Methinks the window of opportunity for the Royal College of Psychiatrists to do anything to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve so cleverly constructed for themselves is closing. Fast.
Like a rabbit paralysed in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, their response is too slow, too little, too late.
Because, as those brought up in the subtleties of politics will tell you, its not just what someone does that counts, but how they do it, when they do it. A government Minister caught out for some minor indiscretion by the press, who comes clean instantly, apologises and promises not to do it again, will probably survive. One that blusters, denies, twists and weasels: they probably won’t, because over the evolution of the story, it is not the initial impulse to shick! Horror! but their reaction that eventually becomes the story.
And the story so far with the Royal College of Psychiatrists is roughly thus.
The Gathering Storm
Their Gay and Lesbian (but NOT Trans) Special Interest Group decided to hold a conference on trans issues. So far, so clumsy – but that’s all it was. This could well have been a positive event, leading to greater rapprochement between psychiatry and the trans community, who already view that profession with deep suspicion.
Unfortunately, they didn’t talk to the trans community and opted, either through incompetence or a desire for cheap publicity, to go for two serious transphobe speakers: the inimitable Ms Bindel, and preening media tart, Dr Az Hakeem.
(OK: there’s nowt wrong with being a media tart. I’m one, too…but then its my day job and I don’t also claim to be a serious therapist).
This has excited some comment, of which a selection below:
Of course, it isn’t all bad news for the RCPsych, given that they have received fulsome praise from GenderTrender. Though maybe the fact that that blog is one of the most bigoted, irrational collations of hate in respect of trans issues out there ought, perhaps to give the RCPsych pause for thought.
Peace or War?
At base, however, the response from the trans world has been universally hostile, universally disgusted, as this conference seems to prove all the worst that we believed about psychiatrists.
So, a few weeks back, dialogue began, with management over at the RCPsych. It would definitely have been nice if the organizers of the conference would deign to speak directly to us po’ trannies: but it was not to be. Not one individual from the GL SIG could stir themselves to pick up the phone or write an e-mail.
Instead, platitudes were exchanged through a third party. There are “regrets” at how the conference is being perceived, and no intention to cause “alarm and distress”. The trouble is, this is not honest engagement or response: this is news and crisis management. The simple, sensible route forward is to talk to us.
Apparently psychiatrists don’t like to do that: or rather, its ok so long as we are on the couch, power lines clearly drawn. But treat trannies as equals? Perish the thought!!!
And now, unless action by the RCPsych is radical and a good deal more inclusive than it has been so far, the end-game looms. Some trans men and women will picket and/or demonstrate when the delegates turn up. I understand that support is growing amongst students and student unions, so this is likely to be a not insignificant event.
Others are muttering quietly, off the record, about simply ensuring this conference does not go ahead. Given the recent example of UK Uncut, I do hope that the RCPsych has the budget to pay for the security this conference is likely to need.
“The lights are going out…”
Otherwise, this feels a bit like 1 August 1914. (Ah yes: I remember it well. : ) )
Huh? What is she blethering about? Well, after the Austrian Archduke got shot at the end of June that year, the various European powers went into a huddle in a last ditch attempt to avoid war. On July 31, Russia mobilized. The next day, so did Germany.
Late on 1 August, the German leader, Kaiser Wilhelm had second thoughts and tried to rescind the mobilization. It was, his generals informed him, too late. If he had wanted peace, then the time to achieve that was in the days before mobilization started – but once started, it couldn’t be stopped.
Which takes us neatly back to the start. The window for the RCPsych to avoid an ultimately damaging confrontation is closing. Its not shut yet – but it will soon, and if they are not careful, they are likely to end up with the worst of both worlds: no conference, and an enduring rift between their members and the trans community.
And psychiatrists are supposed to be intelligent people?