In what probably should be a lesson to city Pride organizations everywhere, Pride London failed to communicate policies regarding trans people’s restroom rights to independent contractors at an event that had 875,000 attendees and participants, and the result of that failure to plan resulted in a post-operative woman of trans history being denied access to a women’s restroom, a protest by trans people against Pride London that turned violent, and deteriorated relations between trans people and Pride London, as well as deteriorated relations between trans people and London police.

The incident was first reported within the blogosphere at TransAtPride.org, in their entry Transphobia At Pride. Roz Kaveney, a long time human rights campaigner and journalist, has a first person account of her experience at Pride London:

Official stewards who were running the toilets at Trafalgar Square announced that I, and any other transgender or transsexual woman, had to use the disabled toilets and was not allowed to use the regular women’s toilets. I pointed out to the stewards that I transitioned and had surgery before they were born; I was more polite than a polite thing. No dice.

I went and fetched a posse of transwomen and transmen and we made a collective fuss. Their response – and remember these were official stewards AT PRIDE – was to radio in “we’re being attacked by a mob of trannies! send backup”. They were joined by a policeman, who was a LGBT liaison officer, who claimed that we had to be able to show our Gender Recognition Certificates if we wanted to use the women’s loos and got quite upset when I explained to him that I had been involved in drafting the Act and that it did not take away rights that existed before it. At one point he threatened to arrest us for demonstrating on private property – those loos belong to Westminster Council, so you are not allowed to make a fuss there.

At one point it was claimed that they had instituted this policy a few minutes earlier because a man had attacked a woman; at another they said it was official Health and Safety policy. I don’t think it was particularly to do with how much I do or don’t pass – I think I got read in part because I am so tall and turned up in the queue among a particularly short group of lesbians.

It was one of the most wretched experiences I have had in thirty years, only made positive by the love and solidarity of my community – including various transmen who proposed that, since they had no GRCs, they should be made to use the women’s loos. Beards and all.

Pride London ended up having to do some damage control. As reported by PinkNews, Patrick Williams, chair of the stakeholders committee and HR Director of Pride London, first pointed out that the stewards in question were not Pride volunteers but employees of a company that provides security and paid stewarding. In other words, Pride London brought in private contractors, and failed to ensure that these contractors were properly prepared for the foreseeable situation of one or more lesbian women objecting to trans people using the event provided public loos.

[Below the fold: Pride London and the police said the incident should have never occurred, and Pride London apologized to the transgender community.]Here’s the statement of the Pride London‘s Patrick Williams:

We have a clear policy with regard to toilets and usage by trans people, that is a trans woman is clearly allowed to use the women’s toilet and a trans male clearly able to use a male toilet.

We would never say to any trans person to use the disabled loo as this is clearly illegal.

The stewarding and security company has adhered to Pride’s policies for their three years of providing additional stewarding at our events, and this is the first complaint we have had over their handling of such an issue in all that time against all the hundreds of staff that they provide.

The company has assured us that this incident was not how they would normally handle such an issue, and was a genuine mistake. We are working with them to ensure that there is no repetition.

We have very clear policies regarding equality and expect that all sub-contractors adhere to. This is going to be looked into as a matter of urgency.

We deeply regret that Roz Kaveney had to endure such an experience at our event, this is deeply regrettable and should never have happened.

I publicly apologise on behalf of Pride London to her with regard to this, and we will endeavour to ensure that it never happens in the future with respect to any groups that are a part of our stakeholders forum, or indeed any one attending Pride London’s events.

When things like this happen it leaves a very distasteful feeling with any person or community who feel that they are being singled out or picked on and this is not what we are about at Pride London.

We hold very dearly our commitment to equality.

We accept that in some cases training is important and we are happy to work with any of our contractors with the training of their volunteers in this respect, and we will also include any individual or groups that have an interest with this as well, where appropriate.

This can involve trans members being called upon to be a part of a training package.

Pride London has an excellent track record or working with all members of our community, and has in particular a strong record on trans issues.

This incident has marred a very successful event and lessons have to be and must be learnt from it.

In a further statement from Pride London (again from PinkNews):

“It is deeply regretted that trans community members were denied access to these facilities.

“It is the firm view of both organisations (the police and Pride London) that the trans woman involved should never have been denied access to the women’s toilets, and members of the trans community should have been able to attend this event and feel supported by diverse communities who they are close to.

“The MPS and Pride London recognise the depth of hurt, and frustration felt by the trans community around this incident, and both organisations took immediate action to ascertain what had occurred.”

Since the LGBT liaison officer for the police was involved in the incident, and the officer didn’t specifically tell the steward that denying trans women the use of a public, women’s loos was unlawful, there were incident related problems with the trans community. There had been a protest at the Pride London event that had turned violent, and relations between the trans community and police deteriorated.

Pride organisers held a meeting on Wednesday with the Gay Police Association, trans community representatives and Steve Allen, the borough commander for the City of Westminster.

“The meeting provided opportunity for respective findings to be shared and to discuss proposals for a united approach that would support the regaining of trust by our trans communities and further reflect our continued desire for transphobic incidents of this nature being prevented from happening again.”

Commander Allen said today he was disappointed by the incident because it did not help the “fragile relationship between transgender people and the police.”

From a statement by Commander Steve Allen:

The motivation and actions of the police officer involved were positive and he has my full support, he said.

We expect extraordinary things from our officers and I am pleased that although off duty, he regarded it as his duty to become involved where he saw a situation developing.

The events of the day are being addressed by the various organisations involved.

Clearly inappropriate decisions were made and inappropriate words said. Those specifics are being or have already been addressed.

The issue at the heart of events over the last few days is much wider.

That issue is about the nature and quality of relationships and engagement between police and transgender people.

There is no doubt that we are at the early stages of the journey.

The aim must be to get to a point where the relationship is sufficiently robust that it can survive the setbacks that will inevitably occur.

The vision is getting to a position where policing services are delivered to victims, witnesses, suspects and every other member of our communities in a way that is fair, just, professional, compassionate and respectful of the particular needs of individuals.

For members of our communities, this must be the case because that is what you have a right to expect. For the MPS this must be the case because we can only succeed if we have the trust and the confidence of the people we work for.

All this community damage for lack of planning for foreseeable problems. This should be a lesson to pride organizations everywhere: Make policies regarding trans bathroom use, and clearly communicate these policies to your staff AND your contractors. A little pre-planning could go a long way in creating or preserving community relations.

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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen

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