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Archive for May 2008

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Next week things will be returning to normal with a series of episodes based on presentations from a recent Department of Health Mental Health conference that took place in Nottingham. For now, however, I'm offerring an opportunity to hear another full length interview with one of the grand old men of British trans campaigning, Mark Rees.

Like Stephen Whittle, featured in the previous episode, Mark transitioned from female to male role in the early 1970's. He became the first trans person in the world to take a case to an international human rights court in the mid 1980's. Although this bid for privacy and marriage rights was unsuccessful, he then went on to be instrumental in the creation of the UK campaign group Press for Change in 1992.

Postscript: Shortly after publishing this episode I learned from Mark that he has finally (somewhat belatedly) received his own Gender Recognition Certificate.

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A close family bereavement means that the schedule of recording and editing original interviews and other material for Just Plain Sense needs to be put on hold for a short while. During that time, and in order not to disappoint regular listeners, I am featuring a handful of the most interesting interviews that I've recorded in the past for another channel.

Dr Stephen Whittle is perhaps the world's best known transsexual man. He is Professor of Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, the President of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Chair of Transgender Europe, in addition to being one of the founders of the UK lobby group Press for Change. He is also a committed family man, with a wife and four children. In this in-depth interview, originally recorded in summer 2007, we cover his own personal background growing up in Manchester, his transition in the 1970's, his work as a campaigner, and his views about the future for trans people.

Please consider supporting the charitable appeal for the Alzheimer's Society set up in memory of my mother, who died last week. Details...

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In Just Plain Sense it's my aim to feature every side of the enormous conversation around Equality, Diversity and Human Rights in British society. There are plenty of people who can talk about first hand experiences, or advocate on behalf of whole communities; in the last episode we heard from a senior civil servant; so in this episode I'm featuring a speech by an elected city council politician.

Councillor Paul Fairweather represents the North Manchester area of Harpurhey. He's an out gay man and this speech is taken from a conference last year on LGBT Health strategy, so his comments about health and more general inclusion reflect that. Nevertheless his point about the role of local political influence -- using scrutiny powers, local area agreements and partnerships -- is just as valid for any group.

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July 2008 sees the 60th anniversary of Britain's National Health Service. Much has changed in that time of course. It's a different world from the immediate post war era in which the idea of a universal public health service, free at the point of need, was born.

Britain is far more culturally diverse. Public health emphasis is shifting from treating illness to preventing it. Health and well-being are increasingly seen as integral to wider strategy for encouraging and maintaining a socially equitable and economically successful society.

As the Department of Health's programme director for equality policy, Barry Mussenden heads a team that's responsible for ensuring that health and social care services match everyone's needs equally and fairly.

It's not an easy brief. The NHS is a federation of independent public bodies whose priorities can only be influenced, not commanded. The health service is Europe's largest employer, staffed by ordinary people who have just  the same blind spots and prejudices as the rest of society.

In this short interview Barry explains how his team sees the challenge and takes it on.

Department of Health Equality and Human Rights Group

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