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On 28th May the Department of Health organised a major conference on LGBT Mental Health in Nottingham. The event was attended by well over 100 health professionals and the day was led by Professor Clair Chilvers, who is the Chair of Nottingham Healthcare NHS Trust.

In this and the following two episodes the speeches of some of the main presenters will be featured in full. For this first programme we hear the introduction from Surinder Sharma, National Director of the Department of Health's Equality and Human Rights Group. Surinder is then followed by Professor Anne Rogers, who holds the chair in Sociology of Health Care at the University of Manchester. Both of these speakers paint a progressive picture of the understanding of the role of mental health, and how thinking is changing (or needs to change) to meet the true needs of people without unnecessarily pathologising their difference.

Copies of Powerpoint presentations and other materials from this conference are now online here.


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.


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...


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.


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


In the 1970's school teachers could be dismissed if it became known that they were Gay or Lesbian. As a young teacher in those days Sue Sanders recalls that women were not even allowed to wear trousers. This was the environment in which the organisation "School's Out" was founded in 1974.

In this in-depth interview Sue speaks at length about the organisation she has worked for during the majority of her adult life, the way things have changed in that time and the problem for the next generation of society when today's teachers are not equipped to teach about diversity. She also talks about LGBT History Month, which she helped to found in 2004.


For many people the journey of pregnancy and motherhood is a delightful and rewarding experience. Yet, for Elaine Hanzak, this wasn't the case. She developed baby blues, postnatal depression and ultimately puerperal psychosis.

Elaine's story is told through her book, "Eyes Without Sparkle" -- and teaching people about the widespread reality of postnatal illness has become her life's passion.

In this interview Elaine tells the story of how it was, and how such illness can affect anyone after birth... Even the kind who, like her, imagined that they're "not the type".

Details of Elaine's book and how to contact her or obtain a copy can be found on her web site. She also has a regularly updated blog describing her constant efforts to educate more people about the seriousness of the condition.


A report published last week by the Department of Work and Pensions has poured cold water on one of the most popular arguments for promoting equality at work.

The Business Case for Equal Opportunities: An Econometric Investigation” was researched and prepared for the DWP by a team at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. It says they could find no direct cause and effect link between businesses having Equal Opportunities Policies and having higher productivity and profits. But it says the reverse is definitely not the case too -- and that businesses that have one seem to have the other, even if the connection isn't clear. I look at the researchers' conclusions in more detail.


What do you do when your child exhibits markedly gender-atypical play behaviour almost as soon as they can walk and tells you, by the time they are four years old, that there's been a mistake?

Susie is a Yorkshire mum with three young children. Two are very much boys, but the other, though born the same, has insisted since pre-school that a mistake had been made.

In this in-depth interview she tells how she handled the challenge, sought help and has cared for her child at every stage in a remarkable journey through growing up. She also tells why she felt her child was not getting the right kind of treatment at Britain's only child and adolescent clinic specialising in this area, and why she turned, instead, to specialists in the USA and The Netherlands. As a mother, she also has advice for schools on how they could help parents and children avoid the bullying her child has experienced.

For more information and support for parents and families in this position see Mermaids (UK) and Trans Youth Family Allies (US).


The inward migration of workers to Britain has always been a matter of contention -- yet never more so than in recent years when the concepts of economic migrants, unlawful immigration and asyllum have become confused and blended together.

Denise McDowell represents an organisation, Migrant Workers Northwest, that was set up in 2007 to specifically address the reality of migrant working in Britain's North West Region. In this interview she explains about her organisation and the different kinds of people involved whilst answering common fears and suggesting the advantages that worker migration brings.


Activist and rising media personality Calpernia Addams was in London for a showing of her short film "Casting Pearls" and a panel on media representation at the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. In this in-depth interview she talks about growing up, the murder of her boyfriend Barry Winchell, her blossoming career and the representations of trans people in film and on TV. Just click on the "Listen Now" control below to hear the interview online, without the need for any special software. Alternatively the "Play in Popup" option allows you to listen the same way but carry on browsing.

Calpernia's web site http://www.calpernia.com/ has all the latest details of her work and, when you visit her site, you can watch the You Tube video of "Stunning", her first single, which begins and ends this episode.

As a complement to this item I'd like to recommend another Podcast interview with US trans activist Jamison Green, talking at length about what drives trans people.

I'm not sure whether I can claim the original credit for the idea -- people didn't seem to have thought it before I made the suggestion at a consultation last year, and they quickly wrote it down. However it happened though, the Equality and Human Rights Commission have now launched their own You Tube Channel.

The channel opened this week with a handful of videos on the theme "Equally Different". You'll find them at : http://www.youtube.com/EqualityHumanRights


The rights associated with religion or belief are an area where misunderstandings can easily arise. The commonest issue is the incorrect presumption that the Article 9 rights concerning a person's religion or beliefs could allow the rights of others to be impeded. This is not the case.

In this episode I explain how some aspects of our rights are not absolutes, but are designed to be balanced reasonably with the rights of others. There's a difference between being protected from persecution and imposing your beliefs on others.

News: March 31st


In this week's news sample, claims that the Government may be planning to opt out of parts of a UN Convention on the rights of disabled people and news of an extra £15 million committment to encourage the development of women's careers in certain sectors.


The news that a number of transsexual men have had babies following their transition to manhood has hit the headlines both sides of the Atlantic recently, accompanied by a predictable mix of consternation and curiosity.

The problem with debate on a topic like this is that, whilst people are often quick to voice an opinion, based on the immediate gut reaction they feel, very few of them have much clue about the background facts.

In this episode I explain the legal and medical background, and pick away at some of the unfortunate conclusions that people will jump to.

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