Co-founder Press for Change
‘…in order to hear the voices of trans people, as justice demands, one has to acknowledge the limits of sex and gender and move into a new world in which any identity can be imagined, performed, and named.’
Stephen Whittle is a British legal scholar and activist. He is Professor of Equalities Law in the School of Law at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is a leading commentator on gender issues.
Whittle transitioned from female to male in the mid-1970s. He came from a background of Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation politics. He has kept his feminist and queer political views.
In 1979 he was a founder member of the first UK self help group for transsexual people. The group helped to set up Manchester Gay Switchboard. He is still involved in self-help groups that have started since then. In 1989, he founded the UK’s Female To Male Network which he coordinated until November 2007.
Whittle was sure that they needed to use the law to change trans people’s lives. He started a part time law degree and graduated in 1990. He then did an M.A. through further part time study. He later earned a Ph.D. for his research on “The Law and Transsexuals”.
In 1992, Whittle, Mark Rees, Myka Scott and Krystyna Sheffield founded the United Kingdom trans activist and lobbying organisation ‘Press for Change’ (PFC). He was 34 years old. PFC works to change the laws and social attitudes surrounding transgender and transsexual lives. It campaigns for respect and equality for all trans people.
In the last thirty years PFC has helped to secure legal protections for trans people, including the Gender Recognition Act 2004. As a consequence of a PFC report, the UK Government made transgender a protected category for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
Stephen has successfully fought legal cases of his own. He established a right to artificial insemination treatment to enable his partner to become pregnant. He then took the case of his family to the European Court of Human Rights. He fought for his children’s right to have him recognised as their legal father. He has written and spoken about his personal journey.
Although PFC does not have ‘leaders’, campaigners regard Stephen as the voice of experience on legal questions. Today he is one of the most important figures in trans politics both in the UK and internationally. Stephen has advised on transgender law to the UK, Irish, Italian, Japanese and South African governments and the European Union, the Council of Europe & the European Commission. He advises lawyers and writes briefs. He has been an expert witness for courts worldwide.
Stephen has inspired many other trans writers and speakers to develop their talents. He has encouraged them to contribute to the large and varied collection of writing and thinking. He is writing what he hopes will be the defining history of transgender and the sources of the many theories surrounding gender variant people.