Over the last 40 years, more than 5,000 people in Britain have successfully changed sex. Many are now successfully living in their now recognised gender, but there’s little doubt that most if not all transgender people will experience harassment and discrimination because of their gender identity at some point in their lives.
Most transgender people want to change their name and personal details as well as their physical appearance (which may involve hormone therapy and major surgery) and live as a member of the gender with which they identify, but until recently this has not been possible. However, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 created a way to gain legal recognition by applying to have their case heard by a Gender Recognition Panel (www.grp.gov.uk) and obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). For this, transgender people must have been living in their new identity for at least two years but, for various reasons, there are many transgender people who cannot acquire a GRC and who therefore still do not receive full legal protection.
Now a new support network for transgender people has been established in Somerset. Set up by Equality South West, a registered charity and England’s first regional equality and diversity body, the network aims to raise awareness around transgender equality issues in the region.
Backed by several of the region’s councils and primary care trusts, together with the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, the group of transgender individuals will work with agencies to ensure that transgender issues are addressed. The group provides a valuable source of expertise and knowledge on issues such as employment rights and training, and is open to any transgender individual.
Launched recently, the Transgender Network, which provides a safe environment for discussion and involvement, aims to meet four times a year and, as well as providing support and advice, will look at how existing discrimination law is enforced. At it’s inaugural event the group agreed to concentrate its activities on five main areas: education; employment; family; health and mental health. The launch also featured a speech from Christine Burns, the writer and transgender activist who was awarded an MBE for her services to Gender Issues in the 2005 New Year’s Honours List.
Paul Dunn, Chief Executive of Equality South West, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of transgender issues in the South West. The Network is committed to tackling all discrimination which Transgender people may face not only in the workplace, but also within society generally.”
Equality South West. East Reach House, East Reach, Taunton, Somerset. TA1 3EN Tel: 01823 250833, email: firstname.lastname@example.org