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?”
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.