an LGBTQ+ inclusive church, have a look at this list provided by the King’s Chaplaincy team – LGBT Churches in London

[1] Janet R. Watson, Feminist Liturgy: Its Tasks and Principles (The Liturgical Press, 2000), p. 33.

LGBTQ+ History Month: And the Category is? Live: Work: Learn

When I first started on the path of becoming an EDI professional, I concentrated on learning most about the areas outside my lived experience – I’ve written extensively on my experience as a woman of colour from a working-class background, and my life as a working partner and parent. My understanding of my own sexual orientation is continually developing, and I am a firm Q (of LGBTQ+) for questioning. Over the years I have continued to educate myself and learn about the lives and experiences of others to try and understand myself, as well as to be the good ally I aspire to be and to do my job effectively.

I was overjoyed recently to discover Pose which, as Alex Prestage said to me, is a dramatized version of the excellent documentary, Paris Is Burning, exploring the guts and glamour of New York’s ballroom scene in the late 80s and the exclusion from mainstream culture and society experienced by gay and trans people.

Notice what it’s all about. Being able to fit into the straight, white world and embody the American dream. We don’t have access to that dream, and it’s not because of ability, trust me. – Blanca Evangelista 

I must confess, I didn’t know about the ‘ballroom’ scene until very recently and I have to thank my team for making the introduction. The ballroom scene draws a largely gay, mostly black and Latinx, crowd to watch mainly, though not exclusively, trans performers competing for trophies by performing (“walking”) in certain ‘categories’. Paris Is Burning tells the story behind Madonna’s 1990 single Vogue and clearly lays the foundation for the enormously popular RuPaul’s Drag Race. This was one of the main revelations for me. These are now part of my everyday life and cultural bank yet I had no idea where they came from or what their original meanings were.

With sharp dialogue, exquisite music, an abundance of dancing and sex, all heavily costumed and glittered, Pose is simultaneously riven with racism, sexism and transphobia. I watched with sadness and disbelief as many of its characters, all gay and trans people of colour, are rejected by their biological families and find solace in a community or chosen families and spaces where they are able to express themselves freely.

People came because they needed a place of comfort, they needed a family, they needed a house mother. – Pray Tell.

The AIDS crisis is a strong motif throughout the show, and explores how misinformation and stigma exacerbate marginalisation and the impact this has on LGBTQ+ people and communities.

For me it was very much a story of family and friendship. As I tweeted afterwards:

I felt I had become close personal friends of each of the characters and now can’t believe I won’t be seeing them every day.
(For more follow me @equalitywarrior)

Pose shows us that what might to some seem frivolous or ridiculous can serve as a source of hope, comfort and nurturing.

You have to shine so bright out there that they can’t deny you – Blanca Evangelista

One of the things I loved, and would like to see more of, is the presentation of trans and gender diverse people not as comedic, pantomime characters, but as rounded, everyday human beings. While much of the public discourse on trans and gender diverse people seems transfixed on their bodies, Pose lets us into these characters’ hearts, minds and souls. The show gives us insights into how they feel about themselves. I realised how little I was thinking about their bodies at all. Pose has the largest transgender cast of any commercial, scripted TV show. The show sends a message of love and of understanding and education about lives that many do not understand and so choose to reject.

Whilst it would be silly to claim that watching a couple of TV shows can fully inform me about the lived experience of trans and gender diverse people, it does demonstrate that there are multiple ways to learn. Well-made TV programmes can give you an insight into the lives of others and we all, in my view, have a duty to educate ourselves. I also believe if more people could watch a programme like Pose with an open mind and an open heart, we might all be more willing and able to tackle trans and homophobia.

 

 

LGBTQ+ History Month: WTF is gender? Coz I have no idea.

For LGBTQ+ History Month, EDI Consultant and Proudly King’s Committee member, India Jordan, writes about their experience of gender – beyond, and in-between binaries. 

(EDIT) This blog was written in 2020 when India was in an earlier stage of their ‘gender journey’, so keep an eye out for possible updates on this! 


Have a think about gender, do you really know what it is?

I’m not really going try to answer the question, but give you an idea of my lived experience and what goes through my mind on a daily basis.

One of the most annoying things in the world for me is being called ‘madam’, ‘miss’ or ‘lady’, or when I’m with friends or my partner, being called ‘girls’ as a collective. It ignites some sort of deep anger and discomfort that I can’t really explain. It’s the same as when some men open doors for me and say ‘after you’ just because they perceive me to be female. It feels so inherently counter to my sense of self and has never felt right. It’s the fact that someone has made an assumption about me and is interacting with who they think I am, whether that’s ‘madam’, ‘miss’ or ‘lady’. And in this moment, I lose the ability to exist in the way I see myself.

That said, if someone asked how I do see myself I would probably say ‘I don’t know”.

I have no idea what gender is or what gender means. I know it is fluid and ever-changing. It feels easier for me to say what I think I am not: I’m not male, I was a female-assigned a birth (AFAB) but I don’t really identify as a female.

What I do know, or what I feel is that I exist in this neutral space where I don’t really see myself fitting into an either/or man/woman binary. I guess that would mean I fit within the very broad spectrum of ‘non-binary’. It’s taken me a while figure out and included a lot of self reflection and understanding to get to this point (and I’d say I was probably on the start of this journey rather than the end).

For a couple of years now this ‘neutral’ identity has very much existed at the forefront of how I see myself, however I’ve been afraid to take up space asking others to see/treat/identify me in the same way. This was up until very recently, where back in December I made a public Instagram post asking people to refer to me with they/them pronouns or simply by my name. This came about after months of deliberating, conversations with friends, and googling desperate questions like ‘who am I?’ ‘what is gender?’ ‘am I non-binary?’ ‘do we even exist anyway???’.

Outside of my life at King’s, I am a DJ and music producer. This means I have public social media pages, and people write about me sometimes. So, this Instagram post came about around the time I was receiving more press/publicity (as an artist) than usual due to featuring on a  mix series podcast, a couple of gigs and a single release. I knew I had to say something because every single time I read ‘she’/’her’ in the write-up’s, I immediately disassociated and didn’t feel like they were talking about me. It felt super jarring. Publishing the post felt terrifying; I was exposing myself, being vulnerable and also publicly declaring that I should take up space and demanding that others respond to this request. It felt very unnatural but I know now that it was really really necessary.

Since then, I’ve requested people at work refer to me as they/them. I guess you could take this blog as a formal coming out post to King’s. A simple changing of pronouns, whilst some may perceive this as small, feels like an absolutely massive thing for me. It means I don’t get a pang of anxiety/gender crisis every time someone calls me ‘she/her’.

Whilst I am nowehere  near feeling sure about what my gender is (or what gender is at all), it really does help alleviate that weight and constant confusion I carry around with me daily.

I’ve found reading, listening to podcasts and joining online communities really helpful in this gender journey so far. Here’s a couple that I recommend:

Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between – MJ Barker & Alex Iantaffi

Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen, Amrou Al-Kadhi

NB – My Non-binary Life (Podcast), Amrou Al-Kadhi & Caitlin Benedict

This image:

Becoming a better ally

In anticipation for London Pride this weekend, King’s Chaplain, Tim Ditchfield, has penned a blog reflecting on his experience at the Stonewall Open Trans Ally Programme.. 


In recent years I have met several trans people and have heard their stories of challenges and struggle, a desire to be fully themselves and a pressure to deny themselves. And painful stories of being victimised and on the receiving end of abuse and aggression.

As someone who identifies as a straight cis Christian man (I guess you’d expect the Christian bit from the College Chaplain!) I am aware of two key things. Firstly, that God is a God of love who welcomes all people and has a special concern for those who are treated badly by other people, often those on the margins; and secondly that the church has, sadly, failed to live up to this standard in so many ways, but especially in relation to LGBTQ+ people.

I have also realised how I have sat on the fence about this. Recognising a desire for equality but doing little about it as it doesn’t affect me personally. Which is why over the past year I have started to be more proactive. I went to the Stonewall Workplace conference in April which was inspirational seeing so many impressive people speaking. And so many of the speakers identified as people of faith.

Ruth Hunt, the amazing CEO of Stonewall, spoke of her faith. Also people like Nour Shaker, the Trans Advisor for Vodaphone UK, and Shaan Knan, a Liberal Jewish trans man, who is working on a PhD exploring the intersection of trans and faith. All of these people and many others during the day spoke of their faith in a positive way and how it has shaped and encouraged them to be who they are.

As a result of this, I went on the Stonewall OPEN Trans Allies Programme two weeks ago. This was a day-long programme described as follows:

The Stonewall Trans Allies Programme is for individuals at all levels in an organisation. It is designed to empower individuals to actively create more trans-inclusive workplaces and communities. It’s designed to give participants a deeper understanding of the impact of common transphobic narratives on the trans community, and help participants create a clear action plan to actively tackle them, and to give participants access to a network of other trans allies to help create positive change.

The starting point for the day grew out of this statement of intent: though Stonewall encourages an open and honest environment, debating people’s identities is not acceptable. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people exist. All identities are valid.

It was a useful day as we explored terminology, identity & privilege as well as the current legal position. It was painful to hear people’s stories of abuse and the reality of transphobia. It was challenging to work through what we as allies can do to respond proactively to this.

We had to leave with an action plan: what we’d do immediately, within a month and within a year. My immediate one was to use my pronouns in emails and on name labels at events, which I’m now doing. (I found this blog really helpful when asking why I should do this.)

Check.

Within a month, I planned to write a blog post about the day. Here it is.

Check.

Within a year I want to ensure the chaplaincy is a place where trans people feel fully welcome and included, and also a place where we are encouraging all people to explore the intersections of trans and faith in a safe environment.

Work in progress.

 

Ain’t I A Woman – Poppy Kirby-Green on the Boundaries of Womanhood

For the year the 100-year anniversary of partial suffrage in UK, we are running a series of blog posts inspired by Sojourner Truth and her most famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman? “delivered in 1851 was a powerful rebuke to many anti-feminist arguments of the day. It became, and continues to serve, as a classic expression of women’s rights and we would like to take this opportunity to encourage all members of the King’s community to think critically about the media representation of women and the additional struggles faced by those who do not always share the same spotlight – BME, LGBT+, migrant, refugee and disabled women.

We are grateful to Poppy Kirby-Green for contributing to our Women’s History Month blog series. 


Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ speech was a fundamental challenge to the narrow definitions of ‘woman’ that white men had created. As an African American woman her womanhood was questioned and marginalised, an experience that trans women of all backgrounds can empathise with – that is why on this International Women’s day I think that it is key that we collectively challenge those who would seek to police the boundaries of womanhood using an outdated and essentialist patriarchal binary.

Truth noted her physical strength was equal to any man’s, and yet she still experienced deeply misogynist and racist violence and oppression, showing that ultimately it is not physical attributes that determine who we are, but how we move through the world and are treated. The global oppression of trans women demonstrates this – we may not be biologically identical to cis women, yet we are still subject to physical and sexual violence, harassment, objectification and exploitation by the sex trade as well as being suffocated by conventional beauty norms. Trans women of colour globally face additional barriers to transphobia, and misogyny, including racism and in many cases poverty, yet their voices and experiences are rarely involved in (often hostile) cultural and political discourse around trans people.

The oppression that trans women face is shared with women across the world, yet painfully and shamefully there are many who would seek to deny us our womanhood. By insisting that trans women are in fact ‘men’, transphobes render our suffering under patriarchy as invisible, and deny our political and social experiences as women. Trans men are regularly excluded from conversations around trans rights, which tend to myopically focus on the ‘threat’ of trans women who are unable to adequately conform to the gender binary. With cruel irony, trans women seeking refuge from patriarchy in women-only spaces are cast as deviants and predators, a trope that has been used against queer people for millennia. The few trans women that do get represented often have to meet cisnormative beauty standards and conform to conventional femininity in order to be seen as valid in their womanhood. Less privileged trans women whose existence challenges the gender binary, whether by choice or circumstance are typically erased, or depicted as somehow failing womanhood.

On International Women’s Day, I hope that all of us, whether male, female or non-binary can take something from Sojourner’s Truth words all those years ago, that womanhood should not be an exclusive member’s club with a narrow set of criteria, that needs gatekeeping, but a welcoming sisterhood in which the most marginalised women have a voice.

 

Ain’t I A Woman – Kirsty McLaren on Checking Our Privileges

For the year the 100-year anniversary of partial suffrage in UK, we are running a series of blog posts inspired by Sojourner Truth and her most famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman? “delivered in 1851 was a powerful rebuke to many anti-feminist arguments of the day. It became, and continues to serve, as a classic expression of women’s rights and we would like to take this opportunity to encourage all members of the King’s community to think critically about the media representation of women and the additional struggles faced by those who do not always share the same spotlight – BME, LGBT+, migrant, refugee and disabled women.

We are grateful to Kirsty McLaren, from King’s Widening Participation for contributing to our Women’s History Month blog series. 


Women are beautiful. The most beautiful thing about women is that no two are the same; I have friends that are nurses, lawyers, police officers, psychologists, teachers, mothers, students, professional services staff and work in engineering. Some do jobs that society deem as masculine, and often catch people by surprise when they say what they do for a living because most of them are fiercely feminine. And whether they know it or not, they all step out of the door in the morning and go and kick the patriarchy’s you-know-what.
I’m a lesbian. Despite my appreciation of no two women being the same, up until last year I thought I shared an experience with every other woman who likes kissing girls, but wow I was wrong. I attended Stonewall’s Young Leaders Programme in December, and I’ve never been around such an inspiring group of people whose stories and identities are all vastly different to mine. I heard from women who shared their stories of being black and LGBT+. A bisexual woman will face discrimination for being bisexual and a woman. A black woman will face discrimination for being black and a woman. A black, bisexual woman will face discrimination for all three, and that’s where we need to be better allies – we need to recognise that no two women are the same.

 

I was also shocked by the discrete form of discrimination and prejudice that is faced by bisexual women. Some said they’d been asked “if they’re a “proper lesbian” of if they’re “going back to boys”, completely disregarding the idea of bisexuality.  Now, I am familiar and comfortable with people who are prejudice toward me because I am a lesbian. They have an idea in their head of what I am and for me, I can live with that… I’ll take my Ellen DeGeneres t-shirt and L-Word box set and go be gay and great elsewhere. But it would start a fire inside of me if someone were to completely disregard my identity as false, or temporary. I’ll be the first one to hold my hands up and say this is the sort of thing I’ve been guilty of in the past; I’ve been insecure about having a bisexual girlfriend, in the fear that they may ‘run off with a man.’

It’s lazy to say “I have bisexual friends so it’s fine”. For International Women’s Day, here’s my pledge:

  1. I promise to be an active ally to my bisexual sisters, and call out discrimination even ‘in jest’.
  2. I promise to take a more intersectional approach in supporting LGBT+ groups, for women of colour, religious women, trans women, disabled women and all that identify with more than one group.
  3. I promise to check my privilege, and to stand up for every beautiful woman across the world who battles through barriers one way or another.

 

LGBT History Month – Alex

For LGBT History Month the Diversity & Inclusion team is sharing some of their reflections. The following piece comes from Alex Prestage, a Diversity & Inclusion Consultant. 

February is LGBT+ History Month; throughout the course of the month, the Diversity & Inclusion Team have been prompted to consider, and share, just what LGBT+ History Month means to us as diversity practitioners. My perspective as a practitioner is informed by my queer identity and my experiences as a member of the LGBT+ community. Over the last five years I’ve coordinated and led organisations’ celebrations of LGBT+ History Month – as a result, this is a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect.

For me, LGBT+ History Month is both an intensely personal and public affair underpinned by my celebration of the impacts that LGBT+ people have made. LGBT+ history is as complex and variable as the people and idenities that make up that umbrella. Very little of this history is formally codified and often the language(s) we use to define and describe queer experiences vary greatly. Jess Bradley, NUS Trans Officer, skillfully discusses the impact the latter has had on trans history here. It’s important to note that LGBT+ History is a history that is often obscured or erased; LGBT+ History Month utterly rejects this erasure and emphatically celebrates the contributions of LGBT+ people and communities. As a diversity practitioner, and an LGBT+ person, I find power in that.

Throughout the month of February, I’ll be seeking out and sharing LGBT+ (hi)stories; I’ll be celebrating and supporting the many queer spaces London has to offer; and, I’ll be generating my very own LGBT+ History.

 

Learning and Listening: Lessons in Trans Inclusion

Sarah Guerra – Director, Diversity & Inclusion 

Being a parent is an emotional roller coaster presenting joy and challenge in pretty equal measure.  As the parent of four children (2 step and 2 I birthed), I am constantly in awe of their openness and adaptability to learning new things, and just how quickly they can surpass me in their knowledge and understanding.  I was fascinated, and a little taken aback, when my 13 year old daughter, Kaela, explained the concepts of gender as she understood them including the panoply of letters that could make up what I have traditionally referred to as ‘LGBT’:

LGBTQQIP2SA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, two Q’s queer and questioning, I for Intersex, people, P for Pansexual, 2S for Two-Spirit, A for Asexual with any orientation.

My initial reaction was to poo poo her! Those aren’t things!  This was quickly followed by a degree of panic – how on earth do I do my job if there are so many more letters?

What I now recognize is that this was an opportunity for me to realise that my understanding of the world and people must continuously change and develop. As a diversity and inclusion professional I can’t and shouldn’t ever feel that there isn’t more for me to learn and understand about individuals and their experience of the world, work and study.

For those who are looking to expand on their own learning, I found this Stonewall resource on Trans Inclusion really helpful, and of course we have our own excellent Trans Matters guidance which is specific to King’s.

Of these resources, the following passage resonated particularly for me:

There is no universal experience of being trans. The Trans community is sometimes characterised as being individuals who wish to transition from one gender to another. In reality, the wide spectrum of gender identity is complicated. Increasingly, people feel comfortable openly expressing themselves in other ways than simply male and female.

Making myself listen and really hear my daughter and others (I would highly recommend Trans Like Me by CN Lester) has been transformative in my learning and understanding. Following this conversation, I asked Kaela how she identified, to which she responded that she didn’t need to – ‘people don’t need labels these days’. I realised that my expectation of defined boundaries and need for labels is the way I have been taught to understand myself and interact in the world. The world has changed since I first learned about these things and there is a wider range of gender expression that I am yet to fully understand.

Equally I don’t have to tie myself up in knots – the law and King’s has made it simple for all of us.

The Equality Act 2010 says that we cannot discriminate against transsexuals– that is people whose gender identity differs from the gender assigned to them at birth. Kings Vision 2029 states we care about our learners on an individual basis and that we will design mainstream interventions that remove all forms of inequality in learner engagement, retention and success.

To be the inclusive, world class organisation such as King’s must work to understand the complexities of gender expression and fluidity, and the implications of this on personal, practical and organisational interactions and how we can ensure that everyone, regardless of their gender identity, feels equally valued and able to succeed.

To do this, we simply need to harness two key research and teaching skills that we already use every day at King’s, listening and thinking.

Trans Matters

As part of Trans Awareness Weeks and the Trans Day of Remembrance which both take place in November, King’s launched it’s Trans Matters guidance documents to provide support to trans and non-binary members of the King’s campus community, as well advice and guidance to those staff supporting these individuals. The launch included key staff and students who worked on the documents, Riley B and Dr Elliot Evans, as well as prominent trans activist, Jacqui Gavin.

King’s has recently become a member of Stonewall and Pete Mercer, the Head of Public Sector Memberships kindly agreed to feature as a guest blogger for our November post on the importance of trans support and allyship for our November post.


tm

Under UK law, public and private sector bodies alike are required to observe and protect the rights of trans people. Following extensive consultation (rightly), KCL’s new ‘Trans Matters’ policy and guidance is therefore a response to both their legal and moral obligations to support their trans staff and students. As with all policies though, this document has the most impact when it’s put to use! – so it’s imperative that everyone takes time to consider its content and its significance.

While organisations are rightly taking action to meet their responsibilities, it’s important to also point out that the existing legislation (the Gender Recognition Act 2004) that allows trans people to legally change their gender is deemed by many to be deeply inadequate and obstructive. As things stand, trans people are forced to endure a highly medicalised, bureaucratic and demeaning process. It’s also designed in the image of a strictly binary conception of gender, leaving non-binary individuals without any legal recognition of their gender identity.

Globally speaking, the vast majority of countries in the world only permit people to legally change their gender if they have undergone sterilisation, including in 20 European states. More broadly, persecution of and discrimination against trans people in everyday life is commonplace across many cultures and societies.

In some parts of the world, in Latin America particularly, the threat is devastatingly acute. This Monday (the 20th Nov) was Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day that commemorates the many lives of trans people across the globe that have been lost to hateful acts of murder. This year alone, that figure stands at over 270 – this doesn’t include those that didn’t attract any media coverage, so the real figure is likely to be much higher.

The UK, of course, is also certainly not free from transphobia by any stretch of the imagination. According to our brand-new research ‘LGBT in Britain’, two in five trans people have experiences a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months. And while there’s danger in steeping awareness of the trans community exclusively in victimhood, at the same time it’s also important to recognise where the rights of trans people are under attack so that we can work to prevent it.

If, like most people, you pay attention to the news, you’d be hard pressed to not notice the intense media obsession on trans identities right now. It’s every day. This relentless media onslaught is perpetuating harmful transphobic slurs, myths and outright lies about trans people and their needs. It’s taking its toll on the collective mental health of the trans community, within which many already face every-day prejudice, and further invalidating their identities and esteem.

This is why it’s important right now for you to come out as a trans ally. The task of beating transphobia must not just be left on the shoulders of trans people themselves exclusively. So whether it’s on social media or in your local community, we need as many voices as possible to come out in support of truth, dignity and basic human rights: for trans people to live their lives freely and be accepted without exception.

Pete Mercer

Head of Public Sector Memberships, Stonewall

 

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