UK GEO 2011 transgender action plan excludes intersex

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WE really should not be surprised, given how poor the UK Government Equalities Office‘s efforts on behalf of intersex people have been to date. Surveys promised to be intersex inclusive have been anything but, or have been inclusive only in the most token manner.

Now the inevitable has happened and the GEO’s Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action does not include intersex despite promises to the contrary. 

Government Equalities Office: Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action, December 2011 - click to download and read this PDF.

Setting up to fail – including intersex in what it is not

Over the last year, GEO officers have been promising to fully and equally include intersex in their transgender research efforts. We have pointed out the very obvious pitfall of including intersex in something that it quite clearly is not – transgender. How on earth are intersex people supposed to know that the only means we have of being included in GEO research is via surveys that are apparently nothing to do with us? Then when the surveys appear, and make a dog’s dinner of intersex inclusion yet again, we point that out and GEO officers say they will do better next time.

You would think the GEO would simply research and report on intersex as intersex and independently of transgender whilst part of an overall LGBTI program, but they seem stuck on an “LGB&T” only strategy and have left I for intersex in the wilderness. Each time a survey appears they only seem to inform transgender people and organizations, not intersex people and organizations, hoping that the trans people will somehow spread the news a bit further. If the GEO really wants to publicize their research efforts to all intersex people who might want to take part, they would be well advised to advertise outside the trans community.

Intersex people, as we constantly remind everyone, are some 4% of the human population and we exist in all strata of society, in all nations of the world, and not within some kind of “LGB&T”-style ghetto.

The GEO says it understands about intersex

We have been told that officers of the GEO do, indeed, understand that intersex is not somehow transgender and do indeed understand that intersex people need equality, human rights and protection against discrimination just as “LGB&T” people do. But we suspect that, given the GEO’s adoption of the odd intersex-excluding “LGB&T” construct, intersex people are left out in the cold by default.

Would that it were otherwise. What we are seeing with the UK’s entrenched intersex inequality is an echo of the same thing we have seen here. It is far harder to legislate for “LGB&T” people’s equality and then go back for intersex people than it is to legislate for all of LGBTI equality at the very same time, in one big hit. The “back of the bus”, “we’ll come back for you” and “trickle down” theories are little more than Big Lies designed to mollify us until reality dawns.

Hoping for better

We had hoped for better from this government after the mess their New Labor predecessors made when they refused to include intersex people in equality consultations altogether. We hope that we will not continue to be so disappointed and that intersex people in the UK will begin to make some of the same gains that we in Australia have, with more coming soon.