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Stephen Whittle

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Professor Stephen Whittle Order of the British Empire (OBE), PhD (b. 29 May 1955) is an active member of the United Kingdom TransActivist organisation Press for Change. Now (2007), Whittle is Professor of Equalities Law in the School of Law at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Born a female baby in Altrincham Cottage Hospital, where his grandmother was a senior nurse, he was sickly child who was born with rickets. He was the middle child of the 5 children in his family. In 1955 the family lived in Wythenshawe. At that time, Wythenshawe was said to be the biggest council estate in Europe, providing workers for the Trafford Park estate.

After several years of Sun Lamp treatment for his rickets, at St Mary's hospital, he was considered well enough to attend Havely Hay Primary school at the age of 5. In 1963 the family moved to Withington village, an inner suburb of Manchester. From the age of 8 he attended Old Moat Junior school.

In 1966 his mother, Barbara Elizabeth Whittle (nee Stead), being concerned at how different he was from his sisters, entered him in the examination for Withington Girl's School. Being, that year, one of the highest scorers in the city in the 11 plus examinations, he received a scholarship to attend.

It was during his time at Withington Girl's School that he started reading medical books in the corner of his local library. He was trying to find out what he was. He knew he was romantically attached to other girls at school - he never told them, and so his love was not reciprocated - but he also knew that he was sexually attracted to men. On top of that was a strong desire to be a man, to grow a beard and to have a hairy chest. He had read articles about people like Della Aleksander and April Ashley who had had a 'sex change', but never realised that might be him. Eventually in 1972, at the age of 16, whilst visiting his doctor about a sore throat he read about a female to male transsexual person. He instantly recognised himself. However, unable to deal with the challenges that confronted him with, he joined the women's group of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in 1973, where he met the lesbian political activists Sue Wiseand Liz Stanley.

In 1974 Whittle came 'out' as an (FTM) Transman, after returning from a women's Liberation Conference in Edinburgh, which he attended as a member of the Manchester Lesbian Collective. He has been active in the transsexual and transgender community ever since the age of twenty when in 1975 he co-founded the Manchester TV/TS group, the very first support group for transsexual people in the United Kingdom. In 1979 he joined the former army officer and then royal sculptor, the trans woman Judy Couzins in the Self Help Association for Transsexuals (SHAFT). According to Whittle, nobody liked to tell pensioner Judy what 'Shaft' meant in ordinary life.

In 1989, after working with many organisations including the Gender Trust and the Beaumont Society (named after the Chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont, a mid 17th century cross dressing French spy) he founded the UK's FTM Network which he coordinated until November 2007. In 1992, along with Mark Rees, the actress Myka Scott and the airline pilot Krystyna Sheffield, he founded and became vice-president of Press for Change, the most successful Trans political lobby group in the world, to date. He still is one of the vice-presidents (there is no president, and never has been as it is a consensus group), and Press for Change has gone from being the most unlikely group to succeed, to being called as early as 1994 'one of the most successful lobby groups seen in the last 25 years' by Lord Alex Carlile,Baron Carlile of Berriew at the reading of his Gender Reassignment Bill, which failed and which, according to Whittle, would have made dreadful law, but "for 40 minutes members of parliament discussed trans people which without it, would have never happened".

Whittle has actively worked towards changing the laws and social attitudes surrounding transgender and transsexual lives. He has participated in many radio and television programmes. In 'Make me a Man' (2002) Sarah and Stephen allowed the television cameras to follow their lives as he underwent phalloplasty surgery whilst continuing his other work at the university, his campaigning, and raising his children.

Though unable to marry legally in the UK until the passing of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, he and his partner (now wife), Sarah Rutherford, have four children by artificial insemination. The Whittles' efforts to gain recognition of Stephen as their children's legal father led to the important case of X, Y AND Z v. THE UNITED KINGDOM before the European Court of Human Rights(1996).

... masculinity is facing a massive crisis. What it is to be a man, has in itself become so inherently devalued - probably rightly so, through feminist discussion, theory and argument ... But there's no new model of masculinity... I think ... that (as) transsexual men, we've worked very hard to provide an alternative model of masculinity. Because we've inculcated ...(feminist)... values (into being a man).[1]

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 came into force in April 2005, and Whittle obtained a new birth certificate. He and his partner Sarah legally married on June 18 2005, and jointly adopted their children, so making Stephen the children's legal father, in April 2006.

In 2002 Whittle was given the Human Rights Award by the Civil Rights group Liberty, for his commitment and dedication to ensuring the advancement of rights for transsexual people through judicial means in the UK, Europe, and around the world.

In the Queen's New Year's Honours list in 2005, Whittle was made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to gender issues. And in 2006 he was awarded the Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement Award by the USA's International Federation for Gender Education.

The problem of who I legally am in the world I live in has been vexatious throughout my adult life ... I face an inadequate legal framework in which to exist. We are simply ‘not’ within a world that only permits two sexes, only allows two forms of gender role, identity or expression. Always falling outside of the ‘norm’ our lives become less, our humanity is questioned, and our oppression is legitimised[2]

He has also written and spoken extensively on his personal journey, most notably in his praised autobiographical statement in Will Self's essay for David Gamble's photography collection 'Perfidious Man'. His writings have included, among other things, an article on the ground-breaking transsexual employment discrimination case decided on by the European Court of Justice. In 2005 he was awarded The Sylvia Rivera Award for Transgender Studies by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies for the monograph ‘Respect and Equality’. In 2007, along with his co-editor, Susan Stryker, he was awarded a Lambda Literary Award for their annotated collection of 50 key historical and contemporary transgender science, political and theory texts; 'The Transgender Studies Reader'.

In 2002, Whittle was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Having experienced a variety of health problems since his early 20's, he had had suspicions and was neither surprised, or terrified by the diagnosis. His multiple sclerosis has been an increasing problem since late 2005, yet he continues in his full time university post, and his fight for the human rights of trans people throughout he world. In recent years, he has collaborated with other members; Paisley Currah, Shannon Minter and Alyson Meiselmann, of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) on amicus briefs to courts in many jurisdictions. In 2007, he was he first non-medical professional and first Trans person to become President of WPATH.

Whittle continues to write extensively on the law and policy surrounding transsexual and transgender people, along with several recent academic articles returning to the question of the law and trans people. He also continues (2007) to work on what he hopes will be the defining history of transgender, and the sources of the many theories surrounding gender variant people.

Throughout his very busy life, Whittle has maintained an interest in the avant-garde of the arts, and in recent years he has started to collaborate with the photographer and Lecturer in Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Art, Sara Davidmann.

In early 2007, along with Dr Lewis Turner, he published the research report; 'Engendered Penalties: Transsexual and Transgender People’s Experience of Inequality and Discrimination'[3] for the Equalities Review which was instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of trans people in the remit of the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights.

Roles Edit

Books Edit

  • (with Turner, L.) (2007) Engendered Penalties: Transsexual and Transgneder Experience of Inequality and Discrimination by Trans People, London: Cabinet Office
  • (with Stryker, S., eds) (2006) A Transgender Studies Reader, New York & London: Taylor & Francis: Routledge
  • (2002) Respect and Equality: Transsexual and Transgender Rights, London: Cavendish Publishing
  • (2000) The Transgender Debate: The Crisis Surrounding Gender Identities, Reading: South Street Press
  • (with More K, eds) (1999), Reclaiming Genders: Transsexual Grammars at the fin de siecle, London: Cassell Publishing
  • (with McMullen. M.]]) 1998, The Transvestite, the Transsexual and the Law (4th edition); 1996 London: Beaumont Trust (3rd Edition); 1995 London: Beaumont Trust, (2nd Edition); 1994 London: The Gender Trust ( 1st Edition.)
  • ed. (1994), The Margins of the City: Gay Men's Urban Lives, Hampshire: Arena Press, Hampshire

Chapters in Books Edit

  • (2007) Transsexual people in the Military, In J. Barrett ed. The Practical Management of Adult Disorders of Gender Identity, Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing
  • (2007) The Gender Recognition Act 2004, In J. Barrett ed. The Practical Management of Adult Disorders of Gender Identity, Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing
  • (2006) Impossible People: Viewing the Self portraits of Transsexual People in A. Rogers ed. Parody, Pastiche and the Politics of Art: Materiality in a Post-material Paradigm, University of Central England in Birmingham in association with Ikon Gallery
  • (with Watson, K.) (2004) Slicing Through Healthy Bodies: The media of body modification In M. King and K.Watson, Representing Health: Discourses of health and illness in the media London: Palgrave pp. 104-136. pages: 35
  • (2005) Sustaining Values: Feminist Investments in the Transgender Body, In Y.W. Haschemi and B. Michaelis, eds.. Quer durch die Geisteswissenschaften. Perspektiven der Queer Theory. Berlin: Querverlag, pp. 157-168, pages: 10

Journal Articles Edit

  • (2007) “Respectively a Man and a Woman”: The Failures of the Gender Recognition Act 2005 and the Civil Partnership Act 2005, Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review[1], Vol.8, no.1, Spring
  • (with Turner, L.) (2007)‘Sex changes’? Paradigm shifts in ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ following the Gender Recognition Act?’[2], Sociological Research Online, Volume 12, Issue 1, January
  • (2006) 'The opposite of sex is politics - the UK Gender Recognition Act and why it is not perfect, just like you and me' Journal of Gender Studies[3], Volume 15, Number 3, November.
  • (with Witten, T.M.) (2004)TransPanthers: The Greying of Transgender and the Law[4],Deakin Law Review[5],4(2) pp. 503-522
  • (with Hartley, C.F.) (2003)'Different Sexed and Gendered Bodies Demand Different ways of Thinking About Policy and Practice, Practice' A Journal of the British Association of Social Workers, 15(3) pp. 61-73
  • (with Poole, L., Stephens, P.) (2002) 'Working with Transgendered and Transsexual People as Offenders in the Probation Service' Probation Journal[6], 49(3) pp 227-232
  • (with Little, C., Stephens, P.) (2002)'The Praxis and Politics of Policing: Problems Facing Transgender People' QUT Law & Justice Journal[7], 2(2)
  • (1999) 'New’isms: Transsexual People and Institutionalised Discrimination in Employment Law' Contemporary Issues in Law[8], 4(3), pp 31-53.
  • (1998) 'The Trans-Cyberian Mail Way' Journal of Social and Legal Studies[9], 7(3), pp 389-408
  • (1998) 'Editorial' in The Journal of Gender Studies[10]: Special Edition - Transgender, 7(3), pp 269-272

References Edit

  1. adapted with permission from Stephen Whittle,'Perfidious Man' in Self W, Gamble D(2000) 'Perfidious Man', Penguin: Viking
  2. Stephen Whittle in 'Disembodied Law: Trans People's Legal(Outer) Space' in Whttle, S. 'Respect and Equality, (2002) London: Cavendish Press, p 1
  3. Engendered Penalties: Transsexual and Transgender People’s Experience of Inequality and Discrimination(2007) London: Cabinet Office)
  4. Stephen Whittle - PFC campaigner

See alsoEdit

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