On Tuesday September 12th this year, my life turned upside down. A Fitness to Practice Hearing took place in Ewloe, Flintshire, to determine if my work as an erotic model was unprofessional. It was held by Wales' Education Watchdog. I had previously worked as a Teaching Assistant in a College there. After countless job applications, it had been the only work I could get as a Trans Woman with a Teaching Certificate and a PhD.
Inevitably, the hearing was attended by journalists from the tabloids. When the story aired the following day, the words 'witch hunt' crop up repeatedly in people’s online comments. Flintshire's last witch hunt took place exactly 360 years ago to the month in 1657.
Some women like myself pose professionally for erotic photographs; this isn't an illegal activity. Some men spend their time looking at them; this isn't illegal either. It was a male colleague who outed me to my employers after finding my photos of me online. I lost my career and resigned because of my second job. He appears to have kept his from what I understand.
I didn't attend the hearing. I'm an event caterer, not a teaching assistant. I have a thriving business running a pop-up Barista service at events and festivals; in full swing at this time of year. I had bookings to honour and customers to serve. Nobody would have compensated me for losses had I cancelled them. Despite repeated requests for a delay the professional body failed to acquiesce or to send documents in a format my computer could process. I didn't even have a date or time. My absence of response should have indicated I wouldn't be there. Nonetheless the hearing went ahead.
Research into the cost of hearings held by this professional body’s predecessor reveals that eight years ago, an average of £17,400 was spent on each one day hearing. Mine was a two day hearing. It isn't clear how much it cost but £17,400 is not far off twice what I earned as a Teaching Assistant.
Speaking to me after the event last week, a freelance journalist working for one of the tabloids remarked;
"It was like a North Korean show trial. They kept us waiting for six hours while they made their decision. The wouldn't even tell us how to spell your name properly."
It was also clear talking to other journalists that they themselves felt badly treated. They remarked on the 'one sided' nature of the hearing and of me 'being treated unfairly’.
I have made no secret that transphobic treatment at work meant I would never return to the field of education. Education, particularly in Wales, can be extremely narrow minded. You can withstand these things for so long. I endured it for 10 years as a single Mum bringing up a family. I hate taking handouts and I needed a job; it provided a means to survive, no more. When I quit in Spring 2016, I moved back to Northern England for good. It makes me wonder why, 18 months later, an organisation from a neighbouring country still seeks to ban me from a job I don’t want and in such a costly manner. It seems bizarre, pointless, and an shameful waste of public resources.
Being Trans is tough enough. You learn to cope and adjust to the public intolerance but when you do something others disapprove of, the term 'transgender' is pinned to you like a pink triangle. I was described variously in the national press as a 'Transgender Porn Star' and 'Transgender Teaching Assistant'. Quite how the prefix 'transgender' is supposed to help the public understanding, I'm not quite sure. I'm a heterosexual woman, I did straight porn that appears, shrink wrapped on the top shelf of almost every corner newsagent in the UK. Surely my being Trans was irrelevant. Maybe the addition of ‘transgender’ is intended to make the story seem smuttier and more salacious.
I accepted by resigning that my two jobs were considered to be incompatible. I did not behave unprofessionally. I never mixed my two roles or discussed one while doing the other. Yet in the end it was clearly best for me to leave: My employer no longer wanted me, I hated my job and I hated transphobia ridden education. I moved away gladly from a community which had often shown intolerance. It is my body; my choice; my life. I chose a new life where I could be myself.
My resignation should have been an end to things. Instead, the investigation was raised and been relentlessly pursued ever since.
The press report that the hearing was adjourned indefinitely. You can read about it if you wish in the online editions of the tabloids. See what you think. My heart sank as I read them. It is 2017 not 1657. Yet 360 years on, Wales seems to have taken a complete circle back to it's witch hunting past.
Huggs, Jane xx