Thursday, May 09, 2019

Witness Statement re Edinburgh Employment Tribunal involving Katherine O'Donnell

[Pictured: Appellant, Counsel and Witnesses
outside the Edinburgh Employment Tribunal
on 8th May 2019, constituting what is
believed to be the largest number of
trans people to ever appear in a UK
courtroom at the same time]

The statement below is the written evidence of Christine Burns MBE, provided to the Edinburgh Employment Tribunal hearing the case for unfair dismissal brought by former Times (Scotland) Night Editor Katherine O’Donnell. Having been admitted into evidence and cross-examined in open tribunal proceedings by counsel for the Times and the bench, this evidence is now public domain. For that reason the blanket copyright statement attaching to other posts on this blog does not apply. However, you are obliged to reproduce or quote the following accurately and responsibly. Link to this page rather than reblogging it.

The intention of this statement was to help the tribunal to contextualise other evidence that it would likely encounter in the course of hearings that are expected to span six weeks. That includes more specific evidence pertaining to any changes in the approach of the Times and Sunday Times in recent years and whether that might be related to changes at a higher level in the organisation. The tribunal is not in itself an ‘investigation’ of the newspaper’s output; however, changes in that output, and the internal decisions creating any such output, do have bearing on questions about the climate within the organisation, as might be experienced by an employee who feels affected by the subject matter. This would be true regardless of the subject in question. In this case the context is the reporting of trans lives.

The witness statement is in three sections. In the first section my personal background and experience is stated, in order to establish the reasons for my evidence having relevance. In the second part I provide the tribunal with a background to the history of press reporting of trans affairs, across all titles, over the majority of the last sixty years. The third and final section discusses what might be termed the ‘trans backlash’ and (within that broader context) how I believe that the Times and Sunday Times output departed from its previous pattern.

Christine Burns MBE
9th May 2019



The context in which I submit evidence to this tribunal is that by the combination of age, personal experience, voluntary advocacy work, policy work, professional consultancy and research as the author of three relevant history books, I have acquired a unique perspective by which to review past and recent events in the press coverage of trans people and their affairs.

I was born in February 1954, so I am now 65 years old. At the time of my birth the press was reporting the transitions of an American trans woman, Christine Jorgensen, and a Briton, Roberta Cowell, both well-documented. My age is of interest because, being aware of my own gender issues from pre-school, I have spent most of my life conditioned to notice press coverage about trans people where peers might not.

My first recall of reading press coverage was in 1966 (aged 12). It was the first time I felt an interest in reading a newspaper (The News of the World) and that interest was driven by their reporting of the divorce case involving  a trans woman April Ashley and her estranged husband Arthur Corbett. I should note in passing that the coverage of Jorgensen, Cowell and Ashley was by no means the beginning of press interest in trans lives. My book research has identified clippings dating as far back as 1810. I can supply further details of the history on request; however the coverage of the 1950s and 1960s is notable for a change in emphasis in the reporting because, for the first time in the twentieth century, the cases in question concerned trans women — people transitioning from Male to Female. Previously reporting had mostly concerned trans men (Female to Male) and the change in newspaper reaction is germane.

To summarise the relevant parts of my career:

I have been involved with the trans community for almost forty-five years, since first locating a support group (aged 20) in Manchester in 1974. This was also the year when the biography of Times columnist Jan Morris was published. I observed first hand the press coverage of trans people like Morris as I became more involved and saw myself as a member of the community being reported.

I have been involved in trans advocacy for approximately thirty years — since again noting press coverage of the case by a trans woman Caroline Cossey at the European Court of Human Rights in 1989/90.

I became a Vice President of the legal rights campaign ‘Press for Change’ shortly after its formation in 1992. I created the web site and editorialised press coverage and events, cementing my familiarity with press and TV coverage at that time. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I saw it all, since we had people scanning this content every day and passing it on to us. This work was in parallel with my ‘day job’ as a Principal Consultant for the global business and IT consultancy Cap Gemini, which I mention only to underline my professional experience in research, problem analysis, and solution-building.

My work, with colleagues at Press for Change, resulted in legal successes in the Employment Appeals Tribunal and European Court of Justice (EAT/ECJ: P vs S and Cornwall County Council, 1996); in the High Court and Court of Appeal (CA: A.D. and G v NW Lancs Health Authority, 1998/9); and at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR: Goodwin and I v UK, 2002). Those successes created regulations extending the Sex Discrimination Act (1999), case law establishing trans rights to unprejudiced clinical referrals (1999), and the process leading to the passage of the Gender Recognition Act (2002-4). These are of particular relevance because, as a Vice President of Press for Change I was in the front line dealing with press reaction to those legal successes and the phases it went through, from objective legal correspondent reporting to hysterical and vitriolic commentary. I will come back to those events below. This experience is also relevant in the context of judging how recent press coverage has changed compared with reaction to the original legal advances in 1996 (discrimination law), 1999 (health policy), 2002-2004 (legal recognition) and 2010 (the Equality Act).

My work on these significant legal milestones, establishing protected legal rights for trans people (and the precursor to trans non-discrimination protection in EA2010) led to close involvement with senior civil servants, Ministers and Members of Parliament from all sides. For this work I was awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours list 2005. It also led to relationships of trust with Fleet Street legal correspondents, working relationships with journalists from broadcast media (BBC, ITV, Sky), on and off record dealings with tabloid and broadsheet print media, and considerable experience across the board in being interviewed and seeing those stories reported.

From 2007 I became a full time self-employed Equality and Inclusion Consultant, as part of which I was commissioned to write the first official guidance about trans people for the Department of Health and I worked as Programme Manager for the Equality and Inclusion team at an NHS Strategic Health Authority (2009-13). My work creating a book with colleagues about the NHS equalities work led to a self-published work (Making Equality Work, 2013) and that in turn led to my first two volumes about trans campaign history (Pressing Matters, Vol 1 2013, Vol 2 2014). The extensive research and analysis for those two latter books involved reexamining and analysing the press response to our legal campaigns.

In turn, this book writing experience and a growing reputation as an historian led to the commission for my more recent book, Trans Britain (Unbound, 2018), filling a previously unmet need for a coherent narrative of trans experience in (particularly) the last sixty years. As an edited anthology, this commission also involved directing contributions from almost two dozen historical eye-witnesses and analyses of press, film and TV representation.

I submit that all of this experience, as described, has a bearing on the analysis and opinions that I have been asked to render in this case.


I don’t wish to labour the 60 year history of contemporary press coverage of trans affairs beyond that which is necessary to establish a context for more recent departures. Suffice it to say that, in my view, a pattern of reporting trans lives was established around 1958 with the ‘outing’ of a trans doctor, Michael Dillon, by the Sunday Express. This marked a change from a climate of curiosity and mild disapproval to that of portraying trans people as subjects for hostile exposure and tabloid titillation. Broadsheets at the time appear to have shown little interest, even bearing in mind that the Times was witnessing the long slow transition of one of its own distinguished reporters, Jan Morris, over the course of years from 1964-72. This was a time, of course, when there was a greater focus on the post 1967 (Sexual Offences Act) decriminalisation of adult gay male relationships and the emergence of Lesbian and Gay activism and second wave feminism. The April Ashley divorce case generated press interest during the course of the case (1969-70) but this period is not remembered as especially hostile to trans people.

Broadsheet press focus changed with the publication of the Jan Morris biography in 1974, as analysis intersected with the emergence of second wave feminist commentary in that decade. This is a point at which tabloid and broadsheet coverage diverged. The tabloids continued to pursue outing trans people to feed an appetite for sexual titillation in the Sunday editions. Broadsheets meanwhile appear to have soon pigeonholed commentary about trans people (and here I mean almost exclusively trans women) as polemic fodder for emergent feminist writers such as Germaine Greer.

The points to note here are that the existence of trans people were well known at this time and, for the broadsheets, the coverage was fairly random as columnists looked for topics to write about. Trans people weren’t doing anything of note. They were trying to live their lives and avoid being outed by the tabloids. The outcome of the April Ashley case had knocked trans people’s prospects on the head. Once a broadsheet commentator had written one polemic applying the new radical feminist theory to ostracise trans women it was hard to come back and do another very soon in the same paper. The characteristic of trans broadsheet reporting throughout most of the seventies and eighties (and initially into the nineties) was that reporting was occasional and either random or linked to a news event. This is why any quantitative analysis will show clusters of broadsheet commentary as trans people moved into using the law to press for their rights. The first of these cases was Rees v UK in the ECtHR in 1986, followed by Cossey v UK in the same court in 1989/90.

The pattern of broadsheet coverage seemed consistent. Firstly the legal correspondents would report objectively what happened. These trans appellants were making interesting arguments about the detriment they experienced but they were ultimately losing their cases, so there was scope for technical discussion of the merits or otherwise of the court’s conclusions. Following this, the news and comment sections would weigh in. Commentary in those days would be split. Sometimes it would be sympathetic, arguing that the outcome was unjust. Other times the comment would be vitriolic. Mark Rees (Rees v UK) writes in my most recent book that he experienced both. A significant point here is that there was no notable difference between any of the competing titles: The Times, Telegraph, Guardian and (later) the Independent would apply their political perspective but their coverage was evenly split between sympathy and disapproval. Trans people were not characterised as dangerous or predatory, except where correspondents appeared to have taken on a particular radical separatist feminist theory that had arrived from a writer in the United States, Janice Raymond.

This consistency of timing and reaction persisted through the nineties, even as Press for Change began to win significant strategic legal cases. The broadsheets were broadly disinterested in trans people when we weren’t making waves and then went through the stages of objective legal analysis followed by mostly radical feminist polemic. The only new factor was the emergence of editorial leaders to put a stamp on the proceedings. A broadsheet paper would express sympathy for the ‘plight of transsexuals’ but then criticise the courts according to the editorial board’s beliefs regarding the role of the judiciary. Having dumped their opinions on the readers the papers would then forget the subject and move on. As campaigners we grew used to this. We knew when our judgements were going to be handed down. In some cases we had informed knowledge of what the decision was likely to be and reached out to favoured journalists to brief them. And then, after 7-10 days of madness everything would settle down and the press would have moved on. We were then able to get on with exploiting the legal outcome without molestation.

The established pattern continued even through the period when the Gender Recognition Act was framed and passed. The 2002 decision by the European Court of Human Rights was reported according to the papers’ broader politics but there seemed to be an acceptance, after 15 years of almost identical cases being heard and reported, that the judgement was the right thing really. I was closely involved with helping civil servants to both frame the legislation and nurse it through Parliament and the press were largely disinterested in what the Gender Recognition Act involved or what its wider effects might be. This is significant in the context of recent ferocious and misleading reporting about the mere proposal to improve the legislation by removing one class of evidence in applications.

The actual passage of the Gender Recognition Act was not a big deal as far as the press was concerned. They seemed to be more interested in the tabloid story of a trans contestant, Nadia Almada, on Big Brother. My recall of the ensuing period of almost a decade was that the press was neither more nor less interested in trans people. The Gender Recognition Act came into force in April 2005 with barely any mention. There would still be occasional polemic pieces by a small handful of feminist columnists or guest writers, notably Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and Julie Burchill. The only notable change towards the end of the ‘Noughties’ was that the controversy shifted from the polemic itself (which was true to the established style of those writers) and became a story about the broader public reaction to what they had written. The journalism became the story, rather than the content.

The broadsheets all continued to be a mixed bag. The Guardian had hosted Julie Bindel’s anti-trans columns, for instance (on one occasion publishing an apology after the fact) but it also hosted the first regular column by a trans woman in the online edition of its Life and Style section. The Independent (whilst still a print broadsheet) added more and more trans people to its annual ‘Pink List’ feature each year — awarding the Number One spot to trans journalist Paris Lees in 2013 and trans actor Riley Carter-Millington in 2015 — but was not immune from publishing the occasional disapproving column. (Disclosure: I was a judge for the Pink List from 2013-15). I do not have a particular recall of the Times or Sunday Times being different from their peers throughout this period — at least until around 2015/16.


The roots of what may be characterised as a ‘trans backlash’ appear in retrospect to have been sown in 2015 and they are not specifically because of the actions of trans people or any legislative moves. The context is that trans people were suddenly becoming more visible globally in the popular media.  In the United States Time Magazine declared a ‘Trans Tipping Point’ in 2014. American Vogue declared 2015 to be the ‘Year of Trans Visibility’. The world’s press was full of Caitlin Jenner. Audiences were watching a trans character in the Netflix series Orange is The New Black. UK soaps were vying with trans characters. Eastenders featured Riley Carter-Millington. Hollyoaks followed suit with Annie Wallace. These were popular stories.

This new visibility was met by a resurgence of commentators such as Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and Julie Burchill. As experienced older-generation observers we saw this as nothing new. They were ‘doing their thing’. However, the ground had shifted. Just as the ‘Me Too’ has caught out many famous figures in the United States, who discover that the world views their habits differently than before, social media and changed social standards among the young meant that these commentators did not enjoy the same ride as they had been used to. The story shifted to the reaction that young people (not necessarily trans) had towards the opinions of these old-school writers. Students would picket their talks or call for them to be disinvited. The story became falsely characterised as one of ‘Free Speech’ — although it should be noted that each of these writers had no shortage of high profile platforms to express their views. Some retreated to periodicals across the political spectrum: Spiked, The Spectator and the New Statesman. An article by Julie Burchill in the Observer was taken down by that paper’s editors only to be republished by the Telegraph.

It should be stressed that, even at this stage, there was not a notable difference between the main broadsheet papers. The conversation was being driven from the periodical sphere and online in blogs. The Guardian/Observer was conflicted. The Telegraph reflected the diverse positions of its commentators. The Independent seemed no longer relevant after going out of print, but was mostly positive. They all reported the controversy and they all mostly prioritised the opinions of non-trans people. The finger of blame was being pointed at trans people as a monolithic entity, even though the actions driving the story were largely attributable to students and social campaigners who were typically not trans. There was a feeling among actual trans campaigners that this was about us, rather than by us.

At this point (during 2016) The Times appears to have begun to take a unique path away from the pack. The Guardian and Telegraph (plus the tabloid Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday) continued to report the story. The Times and Sunday Times began (in my view) to MAKE the story in an increasingly worrying fashion.

During the course of 2016 the Times and Sunday Times featured approximately half a dozen trans-related stories, led by writers such as Rod Liddle. This did not appear at the time to be a departure from business as usual. Certainly, for Liddle, the opinions voiced about trans children and adolescents (as an example) seemed to be in keeping with his brand of polemic. The level of coverage in the whole year did not raise eyebrows, except in exasperation at the one-sidedness.

That pattern changed markedly in 2017, however — and it changed uniquely for the Times. Over the course of that year the Times and Sunday Times published over 130 items — mostly news and op-ed, with news becoming the dominant position in both papers as the year progressed. Almost all could be said to be negative, with varying degrees of careful deniability. This was not normal in any sense. The level of coverage (averaging almost 3 items a week) was more than an order of magnitude greater than anything the two titles had previously published. There had not been this coverage over the trans provisions in run up to passage of the Equality Act in 2010. There were a few establishment voices fretting about the Gender Recognition Bill when it was debated in 2004, but typically no more than one shot per commentator. The Times and Sunday Times had not appeared to have a distinctive editorial line on that topic back then. As noted previously, other legal cases and policy advancements had been short term storms in teacups and the Times was then in line with other Broadsheet coverage.

The other notable factor about this tsunami of negative coverage, beginning in 2017, was the degree to which editorial standards appeared to be abandoned. The two titles were standing up their pieces with largely one-sided opinion from personalities with no genuine qualifications in the subject matter and an axe to grind. By comparison, clinical or legal experts in the subject matter did not feature highly and trans views appeared to be treated as suspect, driven by (hinted) ulterior motives and fit for condemnation. The paper’s line of topics seemed to reflect the talking points of a small cohort of commentators who had appeared as if from nowhere to be interviewed as authorities on a regular basis. Trans people and the charities working in this area were presented as ‘powerful’ (the implication being ‘too powerful’). Conspiracy theories about the involvement of jewish billionaires and ‘big pharma’ were aired without challenge.

The idea of a journalist using carefully deniable artifice to insinuate things about a person, organisation or entire group is nothing new. We expect journalists to bring their prejudices to the page sometimes. Part of the role of editors (and lawyers) is to control the worst excesses that this could lead to and bring balance. Claims are checked. Genuine experts are valued. The damage is also limited by the fact that an article is usually a one-off. What shocked trans observers in 2017 was that editorial standards appeared to have been suspended in this sphere. This is underlined when the basis for many stories was later established to be false. False interpretation of statistics about trans prisoners and offending. Unbalanced reporting of the nature of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, presenting only a one-sided pejorative view of the implications. False insinuation about the leadership of the trans charity Mermaids — even after the Heritage Lottery Fund had reexamined plans to award a grant to them in 2018.

Many questions are raised by this — not so much about the journalists, but about editorial control, especially after complaints of inaccuracy and bias or actual proof that the basis for a story was flawed.

In countries that have passed legislation similar to the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, the press does not appear to have been exercised in the same way, with visions of apocalyptic consequences for women’s safety and public order. Several countries have far more affirmative policies concerning gender variant children and adolescents than in Britain — they publish their results and their protocols are regarded as non-contentious good practice; there is no moral panic to compare with that conjured up in Britain and championed by The Times.

Finally, I come back to the point that the Times coverage of these affairs since late 2016 and the beginning of 2017 is of a level sufficient to qualify as a vendetta. There is no historical precedent. Neither the Times nor the rest of the press showed excessive (let alone obsessive) concern when the matters in question were originally being framed. Indeed, many of the articles in question proceed as though trans people have only suddenly surfaced as a subject for moral panic in the last 3-4 years, disregarding generations of low key and episodic reporting before.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Mystery That Is Trans History

Where have transgender people ‘suddenly’ come from?

I’m willing to bet that’s a question asked increasingly often, with trans people suddenly on the television, or standing for Parliament and local government, and even on the fashion catwalks from Paris to Mumbai. It’s a very reasonable question too. If you knew nothing previously about transgender people — apart from the latest shock opinion piece in the broadsheets, or the latest faux news hit piece in some tabloids — then you could be forgiven for wondering whether such people’s relatively recent public appearance was a fad. Y’know, just part of the zeitgeist — like the gypsy look of the seventies or the gangster look that some young people affect to look tough.

The stock answer is that people have been crossing gender boundaries for millennia and in every kind of civilisation around the globe. They weren’t called ‘trans’ at the time, and in truth ‘trans’ is a really wide category for gender non-conformity, as we are belatedly rediscovering in 21st Century Western Society. People will refer to historical examples, like the Chevalier d’Eon, or more recent stories of people like Lili Elbe ('The Danish Girl’), Michael Dillon or Roberta Cowell. They may also refer to anthropological studies of communities like the Inuits (who have seven gender categories), the Indian Hijra caste or the Samoan Fa’afafine. There are many of these and this isn’t an exhaustive list. Google is your friend if you’re interested to learn more.

Missing Histories

But Google isn’t your friend if you want to understand what happened between isolated cases of people transitioning — like Roberta Cowell in 1954 — and what you see today. The reason for that is that people who hit headlines get archived. People who are living on the margins of society — marked as unacceptable by the law or seen as ‘sick’ by the media — don’t get written about very often, or very accurately, so the ability to research even relatively modern history is severely constrained.

That’s a problem I first set out to solve four years ago when I wrote a two part history of the period when trans people formed a campaign called 'Press for Change'. The 25th anniversary of that campaign being set up will occur on 27th February 2017 — this year. ‘Pressing Matters’ was partly a memoir about being on the inside of that campaign, and partly a detailed historical account of how it was formed and made progress. I was only able to write that two volume history because I have well-preserved archives of internal correspondence, minutes and documents. Pressing Matters was self-published as an eBook (see previous posts) because it’s not the sort of book that a publisher would be likely to take a risk on. I had no misconceptions about how niche it was to write even just four years ago.

Even as I wrote Pressing Matters, I was very conscious of the amount of history I couldn’t include. It was my view of what happened, and it was restricted to looking at a particular period in time: specifically the activism taking place in the 13 years between 1992 and 2004.

Two Phases

Trans history in the UK really has two phases though. The first phase started in the sixties. Before that time, the trans people we know about had all individually had to find their own salvation. They found a doctor, they got fixed, and then they mostly tried to settle down. Indeed, settling down and disappearing was very much a precondition of being treated.

During the sixties that changed for the first time. That was when a few trans people began to set up organisations and safe meeting places for people to meet others of the same mind. It began with the formation of the Beaumont Society. Then there were concealed meeting places in back rooms in some of our larger cities — hidden unless you got lucky and managed to find them.

The seventies began with a huge setback. The April Ashley divorce case (1969-70) resulted in a disastrous ruling about the legal status of transsexual people. It meant that documents that could previously be altered to enable people to maintain their privacy and even marry could no longer be changed by officials. There were grace-and-favour exceptions for driving licenses and (in some cases) passports, but there was no actual right to these. This led to a period of almost 20 years where trans people were administratively marginalised in society. It’s a dark age, although as we will hopefully be showing soon, it wasn’t a complete blank space.

Phase Two

The second phase of trans development really starts with the emergence of people using the law to try and restore their lost rights to privacy and having families. It’s not just about Press for Change. The example which activists and newly invigorated community groups created, coupled with the emergence of the World Wide Web, means that the nineties saw an explosion of activity and major milestones in the establishment of rights.

Everything you see about the trans community today has its roots in those two periods of development and the turning points within them. Sometimes one advance enabled another. Sometimes decisions taken far back in this history have had effects which ripple through the present day and add to the unintelligibility of trans affairs by newcomers. How did Gender Clinics come to be the way they are? How did the negative stuff in second wave feminism come about (it wasn’t there to begin with).

Until now, none of this huge fifty year socio-political history has been fully explored and explained in context. And that’s why I’m setting out to fix that.

Telling The Story — In Full

“Trans: A British History” is an ambitious attempt to tell the whole story, via the best experts available: the people who were at the centre of the action at every stage. I have brought together 25 eye-witness experts to tell the story in their own words — from the sixties to the present day.

It will be a unique book. It will be an authoritative book. And it will be a book full of human interest, as this whole struggle is really about people striving to come in from the cold against the most fearful opposition — against doctors; against the state; against the media; and against general all-round ill-informed prejudice. It’s not just a book for trans people. It’s a book for everyone. Each of the contributors will be under instructions to keep it accessible.

To bring this book to the shops I have agreed to work with a very special kind of publisher. Unbound has a unique model. Most publishers want a lot of control over a book’s contents. They demand that because they are taking all the financial risk. They’ll say to trans authors “can you change this?” or “can you sex that bit up”. It’s why so many trans books have tended to focus on transitions and on sexualising subjects. Our history is too important for that.

Crowd Funded Publishing

Unbound’s approach is to enable authors and editors to produce the books they want to write. In turn they enable readers to also control the books they want to read. It’s a crowd funding approach — like Kickstarter, but for books. Unbound is primarily a publisher of great books that other publishers might never consider. The flip side of that is that we writers have to devote a bit of time to persuading people to pledge support for our project.

The campaign to enable “Trans: A British History” to be published got underway on 24th January and it has been so successful that — three weeks later — it had already surpassed 60% of the target necessary to produce it. That’s an amazing response and it shows just how much people value the idea of a unique authoritative book like this.

Why You Should Pledge Support

Pledging to support the book has a number of great advantages. The biggest benefit is that you’ll be the first to receive the book when it is published (up to three months before the trade edition goes to the shops). Supporters can get a specially printed extra-high-quality first edition hardback. All supporters also get their name in a section of the book, as the people who allowed it to happen. As the editor I will also be writing about the progress of the book — exclusive insider information about the contributors and design process — and almost all of that will be for supporters only.

The basic pledge options are about a first edition of the book, a mention in the back and access to the ‘Shed’, where I’ll be blogging for you. However, for a small additional contribution you can make your copy a true collectible, with my signature (and some of the contributors if I can get them all to stand still in one place). There are then many more great options for individuals and groups with deeper pockets. For a sum your organisation can even be mentioned in the book’s frontispiece as a major benefactor.

I must stress, however, that none of this can take place until the support campaign reaches 100%. By pledging support for this project you really do determine whether it can happen. I really want to get there as soon as possible, so that I can set 25 amazing people with unique eye-witness memories on a job that has never been attempted before.

To borrow from Donald Trump (God help me): “It’ll be great. Just great. I’ve got the best writers. The very best. And we’ll make trans history great"


Friday, February 19, 2016

Fishing for Birds now in ePub

Fishing for Birds — my anthology of poems written over more than 40 years — is now released in ePub format and will appear in a range of online retail stores over the next few days. This means you’ll be able to buy it in the iBooks store; the Kobo store; the Barnes and Noble Nook store; plus — in addition to remaining available at Amazon for the Kindle.

Buying at has the added advantage that you can send a copy to someone you like.

What’s not to like about that?


Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Complete and Comprehensive History

TWELVE MONTHS AGO I published the first volume in my unique history of the rise of Trans activism in the UK.

Pressing Matters reveals the amazing story of how Trans people became one of the most marginalised minorities in British society, and how a tiny group of volunteers organised together to build a campaign to change that.

It was a long and arduous journey — the hardest part taking more than twelve years — and there were many barriers to overcome and disappointments along the way. This was all described from my own unique insider perspective as one of the leading activists. Everything is based on archived records to ensure a thoroughly accurate account of events.

Volume One was published on 29th December 2013 and was met with universal praise from those who’ve read and reviewed it. That first volume covered the period up to the end of 1997, when the campaign group Press for Change was fully functioning and beginning to see the possibility of success.

And now Volume Two completes that story, picking up at the start of 1998 and detailing the twists and turns in a tooth and nail battle to get around the table with government and shape new legislation.

As with the previous volume, this is meticulously researched from contemporaneous records, making this the definitive history of a key period in trans history.

Pressing Matters volume two is available now for download. You can read a sample by tapping and scrolling the image above.

The previous volume is also available here.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Ten Years On

Pressing Matters Vol 1 Book Cover

TEN YEARS AGO, at the start of 2004, the House of Lords was debating the Gender Recognition Bill.

The debate began in the Lords on 18th December 2003 and ended in a long and colourful report stage debate and third reading in the House of Commons on 8th June 2004.

Three weeks later, on 1st July 2004, the legislation received Royal Assent to become an Act of Parliament and, in April 2005, a new Gender Recognition Panel began receiving applications for the legal recognition of people who had undergone gender reassignment.


Since that time approximately four thousand people have successfully applied under the terms of the Act to be recognised for who they are in their acquired gender.

After the inevitable rush of cases to begin with, the rate quickly settled down to around 300 cases per year and has remained fairly constant at that rate ever since.


The legislation was not perfect by any means.

There were problems for some ex-patriate UK citizens who had been treated by clinicians abroad (not recognised by the panel) and there were disputes over the nature of the evidence which the gender recognition panel insisted on seeing.

The largest problem (and strongly contested all the way) was the requirement for married trans people to end their marriages as a condition for legal recognition (though, with careful planning, they could then immediately enter a civil partnership the same day).

The latter problem has been eliminated by the new legislation enabling same sex marriage; however the government has replaced the provision by an equally objectionable requirement that spouses should consent to their partner’s legal recognition.

Still fighting

Much water has flowed under the bridge since the Gender Recognition Act was passed ten years ago.

Trans people are still fighting for their rights — but it is nowadays a fight for social rights rather than legal ones.

NHS England has only belatedly moved to address consistent treatment for trans people changing gender. Trans people report dreadful levels of discrimination from health workers at every level.

In spite of significant advances in the past year, groups like Trans Media Watch still highlight regular discrimination against trans people in the national press.


For all that ongoing struggle there is no doubt, in hindsight, that the Gender Recognition Act had a transformative effect on the consciousness of the UK’s trans community.

When the Act was passed, few people would identify themselves willingly as trans and stand up to talk about these issues. Nowadays there are hundreds — even thousands — of people openly talking about them.

There are trans journalists writing in broadsheet newspapers and magazines. A trans woman headed the Independent on Sunday’s annual Pink List in October 2013, accompanied by a long list of “out and proud” trans activists.

The understanding of the diversity of what ‘trans’ or ‘transgender’ means has been transformed.

Unique history

All this recent activity by a legion of new campaigners is great. But it has become plain that, with the passage of time, people are less and less aware of the history of the campaign that brought trans people to this place.

My new book “Pressing Matters”, published in time for the tenth anniversary of the Act, addresses this dearth of historical context.

Pressing Matters tells the story of how Britain’s tiny transsexual population lost their rights to privacy, legal protections and the recognition of family relationships for more than a generation in 1970. It explains how the long road to organising as a campaign took shape — and the setbacks along the way.

Pressing Matters is not a dull academic history though. The story of how Press for Change took shape and found its feet is woven with my own personal memoir of how it was on the inside — helping to create an effective political force engaging the energy of people who were mostly closeted, frightened, poor and geographically isolated.

Pressing Matters describes a time before email — before the web — before social media — and how the fledgling organisation gradually harnessed the power of computing and electronic communications as these became available. It is about careful strategic planning to use judicial processes effectively. But it is also about swift footed opportunism and community building too.

No Kindle required

Pressing Matters is available now as a Kindle eBook for £7.99 in the UK (€7.27 inc taxes in Europe and $9.70 plus taxes in the US).

The eBook format means that this extensive history can be made affordable world wide.

But you don’t require a Kindle device to read the book.

Nowadays there are free Kindle reading apps for Windows and Macintosh PCs, plus Apple and Android tablets and phones.

If you prefer not to install an app, there is also now a free ‘Cloud Reader’, which enables you to read your Kindle books in an ordinary browser. The Cloud reader is ideal if you use a computer that isn’t yours (e.g. at work) or use Linux.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making Equality Work

MakingEqualityWork"A huge 'little' book" … "Brilliantly researched" … "A must read" … "Refreshing" say reviewers.

Our new book, is now on sale from today on the Kindle store in all territories.

£7.99 in the UK. Purchase here.

MAKING EQUALITY WORK combines background facts and theory about the history and nature of equality and diversity in Britain with the detailed description of how we set out successfully to raise the measurable levels of equality outcomes for the National Health Service in North West England.

The first half of the book is a theoretical primer. It explains how Britain changed over the last 50-60 years with the progressive emergence of all the diverse groups which we see today, and how society and the law responded to the demands from each group for social equality and protections. We explain why equality matters and why attempts to change public institutions to achieve it often fail. This is backed by an extensive literature review.

In the second half of the book we describe our own practical, evidence-led and strategy-driven approach within a public sector system of over 60 autonomous NHS trusts, and how that can be applied elsewhere. The book explains not only WHAT we did, but WHY we did it that way, and the benefits and pitfalls in hindsight.

The text is written in an accessible style for a wide range of readers and contains many references to contemporary published work from both academics and public sector sources.

"This is a huge 'little' book. A text book that reads more like an engaging novel. Full of facts, statistics and testimony. A brilliantly researched book with a strong narrative outlining the context for equality in the NHS and why, despite considerable progress, equality matters more today than ever before. What you get is written by people with a passion and an expertise, who have got their hands dirty, detailing a candid, system wide case study highlighting approaches and successes but realistic about progress and lessons learnt."

— Dean Royles, Chief Executive of NHS Employers and Acting Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation.

"...a must read for all those who work not just in healthcare but in other sectors too"

— Dr Kailash Chand OBE, Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association.

"It is refreshing to see a book which gives the important background and context of equality laws. This book is important in making equality laws understandable in Plain English."

— Linda Bellos OBE, Chair of the Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners.

"This book provides a solid local, regional and national context to equalities and human rights in the UK and how and why they should be embedded into the work of public authorities. It is a refreshing reflection on real life experiences of equality work in the last 7 years of the NHS. Any due diligence in building new health and social care systems should pay regard to the lessons of the past. This book offers many of them."

— Jackie Driver, Programme Head, Public Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Chair of Breakthrough UK.

"MAKING EQUALITY WORK is essential reading for equality practitioners as well as senior management in the health sector and beyond. In a refreshingly jargon-free way, the book shows how it is possible to work strategically to achieve positive change, against formidable obstacles, in a very large organisation where promoting equality was not always a priority."

— Peter Baker, Men’s Health Consultant.

"...provides a model that has been shown to work on a large scale and presents it in a way that makes understanding it manageable. This is an essential textbook for those want to bring about real change in their organisations, and provides a roadmap to enable this."

— Sîan Payne, Director of Organisational Development at the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.

" important and welcome publication, not just for the NHS but in any organisation or venture: it is not only a 'how to' book but also a 'why to' book. The 'why' is often the biggest barrier, and it is well tackled here."

— Lorraine Gradwell MBE, former Chief Executive of Breakthrough UK.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Fishing for Birds

Fishing for Birds Cover

OUR NEW BOOK, Making Equality Work, will be coming out later this month.

It's all written and copies are currently with a select number of reviewers.

To find out more, click on the tab above.

In the meantime, to ensure everything is ready to release the eBook when we are ready, I have released a collection of poems that I've been meaning to formally publish for many years.

Baiting a line with a kite flying high

The title Fishing for Birds was inspired by a man who uses a wheelchair, whom I met once on Boston Common in the US. His hobby was to fly a kite from his chair (no easy feat) with the aid of a fishing rod.

Richard Troise referred to his hobby as 'Kite Fishing'.

The metaphor of using a kite to fish for birds, even when you can't walk,  struck me as an immensely strong one at the time. So strong that I decided to name my anthology after the poem of the same name, which I penned to describe that encounter.

A mix of emotions

I don't promise that every poem in this book has a diversity theme. Some are just plain absurd. Some capture painful or reflective moments in my life.

I tackle the big existential questions. Do Doughnuts have a soul? Is there a use for Bastards? Are Teddy Bears a single woman's best friend?

The poems have been performed by me occasionally over the years. But I always vowed I would release them as a book one day.

That day has come.

Kindle edition

Fishing for Birds is available in Kindle format on Amazon for £3.99. You can buy it here.

If you don't have an actual Kindle, that's not a problem as there are free Kindle apps for Windows and Apple PCs, and for iPad and Android tablet devices.

A full list of the free Kindle apps and how to download them is here.

Happy reading.