As a transgender woman I am a great supporter of the Human Rights law and the European Court of Human Rights because it has been the driver behind the transformational changes in equality law over the past decade.
Whilst Human Rights law itself is quite complex and applies to the way the state treats its citizens, the basic principle is simple and if we could all live by it, many laws would become unnecessary.
Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect.
When I ask people on my workshops if they could live with that most immediately say yes…
Until I emphasise the important word in that statement. Everyone – murders, drug dealers, paedophiles, sex offenders, rapists, terrorists…
“Ah – everyone except… ” I hear people say. But we can’t do that. The principle of Human Rights has to apply everyone.
Who gets to decide on the exceptions? If the issue is a matter of national security, do we give someone the right to withdraw human rights from people in secret? There can be no exceptions.
After I changed gender I had a few minor problems with children in the area bringing their friends to “see the local trannie”. And if I was nowhere to be seen they would shout, knock on the door, or throw stones to get my attention. I put up with this for a few years and then in October 2008 things took a turn for the worse.
First thing I noticed was a hole in a window where a stone had been thrown too hard. I ignored it, until the next week when another window was broken, so I called the police and reported this as a hate crime. Nothing was done and the next week things got worse.
I thought at first it was a hail storm, till I opened the French windows and realised that a gang of about 20 kids were all throwing stones over my back fence. And that was just the start. Every night between 5 and 20 kids aged about 12 to 15 attacked my house from the rear and the front throwing stones, mud and abuse before disappearing into the dark back ally’s.
I called 999 (911) no fewer than 11 times in the next two weeks and lived in constant stress. All the windows, including the french windows were broken and I had had to board them up to prevent further damage. Police were around my house every night in cars, on bikes and on foot, but the kids still evaded them.
I had no idea who they were, because many of them were wearing hoodies and balaclavas to avoid being recognised. I was terrified to leave the house at night in case they were able to get into my house and spray paint the interior, something I knew had been done to other gay and trans people in the city.
Finally it reached a crescendo. They were riding past the front of my house on bikes hurling mud at the walls and windows and I lost it. I grabbed a retractable washing line prop and went out to confront them – I was ready to take their heads off with heavy aluminium pole.
“Come on you little… ” I shouted. All thought of treating them with dignity and respect was gone. One young lad stood there, mud in hand. “Come on then”, I yelled, then added “Why are you doing this to me”.
“Well, are you a man or a woman,” came the reply?
I threw away my weapon and started to answer his question. He dropped the mud he was holding and came forward and before I knew it he was joined by others, all firing questions as me.
Five minutes later I found myself on the green outside my house delivering a transgender awareness workshop to about 20 young people and as they removed their balaclavas I know it was all over.
I spent about 10 minutes talking to them before the police arrived and they dispersed but I never had another problem after that.
It was over because I did Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect.
If I had hit one of them with that pole I would have been arrested and the problem with have escalated, with parents adding to the problem.
Treating people with dignity and respect does not mean that we do not put people in prison or punish them severely for crimes; it means that when we do, we do it with dignity and respect, even when they have failed to treat others that way.
If you take this approach in all your dealings with staff and customers, you will never fall foul of equalities law.
About the Author:
Founder of the Professional Speaking Association, Rikki Arundel is an Inspirational Keynote Speaker, Coach and Diversity Training Expert who speaks extensively about Sex, Gender and Equality, especially Transgender Awareness. Her seminars, like her articles, are rich in content but entertaining.