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Gender recognition: let’s get it right

In June of this year, the Irish Government withdrew its appeal against the 2007 High Court decision, which ruled that not allowing Dr. Lydia Foy to change her birth certificate was in breech of her human rights.

To comply with this judgement, the government are currently in the process  of introducing legislation allowing Trans* individuals to obtain Gender Recognition Certificates (GRC); legally recognising their gender identity.

A gender recognition advisory group has been set-up, inviting comments and input from the general public on issues such as legal recognition and the right to marry. Realistically, I feel that all legislation should allow input from the communities it will affect. How much better would the Civil Partnership Bill be if we could all collaborate, and have that information transformed into legislation? This is an opportunity to ensure that the correct legislation is implemented from the onset; ending Dr. Foy’s 13-year struggle for recognition, and introducing equal rights for all Trans* people in Ireland.

There is an open call until Friday, September 17th. That’s just enough time to get your ideas together and make sure your voice is heard!

With input from the Trans* community, allies and supporters, we can prevent a carbon copy of the UK legislation from being put forward and correct the major errors other countries have encountered. Ireland is one of the LAST countries in Europe to implement this legislation, so let’s try to make sure we’re known for having the BEST model for gender recognition and equality.

Having family and friends in the Trans* community, I don’t want Irish legislation to prevent people from gaining access to the rights they deserve. Nobody should be forced into having surgery to conform to someone else’s definition of who they should be, or excluded from having a loving union with their partner. Loving your partner regardless of gender identity isn’t something that should be punished with annulment, instability, and a financial burden.

Young Trans* people should not have to fight a battle to be accepted, as they pursue their education. Following gender recognition the numbers opting for civil partnerships will grow, putting further pressure for equal rights with the partner we choose to spend our lives with.

Before I get further into this topic, I’d like to highlight my opinion of the Gender Recognition Act. This is not representative of the community at large, but a founding stone to continue thinking about recognition.

Remove the obstacles surrounding marriage and gender recognition; no exclusions, and create an ability to redefine a union on paper.

One of the questions posed by the group is: “Should persons in an existing marriage or civil partnership be excluded?”

A woman makes her support of her marriage, and...
Image via Wikipedia

As previously covered by Orange, the UK legislation has many dubious additions. Individuals who don’t want to annul their marriage (or divorce in Scotland) are not permitted to obtain a GRC, so cannot access these rights. The UK (minus Scotland) provides an interim- GRC to use as grounds to have your marriage annulled. Though cheaper than a divorce, when the couple want to continue their union, why is annulment mandatory?

Following gender recognition, you may apply for civil partnership. This assumes that the partnership will be between same-sex couples, but what about heterosexual unions? If one of the main arguments against gay marriage is that a union must be between a man and a woman, will I be legally entitled to marry my FTM partner? Or is marriage something that you can only be forced OUT of? This emphasises the link between Trans* and LGB rights.

Until marriage equality is established, not only are same-sex couples being deprived of their rights, but Trans* unions will also be downgraded from marriage to partnership.

If Civil Partnership is the only avenue open for same-sex couples, I feel that Irish legislation should include an ability to convert to civil partnership, so that dissolving a loving family unit is no longer a requirement. In the time between annulment and partnership, you could be vulnerable to hidden catches alongside the financial burden; loss of pension rights, your partner not a benefactor during this period, an effect on joint accounts or property; not to mention the implication if children are involved.

Can you imagine your family being caught in a legal loophole? While we fight for equality, couples should have the RIGHT to choose whether to continue with their union in its new capacity, avoiding this term of instability, or to annul and have a new celebration of their partnership.

Model the application process on the system used to obtain an Irish passport; not by surgical requirements.

In certain countries surgery, or a form of forced sterilisation, is required to be granted gender recognition, and the rights that go with it. I think the application process for an Irish passport should be adopted for GRCs; proof that you have been living in that gender for at least two years; your deed poll (if a name change is required); and a “diagnosis”. Surgery or hormones should not be required, as this automatically excludes people who opt not to, or can’t (for a variety of reasons), take those paths.

Will birth and death records be listed by biological gender, or identified gender?

The GRC will come from a separate gender register office, similar to the UK, with no effect on the original birth certificate. Both will still exist, and be equally valid for use. While I can see the need for a certificate with the previous name, without amending the birth records the individual will still be recorded by their biological gender, not their identified gender. Will the death records follow suit? If the GRC can be ignored for biological gender, I see this as transphobic, and you have to question its validity.

Applicants must be 18 years or over, but what about Trans* youths?

With more information available, people are becoming aware of their gender identity much younger, and the gender recognition act could lift some of the pressure around transition. While positive in itself, this could become an issue for Trans* youth in schools when registering their preferred name and gender. Could the advisory group foresee this issue and put legislation in place to cater for these children without an individual having to first take a case against the equality authority? This could offer a level of privacy for young Trans* individuals, and be the difference between continuing in education and dropping-out.

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  • [...] Full Story from Gaelick.com [...]

    Gay Marriage Watch » Blog Archive » Ireland: We Must Get Transgender Recognition Done Right This Time said:
  • Most of your article I can follow and agree with.
    However the second from last paragraph on a Gender Recognition Certificate is a bit confusing. In the UK a GRC is given on the basis of a diagnosis.  After transition a new birth certificate is issued which is exactly identical to the original.  The original is kept and can only be accessed by an order of the court to a small number of legally defined bodies.  Therefore for the rest of that persons natural life their gender is legally idefined as the adopted gender shown on their new birth certificate and their death certificate will automatically follow the same rule. i.e the adopted gender will be used.
    ”  While I can see the need for a certificate with the previous name, without amending the birth records the individual will still be recorded by their biological gender, not their identified gender.”
    Their identified gender/biological gender  will be recognised in the GRC and this is an interim  measure.  It has no purpose as it will out someone if it is ever used.  However, there is a need to identify individuals who do not have full SRS immediately, as that can take from a few months to a few years, so the onus is very much on the individual to complete the process.  Where that cannot be done for medical reasons, an interim GRC is the only thing that can be issued. If someone does not have full SRS they are stuck with the GRC only which is not ideal at all.

    Louise Hannon said:
  • Louise, thank you for your comment. I have to say that I was unaware of the UK legislation requiring the Register General to mark the original birth entry to show that this has now been superseeded by the GRC, so thank you for bringing this to my attention.

    As for the second part of your comment, I’m of the opinion that surgery should not be a requirement for gender recognition. I feel that the UK legislation fails on a lot of issues, this being a huge one. The intervention of surgery and hormones is personal, and should not be a pre-resiquite for gaining access to rights. Currently, the UK only perceive you as a “real” trans* individual if you have had surgery, and I completely disagree with that sentiment. I didn’t address it as I don’t think it should even be considered to be implemented here. The LGBT community in the UK are having to start up another battle to correct the legislation that was implemented, similar to how we are having to keep on fighting for marriage equality here because civil partnership is still lacking in certain important areas. That’s why I feel we need to be proactive about what is implemented in our legislation, and not allow the government to adopt the UK gender recognition act, with all its flaws.

    akemi-cat (author) said:
  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bosca, gaelick. gaelick said: Published a new post: Gender recognition – let's get it right http://www.gaelick.com/?p=11135 [...]

    Tweets that mention Gender recognition - let's get it right | gaelick -- Topsy.com said:
  • You write ” Nobody should be forced into having surgery to conform to someone else’s definition of who they should be …”, which is true. But it is even more important that nobody should be forced into having psychiatry to conform to someone else’s definition of who they should be.
    Of the two, surgery and psychiatry, it is the latter which is more invasive, more burdensome. Not only that, but time will heal the stigma (if any) of having had surgery, lots of people have surgery for lots of reasons.
    Time never heals the stigma of being diagnosed with a sexual mental illness. This is not how the world should be, but it is unquestionably how the world will be for the foreseeable future. As long as psychiatry is mandated transsexual people will forever be discriminated against and stigmatized.
    Legislation presently before the Spanish parliament (but not up for debate until the Winter session) shows how it is possible to provide gender recognition in an entirely depathologised way. The main and clear requirement under the Spanish boils down to the change being a one way trip (to foil enemies who simply aim to make a mockery of the system). The transitioner must swear an oath that they have been stable in the requested gender for an extended period, and their sworn oath thus replaces the medical evidence of the British model.  A second change requires evidence of being stable in a single gender (which it is unlikely anyone asking for a second change could provide since the plural change has created a rebuttable presumption of being unstable).
    I exhort Ireland to look to Spain, not Britain, for guidance on the best way to make this change to the law.

    HenryHall said:
  • Those who are Intersexed – so precluded from having a diagnosis of Transsexuality under the ICD-10 – can’t get a GRC either. Not even if they’ve had corrective surgery. And expatriates are also out of luck. Such expats would have to go back to the UK, possibly for many years, in the hope that they may get a diagnosis. Even if they’ve had SRS long ago, and show no signs of ever having had “Gender Dysphoria” as the result. Most of the “recognised jurisdictions” held by the GRP don’t have legal mechanisms for those born overseas, only locally – so their presence on the list is meaningless.
    The UK GRA has been a catastrophe for Intersexed people, and a disaster for post-op expatriates – some of whom also live in jurisdictions where an Interim GRC is a legal nullity, and where divorce can only be granted if there’s been a complete breakdown in the relationship. Merely expressing the intent to possibly enter a civil partnership with the same person afterwards precludes any possibility of divorce in such places.
    It’s obvious that the situation of expats and the Intersexed were just plain not considered when the bill was drafted. Perhaps the drafters didn’t consider that “medical practioner” would later be interpreted to mean only one actually practicing in the UK, nor that post-operative status, while being a de-facto requirement now, is not sufficient.

    Zoe Brain said:
  • [...] Person of the Year: Dr Lydia Foy [...]

    The GALAs 2010 | gaelick said:
  • akemi-cat (author)
    Just to clarify your comment regarding the UK act requiring surgery before recognition by a GRC.  An interim  Gender Recognition Certificate is issued on diagnosis and a full certificate and new birth certificate on completion of surgery.  Recognition on diagnosis is important and welcome but the GRC is not identical to a birth certificate and so will “out ” someone straight away. This is the main issue.
    The other issue above regarding expats is a maze.  Those Irish citizens who have transitioned abroad and have their GRC should be recognised in Ireland and allowed to have a new birth certificate, provided they are living fully in their true gender.   Also those who are part way through transition from abroad who live in Ireland and can obtain Irish citizenship should also be allowed a GRC etc.

    Louise Hannon said:
  • I believe that people who are diagnosed gid, and who cannot for medical
    reasons go through with full gender reasignment ,but who swear on oath
    to live in a life of the opposite gender to that assigned at birth, should also recieved a full legal birth certificate.
    Also people should realise that trans does not fit all who are assigned
    the wrong gender at birth, and such people live and identify as gid born and not trans, the term of transexual was ceased to be used since 1980 as it related people to much towards crossdressing fetish, which has no bearing or meaning to people born gid.
    A medical diagnosis in very necessary to determine if a person is realy gid or just gender variant and suffers fron a gender dysphoria
    or transvestism, a true gid born and assigned the wrong gender has no choice but to go through full G.R.S. as this is the only life as a male or female we can and do live by.(simply a male or a female.)
    If you identify as gid within lgbt you are automatically identifyed
    as trans, regardless of how you identify yourself to same, why is this
    not changing in these days of us in the gay community fighting for full
    equality no more or less than any other in the republic of ireland.
    so lgbt should be lgbt/gid to respect all gender identity.
    a person should never in any legal term be described as transexual pre-op or post op or diagnosis,
    but simply as a male or female.
    If people want to identify in whatever way they want, then it is their
    businness and not anyones to impose upon one.
    We need to get this right within lgbt and stop omitting gid.
    After all Lydia Foy spent 12 years in court to prove gid born are the
    male or female they relate to being, and the fine lady stood up in court and said I am not a transexual, I am a woman.
    This term was then ceased to be used and gid won the day.

    Lynda. supporting all gender diversity.

    lynda said:
  • Thank you Lynda for your response.

    I would just like to clarify that I use the word trans* as a recognised inclusive term for all individuals in the community, not as a shorthand for transsexual. This includes, but is not limited to intersex people, transgender, mtf, ftm, gender-queer, gender-fluid, male, female, cross-dressers, transsexuals and any other interpretations of your own gender status. You are right in saying that it is up to the individual to determine and define their own gender. Not everyone WANTS to be called male or female, but those options should be there!

    While I respect your opinion, I would completely disagree with most of what you have said. If GID is something that you identify with, then that’s fantastic for you. However, I am in general against the medicalisation and diagnosis of individuals in the community. You may have found something that you identify with, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should be subjected to the same trials. I would rather that people could define their gender and stand up and say “I am a woman” as Lydia Foy did. And I would rather that people didn’t have to be “diagnosed” at all, or have to worry about convincing a doctor / psychologist / medical “professional” as to whether they are “trans* enough” in order to gain access to the rights they deserve. It’s fantastic that it worked out for you, but so many people spend years trying to get that little piece of paper, and I would rather abolish the whole thing and let people stand up and be counted as the gender they truly are; not what somebody else SAYS they are. That, I feel, lets someone else define your gender, and can have some serious repercussions if it doesn’t match what you know is true.

    akemi-cat (author) said:
  • [...] of incompatibility issued in the Foy case,  has been noted both on this blog and elsewhere (see here, here, here and [...]

    Human Rights and the Irish Government’s Legislative Agenda 2012 and Beyond - Human Rights in Ireland said:
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