There are three things that have occurred this week that have given me reason to reflect upon gender identity.
First, the death of David Bowie. James Brown told us that “It’s a man’s world” and Carole King confirmed that she is made to “feel like a natural woman” and into this world Bowie introduced us to gender fluidity with Ziggy playing his guitar. Lets remember that Ziggy was introduced into a music world that was, on the whole, very binary in its approach to gender identity. What an ally Ziggy proved to be for all those exploring identity that would be deemed ‘beyond the norm’.
Secondly, the publication on January 14th of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee into Transgender Equality. Having become accustomed to reports and recommendations that seem to show little understanding of a variety of issues, JUST Lincolnshire welcomes this report which appears to be sensitive, realistic, understanding and has actually made the effort to have conversations with people at ‘the coalface’ of Trans issues. The Independent newspaper contains an insightful article regarding the report.
Thirdly, The Anglican Primate Gathering announced sanctions against the US Episcopal Church over its stance on same sex marriage and homosexuality. Whilst pacifying those who adopt a traditional and literal interpretation of the Bible it has caused dismay and fear amongst those who seek to affirm same sex relationships and those exploring gender identity. Whilst there needs to be space for open and transparent discussion the pain that this will cause those who feel (or felt!) that the Anglican Church is a safe place to explore faith and gender identity can not be overstated.
So, what reflections has this led me to.
I wonder if a main theme across these issues, and many others, is one of power and who holds it and whether it can be relinquished. When we talk of equality and human rights I can’t help but feel that sometimes it is almost that we are bestowing a gift or favour on a ‘poor disadvantaged’ community. Now this can happen unintentionally but the result is still the same still, that of provider and recipient. There needs to be a more visible and open discussion about power, the nature of power and who wields it.
I was also taken by the following paragraph in the Report on Transgender Equality:
“A litmus test for any society that upholds the principles of fairness and equality is the extent to which it supports and protects the rights and interests of every citizen, even the most marginalised groups. Whilst Britain has been among the countries that have gone furthest in recognising lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, our society is still failing this test in respect of trans people, despite welcome progress in recent years.
The questions I would ask firstly, of JUST Lincolnshire, but also your organisation or group or you as an individual is where are we on that litmus test? and how are we (ab)using power? Maybe it is worth remembering what Bowie himself said
“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through”*
*Bowie, David. “Changes.” Hunky Dory). RCA, 1971