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

 

 

 

Reflections On World Autism Day

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David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the 2nd of April just having gone I have been thinking how many people actually understand what autism is and know how best to help or support a colleague who has autism.

What is autism? Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a mental condition that is present from early childhood. It is characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people, and using language . ASD is often referred to as a hidden disability, this being down to the fact that people with the condition don’t appear to have any obvious differences from people without the condition.

Along the autism spectrum there are other conditions such as Asperger Syndrome and Pathological Demand Avoidance. The latter is a less well known condition in which the sufferer cannot process direct instruction normally, which causes significant problems in social and learning situations.

As these conditions are not physically noticeable, many people suffer bullying and harassment, therefore many who have the condition dislike telling people about their condition, which can result in them not accessing the support that they need. This in turn can expose them to even more bullying and harassment and can ultimately affect their health and cause them to become even more withdrawn and in many cases they can lose their job . People with Asperger Syndrome and high functioning autism can very often be lacking in communication and interaction skills, but they commonly have increased intelligence. Often they can become focused on a topic they find interesting; this could be something like trees, or they might like trains and will know in depth details about the subject and enthusiastically talk about them for as long as people will listen.

How does this affect people? There are three main areas where difficulties with social interaction can occur. These are difficultly with social communication, social interaction and social imagination. People along the autistic spectrum have trouble understanding empathy; they may not understand things like knowing when they have gone too far in a social situation or the effects that their behaviour is having on others’ perception of them.

Only 15% of people who have autism are in full time education even though 79% of autistic people on benefits would rather be in employment. Most of all they need the right support and the opportunity to make ambition a reality. There are companies who offer training on how best to help and support people with ASD.

For more information about autism spectrum disorder I will leave a couple of helpful links-

http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx
http://www.autismconcern.org/
http://www.autism.org.uk/

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.

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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?

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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

I Am Who I Am- My Transgender Experience

This blog has been written by trans contributor Matthew/Megan in order to express her feelings on a very personal issue which is often not discussed openly, but which fortunately is now becoming more recognized in society.

The issue that I would like to discuss is the discrimination against the LGBT community and how people that have not ‘come out of the closet’ feel about taking their first nerve wracking steps out. Although being LGBT is more common nowadays it seems that there is still has a stigma attached. This might come as a surprise, as research shows that one in two young people say they are not 100% heterosexual. (Source: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/08/16/half-young-not-heterosexual/)  So if this is the case why does the stigma still exist and why hasn’t it been dispelled?  I think this might have something to do with fear of the unknown.

I feel that people find it easy to discriminate against the LGBT community, maybe because they are perceived to wear different clothes or act differently. I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr whenever I think about discrimination, in particular, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I feel that this fits perfectly with what I am writing about.

There are two sides to a person’s gender. There is the physical appearance and there is the psychological side. For most people these are the same; however in some people they are not the same. The physical state doesn’t match the psychological one. Sometimes one is more dominant than the other.

My birth name is Matthew. I was born a male but at the age of 5, I started to wonder if I was born in the right body. I found myself identifying more as female. At the age of 6 I was caught by my dad wearing my step sister’s clothes. I got a smack across the back of my hand and although I told my dad that I felt like I was born in the wrong body, I got told off for this and was told that “people like that end up in a hospital”. After coming home from school the next day my dad had told my mother what he had seen and my mother then also told me off for wearing my step sister’s clothes. My mother made me feel like this was wrong and that there must be something wrong with me.

After being told off I felt as if nobody would understand what I was going through, so I locked it away and tried to hide from the ‘elephant in the room’. Feeling like there was no solution to the way that I felt I started to become depressed.

And then when I turned 15 I was attacked. This brought the feeling that I was in the wrong body back to the surface, but knowing that I couldn’t talk to my parents about it because they wouldn’t understand I suffered in silence. By the age of 18 or 19 I had been diagnosed with depression due to the attack I went through and problems that were going on at home again. I felt nobody would understand. I am now 25 and have been attending Mind for almost a year and am finally realizing that if I don’t try to find the right type of help then I am never going to be the person that I was born to be. I have also been volunteering with St John Ambulance for a couple of months now and the part that I was fearing the most was informing them. I have since informed my unit manager and she was very sympathetic and informed me that there are already a number of transgender volunteers in the organization, that the uniform is gender neutral and there is a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination in the organization.

It seems like having a gender identification problem has become a little less of a social taboo and that society as a whole is a little more open minded than it has been in the past towards LGBT issues, but even with this openness it seems that people from the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) communities are constantly discriminated against, despite the Equality Act. I get the impression that people are scared of anything that doesn’t abide by the normal male and female relationship. It feels like coming out as Transgender or gay is the scariest thing one will ever do and I’m sure most of that comes from the fear of rejection from friends, parents and from society, but is this something that should be feared? If loved ones can’t bring themselves to accept you for who you identify as, whether that be female, male or some other combination surly that is their loss as you are still the same person; its just you have grown tired of trying to hide the fact that you identify as something that is not the norm.

Research has shown that LGBT youth have a higher rate of suicide attempts than heterosexual youth. Surely this shows how hard it is in today’s society for the LGBT community, that most would rather attempt suicide than find the help and support that they require. It is my opinion that more support should be given in schools, or that students should be put in touch with support groups so that the future generations don’t grow up with such disdain for the LGBT communities. All you have to do is look in the media at the moment more people are coming out of the proverbial closet and proving that someone’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with what that person can  or can’t do. I know more and more charities are trying to help dispel the fears that people have. Its not like someone wakes up one morning and decides that they want to be the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual. I doubt anyone would want to willingly face the amount of discrimination that the LGBT community has to put up with, that much that most of the time they would rather be invisible.

For anyone going through this type of situation or for any one that has loved ones going through this I shall leave some links-

http://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-advice/coming-out-0

https://lgbt.foundation/

http://www.akt.org.uk/

-and finally I think the only advice I can give is that suicide is never the answer. There is always help out there even if it’s not always the easiest thing to find.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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.

Equality Between The Sexes Worse In BritainThen Some African Countries

On Monday the chair of Sport Wales, Professor Laura McAllister told an audience of business directors that it is up to all of those in leadership positions to encourage more women to go for top jobs.

She was speaking at a United Nations International Women’s Day lunch hosted by the Institute of Directors (IoD) (source: walesonline)
I would echo her call that it is indeed up to people who are at the higher echelons of business and other organisations to encourage women to reach high positions in their companies.

The shocking statistic is that Britain for all its ground-breaking work in equality legislation that we are 18th in the latest rankings for gender equality ranking well below some African countries. In addition, many top companies have a very low representation of females in non-executive roles. In the FTSE it is only 24% while in the next 150 companies this figure is even lower.

Professor McAllister doesn’t just say that this situation must change. She also points out the many benefits of diversity such as improving a company’s corporate profile and the clear evidence that productivity increases. She proves this by citing the Kinsey Report.

She is of course speaking from a position of authority as being a former Wales international footballer she should know a thing or two about what makes a successful team and has obviously appreciated the benefits of diversity that her former teammates brought.

I was very heartened to read that from April the board of Sport Wales will be 55% female and 45% male. This is in stark contrast to previously when it was predominantly made up of males. This hasn’t happened overnight; in fact, Sport Wales set out a clear strategy to create greater diversity on their board. I will certainly be watching with interest to see how things develop with Sport Wales over the next few years.

I firmly believe that proactive steps need to be taken to ensure greater diversity and going forward we will then reap the benefits of diversity across all organisations. One of the positive changes that could take place is to establish firm criteria for encouraging not just women but members of all sections of society to aspire in their chosen profession.

This may need particular targeting towards members of a specific group who are currently underrepresented. So that those people believe that they are able to enter and progress in their chosen career.

One of the most positive initiatives I have come across was in a particular company which ran a ‘Rising Stars’ scheme. The basis of this was that managers within the company were given particular training on recognising positive traits and potential that their employees had. Once the ‘Rising Star’ was identified, they were given specific mentoring, for both their current role and looking towards progression through the company.

One particular lady that I worked with was identified very early on by her manager as a potential ‘Rising Star’. She was then provided with one to one mentoring by a more senior member of staff and her career blossomed. She went from working in the warehouse, being rapidly promoted through the ranks to her current position as transport analyst.

This is just one example of a positive scheme which can have a lasting effect and show the benefits of diversity in the workforce and at all levels in an organisation.

Cultural Diversity And The Case For A Non-White Spider-Man

Black SpidermanIt is with interest that I read the recent news concerning the debate about whether the new Spider-Man could be black. For anyone who is not up to date with it; the story is concerning a deal between Sony Pictures and Walt Disney which means that Spiderman may feature in a new Avengers movie. The current comic version of Spiderman (Miles Morales) has a Hispanic and black background. Morales became the new Spiderman when Peter Parker died. (Source: BBC News Online).

This got me thinking more widely about the representation of cultural diversity in its widest sense on TV. I remember back to my childhood and most of the children’s characters were white, but also importantly spoke Received Pronunciation (R.P.). As a white, Scottish young person, this representation had very little in common with me. It didn’t stop my enjoyment of them but I believe I may have had even greater enjoyment and fulfilment had the people I saw on TV reflected my cultural background more.

This has come into stark focus for me recently as my 10 month old daughter has become more interested in TV. This invariably means that I have to sit through and endure various programmes including: Waybuloo and Balamory.

It has been quite an eye-opener for me as I often see people represented from across the whole spectrum of our culturally diverse society. They even have a Makaton and British Sign Language programme aimed at very young children.

I think this is great news for the future as our young people grow up knowing about difference and begin to appreciate social diversity, cultural diversity and probably most importantly the benefits of diversity.

I must admit to not really paying much heed to children’s TV the last few years, so was unaware that this significant change had taken place. In that respect we have to applaud the programme makers and acknowledge what a great job they have done. As an equality and diversity practitioner that is really all I can ask for.

Returning to Spider-Man, I think that this is a great move if it comes off and hopefully will pave the way for greater cultural diversity represented in future Walt Disney productions. I believe for many years Walt Disney has taken the easy option of only representing white people in their films with very few exceptions.

In relation to Walt Disney productions, they havea huge impact on children (you only have to look in any toy shop). And they can have both a positive or negative effect. I hope that they take the decision to show many different faces to young people.

Some fans have although branded this move as ‘political correctness’ and have demonstrated their anger. I don’t believe it is suchand agree with Don Slott, the current writer of the ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ comic books. On twitter he tweeted “A non-white child is playing with a Spidey action figure, would YOU go up to him & say: ‘You can’t be Spider-Man.’”

The reality is that by showing greater cultural diversity then it promotes positive images of all sections of society and in turn helps us to appreciate each of our differences but also the many similarities that we share.