By coincidence I've had a couple of messages from Disabled people who are going through the gender identity process.
One is at the stage of applying for an operation and the other is attempting to get the gender on her birth certificate amended.
Both of these people have described to me a process that is so medical model orientated that it makes me want to beat the various consultants and medicos over the head with a large hammer labelled 'social model understanding'.
Why this issue has been given over to the medical profession to act as gate keepers is beyond me. OK, there is sometimes an operation involved but that is a small part of the whole thing.
The medical profession being what it is, they seem to be particularly strict in the application of the various tests that they've constructed for people wishing to have their gender amended to, what for the people going through the actual process, is the correct gender in the first place. It's another of those 'protecting society from .. 'situations as I see it.
Let's have all these tests to ensure that this person who says they are male or female are really what they claim. We can then all sleep safer in our beds knowing that these perverts are not walking the streets at nights up to goodness knows what!
And some of these people are also claiming to be disabled people too ... whatever next?!
Stop allowing the medical profession to drag everything into their medical model based arena and allow such issues to become a part of the process of self determination that all people have a right to expect.
Perhaps we need to get this aired on East Enders. They've certainly raised the profile on other social issues so why not on gender identity?!
Following the news relating to Local Authorities being advised by the Department of Health to give preference to tenders for services from User-Led Organisations (ULO's) it got me to thinking about the groups and organisations that have traditionally gone after this work.
These are, of course, the organisations 'for' disabled people, those charitable concerns that have been doing it to us crips for a very long time and who have established the status quo that effectively maintains our role as recipients of their charity.
I can't see them quietly standing to one side as organisations run and controlled by Deaf and Disabled people end the monopoly that they have enjoyed for the past 60-odd years.
Some of these organisations have already started an underhanded strategy by quoting the social model into their press handouts and publicity materials. Although this is as far as it goes, as their practices are still based solely upon the medical and charitable models of disability.
My mate Dawn runs the Mentally Wealthy blog and has some interesting postings around the subject of user involvement. Click here to visit her blog.
I'm currently doing some collaboration with Vicky Wright, disabled writer and actor (she recently played a lead role in the CH4 Cast Offs series) and you can see the result of our first piece together in her powerful open letter to the comedian Frankie Boyle. I'll keep you posted about any future work we do together ... Click here to visit Vicky's article.
I have been getting some rather disturbing messages from Gay Disabled friends in Northern Ireland in relation to a recent conference promoting 'conversion therapy'. This is the process where people can be 'cured' of their homosexuality through prayer.
The conference, which was held back in February was organised by Core Issues, an evangelical Christian group in Northern Ireland which promotes this so-called therapy and claims to have 'saved' numerous homosexual Christians. The star speaker is the Rev Mario Bergner, a Chicago-based Anglican preacher and leading proponent of conversion therapy, who claims to have been cured of Aids and homosexuality through prayer.
Despite a big presence at a protest rally organised by the Queer Youth Network and the Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce (Scott), a new lobby group set up by gay journalist Patrick Strudwick, many Gay people in Northern Ireland are being badly affected by this new move by organised religion in the area. So much so that, according to one source, many are taking their own lives.
This month, The Independent published the results of a year-long investigation by Patrick Strudwick, which exposed how evangelical therapists – some operating within the NHS – try to "convert" homosexual men and women to heterosexuality. Strudwick explained the protests were to reassure any gay man or woman tempted to try conversion therapy that homosexuality is not an illness which needs to be cured. "The message of our protest is simple," Patrick told the Independent. "Love needs no cure. We want to remind the young people in the conference in the midst of so-called treatment that they are healthy, normal, valuable people; they are perfect how they are; they don't need to try to change something unchangeable and they can be happy being who they really are."
One of my sources in Northern Ireland is working with others to get Disabled artists involved in the protest and told me: "There is splintering amongst some of the queer/gay groups but a group has formed that has an ambition for artistic intervention. I have been saying F**** the divisions - that's what Northern Ireland’s sectarian history thrives on. I would like to rally the Disabled artists I connect with. They need to see that this is a humanitarian issue."
If anyone feels that they would like to become involved in this issue, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass your contact details on.
I'm devoting this week's blog to directing you to another part of the Disability Arts Online web site.
Following newspaper and television coverage about a series of crass and unfunny remarks that Frankie Boyle made during his recent stand-up comedy routine about people with learning difficulties, specifically Down's Syndrome, our very own Vicky Wright has jumped into the fray with an open letter to him.
Please click on this link - www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk">Vicky's open letter - which really says it all.
Nice one Vicky x
It's not unexpected that people who experience severe mental distress generally find night times the worst time to be alone. This is compounded by mental health trusts not being required to have any more than a tick box quota of staff available at night. In fact, most don't bother providing any real service during this time other than fielding a token Crisis Team often consisting of only two people.
I talked to a survivor who attended a recent workshop regarding mental health Crisis Teams. She was told that team workers see themselves as delivering a home treatment service - the teams are in fact called 'Crisis and Home Treatment Teams'. This involves delivering drugs to people at home in order to keep patients out of hospital and to allegedly save money in terms of expensive admissions.
Whilst they are out on these so-called 'drug runs' there is usually no-one else available at their base to answer phone calls and respond to requests for assistance. So one would assume that the trusts, needing someone to cover this out-of-hours service, would turn to an experienced private agency or mental health charity in order to check that any phone call, for example, is met with an appropriate response. WRONG!
In fact mental health trusts often ask the police to carry out a 'Safe and Well' check on any patient that they are unable to visit themselves. Unfortunately the police have little or no training in mental health issues, and seem to regard this duty as a bit of a nuisance, to put it mildly. In the experience of our survivor a lot of police officers are extremely prejudiced and will often view anyone presenting with mental distress as a potential axe wielding killer. Forget the loveable village copper image. The description of one such response team fitted more the heavy booted descendants of the notorious Special Patrol Group (SPG).
Therefore, if the police go to a house and can't get a response, often because the person is too scared to open the door, they have been known to break it down. Even if they don't have to break their way into a home, they often forcibly drag people out, usually handcuffed (more them once this has happened to our survivor when she's only been wearing a night dress - no slippers even!), before being taken to a police station to be locked overnight in a cell; this is their definition of a Place of Safety! As you can imagine, for people who are already in an extremely distressed and often confused state it is a terrifying experience to also be treated like a criminal in this way.
It was estimated that in 2006 around 250 people killed themselves within 48 hours of being detained in this way. Are we surprised?!
Has anyone else noticed that having adopted our social model language, the big charities and government departments have started to twist the wording around so that the 'problem' is back with us crips?!
For example, a recent press release from the Department for Work and Pensions contains the lines: 'It is clear that the current assessments are failing to pick up on people with major barriers to work' (this refers specifically to Disabled people). Now we could be charitable and say that this misrepresentation of the Social Model concept is down to a lack of understanding and ignorance on their part. Or you could see this as yet another example of how 'they' are always going to label 'us' as the ones with the problem!
Still don't get what's happening here?!
Well, traditionally Disabled people have been seen as the ones with the problem and that we have to either be cured or fixed in some way in order to fit in with society. Along came the Social Model understanding of disability and the concept that 'it was society that was throwing up the barriers that disabled us' was introduced. As well as taking the 'blame' away from us crips it was now a much easier task to focus on society and identify and remove those barriers that were disabling us. Eventually this understanding was introduced into mainstream thinking and began to replace the Charitable Model understanding so loved by society and the many charities that had been set up to represent us, and also the Medical Model understanding which put the specialists in charge of our lives.
As I see it, this subtle change back to Disabled people 'owning' the barriers means that we've now come full circle, allowing society to opt out of its responsibilities once again and with us crips being at fault!
Where do we go from here I wonder?!