Last update: 2013-05-21

Understanding Male Health

Understanding Male Health (75 mins)   As I’ve explained previously (over on the blog), one project we didn’t have time to complete and launch before the closure of NHS North West and our equalities team was a new resource aimed at helping commissioners and primary care clinicians to tackle the health inequalities experienced by men and boys as a group.   And, as I explained last month, we undertook to complete this resource during April, in our own time.   Joint effort   The idea for this development began when we had talks with one of our strategic stakeholder partner organisations, the Men’s Health Forum (MHF) last year.   The MHF were looking for some investment to support running a couple of events to educate NHS commissioners and primary care staff about one of society’s greatest areas of health inequality … the shorter life expectancy and poorer health outcomes for men and boys.   Rather than simply fund a few isolated workshops we decided to mak [...]…

Disabled People and Health Services

Last month, over on the blog, I explained how we had managed to complete our Disability History Timeline at NHS North West, before the organisation was disbanded as part of the NHS reorganisation on 31st March. The timeline is similar to our previous Black and Minority Ethnic and LGBT peoples’ histories, in that it consists of three parts: a mobile exhibition, a printed booklet and a video. The booklet was printed in March and the timeline panels were similarly completed in time, as a result of heroic efforts by my colleague Loren Grant. However, although we had also completed the video, we weren’t ready to release it at that time, as it needed to go to the specialist organisation who add British Sign Language signing. The video is now completed … in time for a public launch of the whole resource at the headquarters of Greated Manchester Commissioning Service Unit (GMCSU) on Wednesday 8th May. As NHS North West’s online resources are now all closed I have also agre [...]…

Alice Purnell’s Memoirs

2013-05-20 :: Christine Burns Length: 45s
Alice Purnell OBE is an important contributor to the development of the trans community in Britain. She was involved in founding the Beaumont Society in the 1960’s; founded the Gender Trust in 1990; and instituted a groundbreaking series of biennial conferences bringing trans people and clinicians together that same year. In this extended interview, on her 70th birthday, Alice speaks openly about her own childhood; the experiences which moulded her approach towards community support; and those pivotal developments in which she had a leading role. [...]…

Paris Lees - LGBT Role Model

2012-09-22 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
Paris Lees appeared in an earlier edition of Just Plain Sense about the signing of a Memorandum on trans people at Channel 4. Even then she was probably not all that well known outside of a small circle, having only moved to London the previous year. These days she is rapidly emerging as a rising star. She has quickly established herself as an art reviewer and commentator on issues of diversity. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian and the Independent, in Attitude magazine, and in Pink News. She has regular columns in Gay Times and Diva. She has appeared on Radio One and BBC TV … and acted as a consultant on several programmes about trans people. Most notably, she launched a unique magazine, META, earlier this year. Paris recently won the title ‘LGBT Role Model’ at the National Diversity Awards. This interview was recorded with her the following morning whilst she was still getting used to the recognition. [...]…

The Sunderland, by Leslie Burns

2011-08-06 :: Christine Burns Length: 15s
A couple of years ago, in March 2009, I recorded a Podcast interview with my own Father, Leslie Burns. I’m glad I did so because, just ten months later, he passed away. After his death I found a neatly typed manuscript which he had hoped to get published, about a big event in his life that had occurred only weeks before the end of the war. The story was never taken up by any editors. I’m sure that would have disappointed him. So, instead, I’m providing the opportunity for it to be heard. [...]…


2011-07-16 :: Christine Burns Length: 33s
In this episode I’ve been into the archives to retrieve two presentations by myself and the well-known US trans personality Kate Bornstein in June 2007, as we shared the stage opening the UK’s first “Transfabulous” conference. You can read a report about that whole conference here Kate and I were the ‘bookends’ to an introductory session, in which the facilitators of each of the day’s four workstreams described what they aimed to cover. We both set out in our different ways to set the mood… [...]…

30 Years On - The Bradford Twelve

2011-07-12 :: Christine Burns Length: 30s
July 16th will mark the thirtieth anniversary of a campaign supporting what became known as the ‘Bradford Twelve’. On that day in 1981 a dozen young Asian men from the United Black Youth League were arrested in dawn raids across the city and charged with conspiracy to make explosives and to cause explosions. The case was set against a backdrop of racist attacks on black and asian communities in Britain, which the Police had done little to address. The defendants asserted that “Self defence is NO offence” and the hearing of their case lifted the lid on racism in Britain at that time. Shahnaz Ali was a teenage girl at the time and was very much involved in the United Black Youth League in Bradford. She was taken for questioning and came close to being charged with conspiracy herself. Now a senior public sector official, Shahnaz looks back on those events with me, and describes what it was like to almost become the thirteenth defendant. [...]…

Rainbow Voices

This film, produced by my colleagues in the Equality and Diversity team at NHS North West is part of a larger resource (including a bookable exhibition, booklet and online resource) documenting the history of the involvement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in medicine and healthcare through the ages. [...]…

Trans Media Watch Memorandum of Understanding

2011-03-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 32s
On the evening of Monday 14th March 2011 the organisation Trans Media Watch collaborated with Channel 4 TV to launch a new Memorandum of Understanding to an audience of media people, politicians and trans people. The goal of the memorandum is to help eliminate discrimination relating to trans people in all media by setting out goals that all the parties can aspire towards. Channel 4 were the first organisation to subscribe to the principles. The MOU doesn’t call for censorship but aims instead to give media organisations the tools they need to address endemic problems. Trans Media Watch say they are guided by the basic principle that they wish to see transgender people and issues treated with accuracy, dignity and respect. Just Plain Sense was there to capture the atmosphere of the event, including speeches by Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone MP, Stuart Cosgrove from Channel 4 and reactions from the audience. Listen to the show online with the player below or click one [...]…

Half an hour with Joan Roughgarden

2011-02-12 :: Christine Burns Length: 27s
Professor Joan Roughgarden is no ordinary biologist - and no ordinary trans woman either - though there are quite a few high academic achievers within the world wide community of gender variant, transgender and transsexual people. Joan is perhaps best known for her 2004 book “Evolution’s Rainbow” - an academic work, written in a language accessible to the public. In it she challenges Darwin’s theory of Sexual Selection. Her subsequent book, “Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist”, published in 2006, showed that her willingness to take on controversial subjects was, if anything, stronger and more confident … despite the inevitable way in which her critics responded to the first. This interview was originally recorded for another channel in the summer of 2007, but hasn’t been aired on Just Plain Sense before. In the course of conversation Joan reveals an unexpected debt of gratitude to former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Ric [...]…

Responding to Disability Hate Crime

2011-02-03 :: Christine Burns Length: 14s
I’ve covered a lot about crime in various forms over nearly three years of these Podcasts. A lot has been said about hatred directed towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People. We’ve also covered domestic violence, which is mostly directed towards women. None of these subjects are pleasant. Yet the hatred which seems the hardest to understand is that which is directed towards disabled people and those with Mental Health problems or Learning Difficulties. The question why people behave so awfully in the first place tends to be brushed aside. And it’s clear that the unease that society as a whole has in this area is perhaps the elephant in the room. In this episode I talk to Karen Machin, a campaigner in this field. She and her colleagues work to raise awareness about disability hate crime and how to report it. She also works with the ‘Time to Change’ campaign, educating people about Mental Illness and she’s been involved in setting up the ‘ROLE Network’ - which is [...]…

Trans people and the media

2010-12-18 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
What do you think about minority groups like transgender people? Unless you actually know someone in person, have you ever questioned where your beliefs and opinions come from? Chances are, like most people, what you believe and think can be traced back to what you’ve gleaned from media coverage. The issue of media representation is nothing new. Study the history of any minority which has struggled for equality and you’ll generally find that such issues have been of concern to those who were engaged bringing about social change. Juliet Jacques is a transsexual writer and journalist who has thought a lot about these questions in her own context. She is writing a groundbreaking fortnightly column for the Guardian newspaper, documenting her own transition. She is therefore ideally placed to offer some perspectives on how the communication problems arise, and how to address them. Since this show was recorded Juliet has blogged some more detailed thoughts about some of the topic [...]…

The Just Plain Sense Christmas Special

2010-12-15 :: Christine Burns Length: 25s
It feels incredible to reflect that we are coming up to the third Christmas for the Just Plain Sense Podcast. The show has covered so much in the last 80 episodes and I hope to continue for a long time to come. Usually, as the producer and presenter of these shows, it is my job to ask the questions. With the occasional exception, I try not to be self-indulgent. The festive season provides an excuse for us all to let our hair down and forget the conventions though. That’s why I thought it would be nice to turn the tables and present this recent on-air show where, instead, the questions were coming my way. Andrew Edwards presents the Saturday Forum on Gaydio — the Manchester based LGBT FM station that I featured in a recent show. The last half hour of every show features ‘the Mix Tape’ where a guest selects and talks about four music tracks that mean something special. This was my turn in the hot seat… [...]…

The Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance

2010-11-10 :: Christine Burns Length: 12s
On November 20th or 21st those who care will be coming together in dozens of cities around the world to remember transgender people who have been murdered, often brutally, just because they are different. The event is held in November each year to honour Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved. This audio tribute is our contribution to those events, recorded with the generous assistance of colleagues and local broadcasters. To find out more about International Transgender Day of Remembrance and a vigil near you visit the web site: [...]…

LGBT History Month 2011

The prelaunch for the annual LGBT History Month took place on 2nd November 2010 at Twickenham Rugby Stadium, reflecting an emphasis on the importance of sport in this coming February’s month long programme of events. I was unable to attend the launch. However, having recently been appointed as one of the event’s patrons I recorded this speech as a video. [...]…

The Cuts Show - Part Two

2010-10-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 22s
Side two of the 1977 satirical political revue, “The Cuts Show” by CounterAct. On this side: education and housing cuts; the climate of ‘divide and conquer’ (my cut’s worse than yours); finding scapegoats among immigrant communities; the role of the press; and the capricious nature of investors. This week Chancellor George Osborne unveils what are expecting to be massive spending cuts. Yet we’ve been here before… [...]…

The Cuts Show - Part One

2010-10-16 :: Christine Burns Length: 19s
This coming week, on the 20th of October, Chancellor George Osborne will be unveiling the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review, and what’s expected to be the most savage cuts ever to public services in England. In politics, however, things are seldom new. You just need a long enough memory to recall previous booms, cuts and recessions. And, as they say, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. For that reason this episode features a protest album that was recorded in 1977. The Cuts Show, by “CounterAct” was a touring review made to educate people .. especially students .. about the public sector cuts being made at that time by James Callaghan’s Labour Government. The show was accompanied by a protest album .. omitting the show’s narrative, but including all the songs. Listen carefully to the lyrics, because it’s all there .. the need to satisfy financiers, threats to welfare and health spending, education, scapegoating.. and more. The show was p [...]…

Manchester’s LGBT Heritage Trail

2010-10-08 :: Christine Burns Length: 22s
If you’ve ever visited Manchester City Centre then you may have noticed some small rainbow coloured mosaics set into the pavement here and there. These pick out the landmarks in Manchester’s LGBT Heritage Trail. In this show I speak to guide Jon Atkin about the background to the trail and then we visit a couple of the landmarks. If you’re interested in organising a tour for a group of friends then call the Manchester Tourist Information Line on 0871 222 8223 [...]…

Half an hour with Nadia

2010-09-25 :: Christine Burns Length: 28s
When Nadia Almada first teetered into Channel Four’s Big Brother house on impossibly high heels, in the summer of 2004, TV viewers in Britain had probably never seen more than a few minutes of any real transsexual person on their screens before. Activists and lawyers at the time were nursing Britain’s Gender Recognition Bill through Parliament, and there was momentary concern about what kind of person this unknown quantity was. They needn’t have worried. Within days the young Portuguese woman soon had people’s attention, as her immense personality, piercing laugh and manifest vulnerability took viewers on a roller coaster ride of emotions, in which her transsexual background was sometimes the focus but often pushed to the background by other dramas. Nadia won that fifth series of Big Brother in a landslide victory that carried millions on a wave of emotion, sharing her dramatic realisation of public acceptance. In 2010 Nadia returned to Big Brother for a celebra [...]…

The LGBT Health Summit 2010

2010-09-10 :: Christine Burns Length: 24s
The first LGBT Health Summit took place at Guys Hospital in London in 2005 and, since then, this major annual conference has been hosted around the country. In this fifth year the hosts were Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and the venue was the excellent conference centre at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. In this programme you can hear the organisers, presenters and delegates describing the proceedings as they took place over the 6th and 7th of September 2010 [...]…

Gaydio 88.4 FM - Manchester’s LGBT Radio Station

2010-08-26 :: Christine Burns Length: 21s
A few weeks ago, on 18th June 2010, a brand new radio station took to the air. Gaydio, based in Manchester, is an FM station aimed at and run by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People. It’s not the world’s first such station. There are established FM stations in Australia and Toronto, for instance plus a host of internet stations Unlike many, Gaydio is not simply a music station though; it’s aimed at a wider than usual audience, and has a community development dimension too. To find out more I spoke to one of the founding directors, Toby Whitehouse, at the studios in central Manchester. You can listen to the station online at [...]…

The Diary of a Conference Campaigner (Part Two)

2010-08-24 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
Part Two of this personal narration of an account written in 1995, about coming out as a campaigner to organise ‘fringe’ meetings at the Labour and Conservative party conferences. For more details and background please see part one. [...]…

John/Joan - The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl

It was in December 1997 that the story originally known as “the John / Joan case” first came to world wide attention through a feature in Rolling Stone magazine. (The text of that feature is reproduced here) The story was significant at that time for transsexual people, as it dealt a heavy blow to the dominant medical narrative that gender identity was malleable and a product of nurture rather than nature. For people seeking recognition that gender change was not a ‘choice’ but a necessity, this was more than an academic question. Post-mortem brain research in the Netherlands that same year had suggested a biological connection for gender identity; however the story of how an accidentally castrated baby boy had been successfully reared as a girl appeared compelling because it had always been presented as an unqualified success. The story of the child (real name David Reimer) had been part of the medical literature for a quarter of a century, and many people had [...]…

The Diary of a Conference Campaigner (Part One)

2010-08-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 22s
It’s nearly Party Conference season again. And it’s the first time with Conservatives in Government since the mid 1990’s. It may surprise some listeners to know that back in those days I was a Conservative Party activist. I was the secretary of an active branch of the party in Cheshire. And a regular attendee at party conferences. I wasn’t “out” in those days. As a transsexual woman I had completed my social “transition” between genders many years before, and had settled into a quiet and discreet life among the well-to-do women who formed the backbone of a certain class of society in one of the Tory heartlands. I didn’t advertise my transsexual history and, if anyone harboured any suspicions, it had never ever been mentioned. All of that was about to change though. I had been a member of the campaign organisation “Press for Change” since shortly after it was formed in 1992. And now, because the campaign required visible representatives to put themselves forwa [...]…

Peter Tatchell Keynote Lecture

International Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell delivered the keynote speech at Salford University’s 2010 Human Rights conference. This video has been produced by the University. [...]…

An Interview with Sir Gerald Kaufman - Part 1

2010-07-24 :: Christine Burns Length: 30s
It was the BBC interviewer Robin Day who once famously infuriated Tory Defence Minister John Nott by referring to him as a ‘Here today, gone tomorrow politician’. The epithet stung perhaps because Day was reflecting a truism that seems even more relevant today than in 1982. In truth, many politicians do have a short career in Parliament and are soon forgotten. This is why those politicians with true staying power are so interesting to examine. Sir Gerald Kaufman is one of the latter category. Sir Gerald recently celebrated his 80th birthday in his Manchester Gorton constituency, flanked by crowds of loyal party activists and supporters who turned out for the occasion. Though regularly offered a chair to sit down by well-wishers, the incredibly sprightly octogenarian politely declined — remaining on his feet throughout. The occasion also marked 40 years since Gerald had first won a seat as an MP. Only the Conservative Sir Peter Tapsell has served for a longer continuous perio [...]…

An Interview with Sir Gerald Kaufman - Part 2

2010-07-24 :: Christine Burns Length: 25s
This is the second part of an in-depth interview with veteran Parliamentarian, Sir Gerald Kaufman MP. In this episode Gerald talks about how he came to write for the groundbreaking satirical show, “That Was The Week That Was”; about scandals such as the Profumo affair; and his thoughts on where the last Labour Government went wrong. For more details see the previous episode. [...]…

Who are you?

2009-12-19 :: Christine Burns Length: 27s
Regardless of the communities we may belong to, it’s clear that identity plays a very big part in our lives — whether that’s the identity given to us by our place among family, or the identity we have in official records, or the one which comes from within and which we broadcast to others in the way we present ourselves. The Wellcome Collection in London is running a nine month season of activity on these themes entitled “The Identity Project”, examining the subject through the lens of scientists, artists, actors and other individuals who have, in some way, defined or challenged the boundaries. I’ve agreed to lead a tour of the exhibition in February 2010 during LGBT History Month. Prior to that this episode takes a private tour of some of the exhibits with Jane Holmes, one of the Project Managers. [...]…

60 Years

When Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) came into being in 1948 there was a desperate shortage of people at all levels to staff it. As a result the Government of the day turned to the Commonwealth countries to recruit. This film, which was made to help mark the NHS’s Sixtieth Anniversary celebrations, looks at the contributions which Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people have made to the service. [...]…

Meet Tom Doughty

Tom Doughty has a very evocative and soulful style of lap slide guitar playing. I’ll be interviewing him next on Just Plain Sense. In the meantime, here’s a taster and you can visit Tom’s web site at [...]…

Half an Hour with Tom Doughty

2009-11-19 :: Christine Burns Length: 32s
A lot of people fall into the trap of assuming that disabled people are defined and limited by their impairments. The social model of disability teaches us to think differently … about the way that we limit such people by the obstacles we create. So, for instance, someone who uses a wheelchair isn’t primarily prevented from getting to a meeting by the condition of their legs, so much as by the steps we built in front of the entrance, or the inadequacies of public transport provision. With one in five of the population having some kind of disability, it’s therefore important to get our thinking straight and realise all the ways people can work quite successfully, if only we don’t perpetuate barriers and assumptions. Tom Doughty has always been a musician. He only acquired his disability as a young man and, at first, he assumed that was the end of his guitar playing. But then he got determined to make sure his impairments shouldn’t get in the way. The result [...]…

Meet Chris Green

Meet Chris Green, UK Director of the White Ribbon Campaign. An in-depth interview with Chris will be following shortly… [...]…

Tackling violence against women

2009-11-12 :: Christine Burns Length: 17s
According to the British Crime Survey there were 3.29 million reported violent assaults on women in the past 12 months. One in four women have been assaulted at some time. Much strategic attention is focussed on dealing with the outcomes of all this violence: Catching and punishing offenders; Counselling and supporting those on the receiving end; Teaching self defence … even designing the built environment to make it safer. But what about reducing the violence itself? Chris Green, UK Director of the White Ribbon Campaign, aims to do just that. He says that wearing the campaign’s white emblem involves a pledge never to commit, never to condone, and never to remain silent about violence against women. His organisation runs various campaigns targetted at men and boys in particular through areas such as sport, and in schools. In this interview Chris talks to me about the statistics, the causes, and his campaign’s work. For more information visit http://www.whiteribboncamp [...]…

New Trans Resource and Empowerment Centre

A new Trans Resource and Empowerment Centre launched in Manchester on 7th November. I spoke to two of the five organisers who are setting up this innovative project, creating (as it grows) a regular base where trans people can drop in for help and advice. [...]…

Liverpool’s Chinese Connection

2009-10-30 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
The City of Liverpool has one of the oldest established Chinese communities in Europe. Trade between the port and China dates back 175 years – and the first Chinese immigrants settled there about thirty years later in 1866. Nowadays it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that economic migration into Britain is a relatively new thing. It’s easy to forget the many waves of immigration over centuries – creating the diverse society we are today. Each community was new once, so I wondered if there are therefore some lessons to learn from such a long-established community about how such to settle and become part of the scenery. Alan Seatwo came to Britain to study and settled here. He’s now vice chair of the Liverpool Chinese Business association, so I thought he was the ideal person to discuss this. [...]…

A statement of support

2009-10-29 :: Christine Burns Length: 8s
On Monday 26th October this year a large gang of youths surrounded and attacked a 22 year old gay man, James Parkes, as he left a bar in Liverpool City Centre. He was left with serious head injuries. The attack is being treated by Police as a homophobic hate crime and some arrests have already been made. This was not the first attack of its’ kind. Recently another gay man was beaten to death in Trafalgar Square London. Going back further there have been many other such atrocities, including the murder in Liverpool of Michael Causer last year. Liverpool’s Lesbian and Gay community is holding a vigil in the city on Sunday November 1st as the nation increasingly wakes up to the reality of homophobic violence. In my official capacity as Chair of the North West Region’s Equality and Diversity Group I agreed with my associates that I would make this statement of support to the organisers of the vigil. You can read the text of the statement here. [...]…

Trans Kids News Update

2009-09-24 :: Christine Burns Length: 12s
Twelve months ago this week I reported in detail from a special conference at Imperial College in London. Clinicians from Britain, Holland and the United States came together to discuss their different views about the best way to treat adolescents with persistent gender identity issues, and a strong desire to permanently change sex. The central issue is about how to deal with Puberty. If clinicians don’t do something to prevent normal puberty occurring then a trans child will undergo changes that are impossible – or at least painful and expensive to reverse in adulthood.Some children say they would rather commit suicide and their parents are understandably frantic. Puberty can be blocked in a way that’s completely reversible. So this is what doctors in several parts of the world are now doing. If the child should change their mind, you stop the drugs and puberty kicks in as though nothing had happened. It buys enough time till the child is older and their course in life is certa [...]…

Monica Ross – An Act of Memory

2009-09-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 26s
This year people have been celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10th December 1948. As discussed in an earlier show, lots of people have no idea what the declaration’s thirty articles actually say. And when people don’t know, then they often assume that the whole thing is irrelevant to their own lives. Artist Monica Ross has taken a rather novel approach to educating people. To counter the tendency to forget, she has memorised the entire work. When she recites the preamble and articles to live audiences, it is literally therefore a memorial act. Monica first came to prominence in the 1970’s as a performance artist, before she turned instead to video work. The shooting of John Charles De Menezes renewed her desire to perform before a live audience. And she’s aiming to make 60 public recitals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a way of marking its’ [...]…

Manchester Pride takes a cue from Lily Allen

The final weekend in August saw Manchester, one of Britain’s most LGBT-friendly cities, hosting its annual three day Pride celebration. In this reply to a similar French video, the revellers deliver a one-fingered salute to homophobia based on Lily Allen’s “F**k You!”. Shame the homophobes never seem to have so much fun in their lives. [...]…

Introducing the Phone Log (or ‘Phlog’)

There are no new Just Plain Sense Podcasts planned for a few weeks whilst I have a bit of a rest. The break is also a chance to look at new media and tools, which might complement what I do. One of those new tools is Ipadio - which allows for recording audio blogs from an ordinary landline or mobile phone. To see how it works, listen with the player below. [...]…

Multiculturalism and the subversion of Human Rights

Earlier this week I interviewed veteran Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell about what makes him tick, his methods and some of his opinions. You can hear that interview in the preceding item. Peter and I were both speaking at the Centre for Local Policy Studies Summer School at Crewe Hall in Cheshire. In his keynote speech he addressed the risk that in being blindly sensitive to “multiculturalism” we might undermine everyone’s human rights - including sections of the cultures we are reticent to challenge. Is female genital mutilation an absolute violation or subject to cultural relativism, for instance. Here is an excerpt from the opening section of Peter’s overall 30 minute presentation. I may make further segments available if the demand appears to be there. [...]…

Half an Hour with Peter Tatchell

2009-07-01 :: Christine Burns Length: 25s
Peter Tatchell was once described as a “Homosexual Terrorist”. To some he has been “Public Enemy Number One”. His causes have spanned four decades and world affairs. He’s campaigned on Capital Punishment, the Vietnam war, Apartheid, Environmental issues and LGBT rights – to name just a few. He famously outed ten Church of England Bishops as Gay and accused them of hypocrisy. He performed a citizens arrest on (President of Zimbabwe) Robert Mugabe, on charges of torture. He was nearly run over by Tony Blair’s motorcade once when campaigning against the Iraq war. He has often been arrested and beaten up by authorities. His direct activism methods are applauded by some but abhorred by others – and not just those on the receiving end. In this interview, following a lecture to the Centre for Local Policy Research Summer School, I wanted to know what makes such a man tick? What fires him up? And does he ever envisage running out of steam? You can learn more about Peter’ [...]…

Adopting - A Trans Perspective

2009-06-09 :: Christine Burns Length: 28s
The question of whether gay or lesbian couples should conceive or adopt children has been with us for many years. Some people think it’s wrong. There seems no justification for those reservations of course. We’re confronted all the time with examples of heterosexual men and women being bad parents and abusers. Yet the idea that less conventional couples pose some extra kind of threat is deeply ingrained. And if there’s concern about gay and lesbian people adopting children, what must it be like for trans people? In this interview I speak to a trans man who, with his wife, has successfully overcome the obstacles to adopt two young children. He also now advises other trans people on how to navigate the process too, and to deal with the general ignorance of social workers in this context. We agreed we would keep his identity confidential for the sake of his children. In this interview he adopted the pseudonym “Nick”. However if people would like to contact Nick for adv [...]…

Alan Pollard FBCS, CITP

Alan Pollard is the President of the British Computer Society and is featured here delivering the introduction to the annual BCS Lovelace Colloquium for women undergraduates this year at Leeds University. He speaks here about why he and the BCS see the importance of encouraging more women into technology roles such as in IT. For more details (and for links to more of the video content) see the Podcast above this. [...]…

BCS Lovelace Colloquium 2009

2009-04-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 21s
The recent Ada Lovelace Day blogging event raised important points about the challenges of getting more young women and girls hooked on technology subjects – and dealing with the barriers which may cause some of them to fall by the wayside. For this episode I travelled to the Electrical Engineering Department at Leeds University, for an event organised by the Women’s Special Interest Group of the British Computer Society, BCS Women. The second annual Ada Lovelace Colloquium was organised by Hannah Dee with colleagues from the BCS Women committee. I spoke to Hannah, some of the speakers and many of the delegates as the day unfolded. This Podcast is complemented by a series of You Tube videos showing excerpts from many of the actual presentations. One example is shown below. The others will be linked from here when they have all been published. [...]…

PC ‘Bernie’ Clifton - Talking about trans policing

2009-04-04 :: Christine Burns Length: 19s
Not so long ago any talk about trans people and the police would have been confined to tales about discrimination on both side of the thin blue line. There were problems for trans people wanting to pursue policing as a career. There were also sometimes problems when trans members of the public had dealings with officers. Nowadays there is still a big educational challenge to tackle, and mistakes do still happen. Recently, however, a new group has been set up by trans police officers themselves, with senior officer backing. The “National Trans Police Association” spans all 53 Police forces in the UK and their aim is to help bring about informed change from the inside. PC Bernie Clifton, a Diversity officer for the Greater Manchester force, talks about the setting up of the new association and work to be done on both sides of the equation to achieve more inclusive policing in this area. [...]…

Coming Next…

The next Podcast interview will be with PC “Bernie” Clifton, who is a diversity officer with Greater Manchester Police. Here’s a quick video teaser whilst you wait… [...]…

Half an Hour with Dr Stuart Lorimer

2009-03-29 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
Why would a young Doctor choose to specialise in Psychiatry? Why would he choose to work in a field that’s frowned upon by many of his peers? To cap it all, why would he work in a clinic that had (in the past) acquired a very negative reputation among patients? Dr Stuart Lorimer works at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic in Hammersmith, London. It’s a busy place. In 2008, 771 people were referred there with various degrees of gender dysphoria. At any time the clinic is treating well over 1500 people. Some (not all) are seeking support for one of the biggest challenges anyone can undertake: successfully changing the way they live and present to accord with their internal sense of being a man or a woman. In Britain as a whole, over 300 people apply for legal recognition of permanent gender changes each year. Many others, with less intense dysphoria, take cross-gender hormones or simply find that their feelings can be expressed within their existing gender role. Helping peo [...]…

Ada Lovelace Day Interview - Lynn Conway

2009-03-21 :: Christine Burns Length: 24s
March 24th 2009 is Ada Lovelace Day – an initiative which we talked about in a previous episode. At the time of writing around 1500 people have signed an online pledge to produce a Blog, Podcast, Video, etc… about a woman in technology whom they admire. This episode is about one such woman. Much of the technology we take for granted today is only possible because of the ability to design and prototype computer chips quickly and cheaply. At the beginning of the 1970’s the process was far from easy. It took time; It was prone to errors; and custom chip design was not economical for many kinds of product. Professor Lynn Conway’s best known contribution, 30 years ago, was to invent and successfully promote a radical new approach which made the chip design process straightforward and affordable. It is arguable that some of the best known businesses and many of the products we nowadays take for granted would not have been possible without Lynn’s historical contribution. In thi [...]…

About the next Episode

Today (17th March) I have completed production on the next Podcast (episode 57). However, this won’t be released for a week because it is my contribution to the Ada Lovelace campaign (see the recent episode on this for details). I’m very excited about the forthcoming episode as it features one of the true pioneers of the computer and technology revolution, Professor Lynn Conway. Lynn’s most famous work, which came to fruition 30 years ago this autumn, created the basis for engineers to be able to design and prototype electronic chip designs fast enough and cheap enough to make the technology feasible for inclusion in practically every electronic device we use today. I am going to sit on that exciting interview until the allotted day, March 24th, but in the meantime here is a short video about how remote interviews like Lynn Conway’s are made. There are also some more details about the production process in general on the Just Plain Sense Blog. [...]…

An Interview with my Father

2009-03-07 :: Christine Burns Length: 14s
My Father, Leslie Burns, was born less than four years after the end of the First World War. It was a world where women could not vote, and which was about to be hit by a terrible economic depression. Later he served in the RAF during the second world war, lived through post war austerity, married, became my Father and was almost into middle age by the time of the Cuban Missile crisis and the massive social changes which followed in the 1960’s. One of the traps of looking back on a past you’ve mostly only read about or seen on TV is to assume that everyone shares the same narrative as the historians – and so parts of this interview may come as a surprise. They certainly did for me. And interviewing your own Father is like no other assignment I’ve ever attempted before. As I found, it’s far from easy to adopt the same approach as you would for a stranger. All in all, it wasn’t quite the interview I expected – but perhaps there’s something for us all to learn from the un [...]…

Religion and Equality

2009-02-20 :: Christine Burns Length: 30s
Of all the diversity issues, religion is the most difficult. It so often involves the question of how far one can allow the rights of people to apply the doctrines they believe-in to the lives of other people. Our religion – or lack of one – is perhaps the only thing we can really choose. Everything else is beyond our control – gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or age. But regardless of the indoctrination we might receive through our upbringing, we have the power as adults to choose what we believe and how we behave towards others. So where does the right to have a religious belief (and to worship) end and discrimination begin? And, in such a multicultural society as Britain, how do people with competing religious beliefs reconcile the inevitable differences? Can any one person speak for them all when organisations wish to consult on the topic? Monsignor John Devine is Churches’ Officer for the North West. He runs the North West Forum of Faiths and is a priest in th [...]…

Ada Lovelace will have her day

2009-02-09 :: Christine Burns Length: 14s
Suw Charman-Anderson is one of many professionals concerned about the relatively low numbers of women in technology careers such as IT. She feels that one of the reasons for this is a lack of role models in the field for other women to see. To draw attention to the issue, and to stimulate widespread discussion, Suw has created “Ada Lovelace Day“. It’s a campaign to encourage over a thousand people to write a blog or otherwise share their views about a woman in technology who has inspired them — and to do it together in one concerted push on Tuesday 24th March. I spoke to Suw via Skype about Ada Lovelace and the thinking behind her campaign. Remember that you can sign the pledge to take part on March 24th at [...]…

Fascinating Adele - Part Two

2009-01-24 :: Christine Burns Length: 17s
Adele Anderson is one of the mainstays of the comedy/satire trio Fascinating Aida. In the previous episode I talked to her about FA’s uniqueness as three women writing and singing comic political satire for over 25 years. It’s also quite widely known that Adele is a transsexual woman. Maybe that’s not such a big deal nowadays, when people have seen many representations of trans women (real and fictional) in film and TV. In this interview I talk to her about the way it was received 25 years ago, and the TV dramas and films she’s been involved with in the years since then. The songs you hear in this programme can all be heard in full on Adele’s Myspace Page. [...]…

Fascinating Adele - Part One

2009-01-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 26s
They are described as Britain’s sassiest, funniest, craziest musical comediennes. Imagine “Sex and the City” with harmonies. The Mail on Sunday said, “See them before you die or your life will have been meaningless”… Fascinating Aida have been collecting ecstatic hyperbole from reviewers for a quarter of a century and have an immensely loyal fan base. Yet, in Britain at least, musical comedy and satire is still not an area that all that many women have conquered. So what’s the secret of showbiz success and longevity for three women with a wicked sense of humour? Adele Anderson, who joined the Act a year after it was created in 1984, was very generous with her time for this interview in her hotel room, a couple of hours before going on stage at the Lowry in Salford. In fact we spent so much time that there’s enough for two episodes. This first episode departs from the normal “Just Plain Sense” format to focus on the group itself, their music and Adel [...]…

Packets from Abroad - Katrina and Tracie

2009-01-15 :: Christine Burns Length: 25s
What springs to mind if you think of Australia? Crocodile Dundee? Neighbours? Straight talking straight men who would’t give a Castlemaine XXXX ? How about serious debate on a third gender category for passports and official documents? Or inheritance rights for same sex adults regardless of whether they’re in an amorous relationship or not? Things have evidently changed down under since Skippy and the Flying Doctor roamed the outback. Katrina Fox is a journalist; Tracie O’Keefe is her therapist partner. Together they emigrated from Britain in 2001 and settled in Sydney where they’ve set up an organisation called Sex and Gender Education (SAGE). They talk to me in detail about Australian culture and their activist work. [...]…

Packets from Abroad - Ethan StPierre

2009-01-06 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
Two weeks from now the United States will witness a historic event that some of us probably doubted we would ever see. When Barack Obama is sworn in as America’s first Black President few would contest the symbolism. But how are Americans seeing it, now that the election night euphoria has died down? How much expectation is there on the new man? Can it be realised? Black men may take plenty of encouragement, but what about other minorities? To ask these questions, and to look particularly at the issues for LGB and Trans people, I hooked up with Internet broadcaster Ethan StPierre in Massachusetts. I learned, for instance, how a last gasp move by George Bush, aimed at women’s choice on abortion, could go on to have effects for trans people too. To hear Ethan’s own broadcasts visit Trans FM online. [...]…

Looking Forward, Looking Back

2009-01-01 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
Happy New Year! The biggest thing for Equality and Diversity in 2009 is probably going to be the new Equality Bill, which was announced in last month’s Queen’s Speech. Debate on that will begin soon in Parliament and then we’ll learn the precise details of what the Government intends. During December I spoke to several audiences about the 40 year history that brought us to this point – you can hear a version that in an earlier episode. I plan to feature an update when the Bill has been published and there’s been a chance to study the fine print. In the meantime, here is a keynote speech about trans people in social care, which I delivered back in October 2007 for the Commission for Social Care Inspection. The audience included over 300 inspectors, social workers and service providers. [...]…

Christmas on the Front

2008-12-20 :: Christine Burns Length: 4s
As the festive season is upon us, and 2008 draws to a close, this episode is intended as a parting thought for the year. Unless they are very lucky, most of the kinds of people we focus upon in Equality, Diversity and Human Rights will have had a close encounter of some kind with discrimination. Ideally that experience would make everyone that extra bit sensitive about respecting the differences of others. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Firsthand experience of hurt doesn’t necessarily make better people. People from some ethnic backgrounds may express homophobic views. Some lesbian or gay people may express racist views. It can seem at times as though people with evangelical religious beliefs might be intolerant of just about everyone other than themselves. Disputes can extend even within communities who, while distinct, experience similar forms of discrimination. Nobody ever emerges well from these affairs. People behave badly on all sides. The in-fighting detracts fr [...]…

Half an hour with Lorraine Gradwell

2008-12-16 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
Estimates vary about the number of Britons with disabilities of various kinds. Some say it’s 1 in 7; others say 1 in 5. Either way, it’s a significant chunk of the population. Historically many disabled people have faced enormous barriers in being able to work and access facilities the rest of us take for granted. Yet none of us can be sure we won’t acquire a disability ourselves – through accidents, chronic illness or simply old age. If it doesn’t happen to us, it may affect someone we would end up caring for. So we cannot afford to be smug and thankful it doesn’t affect us. One person who knows the barriers very well is Lorraine Gradwell, who recently received an MBE for her extensive work in the field. Lorraine is Chief Executive of Breakthrough UK Ltd, a Manchester-based social enterprise, led and controlled by disabled people, and which specialises in helping people access work. [...]…

Fishing for Birds

2008-12-14 :: Christine Burns
I’m hoping to get one more interview online for Just Plain Sense before the holiday season is upon us. In the meantime regular listeners with a Podcast ‘habit’ to feed may like to know about a separate new channel which I’ve now opened for my poetry … Fishing for Birds features personal readings of the many poems I penned during the 1970’s and 1990’s. Almost thirty of these have been recorded already and, to kick things off, I’ve already released the first six of those. The rest will be released at the rate of one or two each day over the holidays. The title poem in the collection is based on the experience of meeting a disabled man one day when I was walking across Boston Common, in Massachusetts. The experience of learning how Richard Troise overcame his physical limitations to fly kites had a lasting effect on my own thinking about dealing with apparent barriers. That’s why I think it has a valid place here, as a taster. Happy li [...]…

An Interview with Rushi Munshi

2008-12-11 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
At least 11% of Britain’s population falls into the category of Black or Minority Ethnic (BME). Yet that umbrella term conceals a huge diversity in itself. Although it’s tempting to think in terms of some of the most obvious groups, such as people who’ve originated from Africa, the West Indies or Asia, or those from the middle east, it’s easy to forget all the other backgrounds that people have. Irish people are considered an ethnic group, for instance. So are white Europeans from the enlarged European Community. In this Episode Rushi Munshi, a Regional Director for the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO), describes how his organisation works with the vast number of voluntary sector organisations representing this varied segment of Britain’s society. [...]…

The Single Equality Challenge

2008-11-24 :: Christine Burns Length: 21s
The Queen’s Speech in late autumn marks the beginning of each new Parliamentary term. It’s a time when the Government reveals its’ legislative plans for the coming year. This year’s event is on December 3rd. However, these days, the speech seldom contains any big surprises, as so much about the agenda is extensively trailed beforehand. One item expected in this new term will be the new Single Equality Bill — the most radical attempt to overhaul Britain’s equality law framework in forty years. To mark that watershed this episode looks back on that forty year history, discusses some of the issues about equality legislation, how the Government has developed the new Bill, and what it is expected to contain. You can purchase this item as an audio CD if you prefer (You can still listen online or download for free. Audio CD’s are just an alternative option if your computer prevents you from enjoying our free content this way) Select delivery poi [...]…

Sefton’s Formula for Equality Partnership

2008-11-07 :: Christine Burns Length: 22s
The three statutory equality duties in Britain - covering Race, Disability and Gender - all demand consultation or involvement with expert community stakeholders if problem identification and action planning is ever to be more than a token affair. The problem lies with how to organise that kind of engagement effectively. Consider North West England. The region has over 30,000 voluntary sector organisations. Yet the number with sufficient capacity and skills to take part in strategic consultation work hardly exceed single figures. With well over 120 separate public authorities all needing to organise the same kind of consultation, there’s the potential for meltdown unless a practical approach is adopted. Sefton is a diverse coastal borough which stretches from Liverpool in the south and almost up to Blackpool. Along its coast lies Southport, a distinguished old-style holiday resort which is reinventing itself for a new generation. I was invited there recently to give a speech as p [...]…

Lunch with Julie Bindel

2008-10-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
She has been likened to Marmite: you either love what she writes or hate it. Outspoken Guardian columnist and radical lesbian feminist Julie Bindel is widely praised by some for the campaigning she has done on the issues of violence against women, and on the way that our legal system responds to women who defend themselves. She is treasured by others for the particular way she reveals her lesbian and feminist influences as a broadsheet columnist. Yet, on the day when I had long arranged to meet for lunch and talk about these things, Julie was also embroiled in a controversy that had arisen over what she had written and said in the past about transsexual people. This issue was suddenly brought to the boil because she had been nominated for an award as “Journalist of the Year” by the leading British Lesbian and Gay charity Stonewall. We discussed all these things and hopefully opened doors to dialogue with her detractors over a meal — though I hasten to add that Marmite wasn&# [...]…

The Challenge of an Ageing Population

2008-10-16 :: Christine Burns Length: 12s
Falling birthrates, increased life-expectancy and the approaching retirement of the so-called “baby boom” generation mean that the population balance is altering. In 1998 just 32.4% of Britons were aged over fifty. By 2021 that proportion is expected to have burgeoned to over 40%. What effects will that have on the economy, public health strategy, the planning of housing and infrastructure? I asked the public for their views and interviewed experts from a group called 50-50 Vision, who have the task of proposing strategies to anticipate and cope with the change. [...]…

Third Sector but not Third Class

2008-10-14 :: Christine Burns Length: 21s
Britain’s voluntary and community organisations (sometimes referred to as the “third sector”) are far more numerous and integral to the operation of society than people often imagine. The sector involves hundreds of thousands of people and has an essential role in delivering many services that the public and private sectors are unable to provide. Richard Caulfield is the Chief Executive of Voluntary Sector North West - a key strategic player in seeing that voluntary sector organisations are supported and recognised in a region of 6.8 million people. We met recently in Manchester and Richard explained about the background of his organisation, the roles that voluntary organisations perform and the challenges and opportunities for the entire sector. [...]…

Trans Kids on the Block

2008-09-30 :: Christine Burns Length: 36s
Back in April this year I interviewed the mother of an intensely gender dysphoric child. She told how her child (now living as a girl) had become increasingly desperate and suicidal as the prospect of a masculine puberty grew larger. Specialists in the UK weren’t prepared to medicate in order to delay the irreversible effects her child’s body would undergo and, in desperation, she took her child across the Atlantic to Boston instead. The Royal Society of Medicine convened a conference to debate this issue in October. However, the country’s leading specialist Professor Richard Green, was concerned that the speakers selected for that conference were mostly based in the “conservative” camp. In response he organised a pre-emptive conference of his own at Imperial College in London, where specialists successfully practicing puberty delay therapy around the world could present their outcome data and experiences. I went along to Richard Green’s conference a [...]…

Your survey feedback and the new season two

2008-09-29 :: Christine Burns Length: 8s
A couple of weeks ago I invited listeners to complete a short audience feedback survey whilst I decided whether to do any more “Just Plain Sense” Podcasts after the exhausting first run. Well, you didn’t disappoint! The good news is that your helpful feedback and encouraging words have persuaded me to prepare a second series. The recordings for the first proper episode are already “in the can” in fact. Whilst I settle down to edit those, however, this curtain raiser looks at what you liked — and weren’t so keen about. There are tantalising previews of the next episode’s controversial contributors. And now there’s a theme tune too — composed and performed originally by LIPA student Kate Threlfall for North West England’s annual celebration of diversity, Celebr8, Don’t Discrimin8. [...]…

Help shape season two

Between March and July 2008 the first season of “Just Plain Sense” presented 38 episodes covering a wide variety of Equality and Diversity topics from contemporary Britain. Now I am considering whether to run a second season and, if so, what content to focus upon. Before I plan anything I’d like to hear from you, the listeners. Please help me by completing this brief survey about what you like or don’t like, or anything else you’d especially like to hear. The survey will take only a minute to complete but I really value your opinions. Click here to complete the survey [...]…

Half an Hour with Dr Lynne Jones MP

2008-07-26 :: Christine Burns Length: 28s
Birmingham Selly Oak MP Lynne Jones says she never set out to have a political career — she just got sucked into one. Now, 33 years after first getting hooked, and 16 years after first entering Parliament, she has declared her intention to stand down at the next election. In this detailed interview, Lynne talks about the experience of being a woman in Parliament, balancing personal convictions with party loyalty, some of the causes she has taken up over the years, and overall progress towards a more diverse legislature. [...]…

Interpreting Department of Health Policy on Equality

2008-07-23 :: Christine Burns Length: 27s
It is an occupational hazard of organising speaking events that now and then one of your speakers will be suddenly and unexpectedly indisposed. When that happens you can either leave a gap — or try and fill the breach yourself. This is a problem that arose in the third of our recent conference / workshops on the Gender Equality Duty in Health. At each event civil servants from the Department of Health had volunteered to come and deliver their version of a common presentation about their department’s approach, and what it should mean. However, on our last day, one of them was prevented at the very last minute from attending. Fortunately I’m familiar with what was going to be said — in part because I contribute regularly to two community stakeholder engagement groups, including an advisory group on Gender Equality. This meant I was able to step in at short notice and fill the gap — although the emphasis is inevitably my own as a result. In the next episode w [...]…

Gender Equality in the NHS Part Three: EHRC Advice

2008-07-19 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
In the third of this series of episodes covering the recent NHS Northwest Gender Equality conferences we come now to the advice and guidance of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Several EHRC staff contributed to the three events that we ran, and I’d like to thank Sam Pryke, David Howard and Vivienne Stone who all made great contributions besides Merryn Wells, featured here. Merryn gave the main EHRC presentation at our third event in Preston. She is the Commission’s “Transfer of Expertise Manager”. Among her many skills honed in a 25 year equalities career she managed a recent project looking at gender equality in the NHS and also worked with the Royal College of Nursing, advising HR managers in that sector on the gender equality duty. For those reasons she was ideally placed to connect with an audience of NHS managers. Click here if you would like to view and follow a handout of Merryn’s slides whilst listening. (PDF, 90Kb) In the next episode hear how I ad [...]…

Gender Equality in the NHS Part Two: Men

2008-07-14 :: Christine Burns Length: 33s
In the second of this series of episodes covering the recent NHS Northwest Gender Equality conferences it is the turn of the Men… Peter Baker is the Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum — a charity which works to improve male health in England and Wales. His presentation to us in Preston was every bit as challenging as the women’s message featured in the previous episode, though markedly different. It was research by MHF that first highlighted how many NHS gender equality schemes in England appeared to have very little disaggregated evidential data, were focussed on processes rather than outcomes, or were lacking in effective consultation and involvement with service users. Many speakers stressed that equality in this context does not mean providing the same service to everyone. That’s not what the law requires, and stark differences in priorities were very clear in the different messages from the men and women presenters seeking the same equality [...]…

Gender Equality in the NHS Part One: Women

2008-07-13 :: Christine Burns Length: 30s
Attention has been focussed recently on whether NHS Trusts in England are responding properly to the Gender Equality Duty, since it came into force in April 2007. Research by the Men’s Health Forum highlighted that many of the published gender equality schemes it had researched were poorly evidenced, focussed on processes rather than outcomes, and showed a lack of effective consultation and involvement with service users. Plain Sense was recently commissioned to put together a series of conference workshops for senior NHS Trust managers in England’s North West region, to discuss how to be more effective and compliant in this area. Presenters included figures from the Strategic Health Authority, the Department of Health and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to explain what was expected. Just as importantly, an array of stakeholder speakers were invited to explain their view of the real priorities for promoting equality. Karen Moore is a policy officer with the Women&# [...]…

A Life in a Day Part Three: And then we had ‘T’

2008-07-10 :: Christine Burns Length: 28s
This week, as the third and final installment of the “Life in a Day” conference coverage, I’m featuring my own keynote presentation at that event: And then we had ‘T’ With more time to spend than in the recent Nottingham event, and with a broader audience of public services in the audience, this presentation covers some different ground, and includes a tongue-in-cheek ‘confession’. There are, of course, some familiar elements too. After quite a lot of LGBT coverage recently, the next few episodes will be moving on to look at Men and Women’s experiences of health, and the Department of Health’s strategy for Gender Equality. In the coming week I also have a very special interview guest booked, and they will be appearing in a later episode. So do ’stay tuned’. [...]…

A Life in a Day Part Two: Linda Bellos OBE

2008-07-06 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
Linda Bellos isn’t the sort of woman to mince words. She says she doesn’t care so much what people think, but about how they behave. She’s also angry about receiving a different level of treatment from public services when she’s paid as much for them as everyone else. This is the second in a series of three episodes based on the conference “A Life in a Day”, organised by Leicester Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Centre on 5th June. In the next episode you can hear my own keynote address at the same event — and don’t forget that by “subscribing” to this Podcast channel you’ll be notified automatically the moment this and other new episodes come online. [...]…

A Life in a Day Part One: Sir Peter Soulsby MP

2008-07-02 :: Christine Burns Length: 16s
This week we begin the first of a new series of recordings taken from a conference held in Leicester at the beginning of June. “A Life in a Day” was hosted by Leicester’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Centre at Leicester City Football Stadium on the 5th June and promised “Practical ways to make public services LGBT friendly”. In this episode you can hear the welcome address given by one of the City’s MP’s, Sir Peter Soulsby. Next week I’ll then be featuring the keynote address by noted BME and lesbian campaigner Linda Bellos. [...]…

Trevor Phillips’ Address to the Private Sector

2008-06-27 :: Christine Burns Length: 20s
This week’s episode features the speech by EHRC Chair Trevor Phillips to business leaders from the North of England at a working luncheon organised recently in Leeds. The media’s stereotype of business attitudes to equality and diversity issues is a crude one, which tends to emphasise opposition towards regulation and any moves that might impact upon profits or flexibility. The reality is more complex. Many businesses understand already that embracing diversity is a good thing, and that private or corporate enterprise cannot pretend to exist in a bubble somehow divorced from larger issues about the kind of society we have. Trevor’s speech reflected the former sensitivities whilst reaching out for a more sophisticated dialogue. [...]…

An Interview with EHRC Chair Trevor Phillips

2008-06-22 :: Christine Burns Length: 16s
A few days ago I was invited to an event at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It was billed as a working lunch with business leaders from the North of England to talk about what Equality and Rights developments mean to the private sector. In the next episode I’ll be presenting Trevor Phillips’ speech to that audience. But first, in this item, Trevor spoke to me about the commission’s first nine months of operations, the initiatives already underway, and his hopes for the future. In addition to Trevor I also speak to EHRC’s Director of English Regions, Tim Wainwright. [...]…

Nottingham LGBT Conference Part Three

2008-06-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
This week I’m presenting the third and final part in a series of episodes based on the recent Department of Health conference on LGBT Mental Health, which took place at the end of May in Nottingham. (For more details see part one) I entitled my own presentation “Transgender Realities” and proceeded to pull very few punches about research-based evidence of trans people’s experiences of health discrimination, in a factual approach aimed directly at the 130 healthcare professionals present. I regrettably had to publicly criticise Nottingham PCT itself, having adopted a commissioning policy which is clearly discriminatory and unlawful in my view. If you wish to follow the presentation slides then you’ll find these here. [...]…

Nottingham LGBT Conference Part Two

2008-06-12 :: Christine Burns Length: 18s
This week I’m presenting the second of three episodes in which you can hear the speakers at the recent Department of Health conference on LGBT Mental Health in Nottingham. (For more details see last week’s part one). Tim Franks is the Chief Executive of PACE, a leading London-based charity which promotes mental health and well-being within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community there. In his presentation Tim talks about the different reasons that LGBT people may have for connecting with Mental Health services. Like many of the day’s speakers he emphasises that whilst being different in these ways is not a mental illness, people have the experiences of discrimination to deal with and, of course, they can experience conditions such as depression or psychotic illnesses like anyone else. Tim also raises interesting perspectives about the way therapeutic relationships can benefit when service users don’t need to explain aspects of their identity and simply feel t [...]…

Nottingham LGBT Conference Part One

2008-06-05 :: Christine Burns Length: 21s
On 28th May the Department of Health organised a major conference on LGBT Mental Health in Nottingham. The event was attended by well over 100 health professionals and the day was led by Professor Clair Chilvers, who is the Chair of Nottingham Healthcare NHS Trust. In this and the following two episodes the speeches of some of the main presenters will be featured in full. For this first programme we hear the introduction from Surinder Sharma, National Director of the Department of Health’s Equality and Human Rights Group. Surinder is then followed by Professor Anne Rogers, who holds the chair in Sociology of Health Care at the University of Manchester. Both of these speakers paint a progressive picture of the understanding of the role of mental health, and how thinking is changing (or needs to change) to meet the true needs of people without unnecessarily pathologising their difference. Copies of Powerpoint presentations and other materials from this conference are now online h [...]…

An Interview with Mark Rees

2008-05-30 :: Christine Burns Length: 25s
Next week things will be returning to normal with a series of episodes based on presentations from a recent Department of Health Mental Health conference that took place in Nottingham. For now, however, I’m offerring an opportunity to hear another full length interview with one of the grand old men of British trans campaigning, Mark Rees. Like Stephen Whittle, featured in the previous episode, Mark transitioned from female to male role in the early 1970’s. He became the first trans person in the world to take a case to an international human rights court in the mid 1980’s. Although this bid for privacy and marriage rights was unsuccessful, he then went on to be instrumental in the creation of the UK campaign group Press for Change in 1992. Postscript: Shortly after publishing this episode I learned from Mark that he has finally (somewhat belatedly) received his own Gender Recognition Certificate. [...]…

An Interview with Stephen Whittle OBE

2008-05-22 :: Christine Burns Length: 38s
A close family bereavement means that the schedule of recording and editing original interviews and other material for Just Plain Sense needs to be put on hold for a short while. During that time, and in order not to disappoint regular listeners, I am featuring a handful of the most interesting interviews that I’ve recorded in the past for another channel. Dr Stephen Whittle is perhaps the world’s best known transsexual man. He is Professor of Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, the President of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Chair of Transgender Europe, in addition to being one of the founders of the UK lobby group Press for Change. He is also a committed family man, with a wife and four children. In this in-depth interview, originally recorded in summer 2007, we cover his own personal background growing up in Manchester, his transition in the 1970’s, his work as a campaigner, and his views about the future for tra [...]…

Cllr Paul Fairweather - The Local Politician’s View

2008-05-15 :: Christine Burns Length: 17s
In Just Plain Sense it’s my aim to feature every side of the enormous conversation around Equality, Diversity and Human Rights in British society. There are plenty of people who can talk about first hand experiences, or advocate on behalf of whole communities; in the last episode we heard from a senior civil servant; so in this episode I’m featuring a speech by an elected city council politician. Councillor Paul Fairweather represents the North Manchester area of Harpurhey. He’s an out gay man and this speech is taken from a conference last year on LGBT Health strategy, so his comments about health and more general inclusion reflect that. Nevertheless his point about the role of local political influence — using scrutiny powers, local area agreements and partnerships — is just as valid for any group. [...]…

Equality and Human Rights in Health

2008-05-03 :: Christine Burns Length: 11s
July 2008 sees the 60th anniversary of Britain’s National Health Service. Much has changed in that time of course. It’s a different world from the immediate post war era in which the idea of a universal public health service, free at the point of need, was born. Britain is far more culturally diverse. Public health emphasis is shifting from treating illness to preventing it. Health and well-being are increasingly seen as integral to wider strategy for encouraging and maintaining a socially equitable and economically successful society. As the Department of Health’s programme director for equality policy, Barry Mussenden heads a team that’s responsible for ensuring that health and social care services match everyone’s needs equally and fairly. It’s not an easy brief. The NHS is a federation of independent public bodies whose priorities can only be influenced, not commanded. The health service is Europe’s largest employer, staffed by ordinary [...]…

Half an Hour with Sue Sanders

2008-04-25 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
In the 1970’s school teachers could be dismissed if it became known that they were Gay or Lesbian. As a young teacher in those days Sue Sanders recalls that women were not even allowed to wear trousers. This was the environment in which the organisation “School’s Out” was founded in 1974. In this in-depth interview Sue speaks at length about the organisation she has worked for during the majority of her adult life, the way things have changed in that time and the problem for the next generation of society when today’s teachers are not equipped to teach about diversity. She also talks about LGBT History Month, which she helped to found in 2004. [...]…

Post Natal Illness

2008-04-21 :: Christine Burns Length: 23s
For many people the journey of pregnancy and motherhood is a delightful and rewarding experience. Yet, for Elaine Hanzak, this wasn’t the case. She developed baby blues, postnatal depression and ultimately puerperal psychosis. Elaine’s story is told through her book, “Eyes Without Sparkle” — and teaching people about the widespread reality of postnatal illness has become her life’s passion. In this interview Elaine tells the story of how it was, and how such illness can affect anyone after birth… Even the kind who, like her, imagined that they’re “not the type”. Details of Elaine’s book and how to contact her or obtain a copy can be found on her web site. She also has a regularly updated blog describing her constant efforts to educate more people about the seriousness of the condition. [...]…

News: No Simple Business Case for Equal Opportunities

2008-04-15 :: Christine Burns Length: 8s
A report published last week by the Department of Work and Pensions has poured cold water on one of the most popular arguments for promoting equality at work. “The Business Case for Equal Opportunities: An Econometric Investigation” was researched and prepared for the DWP by a team at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. It says they could find no direct cause and effect link between businesses having Equal Opportunities Policies and having higher productivity and profits. But it says the reverse is definitely not the case too — and that businesses that have one seem to have the other, even if the connection isn’t clear. I look at the researchers’ conclusions in more detail. [...]…

Gender Dysphoria: A Mother’s Tale

2008-04-10 :: Christine Burns Length: 34s
What do you do when your child exhibits markedly gender-atypical play behaviour almost as soon as they can walk and tells you, by the time they are four years old, that there’s been a mistake? Susie is a Yorkshire mum with three young children. Two are very much boys, but the other, though born the same, has insisted since pre-school that a mistake had been made. In this in-depth interview she tells how she handled the challenge, sought help and has cared for her child at every stage in a remarkable journey through growing up. She also tells why she felt her child was not getting the right kind of treatment at Britain’s only child and adolescent clinic specialising in this area, and why she turned, instead, to specialists in the USA and The Netherlands. As a mother, she also has advice for schools on how they could help parents and children avoid the bullying her child has experienced. For more information and support for parents and families in this position see Mer [...]…

Interview with Denise McDowell - Economic Migration

2008-04-09 :: Christine Burns Length: 9s
The inward migration of workers to Britain has always been a matter of contention — yet never more so than in recent years when the concepts of economic migrants, unlawful immigration and asyllum have become confused and blended together. Denise McDowell represents an organisation, Migrant Workers Northwest, that was set up in 2007 to specifically address the reality of migrant working in Britain’s North West Region. In this interview she explains about her organisation and the different kinds of people involved whilst answering common fears and suggesting the advantages that worker migration brings. [...]…

Half an Hour with Calpernia Addams

2008-04-06 :: Christine Burns Length: 30s
Activist and rising media personality Calpernia Addams was in London for a showing of her short film “Casting Pearls” and a panel on media representation at the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. In this in-depth interview she talks about growing up, the murder of her boyfriend Barry Winchell, her blossoming career and the representations of trans people in film and on TV. Just click on the “Listen Now” control below to hear the interview online, without the need for any special software. Alternatively the “Play in Popup” option allows you to listen the same way but carry on browsing. Calpernia’s web site has all the latest details of her work and, when you visit her site, you can watch the You Tube video of “Stunning”, her first single, which begins and ends this episode. As a complement to this item I’d like to recommend another Podcast interview with US trans activist Jamison Green, talking at lengt [...]…

News: EHRC Launches You Tube Channel

I’m not sure whether I can claim the original credit for the idea — people didn’t seem to have thought it before I made the suggestion at a consultation last year, and they quickly wrote it down. However it happened though, the Equality and Human Rights Commission have now launched their own You Tube Channel. The channel opened this week with a handful of videos on the theme “Equally Different”. You’ll find them at : [...]…

When Rights Conflict

2008-04-03 :: Christine Burns Length: 8s
The rights associated with religion or belief are an area where misunderstandings can easily arise. The commonest issue is the incorrect presumption that the Article 9 rights concerning a person’s religion or beliefs could allow the rights of others to be impeded. This is not the case. In this episode I explain how some aspects of our rights are not absolutes, but are designed to be balanced reasonably with the rights of others. There’s a difference between being protected from persecution and imposing your beliefs on others. [...]…

News: March 31st

2008-03-31 :: Christine Burns Length: 4s
In this week’s news sample, claims that the Government may be planning to opt out of parts of a UN Convention on the rights of disabled people and news of an extra £15 million committment to encourage the development of women’s careers in certain sectors. [...]…

The Men with Baby Bellies

2008-03-29 :: Christine Burns Length: 12s
The news that a number of transsexual men have had babies following their transition to manhood has hit the headlines both sides of the Atlantic recently, accompanied by a predictable mix of consternation and curiosity. The problem with debate on a topic like this is that, whilst people are often quick to voice an opinion, based on the immediate gut reaction they feel, very few of them have much clue about the background facts. In this episode I explain the legal and medical background, and pick away at some of the unfortunate conclusions that people will jump to. [...]…

Half an Hour with Paul Martin

2008-03-26 :: Christine Burns Length: 29s
It was only originally planned to be a ten minute interview and, if this were a Radio station, then there would have had to be an awful lot of him on the cutting room floor to fit the schedules. When the subject is the Chief Executive of one of the country’s leading LGB charities though, and when he’s as articulate as Paul Martin, then nothing less than the full half hour will do! In this wide-ranging interview Paul talks about the background to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation; the reasons why places like Manchester have become centres of LGB culture; the surprising ordinariness of many lesbian and gay people’s lives; working for a better society — and working with each other. Oh .. and he also has a word of advice for the only Gay in the village. For more about the LGF see and for a little more background on this interview see the Blog. [...]…

News: An Experiment for Now…

2008-03-25 :: Christine Burns Length: 6s
As an experiment I am going to explore the feasibility of bringing an occasional batch of news reports into the mix of editorial and interview content. I’m making no promises about regularity. A great deal will depend on the material that comes my way. Please feel free to comment on whether it’s a valuable addition or not though. [...]…

How do we know what we don’t know we don’t know?

2008-03-23 :: Christine Burns Length: 8s
Equality Impact Assessment relies crucially upon being able to predict the effects that a policy or service may have on different groups of people. The range of people and life circumstances we need to consider has got wider, yet we are all limited by our own experiences. We can’t second guess the effects of service arrangements on policies in situations outside our knowledge. Consultation is therefore essential, but that comes with its own pitfalls too… You can read the transcript of this item in the accompanying Blog. [...]…

Political Correctness Gone Mad?

2008-03-17 :: Christine Burns Length: 8s
Talk about Human Rights is sometimes dismissed as ‘Political Correctness gone mad’ in certain quarters — mainly a particular section of the tabloid press. There are even some politicians who’d claim the whole idea is in some way alien to our values and culture. I find that kind of argument worrying, and I think everyone else should think [...]…

Of Carts and Horses

2008-03-14 :: Christine Burns Length: 8s
People talk a lot these days about “Equality and Diversity”. The expression just trips off the tongue. But does that pairing obscure what the two words mean individually, and how do the two relate? In this item I explain that Equality and Diversity are not the “Ant and Dec” of law and social inclusion — distinguished [...]…

The ‘Grammar’ of Diversity

2008-03-12 :: Christine Burns Length: 4s
Learning by rote how to talk about and consult with different groups in society is like limiting yourself to conversing in a foreign language with a phrasebook. You’re likely to be stumped or get into hot water the moment you encounter a situation that’s unfamilar. In this item I make the case for learning the ‘grammar’ [...]…

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Just Plain Sense

Equality, Diversity and plain good sense for the 21st Century

Just Plain Sense