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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Transsexuals in Croydon Take Significant Step Forward

UK Gay News

Police recognise, agree guidelines on a long-standing problem.

Which Loo?

Do you use the Ladies or the Gents?

It’s a problem if you’re changing gender – especially if you’re changing from male to female.

You wouldn’t use a Gents public lavatory, dressed as a woman. But if you’re taken short, and use the ladies, you may be verbally abused, assaulted and may even be breaking the law.

Well, Aurora, Croydon’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Police Focus Group has chalked up a significant success. After over two years consulting with transgender organisations and the police, they have got the police to agree to some guidelines.

Quite unexpectedly, Scotland Yard offered to endorse Croydon’s work, giving it authority across the whole of London. This is a very welcome development as the ‘Which Loo?’ issue that has never before been addressed by the police anywhere in the country.

“I'm delighted that the police have worked so closely with us on this issue” said Michelle, who received her certificate of gender recognition last year.

“It’s important that trans-people know that the police are aware of the problem and are trying to help the whole community stay safe”.

Ceri-Leigh Hawden from the self-help group Gemini said: “It’s great that it’s London-wide - but I’ll cheer louder when it’s national!”

Rachel, who has been attending Aurora since 2003, said: “I had a really bad experience when I had to use the ladies three years ago – it’s extremely humiliating. We’re really pleased the police have taken interest in this problem.”

Sandra, organiser of the local ‘trans’ group, Friends of the Firebird, said: “I came to Aurora to do something about this problem. Now Croydon is the first police division ever to do anything about it. The Met Police have formally endorsed Croydon’s work, and they’re the first in the UK.”

Chief Inspector Tom Morrell, from Croydon Division of the ‘Met’, added: “The ‘Which Loo?’ project has been developed as a result of close co-operation between police and community members within Aurora.

“We will continue to work with Aurora in order to identify and take positive action to address local issues of concern to the LGBT community”.

Aurora’s guidelines can be found at www.aurora-croydon.org.uk.

In a statement issued by Scotland Yard, the Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate said that they were pleased to support the partnership initiative between Aurora and Croydon Borough Police.

“[It] supports the Metropolitan Police Service vision of making London safer for all our communities.

“The MPS recognises that this particular issue is of concern to the transgender community, and is certain that ‘Which loo?’ will provide practical suggestions that will give confidence and support based on the experiences and learning of other transpeople.

“By working closely with community groups such as Aurora and the LGBT Advisory Group to the MPS, we make clear our commitment to making places safer for everyone, and will investigate incidents or crimes motivated by transphobia when they are reported to us.

“We also recognise that there are many reasons why victims of such incidents do not have the confidence to report directly to the police, and we would therefore encourage victims to report, anonymously if necessary, using one of the third party reporting options outlined on the Aurora website,” the statement concluded.

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