Saturday, 26 September 2015

Assassin's Creed to Introduce First Transgender Character

The long running action adventure assassination game series Assassin's Creed is due to make a progressive step in its next console release.  The game, 'Assassin's Creed: Syndicate', is going to introduce the first transgender character the series has seen.

The game is set in Victorian era London the game will follow the assassin twins Evie and Jacob Frye as they engage in organised crime and gang wars in an attempt to fight against the established order of the Templars.  the game allows you to play as both Evie and Jacob, choosing which character to take on certain missions, missions given to you in part by Ned Wynert, the series first trans character.

'Inclusiveness is something that's super important to us as a team,' Assassins Creed: Syndicate creative director Marc-Alexis Cote said in an interview.  'We've made a good push towards diversity and how we approach different subjects in the game.'

There have been a few video games over the years that have presented transgender characters, with most of these being trans women, so to see a trans male presented is a nice change.  With Bioware introducing us to the wonderfully well portrayed character of Cremisius 'Krem' Aclassi in 'Dragon Age: Inquisition' last year and now Ubisoft giving fans Ned I'm hoping that we're starting to see the use of trans people in video games being used beyond objectification.

Poison and Bridget both represent a sexualised version of trans women in games
By that I mean characters unlike Poison from 'Final Fight' and Bridget from 'Guilty Gear', who are incredibly sexualised women.  If Ned can follow the same frame work as Krem, of being a well rounded and respected character, whose status as transgender is only a tiny fact of who they are instead of the core factor, then perhaps the trans community has started to become represented correctly in the video gaming medium.


Follow Amy on Twitter
Join Amy on Facebook
Join Her Fans on Facebook

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Prince William First Royal To Publicly Condemn Homophobia

During a visit to Hammersmith Accademy Prince William, and future king, took part in a group session with pupils that discussed practical tips for preventing anti-LGBT+ bullying.

The visit was organised through the Diana Award, named after the princes late mother, whose specialist staff run bullying workshops across the country.  It should be noted that despite backing numerous charities and good causes the Royal Family have almost never been seen backing LGBT causes.

It is worth noting that the Royal Family are head of the Commonwealth, of which 90% of its citizens still live under anti-gay laws.  As such the Royal Family tend to avoid references to LGBT+ equality, and no royal has ever spoken in favour of marriage equality.

During the visit to Hammersmith Accademy, however, Price William spoke out against homophobia, along with the Education and Equalities minister Nicky Morgan.

During a discussion with students about homophobic bullying, where they were asked how they would go about tackling such bullying, Prince William indicated that he would confront such bullying.  Agreeing with one of the student comments he said, 'As the young man said, I would try to confront.'

A Kengsington Palace spokesperson commented, saying 'He hopes it will help de-stigmatise bullying issues in schools.  He particularly likes the idea of a peer-led support network to prevent any child or young person suffering in silence.'

To many this statement might not seem like much of a gesture, but the future king will one day be in a position to challenge anti-gay leaders from across the Commonwealth and promote positive change for many people.  It should also be noted that during his time in the RAF he served alongside transgender pilot Ayla Holdom.


Follow Amy on Twitter
Join Amy on Facebook
Join Her Fans on Facebook

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Labour's New Shadow Cabinet All Voted For Marriage Equality

Now that Jeremy Corbyn has taken over leadership of the Labour Party their has been some major reshuffling and a new shadow cabinet has been selected.  As to be expected with Corbyn being a left-wing politician their is a definite left-wing bent to the new shadow cabinet, and specifically all of the 26 members of the cabinet are politicians who voted for marriage equality in 2013.

This makes the Labour Party the only party in the UK-wide political party in which every MP and peer voted for marriage equality.

Interestingly seven members of the Conservative Party voted against the bill, including Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, Culture Secretary John Wittingdale and unfortunately Education Secretary and Equalities minister Nicky Morgan.

With an Equalities Minister who voted against marriage equality this is yet another blow to the Conservative Party that the new left-wing Labour Party has delivered.


Follow Amy on Twitter
Join Amy on Facebook
Join Her Fans on Facebook

Friday, 11 September 2015

Trans Inquiry - Transgender Hate Crime With Professor Neil Chakraborti

Tuesday 8th September saw the first day of the Trans Inquiry being led by parliaments women's and equalities committee, where they took evidence from healthcare professionals, criminal experts and members of the trans community.

I've seen some criticism over the inquiry, about the reasons why it's being held or the people involved (or rather the lack of trans individuals).  Whilst some of these criticisms may be well formed, I think a lot of the complaints are misplaced.  I also feel that a lot of the focus of the inquiry has been given over to the first half of what was spoken about, health care.

Whilst I acknowledge that these issues are massively important, and as I've written about in the past their are some serious issues faced by trans people when trying to access health care, ranging from denial of those services to discrimination, the second part of Tuesdays inquiry is also massively important.  Crime against transgender people.

We all know it happens, all over the world.  We've seen the headlines of trans people suffering verbal and physical abuse, people attacked and hospitalised, and the increase in the murder rate of trans women.  Yes, healthcare is important, but I believe that our protection under the law is a hugely important issue, especially when you realise that in the UK their are no laws that protect against transphobic hate crime.

One of the experts called on to speak at the inquiry was Professor Neil Chakraborti, a professor of criminology and the head of the Leicester Centre for Hate Studies.  Neil kindly agreed to speak to me a little about the topics that were brought up at the inquiry and go over some of the information raised.

Both yourself and the other witnesses were asked to describe what you would define as transphobia and both active transphobia and as Helen Belcher brought up Cissexism were described, through the research the Centre For Hate Studies has performed have you found that one is more prevalent than the other or that the two would go hand in hand?

I think they both go hand in hand actually, from Helens prospective and the work she does through Trans Media Watch she would have seen a different side to it, in therms of offensive material incitement or derogatory stereotypes that have been presented over the years.  The work that I've done has been more directly related to victimisations, peoples actual experiences of harassment, abuse and targeted hostility so with that in mind I've probably seen more of the physical expressions of hostility.  Don't think that means that transphobia is simply about that, I think it's simply from the fact that because of my work focusing on hate crimes against people who have been targeted because of their physical characteristics so invariably I've seen more of those physical experiences.

Helen also spoke in length about poor media representation and even in some cases where media pieces are quite aggressive towards trans people.  Some people find that this kind of media representation promotes that kind of thinking and normalises transphobic opinions and views, through your research have you found anything that would tend to agree with that?

Yeah, I would, i think those media representations as you say reinforce those negative views and stereotypes and normalise them.  Those people we've spoken to through our research who've experienced transphobic hate crime have talked about their being a driect relationship between media representation and their experiences of hostility, discrimination and even violence.  I think that's where real problems where it comes to media reporting can have some serious consequences for people so I do definitely believe that there's a correlation between representations through the media and even political representations, the language we use, the normalisation of stereotypes, I think there's a direct link between that and experiences of hostility.

At one point during the inquiry you said that there were no provisions against aggravated offenses for transphobic incidents and no criminal offenses for the stirring up of hatred towards trans people and spoke about the legislation when they looked at it recently but chose not to update it because they didn't feel that their was a need for it.  Do you feel that that kind of lack of understanding for why it's needed is sending a message, even from the Law Commission, that people shouldn't find transphobia wrong, that it's okay top target trans people?

I don't think that was a deliberate message the law commission was sending, but that is the unintended consequence isn't it?  If you have an opportunity to use parity across all stands but don't take that opportunity, and their may be valid reasons for that in you own minds, but if you don't take that opportunity then of course you're going to be conveying a message to those people who don't have parity that somehow they're not deserving of the equivalent protection of other monitored groups.  

As i said to the inquiry it just seems like a missed opportunity.  Also, not so sure it was thought through in as much depth as it could have been, if your saying as a Law Commission that there's not a practical need for such legislation what do you do when it comes to the stirring up of hatred online?  There's no legal provisions to guard against that.  I just find that baffling, was that not considered by the commission or was it considered to be not a big enough problem?  Or was it felt that there were existing provisions that would cover that? It's just not clear from what i can see, and i think irrespective of the rights and wrongs of that decision the unwitting message that it sends is again, one that reinforces the marginalisation for trans people.

So from what I understand of the law, if there was someone standing the middle of the town centre with a megaphone in their hands calling trans people the worst possible slurs and saying any number of horrific things that's not punishable by law.  Also, is it not true that if they encourage others to do trans people harm and someone acted upon that the person committing the actual assault or murder could be charged under those particular laws, but nothing could be done against those who are encouraging or inciting that.  Is that correct?

That's exactly it yes.  So at the moment if I stood in the town centre and started saying horrible things about trans people that isn't an offense in itself, now that might not be problematic because if I went out and said horrible things about faith communities or about gay people that in itself isn't a criminal offense, what makes it a criminal offense is if I decided to make threatening comments about a group or encouraged citizens to go an throw bricks through peoples windows.  That, as the law stands wouldn't be a criminal offense if it's towards trans people, there are no incitement provisions around the stirring of hate towards trans people, but yet there are those provisions for other groups.  Interestingly there aren't provisions for disabled people either, so it's very much the trans community and people with physical and learning disabilities  who are left out of the equation when it comes to the incitement of hate.

There might be other laws in place that would come into practice, so if somebody chose to speak out that way in the city centre this afternoon they might be charged under public order legislation, they might be committing a public order offense but that isn't really the point for me.  We either call this hate crime or we don't, it's frustrating that on the one hand we tell the trans community that we're their for you, come and report your incidents and somebody will listen to you and that we want to learn from your experiences, but on the other hand we don't have equivalent hate crime provisions as we do for the other monitored strands.  It's very contradictory in therms of the message it sends out.  So you're right in terms of the analogy that it wouldn't be a criminal offense.

You also spoke about the barriers to reporting, do you find that the normalising of transphobic hate speech along with hostility from police when reporting seems to be a problem many trans people face?  And is that lack of legislation adding to that also, because there's no laws protecting against it people are being left to believe that it's just something that they have to put up with?

Absolutely, I was going to make the connection but you've done it for me.  There's absolutely a connection there as you got this message that's coming out in the law that's saying perhaps you're not quite as equal as other groups of hate crime victims, but we're also saying to the trans community come and report your experiences.  So it does come across as contradictory and leads a lot of people to suffer in silence as they feel that those experiences aren't taken seriously.  It 's certainly been what we've been hearing from many of the trans victims we've been speaking to.  So like I said to the inquiry, a lot of people normalise their experiences.  They see it as a routine part of being different.

I remember quite a lot of victims I spoke to said they'd be in and out of a police station all day every day if they reported each and every hate incident they experienced.  It's an ongoing process, it's a part of everyday life for a lot of people, and a lot of this is unrepeatable, or felt to be unrepeatable.  How do you report somebody just staring at you in such a hostile manner, or a stranger making derogatory remarks about you in the street?  how do you in practice report being bullied on the bus or just being made to feel unwelcome in the workplace or social setting?  

That's the kind of day to day verbal harassment and hostility people were experiencing, but often that escalated into more serious violence and if you're uncomfortable about reporting those lower level incidents at what stage do you draw the line and say okay, this is something that I'm going to report?  If you're brave enough to report those experiences how do you feel confident that the authorities will take those experiences seriously if as we've already discussed there's a question mark over equality and legal protection?

That normalisation process is a real worry, it's a worry across the whole strand of hate crime victims but it's a real worry within the trans community.

What would you feel needs to be done both from within the trans community and from the legal system to help towards the reporting and eventual stamping out of transphobic hate crime?

It's hard to boil down, I think there's a number of steps that should be taken to increase reporting and we did some research for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission earlier this year where we  actually asked trans people what are your specific recommendations and it was really interesting.  For instance, it was felt that there was a need for greater contact between front line practitioners and the trans community.  at the moment is feels like engagement is quite narrow and tokenistic and may be only one trans activist per city or even county and that is't really engagement.  

I think there's a need for much wider engagement as that would help develop trust, and would also make front line practitioners more aware of the day to day challenges of being trans and those barriers to reporting.  So certainly much more engagement between practitioners and the trans community.  

I think many trans people want third party reporting options, so if you're uncomfortable going to the police station there are other options available to you for reporting those incidents.  At the moment most areas in the UK there are third party reporting options but they're not very well known, for example in Leicester you can go to the library to report.  Who goes to their Library, who knows they can report at the library?  I think it needs more engagement with the trans community to find out what would work for them.  Also, what works for trans victims in one are might not work in another, more rural area for example, so that whole communication process would really help to find out what works when it comes to reporting.

A couple of other things I'd say when it comes to barriers to reporting, many victims say they want to see positive things come from campaigns around reporting, so more positive reporting on successful real life stories of people being brought to justice.  This could really help to encourage others to come forward with their own reports.

Other than that I think some of the needs and requirements are very similar to other strands of hate crime victims, they want regular updates from reports as there is very little followup, sometimes victims want an independent advocate as it can be quite daunting during the process.  So there's  number of steps that can be taken, and we presented a lot of these to the Equlaities and Human Rights Commission in our report.

Social media was briefly spoken about and the prevalence of hate speech on there along with the difficulty of policing that.  Did you find through your research when speaking to trans people that this was a problem they spoke about with you?

Not as much as I thought it would be.  That's not to say it isn't a problem but it didn't come up in the report as much, but I do know that online hate and hostility through social media is a huge problem.  I think that there's a lot of confusion around who should tackle these incidents, who should be the ones reacting to it.  In our own research I've not spoken to that many victims who've faced those kinds of problems through social media but it's something that I;d love to explore more.

One of the things you said in the inquiry that seemed to grab a lot of peoples attention and was quoted on Twitter during the inquiry was that the legal system within the UK seems to wait for a tragedy to occur before going and enacting changes.  I know it's not a straight forward comparison as it's not just talking about the UK, but like in America the numbers of trans women murders is on the rise, we're already 50% higher than the whole of last year with three months of the year left to go.  

Transphobic hate seems to either be reported more or possibly happening more, so I guess my question is what more is going to happen before these changes come into effect?  It's costing lives already, when do you think people are going to start seeing this as an issue or do you think that's already started now with the trans inquiry?

The fact that a trans inquiry is taking place is a good sign for sure, so it's something we shouldn't over look or underestimate, there's much more academic literature when it comes to transphbic hatred and more policy engagement on these issues so they're all really positive signs, and they weren't there ten years back.  There is most definitely progress.  Is that progress far reaching enough?  No, of course not.  We still have a shocking level of transphobic hostility and transphobic hate crime taking place.  We have massive level of under reporting, we have disparity within levels of legal protection and we have concerns within the trans community so there are massive problems.  Obviously we've had progress, though I don't thin its come quick enough.

In answer to the first part of your question, I don't know what else could happen, we've had so much tragedy that effects the trans community so I'm not sure we need any more to hurry things along or things will hurry along any more then they already are.  

The reason I made that point to the inquiry is because that is how our law has developed.  We didn't have much by way of hate crime legislation until the Lawrence Case, and then people lobbying on behalf of ethnic minority communities for tighter laws on racist hate so those laws started to develop.  9/11 happened and we saw a backlash against Muslim communities in particular then we saw the creation of racially aggravated offenses.  we saw the murder of Jody Dobrowski and the introduction of laws covering homophobic hatred.  

We've seen tragic cases around cases of disability and we've seen legislation there, so it seems like there's this piecemeal approach, that is better than in some countries where they don't make these kinds of legislation, but it does seem like a very odd way of lawmaking where we wait for problems to occur before we do anything about them.  That's one of my biggest concerns where it comes to hate crime laws, and particular the trans community, and it's like you said, what more needs to happen before people start taking this seriously?  And when I say take it seriously I mean we need to do more than just have inquiries about the issues, we actually need to make people feel safer and that isn't happening just yet.

What would you like to see come from the trans inquiry?

What I'd like to see, rather than saying specific things I'd like to see because ultimately it's not my call whether I want to see changes to the law or any of the specific recommendations the inquiry might make, what I would like to see is for the inquiry to reduce a report and findings that are fed back to the trans community and for the trans community to consider that report and feed back to the inquiry.  

So rather than it being a done deal where people give evidence and a report is compiled and published and that box is ticked and we move on to the next issue, I really want this to be the first step in a dialogue where a report can be fed back to the people effected, not people like me, but people who are actually effected by these issues whether within the health care system or criminal justice system.  

I'd like to see that opportunity and hope that that opportunity is given, I'm just worried that this is a situation where  something's produced and we just move on from there.  It's better than having no inquiry at all, but I'm hoping that it can be used as the first step in an open dialogue with the trans community itself.

Professor Neil Chakraborti works for the University of Leicester Criminology department and runs the Leicester Centre For Hate Studies.


Follow Amy on Twitter
Join Amy on Facebook
Join Her Fans on Facebook

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Whether Samus Is Transgender Isn't The Issue, Transphobia Is

There has been a story going around recently that long running video game and female action hero Samus Aran from the Metroid franchise is transgender.  The report started after some information came to light regarding comments made by the characters creator back in 1994 that state she is trans.

At the time the writers of the official Japanese strategy guide for Super Metroid asked the games developers is they could share any secrets about the character.  Hirofumi Matsuoka, who helped work on the original designs for the character of Samus, claimed that Samus 'wasn't a woman' but instead a 'newhalf'.

Newhalf, for those not in the know, is a Japanese term for transgender women, though some view the term to be insulting akin to shemale, ladyboy or tranny.

Some have speculated that perhaps this was the developers offensive joke regarding Samus' very masculine appearance, at the time of Super Metroid Samus was described as being six foot three and 198 pounds and was often drawn as very physically imposing woman.

Whilst it is a possibility that it was just one person making an offensive joke, it's also possible that it's also true.  Don't forget, during the whole of the first Metroid game players were ;ed to believe that Samus was male, even using male pronouns in the guide and instruction book so as to surprise people when she removed her power suit in the finale.  Though, once again hiding her gender may have been nothing more than a simply ploy for surprise with no other intentions at all.

what needs to be remembered, however, is that the person who made this statement back in 1994, wasn't the creator of the character.  They had no authority to make a statement like tat and for it to be true.  In the piece that started it the author, Briana Wu, described it as being like when J.K. Rowling said Dumblebore was gay, except it isn't.  It's more like if the costume designer on one of the Harry Potter films said Dumbledore was gay, because the person who said Samus was a Newhalf wasn't the creator, just someone who worked on the look of the character.

Whether Samus is or isn't transgender isn't what I'm wanting to talk about though, it's the reaction from many gamers at the very idea that she may have been born genetically male that's disturbing.  Yes, there are some people who are making some very reasoned arguments, such as the person who made the claim was in position to do so, that the misgendering in the first game was either a mistake on the creators part or a clever ruse to throw off players, or simply the fact that it has never been stated in official cannon.

However, their are some people who are making some rather vicious arguments as to why Samus couldn't possibly be trans.  Some of this even seems to have ended as hate mail towards the original articles creators.

As to be expected with any story involving trans people in any form their is the straight out hostility with use of the words 'tranny', 'shemale' or 'it', with some of these terms being used to speak about the articles author directly.  Whatever these peoples arguments might be as to why Samus isn't trans go straight out of the window when they descend to using slurs and name calling.  Any well reasoned argument they have falls by the wayside when they start calling a trans woman 'tranny' or 'it'.

Some people are arguing that Samus couldn't be trans because we've seen her as a young girl, which raises some worrying questions as to people knowledge and understanding of trans people and what we go through.  Yes, not everyone who transitions does so from a young age, some people even wait most of their lives before doing so, but their are some trans people in the world who know from day one that they're in the wrong body and start their transition from a very young age.

With Metroid being a science fiction series set in the future, with transgender acceptance increasing even in our lifetime is it so hard to believe that in the far future people would be willing to accept that a three year old child saying their trans could happen, or that she'd be allowed to live in her desired gender.  Hell, their might even be new science that helps them to do so.  So the people stating that Samus must be female because she was a little girl, well, unless theirs a scene somewhere where we see her being born with fully female genitals on display, you can't take her being in a dress as proof she was born female.

Some protesters to the idea are also stating that by making Samus trans takes away a strong female character, or that it's saying the only way women can be strong action heroes is if they were born men, and that that strength comes from being male.  Well this is yet again people failing to understand that trans women are women, not men.  Saying that being a trans woman takes glory away from women and gives it to men is massively insulting to trans women.

I'm not saying that I believe Wu's insistence that Samus is trans, there's no real evidence to point to that conclusion, what I have a problem with though is peoples snap reactions to the idea.  If you don't want to believe it and call out the concept as foolish, great, do that, but do it with reasoned argument.  Don't turn it into an attack on trans women.

Whether that's what you're intending to do it's what's happening with statements like those above, or with articles such as this that insist on referring to a trans woman with male pronouns.  You don't have to agree with one persons theory, you don't have to like the fact that they're presenting it as fact, but please try to act with a little decency and courtesy.

At the end of the day is their evidence that proves Samus is trangender?  No, theirs not.  Is their any harm with people choosing in their head to believe that she's trans?  Again, no, that doesn't take away from any or your enjoyment of the character.  Is their an issue with using transphobic slurs and insults against those ideas?  Yes, their is a massive problem with that.

If you truly believe that Briana Wu chose to claim Samus was trans 'for attention' or to create a situation where she could accuse people of transphobia, don't play into that.  Give your arguments against the theory without stooping to the level of insults and hate speech.  Be the bigger people.


Follow Amy on Twitter
Join Amy on Facebook
Join Her Fans on Facebook