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Newsletters > To Be Who I Am > 2011 > November

To Be Who I Am

ISSN 1179-0210 November, 2011


Kia ora, talofa lava, malo e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, nisa bula vinaka, kia orana and welcome to the November 2011 edition of the To Be Who I Am e-newsletter. This issue is full of new resources for schools, health professionals, employers, youth workers, trans people and their families including:

  • a trans human rights poster to be launched on Transgender Day of Remembrance
  • FAQs for schools as part of the Commission’s new online fact sheets: Trans people: facts and information Continue reading…

  • the latest international standards of care for the health of trans people (released on 25 September)
  • the first New Zealand guidance for health professionals (released on 1 August)
  • recent changes in Australia that improve trans and intersex people’s ability to change sex details on passports and birth certificates
  • details of some Transgender Day of Remembrance events in New Zealand
  • how to find out what is happening internationally on gender identity and sexual orientation human rights issues, including how to be involved.
  • New trans resources for NZ schools

    • How can schools support trans students and their families?
    • What name and pronoun should be put on a trans student’s school documentation?
    • What uniform or dress code applies to trans students? Continue reading…
  • Who needs to know that a trans student is enrolled at the school?
  • What changing area should trans students use?
  • If trans students want to play sport which team should they play for?
  • These are just some of the questions answered in Supporting trans students, one of the FAQs in the Commission’s new set of fact sheets Trans people: facts & information. These bright-coloured resources include images of people from around the world who attended the inaugural Pacific and Asia regional trans and intersex hui in March 2011.

    The fact sheets talk about common human rights issues faced by whakawāhine, tangata ira tane, fa’afafine, fakaleiti, akava’ine, trans, gender queer and other gender diverse and gender questioning people. They include Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), links to community groups, resource lists and workshop outlines.

    The full set or individual fact sheets can be downloaded here and include:

    A. FAQ: Supporting trans students

    B. FAQ: Transitioning at school

    C. LINKS: Some trans groups and networks

    D. LINKS: Trans youth

    E. LINKS: Some trans-inclusive groups and networks

    F. RESOURCES: Trans people and employment

    G. RESOURCES: Health

    H. RESOURCES: Terminology

    I. RESOURCES: Trans children, youth and their families

    J. WORKSHOP: Trans 101

    K. WORKSHOP: Young and Trans

    Transgender Day of Remembrance

    Transgender Day of Remembrance poster

    The 20th November 2011 is the 13th International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Two New Zealand commemorations are being held a week later on 29 November. They are a chance to remember Diksy Jones who was killed in Upper Hutt in 2009, aged 64. Diksy was a quiet, gentle, cabinet-maker who loved old cars, cricket and cats. TDOR also demonstrates the power and resilience of trans communities speaking out against violence, proudly being who they are. Continue reading…

    In Auckland: GenderBridge has a community event at St Matthew-in-the-City at 7pm on Tuesday 29 November. The church is on the corner of Wellesley and Hobson Streets. BYO a plate of food to share.

    In Hamilton: Agender Waikato, in conjunction with Hamilton Pride, are holding a Transgender Day of Rememberance at the Riff Raff statue Hamilton at 7pm, 20th November. Local politicians are invited to attend and those who attend usually give a short speech.

    In Christchurch: the recently reopened Te Whare Puakitanga / Transition House will be holding a community meeting from 7-9pm on 29 November. Nau mai, haere mai koutou – everyone is welcome. Contact Cherise Witehira on (03) 372-9298 or agenderchch@clear.net.nz for the address.

    The Human Rights Commission would really like to hear about any other Transgender Day of Remembrance events around New Zealand this year. Please send any details to juliew@hrc.co.nz.

    The first Transgender Day of Remembrance candlelight vigil was held in San Francisco in 1999 to remember Rita Hester who was murdered on November 28th, 1998 simply because she was trans. It sparked the “Remembering Our Dead” web project to publicly mourn and honour the lives of those who might otherwise be forgotten. TDOR raises public awareness of violence and hate crimes against trans people, and provides an opportunity for non-trans people to stand alongside their trans friends, partners, children and parents. In New Zealand the Police Diversity Liaison Officers regular participate in these community events.

    The Trans respect versus Transphobia (TvT) project monitors trans murders around the world. In the first nine months of 2011 alone, 116 murders of trans people from 23 countries had been registered with the project. Since January 2008, TvT has documented 681 reports of murdered trans people from 50 countries. Diksy Jones is remembered on that website and in this November 2009 article about TDOR.

    In December 2010 two men were convicted of manslaughter for killing Diksy Jones, and jailed for 9.5 and 10 years respectively. Justice Robert Dobson in the High Court in Wellington said he gave the younger man the longer sentence because his part in the "brutal and tragic" attack constituted a hate crime. This was based on comments the man had made to police that he followed Diksy home "to beat up a transvestite", that he "believed in Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve", and thought Diksy did not deserve to live.

    In July this year, three Court of Appeal judges ruled that the longer jail term be reduced to nine years, and the minimum non-parole period be cut from five to four years. The appeal court judges considered Justice Dobson "overstated the seriousness of the hate crime aspect of the homicide".

    Trans Human Rights Poster

    On 20 November, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), the Human Rights Commission will release a poster affirming the human rights of trans people. Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the poster says “trans people are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. Continue reading…

    The poster is designed by Sam Orchard, a young trans man currently completing his Masters in creative writing at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

    “The Commission made it clear that it wanted a person on the poster. I was equally clear that I didn’t want just one image, as there’s not just one way to be trans or genderqueer”.

    Sam enjoyed the design process, particularly the challenge of trying to come up with an image that was not stereotypical “because we look like everyone”.

    The poster includes couples, families, people off to work and people just being themselves. They are set against a cityscape made up of a wide range of terms that trans people use to describe their gender identity.

    “Just as we don’t all look the same nor do we use the same words to describe ourselves,” Sam said.

    You can pre-order these A2 colour posters from the Commission for free, with no delivery cost, by emailing Ata on ataraitiw@hrc.co.nz.

    Visit Roostertails Comic if you want to see more of Sam’s inspirational work including Queer 101 “a super, simple comic guide” to gender, sex and sexuality

    Sam Orchard

    Image of a health professional

    Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) has published the first resource for New Zealand health professionals about working with trans people. It  is available as an online guide on the Ministry of Health’s website. Continue reading…

    In the February 2011 To Be Who I Am email newsletter, the CMDHB project team called for submissions on the first draft of this good practice guide. The final document represents a considerable amount of work by the small CMDHB project team, its Reference Group and trans people and health professionals who made submissions.

    The CMDHB project team has acknowledged and thanked everyone for the feedback received. They said “the final draft has included many, but not all, suggested changes made in submissions. This document is a first of its kind in New Zealand. It is primarily guidance for health professionals, and it is acknowledged that it provides a snapshot in a time of change”.

    The guidance is based on the 2001 World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care. It specifically notes that “the WPATH standards are about to be revised. This guide attempts to apply those standards to local circumstances.”

    On 25 September the 7th version of the WPATH standards of care were launched. They include some significant changes, soothe CMDHB guidance should be read alongside this WPATH document.

    The Ministry of Health has advised the Royal College of GPs about the CMDHB guide and will look at seeking funding for reviewing the document in 2 years time. The Human Rights Commission has given the Ministry a small list of suggested corrections picked up through final proof-reading. The Commission understands that any further substantive changes, including those that would update the document in line with the revised WPATH standards, would need to be part of the proposed 2013 review.

    In late August, the Commission held a national video-conference so that trans members of the project’s Reference Group could report back to the wider community. Trans people attending were interested in continuing to work with health professionals and their professional bodies to improve access to quality healthcare for trans people. In September, the Commission and three local trans people presented a workshop at the Public Health Association conference at Lincoln University.

    Large changes to WPATH Standards of Care

    Wellbeing image

    It has been ten years since the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) revised its standards of care (SOC). The latest version, released on 25 September 2011, explicitly states that “being transsexual, transgender or gender nonconforming is a matter of diversity, not pathology”.”This is a momentous occasion,” said WPATH Revision Committee Chair and University of Minnesota Professor, Eli Coleman, as he launched the new SOC. Continue reading…

    "We've made a clear statement that gender nonconformity is not pathological . . . This is no longer about hormones and surgery — it's about health in a holistic sense," Coleman said.

    Christine Burns, one of the trans community representatives on WPATH’s International Advisory Committee summed up the significant progress made over the last decade. “The previous versions of the SOC were always perceived to be about the things that a trans person must do to satisfy clinicians, this version is much more clearly about every aspect of what clinicians ought to do in order to properly serve their clients. That is a truly radical reversal . . . one that serves both parties very well.”

    WPATH recognises that many trans people live comfortable lives without having to seek therapy or medical interventions. Its clinical guidelines are about meeting the health care needs of those trans people who do seek medical support because their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

    The 2011 SOC acknowledge that these “are first and foremost the client’s decisions – as are all decisions regarding healthcare. However mental health professionals have a responsibility to encourage, guide and assist clients with making fully informed decisions and becoming adequately prepared”.

    In this interview Walter Bockting, the outgoing WPATH president, said the latest standards of care represent a significant departure from the past. "Some of the changes we've made really incorporate the latest science," Bockting said. "Research in this area is really increasing so . . . our standards of care are more evidence based."

    "Oftentimes the standards of care were perceived as a barrier even though they were meant as access to care for hormone therapy and surgery," he said before going on to identify some key revisions in the new SOC. One major change is, that the standards "allow for a broader spectrum of identities – they are no longer so binary." For the first time the standards consider the health needs of people who are gender queer.

    "The new standards showcase the important role [transsexual,transgender, and gender nonconforming people] have played in changing the landscape of transgender health in the U.S.," Bockting added.

    Trans people are increasingly involved in WPATH itself and in local and national projects such as that coordinated by CMDHB in New Zealand. Aucklander Jaimie Veale is chair of GenderBridge and has attended the last two WPATH symposia. She was in Atlanta for the launch of the SOC, presenting a paper about her PhD research.

    “I'm pleased to see that WPATH have moved away from using pathologising language and having rigid steps that trans people need to take in order to convince health professionals to grant them access to treatment. These revised standards enable trans people to access medical procedures and focus on informed consent. I look forward to seeing these standards implemented in New Zealand”.

     Dr Janet Say from the Auckland Sexual Health Service was one of the New Zealand health professionals at the WPATH conference.

    "Attending the WPATH meeting with its launch of the new SOC document was a major education for me as a physician, realising the comparatively small but sometimes essential role we provide to transgender people. I realise that advocacy locally and internationally from health professionals, with the community defining their needs, is imperative. Destigmatisation and depathologisation is what we all have to work towards.”

    In October 2011 the New Zealand Sexual Health Society held a Transgender update session lead by Dr John Newman and his team who provide health services for trans youth. Last week Dr Say attended the International Union against Sexually Transmitted Infections (IUSTI) World Congress in New Delhi. Her talk "Improving the quality of life for transgender people: the role of Sexual Health clinics” included an update about WPATH and the new SOC.

    If health professionals, trans people and community groups around the country are interested in holding a discussion about the new WPATH standards, the Human Rights Commission is happy to host this using its video-conference facilities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This session would need to be held during office hours. Those interested should contact Jack Byrne on jackb@hrc.co.nz

    STP2012 logo

    On 28 September the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to remove gender identity disorders from its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The resolution suggests that, instead, the WHO should develop a “non-pathologising reclassification” as part of its current review that aims to produce a revised ICD in 2015. Continue reading…

    This was another step in what Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE) has described as “a historical moment for trans* movements worldwide”. GATE is coordinating an international experts’ meeting to develop a proposal to be submitted to the WHO before the end of 2011. This meeting will be held in The Hague and has both government and community support, from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands and the Transgender Netwerk Nederland respectively.

    The proposal to the WHO will focus on:

    • removing all references that define trans people or gender diversity as ‘disorders’ while
    • giving trans people access to medical procedures and
    • ensuring trans people are able to obtain legal recognition of their gender identity.

    If people have questions, comments or suggestions, and/or want to submit information to be included in the proposal to the WHO, they can contact GATE at icd@transactivists.org.

    In New Zealand, GenderBridge has started an online Facebook campaign Being Trans is Not an Illness. It was launched on 22 October, International Day of Action for Trans* Depathologization alongside demonstrations and actions in 70 cities of 32 countries around the world.

    In this recent article Genderbridge Chair Jaimie Veale explained why she thinks it is important for people in New Zealand to support this international campaign:

    "In Aotearoa and across the Pacific there is a proud history of gender diversity. Whakawāhine, tangata ira tane, fa'afafine, leiti and trans people should be treated with dignity and respect - not labelled as having a ‘gender identity disorder'. Trans people who physically transition require certain health services. It is time to stop labelling gender diversity as an illness, and start treating trans people as equal human beings, with some specific health needs."

    GenderBridge are keen to work with other trans organisations, community groups and health professionals to provide input into the GATE proposal. More information can be found on the Genderbridge website or people can contact GenderBridge on info@genderbridge.org.

    Sex Files report

    A 6 October 2011 decision by the High Court of Australia allows trans people in Western Australia to alter their identity documents without first having major surgery. The decision is in line with the findings of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2009 Sex Files Report which recommended that surgery should not be required before a trans person could legally change their sex. Continue reading…

    The High Court upheld the appeal of two trans men who challenged the interpretation of the West Australian Gender Reassignment Act (WAGRA) 2001. It overturned a Court of Appeal decision that chest reconstruction surgery and hormone treatment were not enough for a trans man to be recognised as male under Western Australian law. The WAGRA requires a trans man to have the “physical characteristics by virtue of which a person is identified" as male.

    Aram Hosie, spokesperson for the WA Gender Project said “Previously transsexual people in Western Australia, as in other parts of the country, have been unable to legally amend their sex without invasive, medically unnecessary surgeries that may be unwanted, impractical or unattainable. This has resulted in difficulties in proving one’s identity on essential documentation, a loss of privacy, and the risk of exposure to discrimination, harassment and sometimes even violence.”

    Sally Goldner, spokesperson for TransGender Victoria said “The High Court ruled that the law should be applied in a beneficial way that makes life easier, not harder for people, and therefore that there was no justification for requiring people to have costly and unnecessary surgeries in order to have their sex recognised.”

    “The High Court's decision will now make it much easier for transsexual people in Western Australia to obtain documentation that accurately reflects their identity and physical appearance. In turn, this will further help those same people to more easily obtain discrimination protection under West Australian law.”

    Peter Hyndal, spokesperson for A Gender Agenda said he hoped that the decision would “set a precedent about the way that laws governing the recognition of sex in Australian should operate, and so help make life easier for transsexual men and women in Western Australia and the rest of the country.”

    “To this end, we call on other State and Territory Governments around Australia to reflect the High Court’s decision in their interpretation and administration of the law and to act on the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission Sex Files report” Hyndal added.

    Australian passport

    Trans and intersex people in Australia can now change the sex details on their passport to female (F), male (M) or indeterminate / unspecified / intersex (X). Sex reassignment surgery is not required. A letter from a doctor confirming the trans or intersex person’s gender identity can be supplied instead. Continue reading…

    Under these new federal guidelines trans and intersex people can change sex details on their passport without amending their birth or citizenship certificate.

    Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced these new guidelines on 14 September.

    “This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance,” said Mr Rudd.

    The initiative is in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to remove discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.

    “Most people take for granted the ability to travel freely and without fear of discrimination,” Mr McClelland said. “This measure will extend the same freedoms to sex and gender diverse Australians.

    “Importantly, this policy addresses a number of the recommendations contained in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Files report.”

    Trans and intersex organisations worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to review the existing policy.

    Until now passports could only be issued in the same sex as that shown on a person’s birth certificate. This was a major barrier for many trans and intersex people who, for financial, medical and other reasons, were unable to meet the legal threshold for changing sex details on their original birth certificate.

    Peter Hyndal, spokesperson for A Gender Australia (AGA), described the very real safety issues for trans and intersex people travelling overseas under the previous policy.

    “We are aware of specific instances where individuals have been detained in international airports, or denied visas because the sex on their passport did not match their presentation and identity.

    “This is, in my view, the single most important piece of trans/intersex law reform that I have ever seen in Australia in my lifetime.”

    Read or listen to this ABC Law Report about legal recognition issues for trans and intersex people in Australia.

    Massive Steps at the United Nations

    ARC International's logo

    This year there have been “massive steps” taken internationally to recognise sexual orientation and gender identity human rights, according to ARC International. Their co-founder, New Zealander John Fisher, attended the Wellington Outgames human rights conference in March. Read ARC’s e-bulletin to find out what is happening internationally on these human rights issues and how you can be involved. Continue reading…

    People who attended the Outgames human rights conference may remember John Fisher’s daily count of countries that had signed the joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council. The statement’s title and purpose was “ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

    The final vote was just a few days later, on 22 March. A total of 85 countries signed the joint statement. Across the Pacific these included New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Timor-Leste.

    Less than three months later, on 17 June, those countries who are members of the Human Rights Council passed the first UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity. Other countries who are not members of the Human Rights Council could co-sponsor the resolution. In the Pacific these included New Zealand, Australia and Timor-Leste.

    This is how Justus Eisfeld, Co-Director of Global Action for Trans* Equality, described the importance of the UN resolution.

    “That we are celebrating the passage of a UN resolution about human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation is remarkable, however the fact that gender identity is explicitly named truly makes this pivotal moment one to rejoice in. The Human Rights Council has taken a step forward in history by acknowledging that both sexual and gender non-conformity make lesbian, gay, trans* and bi people among those most vulnerable and indicated decisively that states have an obligation to protect us from violence.”

    Read more about the Human Rights Commission’s work on sexual orientation and gender identity on our website. This year it included support for the Outgames human rights conference and the regional trans and intersex hui held the day before. The Commission’s presentations and photographs and interviews with many of the conference participants are available on the Outgames legacy website.

    You are currently reading articles from To Be Who I Am , This was a quarterly newsletter for trans people and others interested in progressing the Transgender Inquiry’s actions and recommendations,. It is not longer published but you can still add your name to be included on a contact list for those interested in trans issues. by the Human Rights Commission.

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