Tobias Hunter, Veterinary Student
It’s Asexual Visibility Day!
Tobias Hunter, Veterinary Student
It’s Asexual Visibility Day!
Helen Redpath MRCVS
Lesbian Visibility Day was first observed in 2008 and was created to ensure the visibility of the lesbian community.
It’s Lesbian Visibility Day!
Hope the photo has got your attention – despite the irreverence, LVD has a serious message. Only by fostering visibility can we challenge bigotry and promote acceptance.
I’m no historian nor especially activist, but old enough to remember the open misogyny of society (and the veterinary profession, when female applicants for jobs were automatically binned). Thankfully, society (and the veterinary profession) has made some progress in
this regard, and I hope to see similar progress in the devaluation of homophobia over the next decades.
It shouldn’t be necessary to have LVD but it is currently critical that we do challenge the accepted “norms” of society. All of us have at some point experienced the hurt of unequalsocietal values, intentionally or otherwise, even from our nearest and dearest.
There will always be extremists, and different viewpoints, but as a minority group the only way to achieve progress is to educate when we can, and be visible, not marginalised.
Our profession is unique, and in my opinion has a high proportion of independent thinkers with a huge capacity for compassion. We are lucky that, with a number of exceptions, the majority of colleagues are accepting; but others we meet on a daily basis often have different values, and there are sectors of society where it would be incredibly difficult to be ‘out’. Only a few years ago I completely changed clothing after a Pride event to take a late train home, as I didn’t feel comfortable travelling alone, advertising where I’d been. So take every opportunity to educate and promote tolerance, equality and inclusion – let the
prejudiced become the marginalised, minority group.
BVLGBT+ are here for you whatever your connection to the profession; as a voice, but also as a community – the friendliest, most welcoming folks I know. From advice, to
excellent social events, to an understanding ear: we are here.
Be PROUD of who you are
Be as VISIBLE as you want to be.
Charlotte S. McCarroll MRCVS
Every 31st March since 2009 we have Trans Day of Visibility (TDoV).
This is a day to celebrate our existence and raise awareness of the discrimination and hostility we still face. There are still groups that exist solely to vilify and hate trans people, and portray trans people as some kind of threat to women and children often in the name of “reasonable concerns” or “safeguarding issues” on bad faith arguments. I am sure that anyone from any kind of minority or oppressed group will recognise the tactics these groups use. It is important to recognise them for what they are though, and to recognise their bad faith arguments for what they are. Anyway, that is not what I am wanting to discuss today!
What I do want to talk about is trans visibility in the veterinary profession. But before that, a little trans history.
Trans people have been around as long as there has been human history and in many different cultures from Ancient Egypt and the galli priests of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome to hijras of the Indian subcontinent recorded 3,000 years ago. However, many people mistakenly believe trans people to be a recent phenomenon.
Recent Western trans history pretty much starts with Lili Elbe, the Danish painter seeking help at the Hirschfield Institute in 30s Berlin and the twentieth century media’s obsession with salacious gossip. In fact, being trans was so far from most people’s awareness that the concept of “legal sex” didn’t exist in most countries’ law until it was tested by the Corbett v. Corbett marriage annulment in 1970 where it was claimed the couple could not have been married and introduced the concept of “legal sex”. Positive steps began to follow shortly after with Sweden allowing people to change their “legal sex” from 1972. However, the UK did not follow until 2004. That really wasn’t long ago. I was in my second year of vet school when the Gender Recognition Act came into UK law.
The UK had remained quite hostile to the whole LGBTQ+ community. From 1988 until 2003 the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities was prohibited by law, Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. This was specifically targeted at schools during the time many of us would have been pupils. My own school career began in September 1989 finishing in June 2003, pretty much the entire duration of Section 28. Far be it for schools to help support children helping to understand themselves! It was brought in as a fear that gay people were a danger to children and would “convert them” to ways of homosexuality. A familiar narrative heard today about trans people and spread by people with similar attitudes to those of the 1980s. In some respects, the narrative has become more positive, certainly for some of the LGBTQ+ community, but we are not there yet for all as shown by the recent backlash against proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and hostile stunts at the 2018 London Pride parade.
One positive to come from the struggles of trans people for fair and equal recognition is an increased public awareness. In the main, most people are of the “live and let live” mentality although they can waver when faced with the bad faith arguments of the anti-trans lobby all too commonly given a prominent platform in the UK media while trans voices are often glossed over.
But what of trans visibility within the veterinary profession? Where do we sit? The Government Equalities Office “tentatively” estimate that there are between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people in the UK. With a population of 66.7 million that puts the proportion of trans people at around 0.3-0.8%. The UK has about 20,000 vets and 12,500 vet nurses so that would mean statistically there are 60-160 trans vets and 38-100 trans vet nurses practising out there today. Harder data has 4,910 (as of 2018) trans people get a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) since 2004 which running the same calculations means 1.4 vets has a GRC – I guess that’s me then. However, the process of getting a GRC is quite burdensome, with large quantities of documents being required to prove at least 2 years of living in your acquired gender and really quite intrusive medical certificates and letters being provided to a panel of strangers to give you another piece of paper. I can tell you now, it isn’t that piece of paper that makes me trans.
In writing this blog post I ran a Google search of “Transgender veterinarian” and got two-and-a-bit hits. I am the UK bit via a BVA blog and the BVLGBT+ page. The other two are in the US and Australia. In other words, trans people are not publicly visible at all in the veterinary profession. The situation is very similar with veterinary nurses. I would say, though, as trans people do we have a duty to be visible? We are in our jobs to be vets and nurses. We are out there competently seeing and treating our patients, running the diagnostic tests sent to the labs, conducting the research into new treatments and training the next generation of vets. The numbers say there are plenty of us out there quietly getting on. We are your colleagues. We count. We matter. Look after us and stand up for us.
A joint statement from BVLGBT+ and BVEDS for Pride Month 2020.
We stand together as proud members of the veterinary profession.
June is Pride month, when in normal times LGBT+ people march, celebrate and most importantly remember those who have faced and face discrimination for being themselves. Our profession has made huge progress and our professional bodies lead the way in accepting LGBT+ people, but many individuals still experience discrimination in their working lives, particularly our trans colleagues.
George Floyd’s terrible death and the protests that followed have shown us very starkly the pain and upset that black people experience. It raises questions for all of us about race and racism in different contexts, including in our working lives. We know that our profession is not representative of the people of the UK – 97% of vets are white. We also know that in a 2019 BVA survey, 27% of cases of discrimination witnessed by others were based on race, and that half of the discrimination reported was by one member of the profession against another.
Discrimination blights lives, whether based on race, sex, sexuality or gender Identity. The trans woman mocked at work and unsupported by her employer; the black vet turned away from farms because of his colour – these are stories from our profession today. Now is the time for all of us to pause and consider our part in it.
For most of us, our work is based around the use of evidence and the exercise of compassion. It is time to use these skills to scrutinise ourselves and how we interact and behave toward those who are different to us, and particularly our Black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues. We need to recognise the problem of racism, educate ourselves on the experience of our BAME colleagues, understand our own often unconscious bias and act to change our profession for the better.
The Pride movement arose out of struggle sparked by the Stonewall riots. In the chaos of the police attack on the Stonewall Inn in 1969 a young black drag queen, Marsha Johnson, fought back and has become a hero for many. But her race, her sexuality and gender identity left her on the margins, excluded at times even by the gay and lesbian community. Her life is a lesson to all of us – LGBT+ and BAME, straight and white – about the consequences of exclusion and discrimination.
BVEDS and BVLGBT+ have common cause in fighting discrimination. We will work together to support our members, to share their stories with the wider profession and to campaign for change. We need our colleagues to support us.
Tom Doyle MRCVS, President
British Veterinary LGBT+ Association
British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society
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