Paris Lees is a London based trans rights activist who specialises in improving the representation of trans people in the media as projects manager at Trans Media Watch. She has worked with Channel 4 as a consultant on My Transsexual Summer and with BBC Three on the Coming Out Diaries, as well as explaining trans issues on BBC Radio 1, BBC Breakfast and helping with TMW's submission to the Leveson Inquiry.
Paris is also the editor of META magazine, a ground-breaking digital publication devoted to gender, published by the people behind Gay Times and DIVA. She has also written for the Guardian, the BBC, Attitude, PinkPaper.com, PinkNews and Gaytimes, as well as her regular column for DIVA.
In 2011, Paris became the first transgender judge for the Independent on Sunday's annual 'Pink List', a compilation of the 100 most influential gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people in the UK.
She will be discussing her campaigning work with Trans Media Watch and META.
Starts at 32:24
Kate: So, Paris is going to talk more about trans-feminism so please if you would welcome Paris Lees.
Paris: Hi, thanks for having me here today. It was interesting what Ariel said about when you got involved in trans-feminism and you found that there were factions which really kind of don't like trans women. So that was quite an education for me as well and I remember reading a piece by Germaine Greer in the Guardian a few years ago, and she described trans women as 'ghastly parodies' or something with too much eye make up on and I phoned my mother and said "I'm so angry about this, let's do something about it" and my mum said "Germaine Greer, is she still going, oh who cares what she says any more, she's old and horrible!" and I said "Ma I think you've kind of missed the boat with the whole feminism thing really". But it was a real shock to me to discover this and I kind of get people saying you know, I've sent this off to such and such a person and such and such a person and because the person is lesbian or because they're a feminist they expect them to be very accepting of trans identities and unfortunately that's not the reality.
I interviewed Julie Bindle about a month ago and she described the war that's raging between certain radical feminists and trans civil rights campaigners and I think when you're in the middle of it maybe it can feel like that but I'm not entirely sure that there is a war raging really. Most women that I know in my everyday circle of friends, as opposed to the work that I do with my activism, are two things; firstly they're totally trans friendly and if you're going to get any problems it usually comes from the guys more often than not, although I'm not saying that women can't be prejudiced obviously. But secondly most women that I know don't identify as feminists which I find really odd you know, what is there not to identify with really? But this idea that there's this really big split I think is maybe quite inward looking, so it's good to keep things in perspective sometimes.
Nevertheless I do see writing for Diva as a political act in a way, obviously personal is political and I think it's good that Diva are really, really open and inclusive of trans identities and they make huge efforts to include women of all different shapes, sizes, colours and backgrounds. But coming back to the whole feminist thing, you know people not identifying as feminists, when I was at college nobody identified as feminist and I didn't because I didn't even identify as female, well not that you have to be female to be a feminist, but it hadn't even occurred to me. But when I was at uni I did, and people asked me if I was a lesbian because I used Ms as my title, and this was at uni and it wasn't a particularly fantastic uni but I thought, "where are all the feminists?" and I found the feminists where I found the trans people, they were online and I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that there's been a resurgence of feminism in the past couple of years and I definitely attribute this to the internet for kind of opening things up for people and there's been a really big up-swell in really kind of positive, active, constructive, successful trans activism as well in the past couple of years and all of this I think comes from the internet personally.
I founded Trans Media Watch as a Facebook group and that's how Trans Media Watch started out, I don't know how many of you are aware of what we do but we basically campaign for better media representation of trans people, and I think people think that we're a lot bigger than what we are sometimes because we get emails and tweets and people saying "I've seen this and what are you going to do about it" kind of thing and its like, well you know we can't deal with everything because we're a very small group of individuals who are acting under an umbrella really.
I'd really like to give a shout out to Jo Shaw who is kind of the unsung hero of Trans Media Watch. She put in hours and hours and hours and hours of work into our submission into the Leveson Inquiry and she's a very passionate foreman and she's opened a lot of doors for us. She was at a party, I think it was some kind of swanky media event, and she overheard Stewart Cosgrove who's, well he was just saying that he'd just become the head of Creative Diversity at Channel 4 and was you know feeling really kind of pleased with himself and Jo just said kind of , "So, what are you going to do about trans people then?" and he was left speechless and if you knew Stewart then you'd know that he's not a man who's often left speechless and that's why we have a good relationship with Channel 4 now and we have a level of understanding with them and although I'm not sure that everything that goes out on Channel 4 is perfect we have a really good relationship with them and that's because of Jo, so she's kind of the brains behind a lot of the projects that we do.
Obviously there's our chair Jenny who chairs our trustee meetings and handles the Facebook group and there's Sarah Lake who's another unsung hero, and it was Sarah and I who came up with the idea of Trans Media Action because we recognised that there are limitations on what we can do by being a purely reactive organisation, saying you know this how things are and we don't like it and we kind of thought, OK this is good, this is great, what are we going to do about it? And for me that's really the kind of activism that I am interested in and focused on, is coming up with solutions to the problems and through TMA we've actually been meeting with producers and commissioners and people who are kind of producing the media and we've got another project in the pipeline cause I think that that's the best way that we can kind of effect positive change, and I guess my advice off the back of that really is to say you know if you can identify the problem but you should always be asking yourself, is my activism constructive? Is it productive? Is it positive? And if it's not then it should be and all too often I sense people's anger, and that anger that you talked about Ariel, and you know I really sympathise and I can see how people are making points and the points are valid and it's not being done in a constructive way so that's something that I think people should be mindful of.
So it was in this kind of spirit of creativity and positivity that we created META. It's not a kind of politics or movement that I'm particularly fond of is when things are inward looking but I do feel that there's a need and a space for a trans led publication not so that we can all kind of pat each other on the back and be, you know, very inward looking but I think to give people a platform and a voice where they may not ordinarily have one. But also to celebrate transgender culture and also a wider kind of culture of people who are not well served by traditional gender norms and concepts and I think that this not only affects gay people, feminists, trans people, but probably 90% of the population, you know, who are not very well served by traditional male and female kind of binary ideas of gender. We've worked hard to make it as inclusive as is possible, I was absolutely terrified of it coming out and because I just knew there'd be somebody who'd say "oh there's not this or there's not that" and it's really, really tough sometimes to kind of tick every box and make sure that you are being as inclusive as possible. I think its good to be you know very mindful of that and keep reminding yourself of your own privilege and the kind of circles that you're moving in and make sure that you're not leaving anybody behind.
So what can you do? well I've said it obviously before and it is a bit of a clichÃ©, but the personal is political and I do firmly believe that and I just think that, you know, just being here today is a great start because you know just getting out of bed some days can be a real struggle, it is for me certainly, but the thing is nothing will change unless we change and I think it would actually be a form of madness if we were to just keep doing the same thing again and again and expect a different result and we have to challenge bigotry in all its forms and obviously this is a conference about intersectionality and I think it was a really good point that you [looks at Ariel] made about Transgender Day of Remembrance and people saying you know these people died because they were trans, and there's so many different other things going on there but at the same time I think that when we talk about racism and we talk about transphobia or homophobia or ableism or anything like that it has different manifestations but we're talking about the same thing, we're talking about prejudice and bigotry and discrimination - and for me it's the same struggle, we all have the same struggle and I think its really important actually to align transphobia and discrimination against sex workers within a kind of framework of socially understood prejudices like racism.
I got on the tube yesterday and there was a trans woman who was getting off and you could see that people were kind of looking at her and when I'm in those situations I always kind of like have a little look around to see if there's anybody sniggering and I saw a couple of people just kind of staring at her and I'm quite a confident person but I really don't like outing myself in public, it makes me feel quite vulnerable, and I forced myself to do it because you know we have to, and I made a point of speaking about this on the tube and made sure that everybody heard what I was saying yesterday, and saying you know it always annoys me if somebody's on here and people are laughing and I said you know imagine if it was a black woman or if it was this or that or whatever and I think its really important for people to hear that, so just on the level of speaking about things in public spaces and not being afraid to talk about being trans is really, really powerful and it's part of the chipping away at the huge mountain that we've got to.
That's all I've really got to say, it felt like it was going to be longer than that, but on that note I would like to say thank you to Nat for being very proactive and organising today.
Transcribed by: @prettywigsP
Q & A
Kate: So thank you very much Paris, so if anyone has questions for Paris, or for Ariel, or perhaps both, or perhaps open questions and we'll see who wants to answer them, I believe it's traditional to put your hand in the air. [To audience member] Yes?
Question 1: I was just... I emailed the... thanks for [?], saying what [?], and I'd especially like to touch on... I didn't hear whether Ariel said anger is not an energy or is an energy, I think...
Ariel: It is, yeah.
Question 1: It is? Yeah, and I didn't want to disagree, but yeah, I believe it is too, and it's about channeling it correctly isn't it, and the approach is vital, and sometimes my approach isn't always the best one, you know, and then I make mistakes, and then I learn, and, you know, I think it's about, sort of, realising what it is you want to say before you just start getting angry about something, and looking at, 'Is this gonna make a change?', and I was really looking forward to going to the RadFem conference, until I realised that there was the the issue with not inviting women who weren't born as women, and the [?] [laughter] So I sent them a message. I can moan all I like but I thought, why don't I just send them a message?
And it said, [reading] 'Hi there, I was really looking forward to attending, but wish to ask why only women born as women are able to attend. Simply, many women were born with a penis, and identified as female from childhood. This seems transphobic, does it not? I look forward to a response. Kind regards.'
And the response was, 'Hi Marina, Our participation information is here,' and they sent me a link to their statement about only women being born as women, and said, 'if you do not wish to participate, please let us know. Thanks, RadFem.'
So, um, [I was just]
Ariel: [Interjecting] Like I said in my talk, and not a single fuck was given! [laughter]
Question 1: That we (a) all boycott RadFem, for any of those who weren't aware of what was going on, and I'd just like to say it's really sad that I wasn't aware that people could be so openly feminist, and be so clearly transphobic, because I hadn't encountered any feminists like that, and I'm not an academic, so I wouldn't necessarily be aware of all of the wars that rage in different [?] groups.
Paris: I do, again, I mean it is a huge problem see, but I think it is important to keep it in perspective, I mean it is definitely a problem, but, I mean, I don't know... I haven't met a feminist under the age of thirty who, kind of, holds those kind of exclusionary views and practices. I think it's a form of feminism which is dying out actually, I really do. And, um, the sooner the better.
Question 1: It's just such a shame, that for RadFem, that it's such an amazing platform...
Paris: It's a shame for them though.
Question 1: Yeah absolutely!
Ariel: Could I answer, just to, just to repeat things, I'm not going to touch on [?] because, [pointing at audience member] exactly what you said, I don't really have much more to add to that [laughing]. But I just want to talk about a thing, because you also talked about it Paris, my remark about anger, and I kind of wanted to, like, qualify that a bit because maybe I didn't clarify it well enough.
I'm building on some of my own ideas, some ideas of a friend of mine Flavia Dzodan, who is a feminist writer, who is also an Argentinian living in Europe. And I think, like, OK, kind of, one of the qualifiers that I have here is that I deal with depression a lot. A lot of it has to do with issues of... oppression and social justice, and I think, what I'm talking about when I say using anger as an energy is... I said let it fuel your compassion because I feel, you know, if we're too driven just by completely, like, red, rage, or whatever, you know, it is very destructive. You know, it HAS to be used constructively, and it also, you know, we need to kind of check ourselves because something that happens to a lot of activists is like you know, there's too few of us, doing too many things and there's issues. Activists burn out -- I've definitely had it, where you're like, I just want to live my life, I can't be bothered with all this stuff! But I guess my point is like, you know... if you find yourself being angered by these things on a day-to-day basis, if that anger pushes you towards activism and towards doing positive change with that energy, that's kind of what I'm talking about.
Question 2: It's kind of almost like a discussion I've had with LGBT(?), I suppose. I'm quite involved with the NUS, and I actually complained that there's a lot of transphobia that's happened and... like you said, there's almost like a strand of trans people and trans allies that are trying to fight against that, and especially with the feminists in the NUS, and especially NUS Woman's... so yeah, I don't know, I was just wondering... I just wanted to say that.
Kate: [to audience member] Yeah, go ahead.
Question 3: You talked about anger, what about fear? I mean, certainly for me, the first feminist conference I went to was actually Go Feminist, [to Paris] I think you were there. And I had a lot of anxiety, even though they said they were trans positive, even though everyone there was really lovely, I had a lot of anxiety bout going as a trans person. So how do we combat that fear? How do we make trans people feel that they're going to be welcome?
Paris: Did you feel comfortable when you were there? [Audience member nods] [To Ariel] Should I keep on talking? Do you want to?
Ariel: No, you go.
Paris: How do you combat fear? I don't know, it's a tricky one, isn't it? I don't think there's a simple solution really, I think fear stops people from doing a lot of things, and with the whole 'getting out of bed thing' that I talked about, I suffer from depression and sometimes getting out of bed is really tricky. I fear getting out of bed some days, but I also fear death, and that's what helps me personally. I think about people that I know who've died, and it sounds so cheesy but that's what I think about when I... that's what gets me out of bed in the morning, I think 'come on, we've got to do it today because we're all going to be dead one day'. And it sounds a bit extreme but it's true, that's how I deal with fear.
It's difficult really, but I think that... we can't go along feeling comfortable, because if you seek spaces where you only feel comfortable, your world gets smaller and smaller and smaller until you can't leave your own house. And I've been there before as well. So, I just think... you have to keep challenging yourself as well as challenging bigotry and other people, it's not all but [to audience member] how much better did you feel for going? You know? It is rewarding, there is a payoff you know?
I was listening to a really interesting lecture, it was in the same hall actually, as Go Feminist, by Alain De Botton, and he was talking about pessimism and he was saying that people who always kind of avoid situations where there might be conflict or upset, and they try get rid of that very quickly. They're not... they're never... they're always going to be trapped in this comfortable world, but they're never going to experience true joy or happiness or fulfilment, because happiness and unhappiness are intrinsically linked and they're kind of two sides of the same coin. And I think it's really good to put yourself in situations where you don't feel comfortable, and that's the best thing that I could say to people who are fearful about putting yourself in certain positions, but it's hard, you know. Don't be too tough on yourself either, look after yourself as well. I think we can be really tough on ourselves sometimes and... don't beat yourself up over stuff.
Kate: Does that help?
Ariel: Just a brief response, really, to what Paris talked about, my own perspective would be that... when I face situations like that, I would sometimes go to an event with at least one other person, that's my approach to it. But yeah, I have [?] at a 'Mary Daly tribute event' which was, it was at a conference that was all-genders, but the Mary Daly event was women-only, and I didn't feel like challenging that, because I wasn't up for that that day.
And I feel like the flip-side to us challenging ourselves is that... we're seeing from a lot of the proper feminist community that when these toxic strands of [to Paris] as you were saying...when these toxic strands of anti-trans-feminism come up, people challenge them. I'm very very happy to see so many people that are not trans challenging them. I think we have to remember, also, that a lot of this anti-trans sentiment is just a few people that are very very vocal, and there's not that many of them. It's the same as the pro-life movement in a lot of places, that it's actually a minority movement, it's very small, but it's very vocal and very well-resourced. Now... oh wow, they must feel really angry if they're watching this, I just compared them to the pro-life movement [laughter].
Paris: I have something to add to that as well, that I didn't think about. I think that fear is quite easily converted into anger, and trying to do that, if you think 'oh, I'm afraid to go to this', then think 'well WHY should I feel afraid?' and just... another kind of bus incident... I got on a bus in Brighton once and the driver was, well she looked like a trans woman, you can never tell 100% obviously, and I don't like to play that game, but I read her as trans. I got on the bus, the bus got really busy, it really filled up, and this was at a time when I was completely stealth, and really wasn't confident, and didn't want to be noticed, just wanted to be tiny, in the corner, kind of thing...and she got off the bus to swap drivers round when we got to the depot. I saw these people who were in front of me going [fake whispering], like that, and pointing towards the front.
I was like 'oh, what's going on?', and I realised that they were kind of pointing at her and looking at her, and she walked down the side of the bus, the side that I was sitting on, and I could see these people in front of me going [fake whispering], and animatedly kind of whispering and pointing at her and laughing. The guy next to me got out a camera and went to take a picture of her, and I was getting so angry, and I really really didn't want to out myself in that situation, I felt quite vulnerable, and I was just so angry that my anger just consumed me and I just erupted. I said 'what the hell are you doing?', you know, 'what are you thinking of?' kind of thing, and I think that anger is good, but it's channelling it in a really positive way and that can be difficult to do sometimes, but I think fear can be converted into anger when necessary. So that's my advice.
Kate: I'm going to... just for a second... [to Paris] I hope you don't mind me saying something?
Kate: On the subject of fear, it just seems like the one thing that we haven't said is that quite a lot of people out there fear... sometimes you might feel fear and actually, you're right to feel fear. There is also a situation in which the correct response to fear is to go 'actually, I can't go to this event', or 'I can't attend this thing' or 'I can't get on this'... whatever it is, 'I can't go to this place' actually sometimes... you know, it's great to talk about how you can overcome fear, but we should also recognise that sometimes fear is very well placed, and actually sometimes the correct response to fear is to go 'actually I should not be going to this, this is not safe, this is not somewhere which I can go to'. Obviously I just don't want people to think 'I can overcome fear' and then put themselves at risk of violence or at risk of further abuse. If... you know, before you conquer your fear, make sure that it's a fear you'll benefit from conquering, not one that is quite rightly alerting you to a threat to yourself. [to audience member] Yes?
Question 4: I just wanted to know about transphobia in general society, because I'm from Exeter University and recently we got ourselves in the Telegraph, about one of our president candidates dressing up as a woman and campaigning.
Audience member: He's cisgendered.
Question 4: Yeah, a cisgendered man. And I just wondered how you approach that, and like, the culture of fancy dress, dressing up, and whether you found that as a level of transphobia or how that actually affected the approach to being trans?
Paris: [To Ariel] I've got something to say if you want?
Ariel: Go ahead.
Paris: I think... that that is an absolute can of worms [laughter].
Ariel: Me too, next question! [laughter]
Paris: Yeah. It's hard, because, you know, I see stuff sometimes, I think they had some Bounty adverts a couple of months ago - you know, it did make me laugh, because they were obviously cisgender blokes, just dressing up kind of thing. And then I had to ask 'well, why am I laughing at this?'. It's kind of that incongruence of expectation, you know, because you expect people to be a certain way... so, maybe we shouldn't find that funny, I find Dame Edna hilarious and I think it would be sad if we were to see the end of pantomime dames and drag.
But I guess it's sort of looking into how that humour's derived, and I think that if we're laughing at gender incongruence in people who are dressing up, it's hard to say 'well you can't laugh at gender incongruence in people who are gender incongruent because they were born a certain way and now they're transitioning', you know? So it's really really tricky and I don't think we've got to the bottom of that, and I think, when it comes to comedy, it's got a very dark, complex heart, so I don't really feel like I've got the answer for that.
But it's difficult, I remember watching Little Britain with people before, and I used to think it was really funny, Emily Howard, and some of the things I do laugh at, you know? And then I think 'no, they're actually laughing at me, but they're not laughing at me'... and it's a real grey area, and I think that actually, the general public don't actually know the difference between a trans woman and a pantomime dame and I think that is the problem actually, and I think that as trans people, and as allies, trans-feminists, we could probably sit and watch Little Britain and laugh at the things we think it's appropriate to laugh at, and if there was something a bit off we probably wouldn't. I think really, it's a lack of awareness of what trans identities actually are is the problem, if that helps?
Ariel: All that I have is that... in terms of people who are cis, or 'not-trans', men dressing up in women's clothing for fancy dress and stuff like that, I feel there's an aspect of that that like, people who are raised male in society, or are assigned male at birth, there's the enforcement of masculinity. It's often very abusive and violent for many people, and there is this constant policing of masculinity between men, I feel a lot of the time. And I feel that this... when you have the fancy dress and the humour, it can sometimes be like... it's the kind of way that you can't have any system that is completely... you have to have a pressure about, you know? And I think that it's a way in which this kind of enforced masculinity is kind of maintained, by saying 'oh, when you dress up in women's clothing, you are hilarious'. So I think there's an aspect of that.
At the same time, yeah, drag for example is like massively complicated. My take on it these days is like, well, drag is a medium of performance and just like everything else, like different kinds of theatre, or different kinds of film, it can be great and subversive, or it can be completely humiliating and horrible. Just like that.
Paris: I think as well, I know you mentioned transphobia, it's kind of sometimes useful to not always call things transphobic. I think that more and more I'm starting to think of society in terms of cisgenderism. Gavi Ansara, a researcher, is doing some work on this at the moment, and I think that actually cisgenderism is, for people who haven't heard the term before, is kind of like sexism to like... I can't think what's the word I'm looking for... you know, my mind's gone blank...
Paris: Yeah, misogyny. So that's how I'm thinking of things now, rather than transphobia. Apart from things that are basically transphobic, obviously.
Kate: I think there's something kind of broadly sexist about the notion that it's hilarious to get a cis guy and put him in a dress.
Kate: There's something... because, actually, as a cis woman, you can put a suit on and everyone just goes 'you look very smart'. But there's that sense of the idea that wearing a dress is innately humiliating, that there's something about appearing feminine is humiliating. Which somehow, the other way around, doesn't seem to work all that much. We don't see comedy acts that are a cis woman dressed as a guy, because that's not funny, is it? That's just a woman in a suit. But when you see a man in a dress, oh no, that's hilarious because he looks wildly awful. But to be honest, I think there's plenty more to hate about Little Britain to be honest [laughter]. I think we could get on with hating the whole thing, if I had time!
Paris: I think that's true, definitely, that when women are seen to pick up men's things it's acceptable, but for men to pick up women's things is laughable. But I do think it comes down to just kind of gender incongruence, actually. Because if a woman walked down the street like this [pretends to walk like a stereotypical burly bloke], I think she'd get laughed at, you know?
Ariel: Not in rural Ireland.
Paris: Maybe not! [laughter] I think Ireland... I didn't see that actually.
Ariel: It gets very confusing.
Paris: Really? Cultural norms [Ariel nods].
Kate: [to Ariel] What about Argentina? You're so far ahead of the rest of us...
Ariel: Yeah, completely, we have reached the gender utopia! [laughter] We have a female president, there's no...[sarcastic] you know, it's not like Argentina has ten times as many murders of trans people as the UK every year...OH WAIT. Yeah, well, I can't actually tell you in all honesty, because I've not lived in Argentina for eleven years.
Kate: Does anyone else have a question? Oh yeah we do, great.
Question 5: Did you always have family support when you transitioned?
Ariel: Uhm... yeah, my parents live in Ireland and it's... you know, it's been complicated, for them I guess. Like they had no idea or concept of trans people aside from... in Argentina it's interesting, because in Ireland, one thing that trans people talk about, Irish trans people talk about like how there is, like, 'trans' in the Irish popular culture does not exist almost. It's like, completely invisible. In Argentinean popular culture, there are certain trans identities that are very very visible, and you know, like regularly mocked and humiliated, in Argentina. The travesti community very big and like, you know, they're amazing, they're a large part of what got this legislation passed, they're incredible.
And...I feel, yes my parents can figure out all of this, eventually. They never kind of... I was very very lucky, they never kind of outright rejected me or whatever, but I'm very far from my extended family, and so I don't really... I mean, most of one side of the family knows, the other one doesn't because I don't care, and you know... that kind of thing. But mostly my parents have been, even if they use the wrong pronouns for me, whatever, they are very supporting and loving people and when I came out to my brother it was great, we were joking about it right away and it was fantastic.
Kate: I don't know if you wanted to ask the same question to Paris as well?
Audience member: Yeah.
Kate: [to Paris] If you want to say something, then...
Paris: Yeah, I mean, I think everyone goes on a bit of a journey with it. Just to go back to the room, could you put your hand up if you have a trans person in your family or your close friends? [About 2/3 of the room raise their hands] Quite a few people, but not everybody. That's probably the highest rate I've had that, because we go round to a lot of places and ask that, and there's usually kind of one person at the back [does impression of someone putting their hand up sheepishly] going like, you know [quiet voice] 'my aunty'.
Yeah, I think my mum's been on a bit of a journey, but she's arrived, which is good. I don't speak to my dad... he's not really on board with my identity, which is a shame - for him. But yeah, everyone's been really really cool about it, it hasn't really been an issue to be honest. So I think I've been very very lucky because I do have friends who have been kicked out of home and stuff. So it does still happen, but I think less so now, with younger people. And I think it's a lot easier to have family support, if you look at something like Jackie Green, she's going for Miss England, and whatever you think about that, she's living her life the way she wants to, and if you look at the younger generation of trans people who've got the support of their families and you know, they've got no limits. They can just go and do anything. So I think it's really really important to have that actually.
Kate: I might add that both Ariel and Paris have talked about having quite a lot of support from their family, but I think it would be fair to say that that's quite unusual.
Paris and Ariel: Yeah.
Kate: For a lot of people that's not the case. Certainly, when I put my hand up earlier, my very close friend, who's a trans woman, has absolutely no contact with her biological family, absolutely no contact with her adoptive family, having been adopted quite young... but both sides of the whole family. She recently has got back in touch with her daughter, but you know, out of perhaps twenty or thirty people that she could have maintained contact with, that's maybe has just managed to survive one relationship through that process, which...
Paris: Well, I was going to say, maybe that's why we're sitting here and we feel able to kind of tackle stuff, because how can you change things if you don't have the support and love?
Ariel: I would agree with that, like most... I would say that most trans people that I know have had either bad reactions from their family, or been rejected, or been in very long... it took a long time for their families to come to accept. And I would also say that's completely... I feel very lucky and privileged for that, and that it is... this is kind of like a lot of the times that, because you know when young people - a lot of trans people know from a very young age, I didn't, but when these things manifest themselves and parents react badly, it can contribute to long-term trauma I feel. This is one of the ways I feel that gender kind of norms are enforced, through the family. The family as a structure can be so beautiful and such a beneficial thing, but it can also be a completely destructive thing. So that was my long way of saying I agree.
Question 6: I just wanted to ask, because obviously you talked about the law change in Argentina, is there lobbying and campaigning for that sort of law to be passed in the UK, and if there is is there anything that we can do? Actions we can take, petitions we can sign, to support those kind of changes, or is that not something that's really active? Or are there other areas where the campaign has been centred?
Ariel: I can only really talk about Ireland, [to Paris] do you want to talk about the UK?
Paris: I don't want to say that everything's perfect in the UK, but I mean we do have legislation in this country, and that's why I felt that I wanted to focus my activism on the media, because actually we've won a lot of the legal battles, it's actually people's hearts and minds that we need to win now. But I think the Gender Recognition Act, it's not perfect. You don't have to have surgery to get legal recognition of your gender, but I know there's a couple of things that people are unhappy about, especially if you are married, you have to get divorced in order to get your legal gender recognised. So actually trans people have got quite a vested interest in the gay marriage debate. If gay marriage happened we won't really need to get the changes that we want, kind of thing. I don't think there's anything that we need to sign in terms of legal, but there are definitely ways that you can help. So yeah, maybe speak to me at the end or something.
Ariel: The situation in Ireland right now is that after a fifteen year long battle, Doctor Lydia Foy in Ireland two years ago, to have her gender recognised... we don't have legislation in Ireland. The Irish government kept appealing and eventually dropped its appeal and the current government, the partisan government have a raging commitment to gender recognition legislation. They created the Gender Recognition Advisory Group, or GRAG, which generated a report that came out last summer, suggesting what to, to minister Joan Burton, what the legislation should be like, and they asked for submissions from the public, doing their kind of advisory face or whatnot, that they had trans people and partners and family sent about what they wanted. A lot of us talked about our lives and said 'this is what should be had there'. And we were very disappointed when the report of the advisory group was basically a copy of the UK legislation, with all its imperfections, and adding some more. So for example, one of the requirements in this report, one of the recommendations is that people have to have availed of, or be planning to avail of, gender reassignment or gender reaffirmation surgery, which... and of course, the same requirement in terms of people who are married getting a divorce and...
Paris: The prisons are a problem as well. In Ireland, prisoners...
Ariel: Yeah. And it's just... it was... basically we were hoping for something that would be more progressive, more open than the UK legislation, because I mean what's, well, what's been suggested or recommended was something that's less. And you know, we're still working on it, and we're still lobbying with the government in our community and we're hoping that they will listen because I feel that , you know, one of the big fears that the Irish government has is that if you don't force trans people to divorce when they have their gender recognised, then you are having a legal same-sex marriage.
And in Ireland we have marriage, which is for the straights, and civil partnerships which are for the queers, and I've seen a bunch of them which have like... there's a massive list of differences in terms of the rights, children are not protected under civil partnerships, so they are very very scared of having to have that, and the really great thing that has happened is that... in my first year or two of activism in the trans community in Ireland I saw a lot of like, we were constantly trying to get heard, and now we have a lot of the broader LGBT organisations really incorporating us really really strongly in a lot of their campaigning around same-sex marriage. And so the trans community has become much much more visible in that way. But we have to keep up the pressure.
And the thing, when I was talking at the Dublin Civic Offices a couple of days ago, I opened by saying 'you can't say any more that there is no such thing as what we want, because Argentina has just passed it, and if you want, I can translate the PDF and it will just take me ten minutes and I will just email it to you, if there's any legislators around' [laughter]. But yeah, I think in Ireland we're really sorely in need of greater awareness about trans people. We've had some really good, positive friends in the media recently, and, you know, we have our share of transphobes - my favourite is Eilis O'Hanlon, who is just... who basically by disagreeing with her I was apparently... by disagreeing with her hating on trans people, I was 'intolerant' [exaggerated confused face] [laughter]. So yeah, I think, yeah - I am intolerant of intolerance. I'm not going to tolerate intolerance, what can you do? [laughter]
But at the same time we're having a lot of, a lot of really positive stuff coming from the Irish media. Because one of the interesting things about this invisibility of trans people in the Irish media is that a lot of... yeah, there are some people that have all the old cliches and all the old stereotypes that you see, whatever, but a lot of the time people are just like 'oh, trans? What is that? Just tell me, just come along to my programme and tell me', you know? So that kind of like, it's like positive ignorance, almost. You know, because there is no prewritten anything, and that allows us to put our stories through and put our politics through as well.
Paris: Just in terms of lobbying, I think intersex people are left out of equality legislation around the world. I don't think - I mean, correct me if I'm wrong somebody - but I actually don't think intersex people are included in the Equality Act 2010, and I know that's something that they're campaigning for, so if you wanted to help in terms of political lobbying for legislation, I think that intersex people would be really welcoming of allies actually, so yeah.
Kate: I think if it's alright, we might just wrap this session up, because we're massively overrunning.