LGBT+ lawyers

International Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Pride FlagTransgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) has been observed annually since 2009.

It was founded by Rachel Crandall-Crocker, a trans woman from Michigan, in response to the lack of recognition of living trans people from the LGBT+ community – in contrast to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which memorialises trans people who have died as a result of violence or suicide.

TDOV is an important part of the LGBT+ calendar in recognising trans people’s potential, not only to survive, but also to thrive.

However, it’s common for individuals (often white, cis-passing and without disabilities) to be profiled as ‘success stories’, with the diversity of trans people’s experiences going unrecognised.

TDOV 2020 and COVID-19

In the light of the global pandemic, it’s entirely proper that our attention is focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Celebrations of TDOV will understandably be much more sombre as we contemplate our collective uncertainty about the future.

The current lockdown creates a paradox whereby the celebration of the ‘here and now’ for trans people which TDOV embodies is contrasted with everyday life being suspended as we all pull together to fight the virus.

On this basis, it’s vital that we connect with others in our communities despite the physical restrictions.

One of the most insidious effects of dysphoria is to cause trans people to withdraw into themselves and ruminate.

The current lockdown, which severely restricts social contact and access to support services, is liable to exacerbate mental health problems in a community which is already susceptible to self-harm and suicide.

A 2018 Stonewall survey found that over 30% of LGB people and 46% of trans people have thought about taking their own lives in the previous year.

The NHS has cancelled gender-affirming surgeries, which take years from GP referral to access, as part of the NHS need to avoid ‘non-essential surgeries’ limiting the number of available hospital beds.

Whilst this is self-evidently necessary to avoid the immediate risk of death for COVID-19 patients, the ramifications of coronavirus for the NHS are likely to be so wide-ranging that it will take a significant number of months for normal service to resume and gender-affirming surgeries to be rescheduled.

This leaves a large number of people with their lives on hold until they are able to complete their transitions.

Our team commends the work of Galop and recommends downloading their guide to developing and maintaining resilience at this time which has been created by a their trans advocate.

Galop is an independent organisation, and the only specialist LGBT+ anti-violence charity in the UK, which aims to make life just, fair and safe for LGBT+ people. Advice and support is available.

Introducing the LGBT+ Lawyers Division’s Trans and Non-Binary Inclusion project

Bridget Garrood (she/her/hers) explains:

I am privileged to lead on this project at the request of our committee’s vice chair, Rachel Reese. I’m also immensely proud of this unique team of lawyers.

We planned to host an event at the Walkie Talkie building on London for TDOV on 31 March this year in partnership with DWF and the London Bisexual Network.

We hoped not only to express the Law Society’s support for all trans and non-binary members of our profession and all those who work in the legal sector, and to welcome many of our members and friends, but also to share news of our two-year project.

Instead, we find ourselves under the current crisis, and its appalling potential to compound isolation and social distance for trans people, including trans lawyers.

We’ll certainly hold our event once we are free to celebrate trans visibility safely together, but meanwhile we’re pleased to introduce members of the project team, and to share our objectives.

These dovetail with the wider aims of the LGBT+ Lawyers Division by working towards:

  • ensuring the public face of organisations’ inclusive pro-trans and non-binary stance is genuine and is perceived as such by its trans and non- binary people
  • reducing transphobia and the associated levels of conscious and unconscious bias
  • increasing the numbers of:
    • LGBT+ Lawyers Division members who feel it’s safe openly to identify as trans/non-binary lawyers
    • trans and non-binary lawyers who are comfortable as role models
    • allies of trans and non-binary people

The objectives of the trans and non-binary inclusion sub-team itself are likely to evolve of course, but we aim to improve, for trans and non-binary people (whether or not they openly identify as trans and/or non-binary) and for the legal profession as a whole:

  • participation, experience and opportunities for trans and non-binary lawyers, from all sizes of law firm including in-house
  • encouragement to trans and non-binary law students who are studying for and/or considering legal careers
  • visibility of trans and non-binary issues
  • understanding of the challenges trans and non-binary lawyers face in recruitment/workplace/life by assisting businesses as employers and LGBT+ networks to reduce, in the legal profession, the many obstacles to trans and non-binary inclusion

We’re working on an instructive and practical suite of three documents, with short podcasts alongside each, designed to enable these stakeholders to work collaboratively towards reducing the obstacles to trans and non-binary inclusion:

  • law firms and businesses as employers
  • LGBT+ staff, student and other relevant networks

These three documents are our:

  • transitioning at work policy
  • HR/managers guides
  • FAQ for co-employees and transitioner

Watch this space for further news of how we plan to support you, your firms and your networks to do this.

Current and former members of our project team

Bridget is a family law solicitor at Cartridges Law in Exeter, and a member of the UK & Ireland LGBT Family Law Institute. She has a nationwide following with trans clients requiring specialist legal expertise including Gender Recognition Act 2004.

“Trans Day of Visibility (TDoV) is an annual event that took place this year, on Tuesday 31 March. Its purpose is to celebrate trans and non-binary people and raise awareness of the discrimination faced by us worldwide.

“It’s important for people to understand achievements of the trans and non-binary community, which can be benchmarked year to year on this date and highlight our challenges, such as the UK media’s negative obsession with trans women.

“The more visible we are, the better educated people will become and thus more supportive (even becoming allies!).

“In this time where we are all making personal sacrifices for the common good by self-isolation, remember that for trans and non-binary people this can be a frequent occurrence, thus this year TDoV is particularly important.

“Legal sector trans and non-binary role models are incredibly powerful. If you have them, use them right now to speak in your firms. This will show trans and non-binary people inside and outside your organisation (visible or not), that you care.”

Rachel is the vice chair of the LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee and director of Global Butterflies, an organisation which aims to help law firms develop trans inclusive environments.

TDOV is a day of recognition of all transgender people.

Last year, Alex Vowinckel, a member of the LGBT+LD Trans and Non-Binary Inclusion project team, made a film for trans charity Spectra, #WhoIsAlex, raising awareness of the amazing help this charity is providing to trans people, including non-binary people.

The term non-binary is meant to cover a spectrum of a gender identities including people who identify as neither male nor female, both male and female, as a third gender, as agender or as gender fluid. There are hundreds of different non-binary gender identities.

The film is currently shortlisted for the Charity Film Awards.

Watch the film

Alex is a senior associate (German Qualified) and trans* representative at CMS. Received Pink News Corporate Role Model Award in 2018 for their work on transgender and non-binary inclusion.

“I am incredibly fortunate that I am a trans man whose gender fits neatly within society’s man-woman binary. Most people don’t perceive me as trans based upon my appearance, so I am never harassed in the street because I am trans.

“My well-paid job and my legal training mean I am confident in advocating for access to the treatments I need in order to alleviate my dysphoria and, if necessary, I can afford to pay for them privately. However, I am not representative of everyone.

“I am spending the lockdown, and the foreseeable future, surrounded by supportive family members and with LGBT+ friends only a phone call away. Others aren’t so lucky, instead being confined with people who are homophobic or who invalidate their identities.

“In response, non-binary BBC Radio 1 presenter Jacob Edward has launched Validation Station which enables trans people to sign up to receive text messages that use their chosen name and pronouns.

“Even seemingly small steps can be incredibly helpful in alleviating persistent dysphoria caused by ongoing misgendering and invalidation.

“Nobody can say how long it will take to overcome COVID-19, or how our society will have changed when we emerge from this crisis.

“This TDOV we should all resolve to be grateful for the NHS and to reach out to our neighbours – whether disabled, LGBT, 'extremely vulnerable' or lonely – and offer what we can. Now more than ever 'invisible' trans people need our support.”

Luke is a law tutor at BPP Law School and a trans non-practising solicitor.

“I am co-chair of the London Bisexual Network (LBN), a professional network representing bi people and allies working in professional services. I am also the bi rep on the LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee.

“I joined our Trans Inclusion working group to learn more about trans issues, so that I could ensure that the LBN was able to appropriately support the trans and non-binary communities.

“The definition of bisexuality has traditionally been attraction to binary genders, 'men' and 'women'. This has led some to the misperception that bi people discriminate against the trans community and gender fluid people.

“In fact, bi individuals can be transphobic – just as the LG communities can be, as well as straight people, and sadly there are still too many instances of transphobia in society. However, being bi does not make someone any more likely to be transphobic.

“Many bi people identify as pansexual, which is attraction irrespective of gender. The bi and trans communities are often great allies, as there is a shared understanding that gender expression and sexual orientation do not need to be binary or fixed. This understanding means that bi spaces can be more inclusive of the trans community than lesbian or gay circles. Many trans people are themselves bi or pansexual, or are in relationships with bi or pansexual people. In addition, many bi groups, such as The Bisexual Index, now define bisexuality as 'attraction to more than one gender'.

“My work with the LBN and the Law Society has highlighted to me that the trans and non-binary communities continue to face considerable discrimination, even amongst liberal circles in the UK.

“On TDOV, LGB+ communities should focus on how we can be good allies to the trans community, including by creating a safe and inclusive environment in LGB+ circles.”

Netanya is an associate solicitor at Latham & Watkins and co-founder (and co-chair) London Bi Sexual Network.

“I am really proud to be part of this team having been appointed to the LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee in 2019. The team had hoped to host an event in London to highlight TDOV, but we have had to postpone our event given the current crisis.

“We’re nevertheless sharing a series of posts with contributions from the different members in our team. These are all really insightful and valuable pieces and I would recommend you to look at the series.

“As part of this series I wanted to reflect on a guest lecture given at Queen Mary University of London in February as part of History Month which I gave with the support of the Law Society LGBT+ National Committee titled: ‘LGBT+ family law reform – paradoxes in policy and procedure – relationship status, parenting and transgender issues’.

“The lecture focused on some of the key issues in the law impacting on the LGBT+ community, especially transgender children and parents.

“One of our key objectives in the team is to encourage trans and non-binary law students who are studying and/or considering a career in the law. It was great therefore to have contributions to the lecture from trans and non-binary students as well as members of the wider community. There was a good atmosphere in the room and I had a number of really insightful conversations with students who were well aware of many legal issues that needed to be reformed/addressed moving forward beyond those currently in the courts.

“During the lecture we talked about trans and non-binary children as well as trans and non-binary parents. I gave an overview of some of the legal hurdles they face , especially by trans and non-binary parents post separation when often there can be discrimination and/or a misinformation impacting on outcomes.

“Our team is committed and keen to continue to draw attention to such issues in order to increase visibility and improve the quality of the conversation in this area and many others.

“The importance of events like this cannot be underestimated to hopefully add to the public’s knowledge and understanding around trans and non-binary legal matters, especially on this occasion when students were present as they are the next generation.

“We want a diverse and dynamic profession with a genuinely diverse pool of talent. Part of making this happen is the mainstreaming of issues and talking openly about the current legal position and highlighting the need for reform and better public knowledge to assist in the process. We hope as a team to be able to host different events to draw attention to different issues within the profession and in relation to the law itself.”

Scott is a family law solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, London and Leeds.

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