Today's blog article has kindly been provided by Julie Barrett-Major, consulting attorney at A. A. Thornton & Co., which is one of our Charter signatories.
Julie writes: "Since being asked if I would contribute to this blog, I have been wondering what to write about. Some topics were suggested to me and also perhaps my first blog should introduce myself. But, in the last few of weeks, a number of items hit the press that provoked thoughts; it seems ‘plus ça change’. I have been in the IP profession for a long time, and I was a bit out of the normal mould when I started (some would say I still am!). I was female for a start, not from Oxbridge, not from the usual ‘class’, and I’d managed to mix my Chemistry degree with a non-science subject. Congratulations to the Wellcome Foundation Ltd and Laurence Jenkins, CPA, for giving me an opportunity to have – what I still regard as – an interesting and absorbing career. Along the way, I have been a member of the Council of CIPA and various of its committees, worked in various organisations – both private practice and in-house – and also set up my own business while my children were young.
I have many stories to tell about ‘non-inclusive things’ (which I shall from now on call NITs) that either happened to me or that I came across – some of which I’ll write about in future blog posts. But the recent press reports made me think of one NIT – which is actually a pair of NITs – in particular: a young woman, who was young, single, newly-qualified and worked in private practice, telephoned me in my office and asked what she should do about the facts that: (NIT1) her firm had magazines in their reception area that she felt demeaned women; and (NIT2) she had effectively been told she would never make partner because she was likely to have children ‘fairly soon’.
I must admit my initial reaction may not have been the most helpful. Brought up as an engineer’s daughter and used to venturing into man-filled workshops that all had calendars on the walls depicting scantily-clad women, I was inclined to suggest she get the male equivalent of a ‘Calendar Girls’ item and hang it prominently in the reception area – and see what happened. We also discussed whether her firm’s partners were clairvoyant and, if so, could they save me buying a little blue testing kit, too. That was about 35 years ago. Surely a lot has changed since then?"
The media today is somewhat swamped by the Trans* conversation, whether that be the discussion of whether or not to prescribe hormone blockers to children or Trans* ‘idols’ such as Caitlyn Jenner, Eddie Izzard or Riley Millington. Sometimes lost in the rhetoric of inclusivity and acceptance (and unfortunately, scandal), however, is actual understanding of what it means to be transgender. People do not tend to wake up one day and decide, “I was born a girl, but I am actually a boy”, or vice versa or otherwise. The mysterious “feeling” can hide itself behind many guises, including confusion over sexuality, social anxiety and a whole host of other issues that can be easier for the mind to contend with. Part of the reason that Trans* issues can be so hard to wrestle with is that the Trans* conversation is sensationalist, it is not mundane. The more mundane that it becomes, hopefully the better our understanding will become.
This article is intended as an explanation of and an introduction to Trans* issues as well as quite likely an important correction of any misconceptions the reader may have gleaned from the populist media. There is much to explain, so let’s start at the beginning.
Often the first question that is ever asked about a new life is: “Is it a boy or a girl?”. Before a child is born we begin to make assumptions that will profoundly affect its life, based entirely on an aesthetic difference detected by a scan. This isn't a decision that is being made by the parents, let alone taking into consideration the feelings of the child. This is purely a visual means of segregation.
In the ideal world, babies are born as humans - nothing more, nothing less. Nursery decorations are chosen, clothes are clothes, not because of what genitalia happen to reside between a child's legs but because of what the parent(s) actually think are practical or nice or sometimes, in the case of a lion onesie, a little fun. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world; children are born into one of two possible genders based on their outward appearance. They are taken home and announced to the world as "A little baby boy/girl"; it is at this juncture where sex has crucially been confused with gender.
And it doesn’t stop there. The first piece of knowledge almost all children have growing up in our society, along with who Mummy and/or Daddy are, is whether they are a boy or a girl. And this isn’t just an arbitrary label, it means things. Like what your favourite colour should be, whether you should be mad about horses, what toys you are allowed to play with, which other children you are allowed to play with, whether or not you should have pierced ears, what clothes you can wear, which changing room you should change in and which sports class you attend. We are segregated from the moment we come out of the womb and taught to be proper boys who grow into proper men, or proper girls who grow into proper women.
Most people accept this as the normal order of things and their prescribed place within it. Other people may not accept it but decide to live with it anyway. A further group of people decide they do not want to live with it and as a result become labelled by society as strange, subversive or in the more extreme cases perverted and morally abhorrent. Yet this need not be the case. Whilst the world at large is likely not prepared to be the ideal world that one could wish for, there are simple ways in which we can educate ourselves so that future generations are not pigeon-holed into two factions without so much as a whisper.
Last week's IP Out event, hosted by IP Inclusive Charter signatory Kilburn & Strode, was a great success! The event was over-subscribed and the networking carried on long after the advertised end-time.
Two of the key messages of the discussion were that you should not have to change who you are to make others feel comfortable, and that it is important to be 'visible' in the workplace. You can read more about the importance of being visible in the report prepared by IP Inclusive Charter signatory Managing IP, which can be found here.
The next IP Out social event will be on Thursday 23rd February 2017. Look out for more details here or on the IP Out page.
The first IP Out event is taking place on Thursday 17th November 2016, from 18:30 to 20:30. The event is kindly hosted by IP Inclusive Charter signatory Kilburn & Strode LLP. Join us at the event to discuss how "out" people can be at work.
The event comprises a panel and group discussion moderated by a member of the IP Out committee, and the panel will discuss:
The panel discussion will be followed by drinks and networking.
If you would like to send your questions or discussion points for the panel in advance, please email us.
Book your FREE ticket now here - spaces are limited! All are welcome to attend, whether LGBTQI+ or a straight ally.
Hope to see you there!
The IP Out Team
So, you want to be a straight ally?
First off, do you hate the term “straight ally”? So do I. If you can think of something better, please do. But I think we all know what the term is trying to get at - "I happen to be heterosexual, but I want to be supportive of LGBTQ+ people”. So here is my quick and easy* guide, shamelessly cribbing the format from The Last Leg.
I should start off by pointing out that although I write as a gay man, I can speak only to and from my own experience, which is also heavily influenced by other aspects of my background (white, Christian, public school, Oxford University, that sort of thing). Other people who share my sexuality coming from a different background may have a different take on these issues, although I have tried my best to reflect in this piece what I hear from friends with a different story from mine.
1. Is it ok to ask - why LGBTQ+ ? What is wrong with “gay”?
Here, I am going to let you into a little secret. The different sections of the LGBTQ+ tribe (why I use the word “tribe” is part of the advanced course - you only get to do that when you have passed this basic course) are actually very different indeed. Other than growing up as a minority in a society that rejects what we are, we actually have rather little in common with each other. Let’s go through it (taking the first two in reverse order as it is more logical to explain that way round):
So, I hope you can see that the single word “gay” is just not enough to cover the range of what we are dealing with here. I am writing this as a gay man - others within the tribe will tell you lots of other things that I cannot begin to explain, because I have no more experience of them than anyone else might.
This year, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) diversity in the legal professions is being celebrated under the banner 'All are equal under the law' and law firms are getting involved in the Pride in London Parade. The Law Society chief executive, Catherine Dixon, and Law Society president, Jonathan Smithers, are leading the legal sector representatives at this year's event.
IP professionals, including patent and trademark attorneys, members of CIPA and ITMA, and anyone working in IP law in the UK are also welcome to attend the parade in London on Saturday 25th June. More details about the parade can be found on The Law Society website.
We hope IP professionals will also participate in the "tweet a selfie" campaign! Legal professionals can tweet a selfie between 6 June and 25 June (the day of the parade) using the hashtag #lawwithnofilter, to support the stance that all are equal under the law and no one should have to live their life pretending to be someone they're not. We look forward to seeing your selfies!!