Transition Your Views of Transphobia

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Today is the international day of transphobia and homophobia. So what is transphobia? The definition of transphobia in the Oxford Dictionary is “an intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people”, while the definition for homophobia is “an intense dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people”.

I would like to focus today on transphobia.

In the USA in the last couple of months there has been some significant activity. Some laws have been passed that don’t help the issue. Although these do not directly affect the UK; these laws don’t set a good precedent. I shall talk about the North Carolina House Bill 2, otherwise known as the “Bathroom Bill”. For those who are not aware of this, the North Carolina bill denies transgender people the use of the bathroom which matches their gender identity. This is justified on various grounds; that the gender you were assigned at birth is the gender you are and if you identify as something different then there must be something wrong with you, or that you must be some sort of predator, while there is also the fear that a straight man could dress in women clothes and say they are transgender just to get in to the women’s toilets so they could assault somebody. The other side to the “Bathroom Bill” is that a transgender person who has had sex reassignment surgery could be assaulted going into the bathroom. Opponents of the “Bathroom Bill” says that laws like these help promote transphobia and should never be considered for inclusion into law. There are also large companies opposed to the law and who are trying to get North Carolina to change their mind about the bill by threatening to take opportunities out of North Carolina. There have even been musicians and other entertainers refusing to perform there until the law is changed so that the transgender community can use the bathroom that they feel most comfortable using. But this isn’t just something that happens in America, it happens all over the world. While this is happening in America, in the UK trans and homosexual people are protected under the Equality Act of 2010 as these are protected characteristics under this legislation.

Whenever I leave the house I am constantly getting dirty looks and nasty comments from strangers just for going out dressed how I feel comfortable and this happens to trans people on a daily basis. Research has found that in America alone 41% of transgender and gender non-conforming have attempted suicide. This is in stark contrast to the national average of 4.6%. While there are many factors that drive trans people to attempt suicide one of the big factors is how people react to them and how employers treat them after they come out of the proverbial closet. Many trans people don’t feel safe using public toilets and would rather wait until they get home but when that is not possible shouldn’t they be able to ‘pee in peace’ in the toilet that they feel most comfortable using. The fact is trans people just want acceptance we don’t want to be treated like outcasts or freaks

Another factor in the attempted suicide rate is people using trans people as fetishes or sexually assaulting  trans people. It seems to be something which most if not all trans people go though and I get the feeling that whenever a trans person is seriously sexually assaulted that they try to go about life as if nothing has happened. Research suggests that approximately 50% of trans people have at some point experienced sexual violence and 1 in 10 trans people have been sexually assaulted in a healthcare setting. Even I have found myself victim to this and its always on occasions when I am feeling really low or almost suicidal. People message you with compliments and play with your insecurities to get things like photos or video chats and usually these are of a sexual nature; then when the chat is over I find myself feeling even worse but also used and violated to some extent. I have even found myself contemplating suicide after one occasion; but then I thought no why should I let people defeat me. I think because we as a society don’t openly talk about Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) issues that we have enabled discrimination to spread and the longer we avoid talking about these types of issues openly then discrimination and transphobia will continue to be a serious problem.

 

the links can be found below

No, High Suicide Rates Do Not Demonstrate That Transgender People Are Mentally Ill

National Statistics

 

 

 

Adapting To Bipolar Disorder In The Workplace

This guest blog has been contributed by Dianna Vail, who is researching mental disabilities and conditions in the workplace.

______

David Catillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the 1980’s Manic Depression was officially re-named Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is a mental health illness which affects the individual’s mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks, by swinging them from one extreme to another. These extreme mood states are more intense than for someone without Bipolar and can be distressing and overwhelming as well as having a massive impact on their lives. On one extreme the individual will feel low, lethargic and depressed, then on the opposite end they will feel very high and over-active. Sometimes individuals can also experience ‘mixed states’ which are a mixture of the other two states. These mood swings can last anything from hours, days, weeks or even months.

According to the NHS one in every one hundred adults at some point in their life will be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

People with Bipolar Disorder come under the protection of the Equality Act 2010 so therefore it is advisable for all employers to have a clear understanding of not only the Act but also of the employee in question. If the employee has disclosed that they have or think they have Bipolar, ask them to detail how it affects them and what support and treatment they are receiving. Do some research yourself and let them know you wish to understand and support them.

If the employee does not disclose yet you feel they have many traits of the condition do not approach them. All conversations regardless of them disclosing or not disclosing their illness must be done with tact as there may be stigma or concerns regarding stigma associated with the illness.

An individual with Bipolar may need to take more sick days than other employees without. An understanding environment should be established to prevent any unnecessary anxiety when phoning in sick. Allocate a supportive person for the employee to report sick days to. If possible ensure this person understands the illness. Try to establish a good rapport with the employee so that together you can look for triggers and then work towards reducing these triggers.

Treatment for Bipolar is tailored towards the individual and can be a combination of medication, counselling and lifestyle changes.

Medication can be in the form of mood stabilisers such as lithium carbonate, anticonvulsant medicines (such as valproate, carbamazepine or lamotrigine) or antipsychotic medicines (such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine or risperidone) and antidepressants. The side effects are varied and extensive, and include insomnia, nausea, anxiety, diarrhoea and constipation, shakiness, hair loss, weight gain or loss, muscle, joint and body pain, dizziness and headaches, blurred/double vision, tinnitus, fever, acne and skin rashes, to name a few.

Counselling could be either Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychoeducation or Family Therapy. All methods are designed to enable the individual to feel empowered and identify ways to change the negative patterns to positive ones.

Recommended lifestyle changes could be to do more exercise, have a healthy diet that minimizes caffeine and does not include alcohol or drugs and getting enough sleep. Reduction in anxiety levels can be helped by methods such as yoga or meditation. Regular routines are also normally recommended as well as reducing stress at home and at work.

If you have not already told your employer then that is something worth considering; if not your employer than at least tell a manager, supervisor or colleague. Having someone at work to confide in can help reduce anxiety levels and assist you in getting more support at work. The majority of companies state they have a zero tolerance to discrimination and with the protection of the Equality Act 2010 there is much support available to you. When telling someone at work be as honest as possible. Explain what side effects you might be experiencing and any triggers that you may be exposed to. By doing so the company can look at ways to work with you to limit the amount of time off you need and establish an environment that is beneficial to you.

Helpful Websites
http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/bipolar-disorder/#.Vt6sv1uLTnA
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Bipolar-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx
https://www.rethink.org/diagnosis-treatment/conditions/bipolar-disorder
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/bipolardisorder.aspx

Additionally there are also support groups on social media sites such as Facebook.

Disability – A Road Block or Just a Speed Bump?

Disability-issues+2

When most people think about disability they think about wheelchair users and usually that the person is elderly but the fact is that the word disability does not mean the the individual is going to use a wheelchair.

Having a disability does not usually mean that you have mobility issues. They can affect other areas of a person such as sensory or mentally. So what is a disability? A disability is a condition lasting 12 months or more that affect the individual’s ability to function on a day to day basis. This means that things like diabetes are classed as a disability so the chances are high that you know somebody who has a disability.

So why is it that we treat people who have a physical disability different to the way we treat other disabled people. I think this goes back to the times when we were hunter gatherers when a physical disability would have been seen as a sign of weakness. This makes individuals with disabilities feel that their condition makes them less of a person and then as such society treats them differently. This also applies to the workplace as well as some of individuals with disabilities would rather not inform the manager of their condition as they feel they could lose their job or be offered less work. They forget that the manager could help by making reasonable alterations if they require them.

What about the individuals with disabilities who don’t have a job and want to work. Society fails these individuals as even the job application process can be cumbersome and often bureaucratic and this can rule them out immediately.

I also believe that job agencies don’t help jobless individuals with disabilities. As most agencies are up a flight of stairs and don’t have a lift so individuals with mobility problems can’t give them their CV and insist on them emailing it to the agency. I think all agencies should be either down stairs or should have a lift in the building so the individuals can hand their CV to the agency in person but this is the real world and things are not always that simple. Sometimes individuals with disabilities feel like they are the bottom of society and feel like they have no rights

But individuals with disabilities do have the same rights as any other individual. They have the right to work. They also have the right to any reasonable adjustments to be made to avoid putting the individual at a disadvantage. They also can’t be chosen for redundancy just because they have a disability and the employer can’t force individuals to retire if an individual becomes disabled. A disability doesn’t have to be a road block it could just be a speed bump on the journey off life

So how can we change the way that we act towards individuals with disabilities? Well this isn’t the easiest thing to answer. Personally speaking, I treat disabled people as I treat anybody with respect and dignity. I don’t take much notice of an individual’s physical appearance, but I do notice if they require help to get something of a shelf or if they require some other type of help and this has no impact on the way that I am around a disabled person. It’s hard because people are different but I guess treating them with respect and dignity would be a good place to start.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/6

https://www.gov.uk/rights-disabled-person

Written by Matthew Tew – A colleague and close collaborator

What Is The Value Of Volunteering?

breaking_down_boundries_low_res_14This post is written by guest Blogger – Ian Bland

Many people who are unemployed for a significant period do some form of volunteering. This can be an excellent way not only to gain experience and even progress to paid work with the organisation they’re volunteering for, but also to maintain a connection with the working environment and gain social connections, avoiding a sense of isolation, which long term unemployment may induce, which can be debilitating psychologically.It can also promote diversity in employment.

It’s probable that most people would agree with the above paragraph, but if you read it through again you might notice that it is entirely framed in terms of benefits the volunteer gets from their volunteering. In discussions with other group members about their volunteering experiences, it occurred to me that this might not be the best way to look at it- or, at least, not the best way to present volunteering when applying for a job or, particularly, in an interview situation.

To understand why, we have to think about the concept of value, in economic terms. Job hunting is all about value in the market economy, and in particular the applicant needs to convince the employer that, firstly, hiring them will bring positive net value to the company or organisation and, secondly, that they will bring greater value to the company than all the other applicants. For people with disablities, this can be problematic and there is a tendency to think in terms of being hired despite the disability and thus an implicit assumption that the company will receive less value than by hiring some other candidate; and if that is the mindset, then it does indeed make sense for the company (who are naturally trying to maximise the value obtained from employees in terms of productivity) to just choose somebody else. Therefore, the main thought from the employer is not about improving diversity in employment, but rather, how does this affect the ‘bottom line’.

Thus, if we consider volunteer work- or indeed former paid work- it’s very useful for the disabled applicant to think and present themselves in terms emphasising the value they brought to the organisation they have volunteered for. So, rather than thinking like my first paragraph- in which I described things that the person got out of volunteering, they can do themselves a service by thinking in terms of things that they brought to the organisation. A charity uses volunteers because those volunteers do work that needs doing- not, in fact, as a favour to them. That means that the volunteers have brought value to the organisation by giving it their time and skills.

What are those skills? They may be physical skills. They may be administrative/organisational skills. They may be customer service skills. Perhaps our hypothetical candidate brought better organisation and presentation of goods for sale in a charity shop, or made it a more welcoming environment for customers. Perhaps they have participated in designing promotions. Perhaps they simply better organised a stock room, or kept the shop areas particularly clean and tidy (which retailers will understand is a very important part of the customer experience). Perhaps our candidate was flexible in their working patterns and always ready to help out in a jam- these are attributes which are appealing to employers seeking to hire for flexible working hours.

So in essence, although of course you may describe at an interview various useful skills acquired from volunteer work, by presenting the value you have brought to that organisation in your time with them, a far more positive impression will be created than focussing on what you got from them or how they helped you, and this will help dispel the implicit framing that you are asking to be hired despite your disability; instead, you are a potential asset who will bring to the employer the value that you brought to the volunteer position.

One Small Victory at Last!

I rejoice at the recent news of 5 disabled people winning their legal challenge (under the equality act) against the government in their decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF). The ILF as the name suggests has for many years been a crucial piece of funding that has assisted disabled people to live more independently. For a number of years now we have seen constant attacks on disabled people in the form of crucial cuts to benefits and services and indeed many disabled people are described as shirkers and scroungers.

In the court of appeal hearing the five disabled people argued that the previous High Court had misinterpreted the law and additionally there had been a lack of consultation.
The 5 disabled people also argued successfully that without the ILF funding they would be forced to live in residential care.

As I stated in March when discussing the compulsory assessments of disabled people by ATOS in receipt of Disability Living Allowance ‘….. these changes have added up to people living in poverty and potentially endangering their lives. We will end up seeing less disabled people being able to access services and the social diversity that we strive for will become a thing of the past.’ Clearly if this decision had been upheld and the Equality Act had not been in place then this would have had even graver implications for disabled people than currently.

The government’s idea was to devolve responsibility for the funding to local authorities. I must say that I was never overjoyed by this idea based on my experience over many years of local authority funding for disabled people being continually and systematically cut. I am also of the strong opinion; that once the devolved process had taken place that the money would in a short time cease to be ring-fenced. I guess then we all know where this would be heading.

It is interesting to note that the decision was quashed on the basis that ‘the minister had not specifically considered duties under the Equality Act, such as the need to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people and, in particular, the need to encourage their participation in public life.’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24834558 accessed 7th Nov. In this case the Equality Act has clearly done it’s job in protecting people as is the intention.

I have already mentioned on numerous occasions that the government are going some to try and save money and in turn appear to be wasting it at every turn. In this case I’m sure the legal bill has stacked up quite nicely. I am also concerned that the government is considering appealing the ruling and wasting more money in the process. Therefore, my final appeal to them is to accept the verdict and get on with improving the life chances of disabled people.