Engine room to Captain Smith…

And it all started so well.

I am an advocate of niceness. Honest. I know I get seriously worked up about stuff, but once I’ve had a chance to let off steam, realized I’m dealing with real people and such like, calmed down a bit…I’m a really handy negotiator type person to have on side.

Not, though, with the RCPsych, whose reaction to the trans community seems to be either deliberate provocation or straight-up crass stupidity. Let’s explain (and for the full ridiculous details, Natacha Kennedy has published much of the exchange we were involved in over on her blog).

In late March (around the 23rd or 24th) I picked up the phone and spoke to the Head Honcho in their Press Department, Liz Fox. She was polite, helpful and we swapped e-mails. Within a week of starting to chat, I had offered them pretty much their pick of speakers from the Trans community to provide experiential input into their conference, and she was talking to the organizers of the conference to see if they were interested.

They agreed to insert a new session, with speaker TBC, who would put a trans point of view.

Positive, but…the bad sign even at this early stage was that these organizers at no point had the guts or gumption to talk directly. Equally, they didn’t seem to get it: a large part of the anger directed toward the RCPsych was through its utter failure to talk to us.

Ironic, huh? A bunch of dudes who witter on about talking therapies – themselves quite incapable of holding a civilized conversation when it matters.

Early days, I was double-heading…looking to see if there was a story here I could write up and also wearing my part-time activist hat. That didn’t last. There are times when it is wholly improper for me to do that (i.e., be activist and journalist on the same story), so I copied Jess, editor of Pink News in on all correspondence, and declared myself 100% activist for the duration.

We batted a few more mails back and forth, til 4 April, at which point I invited Natacha to join the fray. Perhaps we should play good cop, bad cop? Nah Not a hope. The responses from Ms Fox became more rote, less personal, suggesting that she was having to clear her every word with the grown-ups behind the scenes.

Both myself and Natacha suggested, politely, that this refusal to engage was sending a message of its own out to the community. Natacha ended one of her mails with a line that brought a broad smile to my face. She wrote: “There is a saying, with which I am sure you are familiar; “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.” I would suggest your employers take heed of this. In this case silence is the shovel.”

Not that it made any difference. Liz stopped writing to me, even when I pointed out that the correspondence had been initiated jointly. Had I offended in some way? Were they playing dumb games? Hard to say.

Last of all, we have the wit and wisdom of their Director of Communications and Policy, Deborah Hart to contend with. Like Liz, she has apparently decided to ignore me completely. Why, Deborah? Silly games? Rude? Incompetent? Hard to tell…

…I shall ask her.

Like Liz, she has descended into platitudes. Clearly the RCPsych don’t want to play any more. She writes: “The College is involved in organising numerous conferences about a wide range of issues. Any opinions expressed by individual contributors at these meetings are the personal opinions of those contributors and cannot be taken to represent the views of the College.”

So if a SIG happened to invite Peter Sutcliffe to opine at a conference on sex work…they’d leave it to the organizers? Apparently. Still, as they prepare to face what could be the largest trans demo in the UK in a decade…possibly ever…it is nice to see the RCPsych holding its nerve and pretending nothing is up.

The College’s position has been officially clarified and therefore, Ms Hart goes on: “nothing further can be gained by continuing this debate as we have nothing further to add.”

With serious apologies to those who have previously told me off for the bellicose references, i don’t half feel a Chamberlain ultimatum moment coming on… 🙂


P.S. No prizes for getting the headline allusion…but the smug satisfaction of knowing you can keep up with moi, at least when it comes to historical trivia. 🙂


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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One Response to Engine room to Captain Smith…

  1. Pingback: Grandstanding or transphobia? : The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ “Time to Change” Conference « a gentleman and a scholar

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