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Twelve months ago this week I reported in detail from a special conference at Imperial College in London. Clinicians from Britain, Holland and the United States came together to discuss their different views about the best way to treat adolescents with persistent gender identity issues, and a strong desire to permanently change sex.

The central issue is about how to deal with Puberty. If clinicians don’t do something to prevent normal puberty occurring then a trans child will undergo changes that are impossible – or at least painful and expensive to reverse in adulthood.Some children say they would rather commit suicide and their parents are understandably frantic.

Puberty can be blocked in a way that’s completely reversible. So this is what doctors in several parts of the world are now doing. If the child should change their mind, you stop the drugs and puberty kicks in as though nothing had happened. It buys enough time till the child is older and their course in life is certain.

British clinicians have been ultra cautious and conservative though. They fear factors which might be as yet unknown if you meddle with puberty’s course. Paradoxically they weight this more highly than the certain negative outcomes of an unwanted puberty and the results of foreign studies.

That was twelve months ago. And on the face of it nothing seems to have changed much today. Clinicians at the UK’s only specialist centre for child and adolescent gender identity patients say they will still only prescribe blocking therapy once puberty has largely completed at the age of 16 – by which time irreversible changes have occurred.

What has altered, however, is that the advocates for change – mostly parents of trans children – are getting more of a hearing for their case.

In this show we feature a recent interview from BBC Radio Four’s flagship “Today” programme and afterwards I reflect on what mature media coverage does for the debate.

You can also listen to my full original interview with Nicky's mother, "Gender Dysphoria, A Mother's Tale", first released in April 2008

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This year people have been celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10th December 1948.

As discussed in an earlier show, lots of people have no idea what the declaration’s thirty articles actually say. And when people don’t know, then they often assume that the whole thing is irrelevant to their own lives.

Artist Monica Ross has taken a rather novel approach to educating people. To counter the tendency to forget, she has memorised the entire work. When she recites the preamble and articles to live audiences, it is literally therefore a memorial act.

Monica first came to prominence in the 1970’s as a performance artist, before she turned instead to video work. The shooting of John Charles De Menezes renewed her desire to perform before a live audience. And she’s aiming to make 60 public recitals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a way of marking its' 60th anniversary.

This particular performance took place in August at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. She was joined and assisted by various people from the local community who performed individual articles and the event was recorded by University Staff. This presentation is with their permission.

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The final weekend in August saw Manchester, one of Britain's most LGBT-friendly cities, hosting its annual three day Pride celebration. In this reply to a similar French video, the revellers deliver a one-fingered salute to homophobia based on Lily Allen's "F**k You!". Shame the homophobes never seem to have so much fun in their lives.

Earlier this week I interviewed veteran Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell about what makes him tick, his methods and some of his opinions. You can hear that interview in the preceding item.

Peter and I were both speaking at the Centre for Local Policy Studies Summer School at Crewe Hall in Cheshire. In his keynote speech he addressed the risk that in being blindly sensitive to "multiculturalism" we might undermine everyone's human rights - including sections of the cultures we are reticent to challenge. Is female genital mutilation an absolute violation or subject to cultural relativism, for instance.

Here is an excerpt from the opening section of Peter's overall 30 minute presentation. I may make further segments available if the demand appears to be there.

Peter Tatchell was once described as a “Homosexual Terrorist”. To some he has been “Public Enemy Number One”. His causes have spanned four decades and world affairs.

He’s campaigned on Capital Punishment, the Vietnam war, Apartheid, Environmental issues and LGBT rights – to name just a few.

He famously outed ten Church of England Bishops as Gay and accused them of hypocrisy. He performed a citizens arrest on (President of Zimbabwe) Robert Mugabe, on charges of torture.

He was nearly run over by Tony Blair’s motorcade once when campaigning against the Iraq war. He has often been arrested and beaten up by authorities. His direct activism methods are applauded by some but abhorred by others – and not just those on the receiving end.

In this interview, following a lecture to the Centre for Local Policy Research Summer School, I wanted to know what makes such a man tick? What fires him up? And does he ever envisage running out of steam?

You can learn more about Peter's career history and his extensive writing on his web site www.petertatchell.net

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The question of whether gay or lesbian couples should conceive or adopt children has been with us for many years. Some people think it’s wrong.

There seems no justification for those reservations of course. We’re confronted all the time with examples of heterosexual men and women being bad parents and abusers. Yet the idea that less conventional couples pose some extra kind of threat is deeply ingrained.

And if there’s concern about gay and lesbian people adopting children, what must it be like for trans people?

In this interview I speak to a trans man who, with his wife, has successfully overcome the obstacles to adopt two young children. He also now advises other trans people on how to navigate the process too, and to deal with the general ignorance of social workers in this context.

We agreed we would keep his identity confidential for the sake of his children. In this interview he adopted the pseudonym "Nick". However if people would like to contact Nick for advice on adoption themselves then please ask for help by leaving a request via the comments facility below. If you supply an email address in the "mail" box on the comment form this won't be shown publicly; however we can use this to put you in touch.

Update: Since releasing this episode, 'Nick' has set up a special email address where people interested in adoption can contact him for advice: lgbtadoptionuk@gmail.com

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The recent Ada Lovelace Day blogging event raised important points about the challenges of getting more young women and girls hooked on technology subjects – and dealing with the barriers which may cause some of them to fall by the wayside.

For this episode I travelled to the Electrical Engineering Department at Leeds University, for an event organised by the Women’s Special Interest Group of the British Computer Society, BCS Women.

The second annual Ada Lovelace Colloquium was organised by Hannah Dee with colleagues from the BCS Women committee. I spoke to Hannah, some of the speakers and many of the delegates as the day unfolded.

This Podcast is complemented by a series of You Tube videos showing excerpts from many of the actual presentations. One example is shown below. The others will be linked from here when they have all been published.

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Alan Pollard is the President of the British Computer Society and is featured here delivering the introduction to the annual BCS Lovelace Colloquium for women undergraduates this year at Leeds University. He speaks here about why he and the BCS see the importance of encouraging more women into technology roles such as in IT. For more details (and for links to more of the video content) see the Podcast above this.

Not so long ago any talk about trans people and the police would have been confined to tales about discrimination on both side of the thin blue line. There were problems for trans people wanting to pursue policing as a career. There were also sometimes problems when trans members of the public had dealings with officers.

Nowadays there is still a big educational challenge to tackle, and mistakes do still happen. Recently, however, a new group has been set up by trans police officers themselves, with senior officer backing. The “National Trans Police Association” spans all 53 Police forces in the UK and their aim is to help bring about informed change from the inside.

PC Bernie Clifton, a Diversity officer for the Greater Manchester force, talks about the setting up of the new association and work to be done on both sides of the equation to achieve more inclusive policing in this area.

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Coming Next…

The next Podcast interview will be with PC "Bernie" Clifton, who is a diversity officer with Greater Manchester Police. Here's a quick video teaser whilst you wait...

Why would a young Doctor choose to specialise in Psychiatry? Why would he choose to work in a field that's frowned upon by many of his peers? To cap it all, why would he work in a clinic that had (in the past) acquired a very negative reputation among patients?

Dr Stuart Lorimer works at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic in Hammersmith, London. It's a busy place. In 2008, 771 people were referred there with various degrees of gender dysphoria. At any time the clinic is treating well over 1500 people. Some (not all) are seeking support for one of the biggest challenges anyone can undertake: successfully changing the way they live and present to accord with their internal sense of being a man or a woman.

In Britain as a whole, over 300 people apply for legal recognition of permanent gender changes each year. Many others, with less intense dysphoria, take cross-gender hormones or simply find that their feelings can be expressed within their existing gender role.

Helping people make informed decisions about the steps they take is a tough challenge, which is made no easier by having to help them cope with the enormous levels of discrimination which many of those patients will face on the way. The clinicians face challenges too -- not just from fellow Doctors who can't or won't understand, but from patients who arrive with negative expectations about the institution.

Stuart was at pains to stress that he cannot speak on behalf of the clinic he works in. This interview focusses upon him as one of a wholly new generation of specialists in the field, and his own thoughts about some of the controversial issues that have raged for years in this field. In sharing his own thoughts, however, he paints a picture of a team still struggling with an inherited reputation, constantly learning and evolving -- and wanting to do their best in difficult circumstances.

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March 24th 2009 is Ada Lovelace Day – an initiative which we talked about in a previous episode. At the time of writing around 1500 people have signed an online pledge to produce a Blog, Podcast, Video, etc... about a woman in technology whom they admire. This episode is about one such woman.

Much of the technology we take for granted today is only possible because of the ability to design and prototype computer chips quickly and cheaply. At the beginning of the 1970’s the process was far from easy. It took time; It was prone to errors; and custom chip design was not economical for many kinds of product.

Professor Lynn Conway’s best known contribution, 30 years ago, was to invent and successfully promote a radical new approach which made the chip design process straightforward and affordable. It is arguable that some of the best known businesses and many of the products we nowadays take for granted would not have been possible without Lynn’s historical contribution.

In this interview Lynn talks via a transatlantic Skype call about her vision and the things that thrill her about engineering. You can also read her VLSI Archive and about some of her other work and challenges here.

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Today (17th March) I have completed production on the next Podcast (episode 57). However, this won't be released for a week because it is my contribution to the Ada Lovelace campaign (see the recent episode on this for details).

I'm very excited about the forthcoming episode as it features one of the true pioneers of the computer and technology revolution, Professor Lynn Conway. Lynn's most famous work, which came to fruition 30 years ago this autumn, created the basis for engineers to be able to design and prototype electronic chip designs fast enough and cheap enough to make the technology feasible for inclusion in practically every electronic device we use today.

I am going to sit on that exciting interview until the allotted day, March 24th, but in the meantime here is a short video about how remote interviews like Lynn Conway's are made. There are also some more details about the production process in general on the Just Plain Sense Blog.

My Father, Leslie Burns, was born less than four years after the end of the First World War. It was a world where women could not vote, and which was about to be hit by a terrible economic depression. Later he served in the RAF during the second world war, lived through post war austerity, married, became my Father and was almost into middle age by the time of the Cuban Missile crisis and the massive social changes which followed in the 1960’s.

One of the traps of looking back on a past you’ve mostly only read about or seen on TV is to assume that everyone shares the same narrative as the historians – and so parts of this interview may come as a surprise. They certainly did for me.

And interviewing your own Father is like no other assignment I’ve ever attempted before. As I found, it’s far from easy to adopt the same approach as you would for a stranger.

All in all, it wasn’t quite the interview I expected – but perhaps there’s something for us all to learn from the unexpected.

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Of all the diversity issues, religion is the most difficult. It so often involves the question of how far one can allow the rights of people to apply the doctrines they believe-in to the lives of other people.

Our religion – or lack of one – is perhaps the only thing we can really choose. Everything else is beyond our control – gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or age. But regardless of the indoctrination we might receive through our upbringing, we have the power as adults to choose what we believe and how we behave towards others.

So where does the right to have a religious belief (and to worship) end and discrimination begin? And, in such a multicultural society as Britain, how do people with competing religious beliefs reconcile the inevitable differences? Can any one person speak for them all when organisations wish to consult on the topic?

Monsignor John Devine is Churches’ Officer for the North West. He runs the North West Forum of Faiths and is a priest in the Roman Catholic  Archdiocese of Liverpool. From his position of regular dialogue with people of many faiths, he seemed like a relevant person to ask.

For editorial background on this item see the Blog post : The Gospel According to John

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