Voice and Movement: Free Workshops for All Trans People

Galop have asked me to publish a series of free workshops in London on Thursday evenings from 21st March.

Galop in association with Central School of Speech and Drama invite you to:

Voice and Movement: More Free Workshops for All trans* people
Following on from the success of the first series, Galop is offering another chance for you to participate in these innovative workshops. The sessions will involve using your voice to connect to your body, to challenge, explore and celebrate your own senses of self – however that manifests itself for you. We’ll use deep relaxation techniques and elements of Yoga and the Alexander technique to understand breath; for example, how the muscles in our bodies produce the breath which supports the sounds we make. We’ll be experimenting with the different places sound resonates in our bodies (and the different qualities of sound these make), and exploring the pitch and range of our voices. We’ll combine this voice work with movement; for example, we’ll use our understanding of breath and support to dance the waltz together in session 2. These sessions will be a chance to explore and embrace your physical sides in playful and experimental ways. Whether you’re a commanding leader or expressive partner, you can decide: and of course you’re free to interpret and move between different roles as you wish. There will be plenty of time for reflection and feedback in the sessions. All are welcome, playfulness encouraged! When? 8 week course, Thursday evenings 7-9 from 21st May. Where? Central School of Speech and Drama Spaces are limited so to find out more or book your place, contact Ben Gooch by phone 0207 704 6767 or email to benjamin.gooch[at]galop.org.uk (make the usual replacement to get a valid email address). 

About the tutors: Glen Snowden. Glen trained at the Royal Ballet School, and has danced extensively with Ballet Companies in Europe, North America and South East Asia. He works at the Drama Centre London where he also teaches a number of styles including jazz, ballet, historical and social dance. Helen Ashton Helen trained at The Central School of Speech and Drama, graduating with Distinction from the MA in Voice Studies. She has taught at various London Drama Schools and worked extensively in community settings, through Knowledge Transfer at CSSD. Helen is committed to helping people from all walks of life to communicate expressively and with ease.

About Galop Galop is London’s anti violence charity; we offer confidential advice and support to people who have witnessed or experienced transphobia. Our helpine number is 0207 704 67 07. Want to find out more about us? Visit http://www.galop.org.uk Come as you are be you trans, FTM, MTF, woman, man, TV, TS, bi-gender, ambi-gender, androgyne, CD, gender queer, or your own special creation.

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What is transphobia?

Sometimes the easiest answer to that question is just to point people in the direction of an article that is nakedly transphobic – like this one.

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Who oversees the overseer?

A few days ago, Christine Burns, formerly of Press for Change (PfC) posted an article on her personal blog asking whether the Equality and Human Rights Commission is trying to “forget” trans people.  Many trans people feel let down by EHRC.  An analysis of their website shows little action on trans issues – press releases may mention gender reassignment in a tag cloud of equality issues, but there’s nothing recent at all in terms of anything substantial on trans issues.  I Googled on the name of the chairman, “Trevor Phillips” and “gender reassignment” to see when he last spoke on gender reassignment.  I got bored before I found any matches.  Speaches on women’s issues and a lot on race, but precious little if anything on gender reassignment.

Hmmm.  Disappointing.

You’d have thought that after Thomas Hammerberg’s statement in December that “Discrimination against transgender persons must no longer be tolerated” that EHRC would have got the message and spoken up on trans issues.  If nothing else, the Human Rights Commissioner had given EHRC a perfect platform to stand up and say, “We agree with the Commissioner.  Discrimination against trans people can no longer be tolerated.  Discrimination itself can no longer be tolerated against any class of people.”

Only they didn’t.   Hmmmm.  Concerning.

In fact there’s not even a mention of Hammerberg’s release on the EHRC website.  The Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe has issued a hardhitting viewpoint calling for an end to discrimination on one of the statutory strands of discrimination that the EHRC is supposed to promote and it doesn’t ever merit a link on the site.

Hmmmm, that’s downright worrying.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is supposed to be the champion of trans people against discrimination and transphobia, just as they are the champions against discrimination on grounds of race or gender.  Only there’s no evidence that they are fulfilling that role.  In fact, rather than listing gender reassignment as it’s own equality stream, they keep trying to roll it in to gender.  If gender reassignment ceases to be a stream then EHRC doesn’t need to do anything about trans issues because they are part of the gender stream and EHRC can show it’s doing a lot on that stream.

I suspect Christine’s timely article has touched a few nerves within the trans community and that EHRC will be called to account.  But if they ignore online blog posts and letters to them, where will we go next?  Who oversees the overseer when the overseer goes to sleep?  Let’s hope we don’t need to find out and that EHRC in the next few weeks will get off their backsides and demonstrate that they understand trans issues and are committed to fighting trans discrimination.  It’s not as if there is a shortage of issues.  The many discriminatory provisions in the Gender Recognition Act. PCTs refusing funding.  Transphobic bullying in schools.  Transsexual adolescents being unable to get puberty blockers on the NHS.  Lack of attention to discrimination against those who are transgendered but not transsexual.   Problems with transsexual immigrants being deported even thought they will face persecution.  Pension issues as highlighted by Thomas Hammerberg.

Hmmmm.  Ahhhh.  Perhaps that’s the problem.  The majority of the discrimination is being perpetrated by the public sector.  The EHRC would need to call the Government to account and they seem reluctant to rise to that challenge.

But if they don’t do much more for trans people and soon then I foresee national newspapers asking how EHRC can have credibility in equality issues if they so manifestly fail to act to support one of the most vulnerable groups in society.  Having spent time with trans people over the past couple of years, I have learned that they are generally inclined to let things go but all of a sudden reach a tipping point at which their complaints become very vocal.  It happened with Stonewall and, if the EHRC don’t pull their collective fingers out and soon, I foresee it happening again with the EHRC.

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Spanish trans woman in custody battle

Alexia Pardo is a trans woman in Spain whose ex-wife has refused to allow Alexia to see her son when she started hormones.  The Spanish Constitutional Court has refused a hearing to discuss the case and Alexia has vowed to take her case to the European Court.  One has to feel sorry for Alexia.  Even if she wins, the case will take time during which she won’t see her son grow up.

Internationally this may be an important case and set precedents across Europe.

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Trans woman killed in Belgrade

Given that transsexuals make up such a small fraction of the population, the regularity of murders demonstates the high homicide risk – especially for trans women.  The latest victim is Minja Kočiš who was found dead in her Belgrade flat at the weekend.   She had been stabbed twice in the stomach.  There was no sign of robbery so the Serbian police are working on the basis that the murder was probably somebody she knew.

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Murder of Honduran trans activist

Human Rights Watch are calling for an investigation into the murder of Cynthia Nicole who was shot and killed on 9th January 2009.   Cynthia was a leading activist fighting for transgendered rights in Hondurus, working closely with many transgendered sex workers.  Cynthia was shot three times in the chest and head and it seems likely that she was deliberately targetted and that her murder was not a random event.

The situation for trans people in Honduras is volatile.  Human Rights Watch report:

Nicole’s murder comes as violence targeting Honduras’s transgender community appears to be on the rise. In November and December 2008 there were attacks, two of which were fatal, against five other transgender people by unknown assailants. On November 20, an attacker killed Yasmin, a transgender sex worker and colleague of Nicole. The next day, on November 21, an attacker shot Bibi, another transgender sex worker, while she was working in the Obelisco, a park in the center of Comayaguela. On December 17, an attacker stabbed Noelia, a third transgender sex worker, 14 times. In addition to these attacks, on December 20, members of the police assaulted a transgender activist doing HIV/AIDS outreach work in Tegucigalpa.

For more details refer to the full HRW article here.  Frontline has a few more details and a picture of Cynthia.

In September, Ali Bracken reported on the human rights situation in Honduras.  Her full reportis worth reading but  an extract of the words of the pre-op transsexual Nicole Moreno paints a clear picture of life for trans women in Honduras:

My family didn’t want to know me. They don’t accept my sexuality. I got a job selling beauty products but it didn’t earn much. No-one else will give a transsexual a job. So I’m back on the streets again. I earn $5 for a blow job, $10 for sex in a car and $20 for going to a motel. I always tell customers I’m a transsexual, otherwise they might get violent. It’s very homophobic here, so it’s dangerous. I’m saving up for my sex change operation. I’ve spoke to a surgeon and he’ll do it for $3,500. He’s never done it before; no-one in Honduras has. I’d be the first. It costs about $15,000 in the US. I’ll probably go back there to work as a prostitute and then come back here to get my surgery. I think about it every day. It’s all I want from life.

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Man guilty of muder of trans woman

Twelve years after the murder of 23 year old Robyn Brown in Februray 1997, James Hopkins from Leeds has been found guilty of her murder. BBC News has the story

I’ve not read any evidence that Robyn Brown was killed because she was transsexual; however, like many trans people she had ended up as a sex worker – an occupation in which the risks of violence are high.

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