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Back in April this year I interviewed the mother of an intensely gender dysphoric child. She told how her child (now living as a girl) had become increasingly desperate and suicidal as the prospect of a masculine puberty grew larger. Specialists in the UK weren't prepared to medicate in order to delay the irreversible effects her child's body would undergo and, in desperation, she took her child across the Atlantic to Boston instead.

The Royal Society of Medicine convened a conference to debate this issue in October. However, the country's leading specialist Professor Richard Green, was concerned that the speakers selected for that conference were mostly based in the "conservative" camp. In response he organised a pre-emptive conference of his own at Imperial College in London, where specialists successfully practicing puberty delay therapy around the world could present their outcome data and experiences.

I went along to Richard Green's conference at his invitation and recorded interviews with many of the speakers for this detailed feature.


A couple of weeks ago I invited listeners to complete a short audience feedback survey whilst I decided whether to do any more "Just Plain Sense" Podcasts after the exhausting first run.

Well, you didn't disappoint! The good news is that your helpful feedback and encouraging words have persuaded me to prepare a second series. The recordings for the first proper episode are already "in the can" in fact. Whilst I settle down to edit those, however, this curtain raiser looks at what you liked -- and weren't so keen about. There are tantalising previews of the next episode's controversial contributors. And now there's a theme tune too -- composed and performed originally by LIPA student Kate Threlfall for North West England's annual celebration of diversity, Celebr8, Don't Discrimin8.

Between March and July 2008 the first season of "Just Plain Sense" presented 38 episodes covering a wide variety of Equality and Diversity topics from contemporary Britain. Now I am considering whether to run a second season and, if so, what content to focus upon. Before I plan anything I'd like to hear from you, the listeners. Please help me by completing this brief survey about what you like or don't like, or anything else you'd especially like to hear. The survey will take only a minute to complete but I really value your opinions.

Click here to complete the survey


Birmingham Selly Oak MP Lynne Jones says she never set out to have a political career -- she just got sucked into one. Now, 33 years after first getting hooked, and 16 years after first entering Parliament, she has declared her intention to stand down at the next election.

In this detailed interview, Lynne talks about the experience of being a woman in Parliament, balancing personal convictions with party loyalty, some of the causes she has taken up over the years, and overall progress towards a more diverse legislature.


It is an occupational hazard of organising speaking events that now and then one of your speakers will be suddenly and unexpectedly indisposed. When that happens you can either leave a gap -- or try and fill the breach yourself.

This is a problem that arose in the third of our recent conference / workshops on the Gender Equality Duty in Health. At each event civil servants from the Department of Health had volunteered to come and deliver their version of a common presentation about their department's approach, and what it should mean. However, on our last day, one of them was prevented at the very last minute from attending.

Fortunately I'm familiar with what was going to be said -- in part because I contribute regularly to two community stakeholder engagement groups, including an advisory group on Gender Equality. This meant I was able to step in at short notice and fill the gap -- although the emphasis is inevitably my own as a result.

In the next episode we change tack again, with an in-depth interview with the Labour back bench MP Dr Lynne Jones. Lynne has lots to say about equality and diversity -- in and out of Parliament, so be sure you don't miss that episode, coming up soon.


In the third of this series of episodes covering the recent NHS Northwest Gender Equality conferences we come now to the advice and guidance of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Several EHRC staff contributed to the three events that we ran, and I'd like to thank Sam Pryke, David Howard and Vivienne Stone who all made great contributions besides Merryn Wells, featured here.

Merryn gave the main EHRC presentation at our third event in Preston. She is the Commission’s “Transfer of Expertise Manager”. Among her many skills honed in a 25 year equalities career she managed a recent project looking at gender equality in the NHS and also worked with the Royal College of Nursing, advising HR managers in that sector on the gender equality duty. For those reasons she was ideally placed to connect with an audience of NHS managers.

Click here if you would like to view and follow a handout of Merryn's slides whilst listening. (PDF, 90Kb)

In the next episode hear how I ad-libbed my way through explaining the Department of Health's viewpoint when the civil servant booked to speak was unable to attend for very good reasons


In the second of this series of episodes covering the recent NHS Northwest Gender Equality conferences it is the turn of the Men...

Peter Baker is the Chief Executive of the Men's Health Forum -- a charity which works to improve male health in England and Wales. His presentation to us in Preston was every bit as challenging as the women's message featured in the previous episode, though markedly different.

It was research by MHF that first highlighted how many NHS gender equality schemes in England appeared to have very little disaggregated evidential data, were focussed on processes rather than outcomes, or were lacking in effective consultation and involvement with service users.

Many speakers stressed that equality in this context does not mean providing the same service to everyone. That's not what the law requires, and stark differences in priorities were very clear in the different messages from the men and women presenters seeking the same equality of health outcomes.

Peter's presentation highlights a set of key areas where he says targetted action could be brought to bear on specific health inequalities for men; he also demonstrates how novel approaches can be used to get essential messages across to the men themselves.

Click here if you would like to view and follow a handout of Peter's slides whilst listening. (PDF, 1.2Mb)

In the next episode you can hear the EHRC's guidance for NHS organisations on what they expect when examining equality schemes for compliance.


Attention has been focussed recently on whether NHS Trusts in England are responding properly to the Gender Equality Duty, since it came into force in April 2007. Research by the Men's Health Forum highlighted that many of the published gender equality schemes it had researched were poorly evidenced, focussed on processes rather than outcomes, and showed a lack of effective consultation and involvement with service users.

Plain Sense was recently commissioned to put together a series of conference workshops for senior NHS Trust managers in England's North West region, to discuss how to be more effective and compliant in this area. Presenters included figures from the Strategic Health Authority, the Department of Health and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to explain what was expected. Just as importantly, an array of stakeholder speakers were invited to explain their view of the real priorities for promoting equality.

Karen Moore is a policy officer with the Women's Resource Centre - a national umbrella organisation based in London. In her speech, presented here in full, she challenged NHS Trust managers to look strategically at issues like violence against women and support for rape crisis centres as a means of avoiding longer term and more intractable mental and physical health issues. Afterwards her colleague, Darlene Corry, provided an interview summing up the challenges and opportunities in thinking 'out of the box' on these kinds of issues.

If you would like to view a handout of Karen's slides whilst listening to her talk then click on this link. (PDF 141Kb; 4 pages)

In the next episode it's the men's turn.


This week, as the third and final installment of the "Life in a Day" conference coverage, I'm featuring my own keynote presentation at that event: And then we had 'T'

With more time to spend than in the recent Nottingham event, and with a broader audience of public services in the audience, this presentation covers some different ground, and includes a tongue-in-cheek 'confession'. There are, of course, some familiar elements too.

After quite a lot of LGBT coverage recently, the next few episodes will be moving on to look at Men and Women's experiences of health, and the Department of Health's strategy for Gender Equality. In the coming week I also have a very special interview guest booked, and they will be appearing in a later episode. So do 'stay tuned'.


Linda Bellos isn't the sort of woman to mince words. She says she doesn't care so much what people think, but about how they behave. She's also angry about receiving a different level of treatment from public services when she's paid as much for them as everyone else.

This is the second in a series of three episodes based on the conference "A Life in a Day", organised by Leicester Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Centre on 5th June.

In the next episode you can hear my own keynote address at the same event -- and don't forget that by "subscribing" to this Podcast channel you'll be notified automatically the moment this and other new episodes come online.


This week we begin the first of a new series of recordings taken from a conference held in Leicester at the beginning of June.

“A Life in a Day” was hosted by Leicester’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Centre at Leicester City Football Stadium on the 5th June and promised “Practical ways to make public services LGBT friendly”.

In this episode you can hear the welcome address given by one of the City's MP's, Sir Peter Soulsby.

Next week I'll then be featuring the keynote address by noted BME and lesbian campaigner Linda Bellos.


This week's episode features the speech by EHRC Chair Trevor Phillips to business leaders from the North of England at a working luncheon organised recently in Leeds.

The media's stereotype of business attitudes to equality and diversity issues is a crude one, which tends to emphasise opposition towards regulation and any moves that might impact upon profits or flexibility. The reality is more complex. Many businesses understand already that embracing diversity is a good thing, and that private or corporate enterprise cannot pretend to exist in a bubble somehow divorced from larger issues about the kind of society we have.

Trevor's speech reflected the former sensitivities whilst reaching out for a more sophisticated dialogue.


A few days ago I was invited to an event at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It was billed as a working lunch with business leaders from the North of England to talk about what Equality and Rights developments mean to the private sector. In the next episode I'll be presenting Trevor Phillips' speech to that audience. But first, in this item, Trevor spoke to me about the commission's first nine months of operations, the initiatives already underway, and his hopes for the future. In addition to Trevor I also speak to EHRC's Director of English Regions, Tim Wainwright.


This week I'm presenting the third and final part in a series of episodes based on the recent Department of Health conference on LGBT Mental Health, which took place at the end of May in Nottingham. (For more details see part one)

I entitled my own presentation "Transgender Realities" and proceeded to pull very few punches about research-based evidence of trans people's experiences of health discrimination, in a factual approach aimed directly at the 130 healthcare professionals present. I regrettably had to publicly criticise Nottingham PCT itself, having adopted a commissioning policy which is clearly discriminatory and unlawful in my view.

If you wish to follow the presentation slides then you'll find these here.


This week I'm presenting the second of three episodes in which you can hear the speakers at the recent Department of Health conference on LGBT Mental Health in Nottingham. (For more details see last week's part one).

Tim Franks is the Chief Executive of PACE, a leading London-based charity which promotes mental health and well-being within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community there.

In his presentation Tim talks about the different reasons that LGBT people may have for connecting with Mental Health services. Like many of the day’s speakers he emphasises that whilst being different in these ways is not a mental illness, people have the experiences of discrimination to deal with and, of course, they can experience conditions such as depression or psychotic illnesses like anyone else.

Tim also raises interesting perspectives about the way therapeutic relationships can benefit when service users don’t need to explain aspects of their identity and simply feel that their sexual orientation or gender presentation is accepted. He says that in PACE the service providers ‘come out’ about their position so that the service user doesn’t need to.

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