Liberate

Marriage legislation update

Liberate met the Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, and Senators Andrew Green and Paul Routier, this morning. The Chief Minister started by reiterating his apology to the LGBT+ community for the delay in getting the legislation ready in time for it to be law by 1 January 2018. The delay was due to an under-estimation of the complexities involved in re-writing the marriage law and departmental problems that have now been resolved. He also reaffirmed his commitment to making equal marriage legal in Jersey.

We now have a tentative and cautious date of 31 March 2018 for same-sex marriage to be legal. The reason for the hesitation is because the part of the process that makes this primary piece of legislation law – Royal assent at Privy Council – is completely outside of the control of the States of Jersey.

The revised timetable is now: the draft of the law is due to be finished this week, it will be lodged in the States at the end of this month, it will be debated (and hopefully passed) by the States Chamber in mid-November, it will be sent to Privy Council in December for Royal assent, and this is the unknown bit – at the moment Privy Council are passing legislation from the Island quickly, but it could take up to 3 months to come back from Privy Council in the UK and become law over here – which takes us to the end of March 2018.

Having said this, it could come back as quickly as January 2018. The Chief Minister said that this could happen because of the UK government’s commitment to legislation that advances human and equal rights, but it is outside of his control to influence this.

Some of the changes to law that had been planned to come in at the same time as the new legislation will now be staged and brought in separately later, in order that the main change can be passed as soon as possible.

Disappointing though the delay is, Liberate is satisfied that Senator Gorst is sincere is his desire to see this legislation pass and will be doing all he can to make it pass as quickly as possible now.

It will be a relief to those waiting to marry next year to know that a summer wedding is still a possibility.

Don’t like wooden horses, Gavin? How about sounding brass and clanging cymbals?

by Vic Tanner Davy, CEO of Liberate

Another week, another rant by Gavin Ashenden against the LGBT+ community in the Jersey Evening Post. It is becoming predictable, tedious and just a little bit weird. Why is he so obsessed with a part of community that constitutes 10-12% (on a good day) of the population? Coincidentally, this is about the same percentage of people in Jersey who adhere to the Anglican faith (13%: Jersey Annual Social Survey 2015).

You may be surprised to learn that the persecution of both these minorities (any minority, in fact) concerns me. Nobody should feel that they cannot be themselves; that their views are in some way secondary to those of others. I know that some people who have a faith feel they cannot be open about it at work and that is unacceptable; just as some people who are LGBT+ also are not open about this identity for the same reasons. We have more in common than we have differences.

However, unlike Dr Ashenden, I do not see persecution and prejudice as the province of any one group against another. Persecutors, bigots, radicals, fundamentalists – call them what you will – come in all shapes, forms, races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages and abilities. The LGBT+ community has the same number of keyboard warriors, who will be swift to advocate draconian measures against those who they see as limiting their freedoms, as the faith community.

It is a mistake to see one’s own group as holding the moral and ethical high ground against the marauding hoards who are “not like us”; for that way lies supremacy. Dr Ashenden paints the LGBT+ community as the architects of society’s moral decline and everyone else as brain-washed victims stumbling like zombies into a pit of sin. Only the Church (correction: the type of Church led by him) can save humanity from the furnace! (See what I mean about supremacy?)

At this juncture, I would remind Dr Ashenden of 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” On this over-crowded planet, we all need to find ways to live together – to love thy neighbour. We cannot see things the same way as those around us all the time and that means agreeing to disagree sometimes.

It is a shame that Dr Ashenden seems unable to admit this alternative way of being. Instead, he has now made it his mission to tear apart the Church of England unless it accedes to his world view. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph in July this year, he placed the Archbishop of Canterbury “under notice that unless he leads the Church in a way that remains consistent with the values and authority of the bible as opposed to progressive secularism, he will risk some kind of revolt in the form of an independence movement.” Going on to say that, “there will be a significant number who will secede and reconstitute an Anglican church to keep faith with authentic Anglican Christianity.”

If a split in the Church of England were to happen, it would be more catastrophic for our country than any apocalyptic vision Dr Ashenden thinks the LGBT+ community might be responsible for.

Constitutionally in Britain the Church and State are one in the personage of the monarch. If you bring down the Church of England, it is a direct attack on the monarch and would hit right at the heart of what it means to be British and to live in our democracy. (No wonder Dr Ashenden had to resign as a Queen’s Chaplain in January!)

You may not like the Royal family, you may think that government is overly-bureaucratic, you may view the Church an irrelevance, but they are all interlinked in a centuries-old system of checks and balances that enables debate to happen and the oldest modern democracy in the world to survive. It’s not perfect, but look around at some of the alternative ways of being governed and I know where I prefer to live.

The most dangerous people to the British way of life are not amorphous groups, like the LGBT+ community, but those fringe fundamentalists who are so blinded by their hate of others that they will not talk, will not debate, will not conciliate and, crucially, will not listen to others.

Dr Ashenden’s latest rant is nothing new, as a member of the LGBT+ community, I’ve heard it all before, but please do not be taken in by his posture as defender of our country’s values.

I want to reassure those who still adhere to the Christian principle of agape (the highest form of love – charity) that the LGBT+ community know that the majority of you do not agree with Dr Ashenden’s extreme views. I also want to reassure the LGBT+ community that Dr Ashenden is in no way representative of the majority of Christians that I have met or, for that matter, people of other faiths.

In an ironic twist, the history of the Church of England’s support for the LGBT+ community is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is as old as Dr Ashenden, so he knew the score when he was ordained as a CofE minister. The Wolfenden committee was set up in 1954 (the year Dr Ashenden was born) with the participation and backing of many in the Church who were concerned at the injustice and inhumane treatment of gay men at that time.

Fifty years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality that started with the Wolfenden committee, I would like to let the Church of England community know that, at a time when your existence is threatened by those that would do you harm, I stand with you as do many, many members of the LGBT+ community.

Disappointment as marriage is delayed

The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, has today announced that same-sex marriage will not be in place in Jersey by the end of this year due to complexities in the proposed law.

As Liberate understands it, the law that is being drafted is an overhaul of marriage law in its entirety that will encompass same-sex marriage, but will also sort out some of the anachronisms in the current marriage law. It seems that the same-sex marriage part has been easy to accomplish, but the rest of the overhaul is causing the problems.

We have known about complexities surrounding Jersey’s lack of a human embryology act, which impacts marriage legislation, since March of this year and, at that time, we were told that it would be sorted out and a first draft of the new law would be available at the end of April. This did not happen and we have been chasing the Chief Minister’s Department for an update since May.

Today’s news is, therefore, not surprising, but it will be extremely disappointing for the LGBT+ community in Jersey ahead of tomorrow’s CI Pride celebrations.

We will be reminding the Chief Minister that the delay impacts people’s lives directly. As anyone who has arranged a wedding will know it takes about a year in the planning to ensure that venues, caterers, bands, marquees etc are booked. For those same-sex couples hoping to marry in spring or summer next year this is going to throw their plans into doubt and make it impossible for them to book anything with any certainty.

When we meet with the Chief Minister next we will be pushing for clarity over the timeline and a commitment that, if they cannot sort out the complexities of other parts of the marriage law, same-sex marriage will, at the very least, be enacted by a specific deadline.

As a community, we have been very patient and have waited for over two years for this legislation. We do feel that we have been pushed to the back of the queue whilst other matters have been given priority by the Chief Minister.

The proposal for equal marriage was lodged in the States Assembly in July 2015.

First hate crime statistics released

The first hate crime statistics for Jersey have been released by the States of Jersey Police. The Police issued this statement:

You may have heard the term Hate Crime being used lately, but what exactly constitutes a Hate Crime? What is it? It is defined as an incident that is perceived by the victim or bystander to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability or against someone who is transgender.

Over the years we have worked really hard to better understand and work with all members of our community, and one aspect of this work is our Equality and Diversity Group. Consisting of officers and staff from across the force, the group focuses on the understanding and development of our service in this regard and looks at five particular strands relating to Hate Crime: faith, race, disability, age and LGBT.

The States of Jersey take this matter very seriously and in April 2015 a new Hate Crime Policy and Procedure was introduced, since then, all reports and incidents of Hate Crime are given absolute priority.

This July, the Minister for Home Affairs, Deputy Kristina Moore asked for Hate Crime and public order laws to be strengthened so more provisions are in place to deal with such offences.

To better understand the impact of Hate Crime on individuals and improve the support and service we offer to those affected, we commissioned an online survey to understand the experiences of Hate Crime, and the way in which such incidents are reported and dealt with in the Island.

The survey ran for several weeks during May and June this year and received 175 responses, the results of which show how the public perceive how we deal with verbal abuse and attacks. Racially aggravated hate crime was most common, with 68 people saying they had experienced this. 44 respondents say they were targeted because of their sexual orientation.

It appears that we still have some work to do to encouraging those affected to come forward as 145 people surveyed claimed that they didn’t report the matter to police. This was because of a number of reasons, either that they weren’t the victim, or they felt it had been dealt with at the time by other onlookers or that they thought there would be no evidence.

Someone worryingly said that they didn’t bother to report anymore as they felt no action was taken.

Some respondents said they had settled the matter themselves, or they were worried about revenge attacks or they simply couldn’t be bothered to report it. Some didn’t consider it to be a police matter.

The general consensus was that Hate Crime wasn’t a big problem in the Island, however, there were some who disagreed with that.

So, what can we do to encourage victims to come forward and report Hate Crime? We were offered a lot of suggestions, such as having a helpline, increasing police officers on the streets, making people more aware of their rights, talking to communities more and publicising what happens when reporting a Hate Crime.

Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull, Chair of Equality & Diversity forum, said, “We are pleased with this response and the feedback we have had. These results will help us to better determine how we engage with our community in the future and to ensure that anyone who falls victim to Hate Crime, or any crime for that matter, has the confidence to report it to us, in the knowledge that we will deal with the matter seriously and do everything in our power to achieve the best possible outcome for them. We are in the best possible position to be able to help anyone who has suffered any related criminal act or incident and are committed to playing our part in reducing discrimination. We regard any form of hate crime as an aggravating factor and will deal robustly with any form of offending.”

The newly formed Community Advisory Group, made up of representatives from across all the five strands and other influential groups, have already seen the survey results and are considering how it can be used effectively in the future.

Last year we joined forces with True Vision to utilise this online reporting mechanism for Jersey, providing a wide range of information, advice and guidance in respect to Hate Crime and an anonymous reporting function for anyone not wishing to speak with police.

The survey results can be seen here.

Would you be interested in an LGBT+ association?

Liberate have been listening to feedback from the LGBT+ community in Jersey and we know that many of you would like Liberate to create a means for the LGBT+ community to meet. This is something that we would also very much like to see happen as we receive regular enquiries from people, who are newly out or are visitors to the island, about where they might go to meet other LGBT+ people, not necessarily for dating purposes (although that is one reason!), but sometimes for a chat or a bit of support from people who understand.

As a small charity, we are unable to carry the financial risk involved in providing a permanent physical space. We also know that the business model of a “gay bar” no longer works for various reasons, which is why they are closing across the UK and why, ten or more years ago, it was no longer viable for one to continue in Jersey where the population of potential customers is even smaller than the UK.

We have put our thinking caps on and are looking to gather expressions of interest in the following proposition:

We would like to create an exclusively LGBT+ association called “Out”. The only exclusive thing about it would be that it would be for LGBT+ members; otherwise, it would be completely inclusive of race, age, ability, religion, marital status (it would not be just for singles!) and any other identity.

We would like to hold weekly meetings of Out, starting at 7.30pm until 9pm (unless it was a special meeting) – day to be decided by popular vote. Ordinary meetings might consist of listening to an invited speaker, planning a fundraising event for a charitable cause, sharing information about things that are happening to the LGBT+ community at home and abroad, doing a craft activity together. Special meetings might consist of a meal at a restaurant, a guided walk (in summer), a theatre or cinema trip, a sporting tournament (eg. pool, table tennis, darts), a board games evening (in winter), a quiz night, a straight allies’ night etc.

The programme of activities would be up to the Out committee and Out members to decide. There would be a minimal annual membership fee to cover admin and then members would only pay for any activities they attended that had a cost. New members could attend three meetings before deciding if they wanted to pay a membership fee to join.

We think this could work because this model for an association continues to endure and prove popular with all sorts of exclusive groups from the WI to the Scouts to the Freemasons. There is no similarly global movement for LGBT+ people and we think that it is time that there was. (Not that we are suggesting Out goes global immediately!)

The LGBT+ community no longer need to hide from the law and are an integrated part of society now, but they do have distinct interests as a group that are different from the non-LGBT+ population. Out would provide a new space in a way that recognises that LGBT+ people have other interests, just like everyone else, and that they deserve to have a publicly visible club that enables them to contribute to society, just as other groups do.

The Discrimination (Jersey) Law permits discrimination by clubs and associations on the grounds of a protected characteristic (and this would be discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment) if you have at least 25 members. So, we need to know that there are at least 25 people out there who would like to be the first members of Out and, who knows, maybe be there at the start a little bit of history!

If you think this is something that you would genuinely be interested in joining, please click here to register your interest. (Registration is open until 24 September)

Why reform of the gender recognition process is needed

If, tomorrow, you were asked to prove your gender before a panel of lawyers and medical experts, how would you do it? Would you show them your genitalia as evidence? Or, are there other things that you would provide them with first? Maybe you would show your ID documents that have your gender marker on them; maybe you would point to the clothes you wear or how you do your hair; maybe you would evidence the pitch of your voice or the hair, or lack of it, on your face; maybe you would ask to have your chromosomes or hormones tested; or, maybe it would be obvious from the way you perform a task such as reading a map or looking for something in a cupboard?

Gender is complex. It’s all of those things and more that make us a man, a woman, or something else. But, here’s the kicker, we all got given our gender marker by showing our genitalia to someone the moment we popped into the world. And, that’s a problem if the gender you were assigned at birth, based on this very crude one-dimensional assessment, is not the gender that you are.

At the end of last month, the UK government announced that they are looking at ways to reform the way that the gender recognition process happens in the UK including self-declaration by a trans person of their gender. This is as a result of the Women’s and Equality Committee report that was published in January 2016.  The report found the current process required by the Gender Recognition Act 2004, by which someone can legally change their gender and, by extension, their birth certificate, humiliating, expensive and bureaucratic.

This announcement appears to have got a number of people into a lather including Rev Canon Gavin Ashenden, who was the vicar at Gouray Church. Rev Ashenden no longer lives in Jersey but is still invited to share his thoughts publicly by the Jersey Evening Post. In his column of 3 August 2017, he makes a number of confused and confusing assertions about what it means to be transgender and how the government’s proposals might impact society and, in particular, marriage. If you want to read what he has to say, it is here.

The purpose of writing this piece is not to shine a light on Rev Ashenden’s ignorance of this subject – with his reliance on simplistic stereotypes of the trans community, he needs no help from us in that regard – but to explain why what the UK government is proposing is necessary and to bust some of the myths surrounding the issue.

The process

A gender recognition certificate (“GRC”) is a document that enables a transgender person to change the gender marker on their birth certificate and to have the fact of that change removed from the public record. It also provides legal protection for the trans person that prevents anyone, who discovers a person’s trans status in an official capacity, from revealing that fact to anyone else.

The current system whereby a trans person acquires a GRC requires the trans person to amass a file of documents that are delivered to a gender recognition panel (“GRP”) and that prove they:

  • are aged over 18;
  • have, or  have  had,  a  documented  mental-health  diagnosis  of  gender  dysphoria  (by  producing a statement by a doctor – usually a psychiatrist or sexual-health specialist – or a psychologist on the GRP’s list of experts);
  • are not married (unless their spouse has given consent to changing the marriage from different-sex to same-sex or vice versa, as appropriate);
  • are not in a civil partnership;
  • have lived fully for the last two years in their acquired gender (by producing a selection of  items  of  documentary  evidence  showing  change  of  name  and  gender,  such  as  a  passport, rent book, wages slip or benefits documentation); and,
  • intend to live permanently in their acquired gender.

If the GRP are satisfied with the evidence provided, they will grant the person a GRC.

This is the UK gender recognition process. It is relevant to us in Jersey as our Gender Recognition Law 2010 simply allows for a GRC from an approved jurisdiction to be passed through the Royal Court. Jersey does not issue a GRC unless you already hold a GRC from somewhere else. So, in Jersey, this process is even more bureaucractic as trans islanders are forced through the UK process before going through the Jersey process.

The problems

The requirement for a trans person to have lived for two years as their recognised gender can be difficult in situations where a trans person faces prejudice, discrimination, abuse and/or violence because of being trans. They may not be able to undertake this task if, for example, they would be kicked out of their home for being openly transgender. The requirement for them to start a new life as their recognised gender and to be untraceable by people from their past may be an urgent requirement to keeping them safe, one that cannot wait two years.

The cost of acquiring a GRC, not just in time but money, is prohibitive for some trans people, particularly vulnerable trans people who may need a GRC most urgently. It can easily reach £500.

It takes about 14 weeks for an application to be heard and about 76% of applications are granted. If your application fails, it goes to the back of the queue and will take another 14 weeks to be heard.

The emphasis by the GRP on medical treatment having taken place (although the Gender Recognition Act makes no mention of this requirement) is particularly contentious and continues to pathologise transgender people and perpetuate the myth that being trans is a disease or disorder. Principle 3 of the Yogyakarta Principles (the international human rights principles defined in 2006) make it clear that: “Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom. No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity.”

The process is degrading for trans people. There are many changes that people make to their identity – their name, their nationality, their age (changes every year!), their home address, their religion, beliefs and politics, their sexual orientation, their status as a parent to children – all of them are self-declared and none requires a psychological assessment to decide whether a person can own that identity or not. Why does changing gender require a panel and provision of proof that the trans person is telling the truth about their gender identity?

The Myths

Myth 1: Trans people cannot get ID documents that show their recognised gender without a GRC

Yes, they can. Most often, when a trans person changes their name legally by deed poll they will also take the opportunity to update the gender marker on their driving licence application form (gender is not shown on the face of a driving licence) and their passport.

No confirmation of gender is required for your driving licence to be changed. Only a letter from your GP or gender therapist is required for your passport to be changed.

Myth 2: Changing your gender legally is a big deal and needs to be overseen by experts

No, it’s not. For all practical purposes, your gender is taken from your ID documents, which trans people can already change very simply. (When did you last show your birth certificate to someone?) This is why most trans people don’t bother with the gender recognition process. They can get by on their ID documents most of the time.

The UK government is, therefore, only proposing to bring the legal gender recognition process into line with what is already happening in reality, i.e. trans people self-declaring their gender identity and living as their recognised gender.

Self-declaration of gender identity already happens in the Netherlands, Argentina, Denmark, Malta, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Columbia and Ireland.

Myth 3: Trans people cannot marry in their recognised gender

Ironically, considering Rev Ashenden’s profession, trans people have been married as their recognised gender by the Church for years. The Church has, in fact, been historically more welcoming of trans people than gay people. Unlike same-gender couples, who are still barred from marrying in most places of religion, opposite-gender couples that may include a trans person have been served by places of religion. The only requirement is that the trans person must have a GRC (i.e. a changed birth certificate) to do so.

At this point, Rev Ashenden’s argument about transgender people threatening biological marriage falls away. Trans people have been marrying right under his nose all this time – he might even have married one without knowing! (But, of course, he’d be able to spot a trans person because they aren’t like you and me… right?)

So, whilst we let Rev Ashenden’s “vivid imagination” work on that thought, the good news is that his portents of doom have not come true. Permitting trans people to marry in their recognised gender has had no affect on the institution of marriage after all these years.

How do you want to bow out?

Maybe you want everyone in black weeping tastefully beside the grave as your shiny casket is lowered to its final resting place? Maybe you want a massive party for your loved ones, where the food and drink flow? Maybe you want an eco burial and a tree planted as your lasting memorial? Not to be too morbid about it, but nothing is surer, one day it will be our turn to bow out.

When we are young and fit death is not something we spend a great deal of time thinking about. As we age we may think about it more but, if we are in good health, probably not that much more. However, if you are part of the LGBT+ community, possibly you should think about it more than others.

Liberate did some training for Pitcher & Le Quesne, funeral directors, this week so we had the opportunity to ask them about some of the things they have experienced when it comes to the death of a member of the LGBT+ community and what we could do that would help them to ensure they give us the send off we would like.

If you have not left a will, letter of wishes, funeral guidelines and/or pre-arranged your funeral then the funeral directors will need to ask your immediate family what the arrangements are to be – and that can be problematic if your family either don’t know that you are LGBT+ or know but don’t accept your identity.

If you are in a civil partnership or, by next year, a marriage, you should discuss your wishes with your spouse as they will be the ones that the funeral directors will take instructions from. Even then, it is still not a bad idea to set down in writing what you would like to happen as, in the turmoil of emotions that accompanies the death of a husband or wife, details can be forgotten.

If you are in a meaningful partnership that is not legally joined, your next-of-kin is not your partner but your immediate family. If you have nothing in writing regarding your last wishes and they don’t accept your partner as your spouse-in-all-but-name, your family could stop them from having any say in what happens to your property (including the home you shared if it is in your partner’s name) and how you depart this world. Similarly, for those people who are not out to their family about being LGBT+, it can be hard for a partner left behind to explain their role in your life and to communicate your last wishes to your family.

Many LGBT+ people feel ill-served by formal religion, even scarred by their experience of it. To them, in life, it would be inthinkable to have a funeral in a place of worship, but this is what can happen when a family member places their own wishes above those of the person who has died.

For trans people, having their death registered as their recognised gender is likely to be important but, if they are not around to confirm their recognised gender, will their next of kin do it for them? It is not uncommon for trans people’s gender identity/new name to be denied by their nearest and dearest. This means that, left up to the family, not only would the death certificate have the wrong gender on it but also the wrong name.

You don’t need a Gender Recognition Certificate (i.e. to have changed the gender on your birth certificate legally) to have your death registered as your recognised gender, your ID documents can be the ones used to put M or F on your death certificate. If you are early in your transition and have not yet changed your name by deed poll and updated your ID documents to your recognised gender, you might end up misnamed and/or misgendered on your death certificate.

Note: For those who are of a non-binary gender identity, there is currently no way to put a non-binary marker, such as X, on a death certificate (or birth or marriage).

All these problems can be avoided if you take some time to think about what feels right for you (and your partner) and to get it down in writing.

In the case of no will existing at the time of death, your property will revert to your spouse or, if no spouse, your nearest family relation (usually a sibling(s)). So, if you are in a meaningful partnership that is not legally joined and you want your partner to inherit your estate, you need to write a will leaving your estate to your partner. A simple will can be drawn up by any of the law firms on the island for about £200 and, importantly, kept safe by them. This document will be in the correct form, legally binding and very difficult to contest.

DIY will kits are available on the Internet for less than this, but we would not advise using them in this instance. DIY wills, unless they are exactly right, could be contested by your family. More advice regarding the pros and cons of DIY will kits can be found here.

A will does not cover your funeral arrangements. This is done separately in a letter of wishes that can be lodged with your will at the lawyers. Alternatively, if you do not have a will, you can pre-arrange your funeral with a funeral directors, who will lodge your details and keep them safe. Crucially, for trans people this includes registration details for the death certificate. Pitcher and Le Quesne offer this service in an easy to complete booklet.

Don’t forget you can change your mind if you decide you would like something different later on and, if your personal circumstances change, don’t forget to update your will and any last wishes.

Liberate has its first patron

We are delighted to announce that Rebecca Root, the star of the BBC2 sitcom “Boy Meets Girl”, has agreed to become our first patron.

As part of Channel Islands Pride week in 2016, Liberate invited Rebecca Root to host the inaugural Channel Islands Equality and Diversity Awards, a dinner to celebrate those organisations and individuals in the Channel Islands who are working to support equality, diversity and inclusion.

Since hosting the awards Rebecca has followed Liberate’s progress with interest and, when Liberate asked, she had no hesitation in agreeing to support the charity’s work by becoming their first patron.

Rebecca Root said: “The work that Liberate does to educate and inform about the importance of accepting one another for who we are, whatever our identity, could not be more relevant for the times we live in. We can only perform at our best at school or college, at work or play, if we feel comfortable being ourselves and accepted as such. I am very happy to be able to support Liberate’s mission by becoming their first patron.”

Rebecca is best known for her groundbreaking role in the BBC2 sitcom “Boy Meets Girl”. The series was a result of a competition to find the best script that promoted a positive portrayal of transgender characters. The project was a collaboration between the BBC and Trans Comedy to look at ways to change the representation and portrayal of trans people in the media.

Vic Tanner Davy, CEO of Liberate Jersey, said: “We are hugely honoured that Rebecca has agreed to become Liberate Jersey’s first patron. Patrons are very important to charities as they lend their name and their support in order to raise the profile of the charity. For a small charity like Liberate to enjoy the patronage of someone like Rebecca is a great boost for us. Rebecca’s own work to progress equality for transgender people makes her a perfect fit for Liberate and we are looking forward to working with her.”

Getting tested for HIV couldn’t be easier

At Liberate, we provide all our employees with a free HIV test. We do it, not because we are an especially high risk group, but because it is the responsible thing to do.

To know whether or not you are HIV positive is important not just for your own health, but also for the health of others; and, those others don’t just include your immediate partner. If we are to eradicate HIV globally, we need to stop it spreading and that starts with every one of us doing the responsible thing.

HIV is a treatable condition these days, and the sooner you start treatment, the better the outcome. With the right treatment HIV positive people can live long and happy lives. Left untreated HIV will, over time, develop into AIDS, when a person’s immune system is so weak it can no longer fight off a range of diseases with which it would normally cope.

HIV treatment keeps the virus under control by stopping it from reproducing itself. The goal is to keep levels of HIV so low that in tests the person has an undetectable viral load. Crucially, if someone with HIV is on effective treatment and has an undetectable viral load they cannot pass on HIV.

So, what are you waiting for? Getting tested for HIV couldn’t be easier. Prince Harry recently took an HIV test live on camera:

He did it through a GP, but you can do it like we do at Liberate with a home testing kit (rrp £29.95): https://hivselftest.co.uk/ (Don’t miss the special offer on the banner at the top of the page if you are purchasing a kit for you and your partner!)

To find out more about HIV and AIDS and the importance of getting tested, watch the BBC’s recent documentary “The Truth About HIV”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05p5v5f or visit the Terrence Higgins Trust website: http://www.tht.org.uk/sexual-health/About-HIV

If you are living with HIV/AIDS or have just been diagnosed in Jersey, you can get support through your GP and the States of Jersey Health Department. There is also useful information on the global AVERT website (https://www.avert.org/). If you are under 21, you can also talk to either Brook Jersey (https://www.brook.org.uk/find-a-service/regions/jersey) or Love Matters (http://www.love-matters.co.uk/Love_Matters/About_Us.html).

Why Liberate is launching DIFERA and what it’s all about

by Vic Tanner Davy, CEO of Liberate

The moment we come bawling into the world, much of our future is determined. We are handed a set of identities by society based on characteristics over which we have no control – our skin colour, our nationality, our gender, our sexual orientation, our social class, our school year, our mental and physical abilities, our religion – and, depending on how these identities fall for us, we may go through life never experiencing prejudice and discrimination in any meaningful way or, for others, it may be a daily occurrence.

Over the last forty-seven years the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands have put in place legislation that recognises that there is an inequality at the heart of our society that is biased in favour of particular groups, and that those who are part of a minority or visible minority require the support of governments, through the laws they make, to address that inequality by levelling the playing field.

Last year, the “Female FTSE Board Report” found that fewer than 10% of the three most senior positions at FTSE 100 firms were held by women, compared to nearly a third of less powerful non-executive roles; the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s “Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion Report” found that half of people living in poverty are either themselves disabled or are living with a disabled person; and, the Social Mobility Commission reported that young people from black and Asian Muslim communities are more likely to be unemployed and face social immobility later in life than working class white boys despite doing better at school. I could go on…

The question then poses itself, “Why do inequalities like this still exist after nearly fifty years of talking about equality and diversity?” A large body of psychological research tells us that the answer lies within us. Our brains are wired to categorise and to do so very quickly. From an evolutionary standpoint, this has advantages but from a social integration standpoint it is problematic. As we categorise ourselves and others, we hardened the neural pathways that associate certain characteristics with certain groups of people – in other words, we stereotype those who are not like us. These unconscious biases form the basis of our prejudices.

In a chilling echo of the murder of Stephen Lawrence twenty four years ago, in April this year, twenty onlookers stood and watched as a 17 year old standing at a bus stop in Croydon was kicked and punched by ten people for no reason other than that he was born Kurdish-Iranian and was seeking asylum in the UK. The victim and his assailants did not know one another. The assault was based entirely on the prejudices of the assailants to the victim’s otherness. (Fortunately, this assault did not end in murder, but this was more by luck than design, and – unlike in the Stephen Lawrence case – the response of the police has been entirely without reproach following the force’s transformation after criticism of their institutionalised racism by the Macpherson Inquiry.)

In the wake of Brexit, the UK saw a spike in racial hate crime; in Holland and France the far right parties had sufficient support in the last twelve months to make them a credible force in elections; and, the United States elected a president on a platform that was openly hostile to Muslims and Mexicans, and disrespectful of women.

It is in this climate, then, that we are launching DIFERA – the Channel Islands first accreditation scheme that offers your organisation a way to demonstrate to employees past, present and future, suppliers and clients that you value diversity, inclusion, fairness, equality, respect and acceptance.

On joining the scheme, Liberate undertakes an audit of your employees from which we produce a report that sets out where your organisation is now on its DIFERA journey. Liberate then facilitates the forming of a DIFERA champions group from within your organisation and works with you to produce a DIFERA strategy.

Liberate offers your champions training to enable you to train your colleagues and provide inductions to new starters. Depending on your organisation’s goals, Liberate might also be required to provide further specialist training.

Having met the above requirements and completed any remedial work required by the audit, your organisation will be admitted as an accredited member of the DIFERA Scheme.

Becoming a member of the DIFERA Employer Accreditation Scheme also entitles you to a number of other benefits that are listed on the leaflets available in the room.

The scheme’s pricing is based on the number of employees in your organisation. The first year is more expensive due to the work needed to induct organisations onto the scheme. Subsequent years’ membership is charged at a nominal amount.

To sell DIFERA to you, I could talk about the business case for equality and diversity initiatives in the workplace – the return on investing in DIFERA for your organisation – but the arguments for inclusive workplaces are extremely well-documented and can be Googled easily. Instead, I want to shift the conversation away from treating DIFERA as you would a new computer system, say, and offer you this thought.

Had you asked a Victorian industrialist about the health and safety of his workers he would have asked you to provide a business case for why he should care if they suffer in his mills and factories. Today, we know better. We know that, as leaders of organisations, we have a moral duty to keep our employees safe, irrespective of any legal obligations.

In a global ecomony that, through technology, is shrinking the gaps between peoples and countries almost daily, this is how we should also approach diversity and inclusion in our organisations – as a moral duty rather than as an investment that provides a return.

In five days time, it will be the 27th anniversary of the decriminalisation of sodomy in this island. The Sexual Offences Jersey Law 1990 decriminalised sodomy provided the act took place in private and was between consenting male adults over 21 years of age.

During the debate, Deputy Jack Roche, the then President of Public Health, warned of the dangers of promiscuity due to the sexual appetite of some men having many partners in a very short space of time and the risk caused by AIDS transmitted by what he termed ‘such unnatural acts’; he also expressed concern about gay nights in clubs where transient homosexual tourists could proposition locals; he characterised Denmark’s then relatively new legalising of same-sex marriage as containing the AIDS epidemic by saying, ‘In other words, if we can lock ‘em up somewhere together they won’t be running around all over the country doing naughty things’; and, he concluded that we were now ‘in a world where morality seems to count for little’.

In the end, the law was passed by 29 votes to 8, with most members grudgingly admitting that the law had to be passed because, if we didn’t, Jersey would place the UK in an embarrassing position with regard to European commitments to human rights. The repeal of the old law was actively supported by only a handful of speakers including the Dean, the Attorney-General Sir Philip Bailhache and Senator Betty Brooke, herself a Methodist lay preacher.

These supporters might surprise you – the church and LGBTQ community seem an unlikely alliance when one considers the arguments concerning equal marriage, but it is an alliance that has precedent. It was the same in 1954 in the UK when the Wolfenden committee was established to look into homosexual offences and prostitution. This move was in large part due to pressure from the Church who were concerned with the morality of incarcerating men based on their sexual orientation.

This demonstrates the importance of not relying on those stereotypes our brains create for us. Groups that we are not members of are as varied in their make-up as the groups to which we belong. We must not assume that those from other groups who hold opposing views on a particular issue may not also be our biggest allies on other issues.

It is difficult for me to not mention the events of this week in Manchester. The radicalisation of young Muslim men that results in these sorts of atrocities will only be reversed by connecting with them, by finding out what is at the heart of their disaffection. The community who are best placed to reach these young men are the Muslim community themselves, which is why we must resist the easy stereotypes based on the otherness of Islam and work to change our view so as to see the Muslim community as allies in the fight against ISIS not somehow complicit in its rise.

This year, we will welcome same-sex marriage across the Bailiwicks. Within and outside of the LGBTQ community there are those who think that marriage should only be between a man and a woman; that marriage is a patriarchal construct that has had its day; or, that if marriage is to be opened up to same-sex couples, civil partnerships should be available to opposite-sex couples, too.

The debate has been passionate on both sides, but we must now come back together again. Just as the Brexiteers and the Remainers have to work together to figure out what a Britain looks like outside of the European Union, so we must not allow differences of opinion, over marriage or any other subject, to blind us to the good in those with whom with differ or who are different from us. We may not always agree with our partners, with our families, with our colleagues at work, with our teammates on the sporting field, with our friends supporting charitable endeavours, but we must find ways to accommodate other viewpoints. Difference is challenging but, if embraced, it also makes us stronger.

At the heart of DIFERA is the message that we must talk about our identity and the identities of others, not allow legislation to close off that avenue of conversation. Done in a respectful way it will allow us to learn. We must challenge constructively when we need to, and respect others have a right to challenge us without assuming that their challenge comes from a place of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. But, most of all we must listen. Listen even more closely to those voices that we disagree with or that disagree with us. We need to hear in order to understand why they are voting for the far right, why they feel their way of life is threatened, why diversity tests them.

Social media had at its inception the desire to connect people, to enable conversation, but all too often it does the opposite. We need to ask ourselves whether it is the right forum in which to have conversations about identity, values and beliefs. Is it likely that in the space of a few characters you will be able to change someone’s beliefs? Hardly.

The anonymity social media affords us gives us a false sense of confidence that we can behave in ways that would be unthinkable in a face-to-face situation. And that applies to those of us who consider ourselves liberals as much as to those of us who consider ourselves to be more conservative. Using political correctness as a stick to hit people with is just as bad as using religion for the same purpose. There are fundamentalists on both sides. Interestingly, studies have shown ultra-liberals and ultra-conservatives are equally as prejudiced – bias on both sides was largely driven by seeing the opposing group as limiting one’s personal freedom.

Consider the list of groups maligned by liberals: rich people, Christians, men, whites and the police, groups that would generally seem to have more power today than the list of groups maligned by conservatives: immigrants, gays, blacks, poor people and goths. Understandably, we would receive some dissent were we to suggest that prejudice towards Christians and conservatives is prejudice. To many it’s just standing up to bullies.

Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at New York University who studies politics and morality, suggests that conservatives don’t view it that way. As they see it, the left has won the culture war and controls the media, the universities, Hollywood and the education of everyone’s children. Many of them think that they are the victims, they are fighting back against powerful and oppressive forces, and their animosities are related to that worldview.

So, conservative or liberal, what should we do next time we see a remark that incenses us on Facebook or Twitter? Instead of shutting down the debate with a flaming rant, we need to ask that person if we can have a cup of tea with them. Ask them about their view, allow them to speak and respectfully say we disagree. One of the most consistent ways to increase acceptance is “contact with the other side”. If that contact can encompass sharing the experience of working toward a common goal, even better.

As someone from a distinct minority group in Jersey, I have often been told, “Well, Jersey’s a very tolerant place”. Meaning that, in general, we have a culture that shows a willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with. So far, so good.

But, it is not so good when you read that tolerance is especially marked by forbearance or endurance. Hang on a minute – I’m being endured? Who wants to be tolerated by someone else? The implication being that you are judged in some way inferior to the person doing the tolerating.

This just isn’t good enough. We all deserve better than that. We all deserve to be accepted for all that we are, for our characteristics – those we are born with and those we choose – for all our idiosyncrasies, foibles, eccentricities and quirks.

Today, in the maternity wards of the Channel Islands, new lives will be handed their set of identities. As well as those identities I would like those children to be handed a pledge, a wish, a hope today: that they get to study the subjects they want to study, not the ones we think they should based on their identity; that they never experience playground bullying and harassment based on who they are; that they have a fair and equal chance of being accepted into their choice of further education and are not barred based on where they were born; and, that, in twenty years time, at their first job interview they are assessed on their qualifications for the role, not what they look like or how the interviewer thinks they might behave in the workplace.

Twenty years – that is how long we have to make the move from tolerance to acceptance. It isn’t a pipe-dream, acting on our prejudices isn’t inevitable, it is possible to make this change, but we cannot rely on legislation to do it for us. It will take every single one of us to acknowledge our biases and to work to minimise them in all that we do and all that we are in the world.

I entered the workplace in Jersey in 1992, two years after senior politicians here delayed and tried to block the passage of legislation to decriminalise homosexuality because of their own prejudices and, in the States chamber, proclaimed their own ill-informed views as if they were facts about a minority. A minority who, at that time, were watching friends, partners and icons die from a disease for which there was no cure. Because when the gay communities of New York and San Francisco first alerted the medical profession to what was happening to them, the Reagan administration in the United States refused to acknowledge it and under-funded research into it. A prejudice against a minority that cost lives, and whose legacy continues today.

In twenty years, my generation will be leaving the workplace, let’s see if we can leave it a diverse, inclusive, fair, equal, respectful and accepting place for those babies being born today.