Unions call for an end to discrimination on Transgender Day of Remembrance

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The 9th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance has been marked in the UK by the Trades Union Congress with a call on employers to stop discriminating against people on the grounds of gender identity.

The day was set aside to remember those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

The event is held in November to honour Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999.

Since then, the event has grown to encompass memorials in dozens of cities across the world.

In September 2008 at least 25 transgender people were murdered across the world, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

Although there have been improvements to the law, there remain gaps and widespread exemptions that leave trans people without full protection in employment.

“Discrimination, hatred and violence are part of the daily lives of far too many in Britain, and employers need to make sure all their employees are working in safe environments free from discrimination,” said TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber.

“Unions need to step up campaigning for equality for trans people in the UK.

“We will shortly have a new Equality Act and the TUC will be pressing for complete protection for those people who identify with the opposite gender to the one that they were born.

“The murderous attacks on trans people worldwide – and the assaults we know take place in Britain – show that this community faces prejudice and bigotry.

“If Britain is to be a truly equal and inclusive society we need to understand the issues facing trans people, and develop practical steps to end discrimination in workplaces, and in society at large.”

The 9th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance will be marked across the UK on Sunday.

There will be a ceremony at Dragon Hall in London’s Covent Garden at 2pm and in Manchester a vigil will take place in Sackville Park, off Canal Street, at 3.45pm.

The Gender Trust and The Clare Project will hold Brighton’s first Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday 23 November 2008, 16.00hrs at the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church in Brighton.

In the UK, there are estimated to be around 15,000 transsexual people who self-identify as the opposite gender from the physical body they were born with.

Around a third of them have surgery to change their bodies.

Earlier this week the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, held a meeting about the human rights situation of transgender people and discrimination based on gender identity.

He said the problems of transgender persons as to go to the “very roots of what human rights are: the protection of the most vulnerable in society, the integrity of the human body and the right to be free from inhumane treatment.”

Professor Stephen Whittle, Jane Thomas and Richard Koehler represented TransGender Europe at the meeting.

TEU co-chair Julia Ehrt said: “It is clearly unaccaptable that a transgender person has to trade off legal properties like the right to integrity and self determination versus the recognition as a trans person.”

The group said that in most European countries sterility and being single are forced pre-requisites to obtain name and gender change.