Becky Kent, Research Associate at the Scottish Transgender Alliance, comments about the legacy and contributions of the recent conference for transgender and intersex rights that was held in Edinburgh, Scotland.
From Friday 31 October through Sunday 2 November the Scottish Transgender Alliance and Equality Network held the largest gathering of trans and intersex people, their families and allies ever in Scotland.
Thanks to funding from VisitScotland, the Scottish Government and the University of Edinburgh, our Trans and Intersex Conference of the Isles welcomed over 240 people from throughout the UK and Ireland.
Around 80 were representatives of public bodies, companies and voluntary organisations attended the first conference day, to learn how to uphold equality in their services and workplaces.
The second and third days of the conference focussed on improving our skills as activists and sharing experiences and knowledge. With many participants travelling from across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland, the conference had a greater geographical diversity than similar conferences held in England.
Although intersex and trans are two different things – intersex is where someone has a physical sex variation while trans is where someone has a gender identity variation – both groups face human rights violations due to society’s rigid expectations that sex and gender identity be binary and exactly aligned.
The conference sought to explore overlapping areas of concern and increase mutual understanding and solidarity as well as providing a much needed space for intersex people to come together in person to discuss their specific experiences and challenges.
Over 30 different workshops took place to help improve both the skills and wellbeing of trans and intersex activists. One workshop explored the challenges facing those of us trying to broaden knowledge regarding our lives and experiences and also the obstacles to doing valid social research in minority populations that to this day remain largely hidden.
Another workshop enabled activists from across the five different countries to share best practice in collaborative work with public bodies. There were discussions on diverse topics such as how to improve support for families, inclusion of minority ethnic trans and intersex people, healthcare provision and body confidence.
The conference also engaged participants in shaping the goals of our new Equal Recognition campaign for trans and intersex rights in Scotland. For more information about the campaign, go to: www.scottishtrans.org/equal
On Saturday night, participants and the general public were entertained with a number of short trans films followed by the no-holds-barred new documentary “Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger”. The film programme was curated by the new Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) who will hold their first festival next year.
As the conference came to a close on Sunday with arts and crafts and other workshops aimed at improving self-esteem and wellbeing, we were able to enjoy the kind farewell messages of many of the people who had joined us for the weekend.
Many participants spoke of the conference’s positive impact on their confidence as campaigners and ability to unite with others. There were even calls for the conference to become a regular fixture, perhaps alternating years with the Transgender Europe Council, but securing funding remains a major challenge.
Whatever the future holds, we will certainly be working to continue strengthening and supporting these new and renewed connections across the UK and Ireland.
Becky joined the Scottish Transgender Alliance full time in May, 2014 as a research associate, after completing her second master’s degree in social research as a sociologist. Her work covers the whole spectrum of equalities issues for trans and intersex people. She places a special focus on promoting trans researchers and research into trans social issues.