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Famous and Inspirational Trans People: Christine Burns

 
Christine Burns
 

Christine Burns MBE

Christine is a transsexual woman and was invited to join Press for Change shortly after the campaign's formation in 1992. Being a Conservative Party Branch Secretary at the time, her initial specialisation was to use her connections and letter writing skills to draw cabinet attention to the issues facing transsexual people. In 1995 she "came out" within her community to enable her to chair fringe meetings at the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences and, shortly after that, became a Vice President of the Campaign. She left the Conservative Party in 1997, although not for reasons connected with her trans status. Indeed, "coming out" inside the local party did little to affect her popularity as an organiser and activist.

     

In the course of her Press for Change campaigning career she has made many national and local television and radio appearances, especially when milestone events have attracted media attention. Examples include "Womans Hour", "Sunday" and the "Today" programme (BBC Radio 4), BBC News 24 and Sky News (Digital TV), BBC 1 News, documentary contributions (BBC1 & 2), North West Tonight and Granada Reports (regional TV), GMR Radio, BBC London and other local radio stations. She has also briefed a wide variety of journalists researching stories about campaign events and "coming out" stories, and has regularly been quoted in their articles. When Granada Television first introduced a fictional trans character to the soap opera "Coronation Street" Christine also led the lobby and initial negotiations which resulted in the introduction of a PFC "advisor" to the production team.

However it is as a writer that Christine has probably made her greatest contribution to trans campaigning and consciousness.

When the Internet began to become a widely available public resource in late 1995, Christine had a leading role in setting up the campaign's web site and setting its original editorial objectives – but her main forte has been to write articles covering every aspect of the campaign and trans people's issues, including a weekly topical essay series known affectionately as the "Sunday Sermon". Over the course of ten years, Christine has written literally hundreds of articles, web site features and commentaries to help educate and mentor trans people as campaigners. These days she has now switched her emphasis to writing for a wider external audience, with many articles now published across a range of print media, and her focus is in specific areas such as Human Relations, Equal Opportunities and Diversity journals – educating the people responsible for employing and managing trans people at work.

Aside from her long term membership of the Parliamentary Forum on Transsexualism Christine was until recently a member of the policy-governing "Council" of Liberty, and is often invited to meetings organised by other groups to debate equal opportunities advances such as the proposed Single Equality Body and forthcoming legislation to widen the scope of non-discrimination legislation. In these settings Christine doesn't formally represent Press for Change, as her interests are wider than those of trans people alone. Nevertheless she is open about her own trans history and involvement, and therefore ensures that trans interests are taken into account wherever it is relevant to distinguish these.

As a campaign leader, and with an interest in mainstream politics, Christine has always been involved in the front line of dealing with Government on trans issues. In 1998/9 she was closely involved (with colleagues) in direct Ministerial negotiations concerning the extension of the Sex Discrimination Act. This became law in April 1999. Subsequently she co-authored the initial Press for Change submission to the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexualism (2000-2001) and remained involved in close consultation with Government Officials through the entire development of the Gender Recognition Act, which attained Royal Assent in July 2004.

In her private life Christine has been a Business and IT Consultant for much of her career, rising to a senior level within one of the world's largest Consultancy companies before taking a deliberate change of career direction in 2002. Her approach to mixing campaigning and career work is to be honest about both, but to keep them separate as far as possible.

She says, "Work colleagues inevitably learn about my own background and my campaign work through my media appearances - and just the sort of 'phone calls I get. My response is to treat the interest matter-of-factly though. Being trans is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact I'm very proud of how campaigning has allowed me to develop as a person, and in terms of my management and advocacy skills. These days fifty percent of my personal CV includes the things I've achieved as a campaigner. That may put some prospective employers off I suppose, but those are not the sort of companies I would want to work for anyway. A good employer looks at the whole package - and I guess they reason that if I can be so committed to something I'm not paid for, I can be totally committed to them as well"

Christine nowadays lives near the centre of Manchester and helps to manage a company which cares for people with Learning Disabilities and long term mental health problems. She lectures regularly and also runs a Diversity Consultancy, specialising in helping organisations to understand and accommodate trans recruits and staff. She was awarded an MBE for her services to “Gender Issues” in the 2004/5 New Year’s Honours List.

For more details see http://www.plain-sense.co.uk/diversity and http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/christine_burns

Updated – October 2005

Click here to read Christine's diary from the time she decided to come out in order to be a public representative for the trans community

For a full detailed biography of Christine download this PDF document

     
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