Some progress, but not enough: transgender people, transphobia, and employment

Introducing a new contributor, Hannah Freya-Blake. Opinionated, educated and with a sharp younger she’s an incredible addition to the team.


 

Thanks to characters like Sophia Burset from Netflix’s own Orange is the New Black, real-life documentary show I am Jazz, and celebrity figures like Caitlyn Jenner, transgender people and their rights are becoming increasingly visible in western society.

 

(Left: Sophia Burset. Right: Caitlin Jenner)

Though the world still struggles to understand and tolerate diversity to the extent that most of us would like, the fact that I can go to my local M&S and be served by a transgender woman shows that equality and diversity employment laws are making some head way. Let’s face it: what you want to see on the other side of a till is a smiling person who knows how to fold knickers.

I did say some head way. We all know the gender pay gap still exists – thanks, BBC – and homophobic attacks increased significantly after the Brexit vote, alongside racist violence. Now news from the land of Stars and Stripes has reached us: no trans-people are allowed to serve in the U.S. military. Characteristic of President of the United States, the world receives an informative declaration of his ban via a Tweet:

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

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Much of the attention to this statement in the news and social media has been on the supposed medical costs (check out how much the US Military spends on Viagra to compare) and the notion that transgender soldiers cause ‘disruption’. What disruption? Trump seems to have sex on his brain too much, given how much he likes to grab pussy. Does he mean that the cisgender male soldiers, when they see their once male mate is now a female mate, for example, will they flounder about the military base with their trousers down?

I’m wondering if Trump’s reference to a ‘decisive’ victory is designed to connote that old concern that the trans community just can’t make up their mind. I wonder how much he’d freak if he’d heard of gender non-conformity, fluidity, or pansexuality?

We can complain about Trump for hours. But his decision does have ramifications; deemed unsuitable for a career in the army because they supposedly cost too much and disrupt the professionalism of the military, how might the trans community be seen in the wider working world?

The first obstacle is just that – to be seen. To be social and to work, to be a recognised member of the public, with a private life (in which the question of “what genitals have you got?” is not dragged out into the public). In 2007, the Trans Research team suggested that an accurate estimate of transgender people in the UK population was impossible to provide due to insubstantial and unofficial records, though there could be between 1 in 100 or 1 in 20. A decade later, there is still no administrative or Governmental analysis of the transgender population in the UK. In 2009, and reviewed again in 2016, the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimated that there are between 300,000 to 500,000 transgender people in the UK.

Yet despite anti-discriminatory laws, the UK still seems to recognise transgender people only if they have medical support. Britain still sends transwomen who have not received a Gender Recognition Certificate (an expensive pursuit) to male prisons, despite promising to review the rights of trans inmates in the wake of controversy following the assault on, and rape, of transwomen, and suicides of other transwomen, in male prisons. These problems are not exclusive to the UK; overseas, in Australia, Mary (a pseudonym) was transferred to four different jails after being attacked, raped, and denied her gender by inmates who cut her hair off and deprived her of her hormone drugs.

Medication is important to the transition process. Yet when questions of mental health become involved, this can exacerbate the stigma against transgender people. Labels like Gender Identity Disorder and Gender Dysphoria can complicate the ways in which cisgender and transphobic individuals view the trans community. If it has a label, the terms imply, it has a cure, ergo identifying as a gender contrary to the medically identified gender at birth is a state of mind that can be changed. This can be exceptionally problematic, though we can see changes to this attitude in Europe. A stand out example is the news that Denmark has decided to no longer recognise being transgender as a mental illness.

Mental health, such as depression, often prevents or hinders individuals from seeking and/or sustaining employment. Given the proportionally high rates of depression and suicidal thoughts among transgender people, gaining stable employment in the outset can be a challenge. More than half of transgender people have been found to have suicidal thoughts, while more than half of those with suicidal thoughts have attempted suicide (Nuttbrook et al, 2010…just in case you wanted to know). Much of this is considered to be a result of transphobia and related mental health stigma. How, then, can someone who suffers discrimination and battles with suicidal thoughts survive an unsupportive workplace?

Over a third of trans employees have quit their job

Last year, The Independent reported over a third of trans employees have quit their job due to workplace discrimination. The Equality Act of 2010 – which brings together the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, Race Relations Act of 1976, and the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 – for all their legal jargon has not necessarily protected transgender people from experiencing discrimination, transphobia, and stigma. Lauren Mizcock, studying employment, stigma, and the mental health of transgender people in Boston, U.S., found that stigma is more likely to be internalised by transgender people who are actually in employment. Those choosing or considering to disclose their gender identity, if it is not visibly apparent, may internalise the stigma they anticipate encountering. For some, being able to anticipate stigma may become part of their coping strategy as they are careful to select employment in environments which they perceive to be more tolerant.

The very fact that transgender people feel coerced to find a workplace that will offer support, be accepting, and act against transphobia could limit career opportunities and preferences. More problematic is the question of trans sex workers. Films like The Hangover 3 help to propagate the notion that the sex industry is where transgender women, or “she-males”, most commonly work, as if the only real interest in transgender people or sexual non-conformity is down to the question of what, exactly, goes where – as if genitals or gender identity is purely a question of the body, and the body is carnal. Does the porn industry objectify and fetishize the transgender body, or does it increase awareness and acceptance?

I won’t even begin to answer such a complex question. However, I can say that the porn industry is not outside of the reach of the trans community and their politics: The International Business Times reported that Grooby, a transgender porn site, renamed their “Tranny Awards” to “The Transgender Erotic Awards” in 2013. Progress of some sort, I think.

I’m back to the notion of some. Some progress. Laws are designed to be preventative and protective, on the surface. It doesn’t, however, ensure that discrimination will be eradicated, because employment laws are not educational. The general population, I believe, hears the language of the law as a negative command – thou shalt not discriminate is easier to put into words and to enforce than the more abstract thou ought to respect all people. For me, this is where education needs to step in, so that ignorance can no longer be an excuse.

I am a cisgender, heterosexual, white female. While I can conduct research, nothing beats listening to the voices of those who are a part of the trans community. Please share your stories with us hear at VinylOctopus.

Written by Hannah Freya-Blake
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Should all children’s clothing be unisex?

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Over the past few months many clothing outlets, such as Asda and Morrisons, have been criticised for their children’s clothing being sexist. With slogans printed on t-shirts such as ‘boys will be boys’ this caused outrage with some parents.

However, John Lewis has made an effort to combat this by removing some gender labels from their children’s clothing in a bid to make many of their lines unisex and gender neutral. This decision was made after consulting the campaign group ‘Let clothes be clothes’ who assured the shopping giant it was a ‘fantastic’ change.

Although, this has faced some ferocious backlash from many parents taking to twitter to express their views. Some have even stated they believe it will lead to children developing metal issues in the future; whilst others are simply threatening to boycott John Lewis entirely in the future.

Yet, with other outlets such as Clarks shoes following suit, we believe this may be something that will begin to have more common place on the high street. And frankly, we here at VinylOctopus support the decision.

Although, we’d love to hear what you think.
Let us know…

Men facing Pressure to bulk up

You really are the lucky ones aren’t you! Today we are really proud to introduce you to another brand new contributor, Amy Haggar. With her confident, informed views she makes an amazing addition to the VinylOctopus team!


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You may have heard of the ‘male gaze’ theory – a term coined by feminist Laura Mulvey in 1975 – to describe the way that society views women and femininity through the lens of what would be deemed as desirable for the heterosexual male. Much research has been done into the effects of this ‘gaze’ on women in society, and how they are portrayed, but what about it’s effect on men? Whilst women have traditionally been viewed as fragile, delicate and in need of a white knight, on the other side of the coin men have been expected to be that white knight. Not all men are able to live up to this expectation placed on them, and it can be very damaging when they feel as though they fall short.

I know what you must be thinking – this is an outdated view no longer relevant, and to an extent you’re right. We now live in an age of social media and consumerism, where individuals can effectively build their own identity. This can be through the purchasing of desirable items, through following trends with their leisure time, and through creating the persona they want to portray through use of their social media profiles.

But if we’re going to build our identity through consumer activity, we need to be shown the products we can buy, right? We need to be advertised to. We can handle this in small doses, and when celebrity culture first arose we knew to a certain extent to take it with a pinch of salt. These individuals are in the business of looking beautiful, and they have time and money to get a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and a personal shopper (even a cosmetic surgeon if that’s the route they choose). Sure, we can find their stories inspirational, and look to them for health and fitness advice, but we know that we are only able to follow this to a certain point.

But what about when it isn’t in small doses anymore? What about when you live in a society where you are drowning in multi-national corporations, wanting to sell you something? You could idolize the likes of footballers when they are just playing football, because you know that’s how they ended up looking the way they do – but what about when they’re trying to sell you aftershave or a clothing brand? Advertisers are very skilled in their field, and they know that in order to get you interested in a product, they need to sell you a lifestyle. All men wear underwear. But when was the last time you saw a middle-aged man, who is a little bit flabbier round the middle and probably has a very stressful office job, posing topless in them?

You can see this in the rise of new celebrity culture too. New celebrity culture refers to the idea that young individuals can become famous, simply for appearing on reality TV shows (think Love Island, Geordie Shore and the like). These individuals are, to all extent and purposes, ‘normal’ people. That is how they are sold to us. So when we see them on social media promoting weight loss pills, protein powder and teeth whitening products they’ve used, it’s much more effective in selling us the product. You follow these people online because they were funny on TV, and you become bombarded with adverts that have been written to seem like these individuals are your friends and they are giving you advice on how they keep fit.

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I’m sorry to say it, but they are not your friends. They are not sharing their bulking up ‘secret’ with you because you’re buddies, they’re being paid.

Whilst people who have grown up with social media and have seen it evolve into what it is today are often able to distinguish between the fake and the reality, younger individuals find it a little harder. Imagine going through your adolescent years again, but instead of toned and muscle-clad men being confined to movies, superhero comics and world-famous pop stars, they are in fact seemingly regular people, who are able to go to the gym every day, meal prep chicken and vegetables for the whole week, eat smoothie bowls everyday for breakfast and take millions of selfies their ‘gains’ while posing with a protein shake next to the weight trainer. All the while having the time to earn enough money to fund this lifestyle.

Herein lies the problem – people don’t post statuses about how awful their partner is, they wait until a happy moment and lead with that. People don’t post pictures of themselves when they’ve got the flu, they use edgy angles and maybe a drink in hand or a tan, and post these. What this creates is a self-made filter, where only the best bits of an individual’s life are shown.

So effectively, social media has enabled anyone to become ‘famous’, if only they have enough followers. Advertisers know the market is changing, so move their funding to this outlet. So now it’s not just David Beckham posing in a tight fitting top that you know he’s trying to sell you, it might well be the lad you used to sit next to in Maths in year nine. There is pressure on men to ‘bulk up’ in society, and whilst we think we’ve grown smart to this pressure, it still exists because it has taken on new forms; forms we are increasingly unable to avoid.

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So what’s the solution? I mean, the obvious one is to try cutting down on your exposure to social media. However, this isn’t always realistic. Instead, try filling your news feed with individuals who are promoting not just a healthy lifestyle, but a healthy mindset and wellbeing. They are out there, and they are the ones we should be taking inspiration from.

 

Let us know what you think…

Have you ever felt the pressure to have the ‘perfect male body’?

Written by Amy Haggar

‘Inner Tongue’ in Cheek

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When we were first tasked with reviewing the band ‘Inner Tongue’, we had no idea where to start, and struggled finding even the most basic information about them. It became clear that we were dealing with a real up and coming artist, and so the best course of action became simply listening to their music and seeing where that took us. After listening to their tracks and watching clips of them performing, including a video assumed to be their first ever gig, it is fair to say that Inner Tongue won’t be an up and comer for much longer.

Their soulful lyrics, combined with almost natural beats and soothing melodies, transport you to a state that is almost trancelike as you get lost in their every note. Their newest tracks ‘Dig Deeper’ and ‘Underworld’ are quickly racking up listens on Spotify, and are expected to be featured on Discover playlists very soon.

Hopefully more will be heard from Inner Tongue in time, as their following grows and their music gathers even more attention. Only time will tell whether there is a slip of tongue, and Inner Tongue becomes a regular name on the music scene.

Be sure to follow them on Facebook, and find their music on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Youtube.  But in the meantime you can take a listen to their song ‘Dig Deeper’  below.

Let us know what you think…

Written by Declan Parker

August is over, time for a new playlist…

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With August finishing and September commencing, we’ve finished our new playlist! And this one is just as great of as it’s predecessors.

We’ve included the likes of Earl, Tiggy Hawk and Elli Ingram; all who have been featured on the site this month.

 

Come check it out, either listen below or simply search VinylOctopus on Spotify, you won’t be disappointed!

 

The Beauty in Sleep Paralysis

Firstly, we’d like to introduce you to our brand new contributor, Natasha Meek, an up and coming writer in Leeds. With a natural flare and true passion for writing, you’ll she why she’s now a great addition to the VinyOctopus team!


 

‘Two things for me were unusual, as I opened my eyes and tried to sit up I couldn’t move an inch; it was like I’d been superglued to my bed. And the second thing, I wasn’t alone’

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Research around the globe suggests that most people struggle with sleep paralysis at least once in their life. Episodes of sleep paralysis can occur when falling asleep, or even as you wake, leaving one fearful and paralysed for a short amount of time. This is the nightly norm for one teenager from Leeds.

“I think for me, my sleep paralysis started around the age of 14. I was a pretty ordinary teenager on the exterior; inside I was a nervous wreck with awful anxiety and what I understand now to be post traumatic stress disorder after I was sexually abused through my younger years. Now it’s an experience that I’m used to each night I have it – it shape-shifts and is equally as terrifying as the first night. I remember going to bed as usual the night it first happened, tired from the day, but as usual with insomnia that kept me awake into the early hours. Sleep paralysis is when your brain isn’t yet asleep though your body is. Everything felt so horrifically real as though I had woken up in the morning ready to get up for school. Two things for me were unusual, as I opened my eyes and tried to sit up I couldn’t move an inch; it was like I’d been superglued to my bed. And the second thing, I wasn’t alone, he was there holding me down pressing down my chest until I couldn’t breathe. Now usually, in the real world if this happened you would kick and flail and scream and yet I couldn’t do any of these things. I just laid there unable so move, so sure that it was real I could almost smell his aftershave, tears rolling down my face, feeling yet again absolutely powerless until my mum woke me up for school me still crying and hyperventilating. Now I’m a little older I’ve come to realise why I have sleep paralysis, what it is and essentially how to break out of it. I still lay there in bed crying wishing and wishing that I could move; and that somebody could save me from this monster trying to wiggle my toes and fingers even the smallest amount to free myself. I’ve read a lot about sleep paralysis now and it’s common for some kind of demonic figure to be present, mine is no different; I’m just facing my own demons.”

Throughout history many artists have created unnerving artwork to help them deal with their sleep paralysis. One of the most famous artworks about this condition is The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, painted in 1871. Fuseli depicts a woman unable to move as an angry demon-like figure stands over her.

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‘The Nightmare’ – Henry Fuseli, 1871

Nicolas Bruno is a modern day Fuseli who uses photography to portray his own episodes. Around the age of 14, Bruno began to deal with sleep paralysis almost every night. Speaking to Vice, he says that a teacher suggested he could ‘start sketching’ his intense hallucinations. Now, photography has become his ‘go-to’ in dealing with sleep paralysis; aiming to ‘create that sort of purgatory’ he feels.

Bruno’s work is a menagerie of dollhouses on fire, dark water and ladders which all combine to create a strange, whimsical place outside of what we know.

The media of photography allows Bruno to have full ‘curation of what goes into the pieces’. Considering that sleep paralysis is usually something he doesn’t have control over, this media allows him to regain power over his own torments.

Figures within his photos usually have their heads covered which acts as a visual representation of not only sleep, but as a reminder of his experiences with mental purgatory.

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Much like Fuseli and other greats, art remains a way to express our deepest fears and thoughts.

If you’d like to see more of Nicolas Bruno’s work take a look at his Instagram @nicoladbruno

Have you dealt with sleep paralysis before?

Let us know….

We just like to take this opportunity to thank all those while we involved in this piece. We are incredibly grateful for all their brutally honest testimonials

Table for Two

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Unfortunately it’s all too common for incredibly talented musicians to go under the radar and for their music to not get the recognition it deserves, due to the completion in the industry. This appears to have been the case with British singer and song writer Elli Ingram.

Growing up in Brighton, Elli came from a musical house where her dad played in a classic rock cover band. Her soulful voice, with its impressive, range, along with her blend of soul and R&B, she had created her latest incredible single ‘Table for Two’.

Her first single, since her mini album ‘Doghouse’ back in 2014, Table for Two explores the issue of a crumbling relationship.
Take a listen below…

After touring with Chase and Status, playing to over 10,000 people at Glastonbury and currently signed to Island records, it’s clear that Elli Ingram is going far.

Follow her on Instagram @ elliingram or visit her website http://www.elliingram.com