Oh what a mess…

…and one that in the fullness of time may well come back to haunt the Beaumont Society which, on the face of it, appears to have come as close to outing a trans man as it is possible to come without naming names.

A large chunk of the trans community is now up in arms and less than happy at the role played by a body that has always been viewed with suspicion by the transsexual end of the “umbrella”, while the justification for its action given by that organisation seem more likely to fan the flames than put them out.

Let’s start with what is known. A well-respected freelance journo, by name Lois Rogers, who specialises in issues of medical ethics and practice was looking into questions arising from the desire of some trans men to re-re-assign: or at least to have children. She approached the UK’s Human Fertility and Embryology Authority for comment, and the impression given is that they didn’t exactly confirm, but hedged.

When a story is not a story

She then phoned round various trans organisations and one decided to hand her a story on a platter. According to an official statement put out yesterday, the BS affirmed that in response to a query from the Sunday Times, they had told them:

“We were contacted last year through our information line number asking for details on this issue. As an information line, we were unable to help with this query and so referred the matter onto GIRES. Some period of time later we received a thankyou for being there and the info we provided.”

That, in anybody’s book, is confirmation. That is what stands a story up – although it was hard to convince the BS that they had in any way been at fault in this respect.

The attitude of their press officer, contacted yesterday, appeared to be that whatever one told the press it did not much matter, because they would “make it up anyway”.

Nope. Hard as it may be to credit it, the vast majority of the press need SOME substance with which to work. They may spin, twist, misrepresent and generally imply you said something other than what you said. But for the most part, outright fiction is not on the cards.

Which is why both the statement and the subsequent denial that the BS had in any way given out this story was so extraordinary. Total, utter disconnect.

Google is your friend!

The BS were officially puzzled at how the press had got hold of the name of Joanna Darrell,the individual who is quoted as giving out the above information (clue: her e-mail and mobile number were on their site. It took less than 30 seconds to get from there to a name, via google).

Beaumont Society: speaking first, speaking for all

As for whether they should possibly have maintained a more dignified silence and not put themselves forward as speaking for the UK’s trans community, well they, unike other trans organisations are prepared to speak to the press.

As their spokeswoman put it, if other organisations want to be in the press, its up to them to get back and respond. She told me: “if they want a response, we’ll give response: if the rest of the trans community doesn’t respond, then that’s their problem.”

None of which is likely to go down well with sections of the trans community already concerned at the increasing way in which the BS appears to be becoming port of first call for press comment on issues of particular concern to the transsexual community.

The suggestion, also made by their spokesperson, that they are “authorised to speak on trans issues because they have ts members on their committee” is unlikely to go down well with those who have felt less than helped by the BS in the past.

Certainly, since this story came to light yesterday, a number of prominent trans women have commented publically about how unsupportive a role – negative, even – the BS played in their early transition.

Yesterday’s story has beyond a doubt stirred up both prurience and a great deal of hostility towards the UK’s trans community. The fact that it was possibly an accident waiting to happen – that there ARE trans men out there who wish to have children and sooner or later one of them was bound to be cuahgt out by the press – is neither here nor there.

This particular outing – this pr disaster – seems to originate in one clearly identifiable quarter: to owe as much to a lack of professionalism in dealing with the press as anything else.

Whether it will end there remains to be seen. The tabloid press are still conducting a witch-hunt for the individual in question.

Moreover, a number of individuals seem sufficiently riled up to “out” the BS in terms of breaches it appears to be committing of the Data Protection Act, both generally and in respect of this case.

It is all the most awful mess – far from edifying – and no way for a community to behave.

jane xx

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20 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Hells Bells said,

    In my communications with the PCC today, they have offered to “assist” the Beaumont Society in how to deal with press enquiries. I’m really not sure what to expect from such assistance!

  2. 3

    Janett Scott said,

    I am sorry that it has reached such a fever pitch about what the Beaumont Society does or doesn’t do or say.

    I will say again that this story did not come from the Beaumont Society, and Jane knows that only too well, as we spoke at length on that.

    Also when we are asked for help by the press on background to a trans story, we give the contact phone numbers of several other support groups, who it transpires never respond, for what ever reason’s. We in the Beaumont Society only speak from personal or first hand experiances, never on subjects that we are not well versed in, such as F2M or Gender Variant children.

    As for our experiences, we have been around as part of the Transgender comunity since 1966, that is over 45 years, and many of our Executive committee members are either themselves transsexual or living full time as female.

    I hope this clears up some of the misrepresentation that is flying around about the Beaumont Society.

    Janett Scott, Public Relations Beaumont Society.

    • 4

      janefae said,

      Janet,

      I am going to respond direct to you and Kay as well as on here because I am beyond bemused by your take on this and actually quite sorry to be writing a piece like this.

      You say that this story “did not come from the BA” and yes, we went round and round that. But in the end, as your statement yesterday agreed, when a times inquiry came your way, you gave out info that confirmed the story. You “stood it up”, which is what I and most journalists would consider to be giving them a story.

      Your continued assertion that you confirmed the info but didn’t give the press the story fills me with dismay. It feels like u just don’t get it…and if you really don’t get it to that extent, you should.not be talking to the press. Where, at any point.in this, did u simply consider not commenting?

      I know other trans organisations have been approached on thia story and they have DECLINED to comment as us their prerogative. Your response appears not only dismissive if that, but undermining. If THEY won’t comment, WE will.

      I can well see why the press love the BS…but if your sole criterion for press handling is you comment when others decline to, yhat is.not good or professional media handling…its a disaster waiting to happen.

      I do offer pr support and the offer is always there for when the dust settles on this.

      For now, however, absent compelling evidence to the contradictory, I’d say that it was the BS who gave this story to the press…even if, literally, you maintain u did not.

      Jane x

      • 5

        I really wouldn’t humour these people. They have a long history of being out of touch and continue to operate the same outdated and out of touch policies they always have. In the end we are all responsible for our own privacy and contacting a bunch of f**k wits like the BS is perhaps not such a good idea.

        Love the squirming of his royal highness the grand wizard Janett Scott, ‘honest we didn’t do that’, do you think anyone with any common sense believes a word you say Janett?
        While I’m here I was wondering if the BS could help me with the best choice of pipe tobacco for my grandfather’s 90th birthday and do they know the correct tappet clearances for my friend’s 1956 Austin Healey Dreadnought.

        Honest, I’m loving every minute of this, in fact I have to run to the loo as I’m peeing myself laughing :) :) :) BS, hilarious!!!

    • 6

      Liz Church said,

      The sign at the zoo says, “do not feed the animals”, and lo, you have fed the animals.

    • 7

      Hells Bells said,

      Janett, I think more concerning is the fact that you have breached the person’s confidentiality – and appear unable to grasp that fact. Even though you may not have passed on personal details, the confirmation that the “case” exists should not have passed your lips.

      Saying that you passed the case onto another organisation is confirming the fact that there is case – ergo, press story. The fact that the other organisation won’t talk to the press indicates that they take client confidentiality seriously. Why should anyone now trust the Beaumont Society to keep their details away from prying eyes?

  3. 8

    ‘The beaumont transvestite and deeply closeted gay guy club’ is and has been an anachronism for the last 20, 30, 40 years. What on earth has dressing in twin sets and pipe smoking got to do with the process of transition? They are the very worst disgusting misogynist female caricatures. Funny though, I remember that moronic MTS bullshit directing people with gender issues to this bunch of low life blokes in frocks. Funny that in the light of the train of events you describe.

    And people wonder why genuine women in transition don’t want to have anything to do with the trans/tranny man ghetto. Why are the BS being pushed as an organisation with any relevance to the transsexual experience.

  4. 9

    k said,

    {deleted content}

    • 10

      janefae said,

      with apologies to the author of the above post. However, it contained, i suspect without her realising, some quite sensitive material which i have been asked to remove.

      I don’t edit lightly: in fact almost never. In this instance, however, there was some concern over the effect of this post on individuals mentioned.

      I have alerted the author to same.

      jane xx

  5. 11

    Rebecca Shaw said,

    Jane, setting aside my personal views about the Beaumont Society, and the sensitivities central to this particular story, exactly what is one supposed to say about a registered charity which offers guidance and advocacy services on a one-to-one basis but is not prepared to respect client confidentiality? Having abused the trust of one of their clients so badly, how are future clients ever going to be able to trust them, particularly when they won’t even acknowledge they have made a mistake. On the contrary, far from being contrite, one of the trustees has posted in a public forum:

    “There are something like two million Transgender people in the UK, if we stopped buying such papers as the Daily and Sunday Mail’s and The Sun, they would perhaps listen when we have a problem with their style of reporting. While people buy their papers they will continue to write inaccurate rubbish about us.”

    I’m sorry, but any charity that operates on this kind of a basis should not be in business. These people are a menace and it is high time they f*cked off back to their knitting circles!

  6. 12

    […] The Beaumont Society, on the other hand, have a different approach, as discovered by the journalist Jane Fae in her attempt to get to the bottom of all this. In speaking to the Beaumont Society, she recieved […]

  7. 13

    I’ve followed up this piece here… http://www.nomorelost.org/2012/02/14/beaumont-society-in-confidence-breach-equally-blessed-and-cursed/ … linking back to this article.

    Suffice to say, that the perception that the BS are “becoming” the first port of call is inaccurate, and they have in fact been so for quite a time in many respects. We really, as a community, ought to be doing something about this. When the BS are often the primary if not the only organisation suggested by health professionals in the support of transsexual people, we’ve clearly, as a community, overlooked something terribly important.

  8. 14

    Alison Kristina said,

    The press clearly quote a BS regional rep as the source. I asked this person directly on Sunday if she told the press. She did admit that she talked to the press, and said “we didn’t disclose any details, personal or otherwise”. (I can provide proof of the conversation if needed.) She further said (referring to the media) : “We were approached and referred to GIRES and later had a thankyou. That’s all I can say”

    The facts of the matter are simple: a BS rep has admitted to me that she talked to the media, mentioned the fact that the BS were approached and referred the person to Gires and later had a thank you.

  9. 15

    Jenniferbn2 said,

    Thank you Jane for a well thought through blog.

  10. 16

    The thing that irks me about this issue is that for as long as I have known the Beaumont Society they have been an organisation established primarily for transvestites indeed at one time transsexuals were expressly excluded. With the demise of TV/TS support group UK of Shoreditch Janett Scott whom I know personally by the way, joined the Beaumont Society eventually becoming the organisations president. Although I do have respect for the personal integrity of Janett, I have little respect for an organisation that presents itself as representative of bona fide transsexuals. Or to put it another way most of the members of the board they claim are transsexuals are actually transvestites who went to the extremes. What they can know about genuine transsexuality comes from a rather myopic and biased viewpoint and therein lays the “rub”

    From the perspective of the lay press, who know even less about the issue, never mind transsexuality, the BS are an easy source of information albeit misinformation. Their attitude surrounding the question of early transition displays just how little they know. Frankly speaking, GIRES is no better. The whole question of children in UK who are transsexual is downright cruel and in my view amounts to abuse.

    So here we have a situation where the people who really know and understand transsexuality, those who have first hand experience have no ‘voice” either to the organisations the public believe represent us, or to the general public. Why? Simply put no-one understands that there is a difference between transsexuality and transgenderism. Regional Beaumont “reps” who organise “dress up parties” and cocktail evenings at their homes or local safe hotels have no business talking to anyone about transsexuality whether MtF or FtM and especially not children. Most in the Beaumont hierarchy are men and as all women know from bitter experience, men think they know everything, THEY DON”T.

    Now to get really controversial, FtM who bear children after transition are not and never will again be men and there is no convincing argument to the contrary. Those who begin such a journey should accept that the story is going to get out sooner or later whether through BS or GIRES or the clinic who performs the procedures or a neighbour, it will out.

  11. 18

    Evangelina said,

    I dislike the policy adopted by GIRES in the way the organisation interacts with NHS in general and clinicians approach to dealing with young children who experience transsexuality. This section is from the definition and etiology document issued by GIRES

    “Gender identity usually continues along lines which are consistent
    with the individual’s phenotype, however, a very small number of children experience their gender identity as being incongruent with their phenotype. Adult outcomes in such cases are varied and cannot
    be predicted with certainty. It is only in a minority of these children
    that, regardless of phenotypical socialisation and nurture, this incongruence will persist into adulthood and manifest as transsexualism
    (Green, 1987; Ekins, 1997; Prosser, 1998; Di Ceglie, 2000; Ekins &
    King, 2001; Bates, 2002).”

    It is the minority of children that are the type VI transsexuals and are most in need of early medical assistance. In gires document dealing with children their policy suggests hormones are withheld until age 16 and while puberty may not have hit in full hormones administered earlier save a great deal of trauma caused by allowing masculine physical developments to take place and these do begin even before the onslaught of puberty.

    I have not seen gires challenge the policy of Portman Clinic on this perhaps because they agree with that policy.? Kids need to be allowed to express what they need much earlier than gires currently advocate, not doing so amounts to cruelty. Just my opinion of course.

  12. 19

    Jenna said,

    Sounds like the BS needs to get in some professional PR help.

    Slightly different but the principal is the same. Someone walked into the HR department of the company I work for last summer and asked if I was having gender reassignment. They were told we’ve no idea what you are talking about and even if we did we couldn’t tell you because of confidentiality.
    In addition everybody at the company has been put through Freedom of Information training to make sure that we know how to deal with requests for information.

    Sounds like the response in this case should have been “sorry we don’t know anything about this but even if we did we couldn’t tell you due to confidentiality and the Data Protection Act.”

  13. 20

    Natacha said,

    Not completely sure why GIRES is getting dragged into this. In my experience they have worked as hard as anyone to have proper treatments available for trans children including making blockers available at younger ages. What I do find dangerous about Evangelina’s piece is reference to “Transsexual children” Whilst the evidence that 75% of gender variant or trans children do not become trans adults is highly contested, not least by my own research, it is mostly contested in terms of its extent not the idea that not all trans children go on to become trans adults.

    As such referring to trans children as “transsexual children” is highly inappropriate as such labelling could result in some children making choices which they would otherwise not make. In fact it is pretty much impossible to safely describe any child as transsexual under the age of 12, although the probability of their growing up as transsexual increases if they continue to manifest gender variant behaviour past the age of 13. It must be remembered that even when administering blockers to children in their early teens, which I personally strongly favour, blockers are administered primarily to permit these children the thinking time before they can make their own choices at 16 or 18. In fact the Portman/Tavistock currently prescribe blockers for children from the age of 12.

    In addition, referring to “transsexual children” risks an even greater PR disaster than the current one (which the BS really needs to stop being in denial about). The idea that children are being “forced” or even slightly “pushed” or “encouraged” or “labelled” into a kind of unstoppable path to GRS, or are even being “groomed” for GRS, is a potential media nightmare waiting to happen which puts at risk all the gains made in recent years for all trans children. Even some relatively intelligent, and supportive, comentators in the press seem to have got the idea that children are having GRS as young as 7.

    I have asked for solidarity from within the trans community and allies with the witch-hunt victim by suggesting that everyone keeps quiet about everythiing and simply does not talk to the press. I would suggest that the best way to show solidarity with trans children is not to expose them to the risk of misrepresentation in the media by, at least in generality, referring to them as transsexual until they are at least 16. As Jane said, the media;

    “spin, twist, misrepresent and generally imply you said something other than what you said”

    This is one area which is ripe for all of these.


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