From my original thread posted on Twitter.
Mermaids Gender have held a webinar on conversion therapy on their Instagram account. Hosted by Alex Woolhouse, Mermaids in-house solicitor, who is a man who transitioned whilst at University. They were discussing the government’s recent U-turn on removing trans people from the legislation and the guidance from the EHRC on single sex spaces.
His co-host were Alice and Keith. Alice is a woman who is a they/them and local groups manager, including online groups and all across the UK. Probably mid-20s. Keith is a similar age, a woman clearly on testosterone and she has he/they pronouns. She works as a helpline service officer.
Alex told us the session was aimed at young people to give guidance and reassurance. First up was the EHRC guidance. ‘They’re not the government,’ Alex told us, and that the guidance ‘was not the law’ but rather was giving suggestions about how the law could be interpreted. Alex told the audience they could use whichever single sex service they wanted ‘in line with your gender identity’. Unfortunately it had given a few really unhelpful examples, for example if people feel uncomfortable sharing spaces with trans people.
‘We know it’s very normal to share single sex spaces with trans people and it happens all the time,’ said Alex. Alice backed Alex up and stated that this wasn’t the law and that the youngsters should carry on doing what they were doing. She repeated this a few times.
Schools were also still open access and Alice recognised most of the viewers were still in school and recommended that they make contact with her. The priority was to keep safe, in public and online. If you are challenged on your use of a single sex space you didn’t need to ‘out’ yourself or explain your gender.
Being online at the moment is a scary place and perhaps it was best not to look at too much stuff (typical cult advice). Look out for cute animals and sunsets instead. Also remember that these issues aren’t arising because of you or your gender, it was because people weren’t educated about trans peoples’ lives.
Then Keith updated us. She admitted she had no idea what was going on and then directed viewers to the help sheet online (the one which says this does not constitute legal guidance- oops). It was an easy to follow guide which explains it in an understandable way – so check it out.
Keith said if your teachers were confused or scared they could always call Mermaids or Web chat. If you needed extra support, or anyone you know, please contact us.
Alex then moved onto the recent conversion therapy decision by government. He explained that conversion therapy was ‘any kind of therapy or way in order to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity’. Government said it would only support a ban for same sex attracted people, but not trans people (because of the conflict, but obviously Alex didn’t mention that). Alex emphasised that many people online were very critical of this (remember only a minute ago SM was full of negative voices?).
Alex said that trans people were much more likely to experience conversion therapy than ‘cisgender people’ (i.e. he was really saying gays and lesbians). Alex said the government had abandoned them because it was ‘too difficult’ to enact.
Keith told us that Mermaids had put another guide on the website and to write to your MP. She also recommended people contact Galop, who were also documenting conversion therapy abuses in the UK.
Alice told us that the U-turn would not make access to ‘healthcare’ (i.e. puberty blockers) more difficult. If you’re having any difficulty around these issues ring the Galop or Mermaids helpline (basically they don’t want their users to make the connection between being gay and feeling like they don’t fit it). Alice told us the ‘sense of community’ would help people pull through this. This exclusion had ‘broken’ the community a bit and that some trans people were LGB as well. The community was ‘solid’ and everyone had to pull together. We had all experienced ‘euphoria’ in our lives and these were important experiences to hold onto. There were a lot of allies on our side. The community had a lot of residence and had ‘survived absolutely everything’. Remember the sense of community. Drop in sessions and online groups run by Mermaids were available.
Mermaids are also setting up an ‘activist group’ called Mango, which would also be a project to ‘learn about our history’. (At the time of writing the original thread the content to the page was password protected. Remember these are children accessing material online – are parents not allowed to see?)
Alex asked Alice and Keith for any final thoughts. Keith said she knew that being under attack, as the community was, was tiring. Please look after yourself and find the thing which helps you. Have a chat to mum and have a cup of tea. Find hobbies. Get outside. Paint your nails. Mermaids has your back. Ring the helpline. Keith is now 24 and was a trans teenager back in the day. She remembers feeling confused and lost, but things do get better.
Alice said ‘we do got this’. A couple of times. Things are rubbish at the moment and your feelings are completely valid.
Just exist and be yourself, but if you want to get involved in the activism that’s great. Be trans and proud. Alex rounded off by saying know who you are.
The webinar is still available on Instagram if you want to watch it.
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