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Feb. 4th, 2016

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



‘X’ PASSPORTS IN THE UK

My latest blogpost is on HuffPost UK: ‘Is the UK Government About to U-Turn on ‘X’ Passports?

Will the UK Government accept the W&E Select Committee’s recommendations in favour of ‘X’ or continue to kowtow to HM Passport Office and civil servants with a different a:gender?

The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered

 

Jan. 29th, 2016

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



Is the UK Government about to U-Turn on ‘X’ Passports?

An announcement last July that ‘Transgender Equality’ was to be the focus of a fledgling Women and Equalities Committee’s inaugural inquirytook many people by surprise.

On 14 January 2016, the Select Committee duly reported its findings and key recommendations.

One particular recommendation predictably found attention – that “The UK must follow Australia’s lead in introducing an option to record gender (sic) as “X” on a passport.

The recommendation was in sharp contrast to current Government policy “…..it is not Government policy to identify such people for the purpose of issuing non-gender-specific official documents”.

The Committee’s recommendation for ‘X’ Passports was definitive whereas recommendations pertaining to wider issues surrounding non-gendered identity were opaque. The Committee suggested “a wholesale review of issues” and that “The Government must look into the need to create a [third] legal category …… and the full implications of this.” with an admission the issues were “beyond the scope of our inquiry”.

But there was nothing opaque about the recommendation for ‘X’ Passports. The UK Government “must” introduce ‘X’ as an option. As is often the case, the truth hides behind smoke and mirrors.

Committee Chair Maria Miller previously had ultimate responsibility over an extensive ‘Equalities’ portfolio while Government was furiously backpedalling to renege upon an earlier commitment to consider proposals for the issuance of ‘X’ Passports in the UK. Government backpedalled so furiously that a policy review by the former Identity and Passport Service, now HM Passport Office (HMPO) was effectively nothing more than a sham.

The UK Government’s rejection of ‘X’ Passports appeared on the surface to have been a decision taken unilaterally by HMPO.

HMPO’s discriminatory policy was about to come under legal scrutiny through a proposed judicial review application.

In October 2014 HMPO was stripped of its semi-autonomous ‘executive agency’ status and lost the independence that blurred the lines on policy decision making. HMPO is now part of the Home Office therefore Government cannot remain distanced on this issue.

HMPO’s position is untenable given the overriding need for non gender-specific documentation as highlighted in the Committee’s report. Maria Miller has effectively distanced herself while HMPO favours the upholding of a shameful discriminatory policy.

More details about background to this can be found here

The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered
 

Jan. 29th, 2016

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure




Spectator Article

The Women and Equalities Committee’s ‘Transgender Equality’ report was targeted by controversial commentator Melanie Phillips in a dangerously ill-informed article that recently appeared in right-wing publication The Spectator.

Phillips took issue that my non gender-specific pronoun ‘per’ was recognised within the report whilst completely failing to note the valid point I was making when I reminded the Committee that the former coalition government’s discredited trans* equality action plan was “all plan and no action”.

Among other things, Phillips decried the Committee’s positive stance on trans* depathologisation and described the encouragement of transphobic hate crime reporting as “sinister”.

An accompanying podcast featured a discussion with Phillips and a representative from the Civil Service trans* support organisation ‘a:gender’. Far from challenging Phillips on her reprehensible views, the a:gender representative appeared to cede to them. But a:gender does have form in this respect. This organisation’s dinosaur views are further to the right of the political spectrum than Phillips could ever hope to be. A trans* ‘support’ organisation that does not believe in personal autonomy nor does it believe in the fundamental right of legitimate identity. The organisation is vehemently against the principle of non gender-specific option ‘X’ for those who do not define as male or female because they feel that provision for non-gendered people somehow undermines them! Its senior members cannot accept the reality of trans* experience outside stereotypical male and female gendered roles and they seek to deny legitimacy to those whose identities do not fit into their limited world view. There is no logic to their argument. Just old fashioned ignorance and bigotry.

One must ask therefore, what exactly is the message being conveyed by a:gender away from the public gaze? The group’s senior members act as policy advisers to the UK Government on trans* issues and yet they are unaccountable to those whose lives are impacted by Government decisions because they are not ‘public’ figures. With this in mind, one might begin to understand why there has been such a distinct lack of progress on trans* issues in the UK and why commitments made by Government under the trans* equality action plan never got to see the light of day.

The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered
 

Jan. 14th, 2016

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



UK GOVERNMENT TRANS* EQUALITY REPORT

The Women and Equalities Select Committee report subsequent to last year’s trans* equality inquiry is published and can be found here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmwomeq/390/390.pdf.

More than 200 written submissions were received and a series of five oral evidence sessions were held before the Committee. I was invited to sit on the panel for the third oral evidence session held in October.

There was speculation that recommendations made in the report would be to propose to improve the process of legal recognition for gendered trans* people in the United Kingdom in response to criticism that the UK is lagging far behind other countries in a progressive move towards self-determination that has already taken place in Argentina, Malta, Denmark and Ireland.

The report does indeed recommend that “within the current Parliament” the Government must bring forward proposals to update the Gender Recognition Act 2004, to move towards a model focused upon self-determination in place of a current model focused upon state interference and pathologisation “as such, it runs contrary to the dignity and personal autonomy of applicants.”

For non-gendered trans* people the picture remains, predictably, not straightforward. The Committee has admitted that the former coalition government’s trans* equality action plan remains “largely unimplemented” and says that Government must agree a new strategy within the next six months that includes tackling areas of the old action plan that were not addressed before (which, from my recollection, is pretty much all of it). The Committee recommends a “wholesale review” of issues facing non-gendered people.

As a reminder, I ‘engaged’ with the previous Government and made a number of recommendations most of which I was told at the time were “not going to happen” by civil servants who were more sympathetic than those who replaced them at the GEO after Government reshuffle in 2012.

I made a video after accidentally stumbling on the fact that YouTube had removed an unnecessary requirement that users should be gendered in order to use its services. I explained the issue and the need for change. I also outlined my recommendations and what I had hoped to achieve from the trans* equality action plan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ3I5XiwDd8

At one time I was going to delete the video because when it was made I had reached a point of complete physical and psychological exhaustion that really hit me a few months later when I became so fucking ill I was seriously concerned that when I went to sleep I might not wake up again. In the event I kept the video because it serves as a poignant reminder for me just how bad things were and how hard I had to fight through the political process, pushing for EDMs, countless meetings, endless correspondence and ongoing research over several years just to get this far.

The trans* equality action plan did incorporate an announcement of a policy “review” on ‘X’ Passports and that healthcare services should engage on the issue. There was subsequent engagement with the Department of Health but this was really not my area and I stepped back once it was apparent there were others involved with more direct knowledge and expertise in the procurement and delivery of healthcare services. I was more concerned with ‘X’ Passports as the gateway to legitimise non-gendered identity in the eyes of the law and in the public perception.

Back to the present, I had anticipated the Committee would recommend the trialling of ‘X’ Passports with cautions and caveats. What is recommended here is that “The UK must follow Australia’s lead in introducing an option to record gender (sic) as “X” on a passport……… In the longer term, consideration should be given for the removal of gender (sic) from passports.”

With this recommendation the Committee has gone further than I had expected and making HM Passport Office’s refusal to permit the issuing of ‘X’ Passports appear even more untenable. That the UK Government is being strongly encouraged by the Committee to accommodate the needs of individuals whose identities cannot be defined as either male or female is very welcome but nonetheless a token recommendation that in isolation does not go anything like far enough to address the wider issues surrounding non-gendered identity.

And, critically, the Committee recommends that “The Government must look into the need” effectively to create a third legal category, however that the Government must also look into “the full implications of this”. On surface value the Committee has recommended the creation of a recognised third category in order to embrace and accommodate members of society who do not define as either male or female. But I am getting an uncomfortable sense that what is being said is something else entirely. Government has already made clear its perception of the issue and those who are affected by it “it is not Government policy to identify such people for the purpose of issuing non-gender-specific official documents”. And one must ask what chance is there that Government will acknowledge “the need” when the needs of a socially invisible minority are weighted against “the full implications of this”.

A “wholesale review” but without further specification. The “review” announced four years ago as part of the trans* equality action plan over proposals in favour of the issuing of ‘X’ Passports amounted to nothing more than a means by which Government believed it could kick ‘X’ Passports into the long grass after HM Passport Office’s unequivocal rejection of the proposals. There was no proper review and I was fobbed off time and again by civil servants over an extended period. I anticipate that in due course another ‘review’ will be announced by the GEO and I fear the end result probably will be the same.

There is the specific issue of marriage where one (or both) partner/s does not identify as either male or female. That non-gendered people are forced to register under an inappropriate gendered role in order to be able to marry was not addressed at all in this report and possibly this is one of those areas the Committee had in mind where it urges Government to consider “the full implications of this”.

It was noted that advice was similarly vague on the repugnant “spousal veto” where the recommendation to Government was to be “informed” and then to find “ways of addressing the problem” rather than outright recommendation that the veto is scrapped.

The Committee recommends that Government should be moving towards “non-gendering” official records as a “general principle”. While I would always advocate for non-gendering as a general principle, I suspect this particular “non-gendering” would not significantly increase the visibility of non-gendered people who want to be recognised as non-gendered. The “non-gendering” would apply to everyone and therefore gender would be assumed even if not directly asked on a form. I would favour a third option, preferably ‘X’ on identification documentation and records held by government departments. It is within the commercial sector that blanket “non-gendering” should be applied as the rule but the commercial sector was not covered by the Committee’s inquiry.

The Committee did refer to the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law adopted by the International Commission of Jurists in 2007 and to Resolution 2048 adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in April 2015. In the latter it was recommended that national governments should “consider including a third gender option in identity documents for those who seek it”.

The UK has an appalling record on trans* issues and is shown again to be dragging its feet as other countries have moved ahead with self-determinism in recognition of changing times. Some of the Committee’s recommendations would, if acted upon, bring the UK broadly into line with what is happening elsewhere. While gendered trans* people would benefit from these changes, as I’ve said before, the picture for non-gendered people is not straightforward. The Committee has made some welcome recommendations however this report needs to be read very carefully indeed.

It should be remembered that the Committee can make recommendations but the Committee does not have the power to change the law.

It should also be pointed out (see Para. 285 in the report) that the law does not need to be changed in order for ‘X’ Passports to be issued. All that is required is an administrative change along with a willingness to improve the lives of non-gendered people.

My Submissions to the Inquiry

Oral evidence session 13/10/15: http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/4e7f52c6-1357-43f8-98c0-af160b156b40
Written evidence (submitted by K&L Gates LLP on my behalf): http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/Women%20and%20Equalities/Transgender%20Equality/written/19430.html
And:
http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/Women%20and%20Equalities/Transgender%20Equality/written/24075.html


Early Day Motion (EDM) 660

EDM 660 now has support from more than 50 sitting MPs. With the recommendation of the Committee that the UK Government should introduce ‘X’ Passports there is no better time to contact your local MP and elicit their support http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/660.


Blogging on Huffington Post UK

NON-GENDERED – Fighting for Legal Recognition
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/christie-elancane/non-gendered_b_8870260.html

No Specific Detriment?
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/christie-elancane/no-specific-detriment_b_8902698.html

The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered
 

Jan. 10th, 2016

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



UK GOVERNMENT TRANS* EQUALITY REPORT

The Women and Equalities Select Committee has announced Thursday, 14 January 2016 as the publication date of its report after last year’s trans* equality inquiry. While there is speculation that recommendations will propose to improve the process of legal recognition for trans* people in the UK it should be remembered the Committee does not have the power to change the law and it is feared that proposals will fall short of what is necessary.

The necessity for non gender-specific ‘X’ Passports became a focal point of my campaign because the precedent for ‘X’ Passports had already been set. ‘X’ Passports were permitted in accordance with an international standard and it was feasible for ‘X’ Passports to be issued in the UK. The implementation of ‘X’ Passports in the UK should have been straightforward. I had not initially anticipated nor been prepared for the lengths that Government civil servants and others would go to in order to prevent the introduction of ‘X’ Passports.

Judging from comments made by the Committee, it would appear the Committee were broadly in agreement there is no logic to HM Passport Office’s ongoing refusal to countenance the introduction of ‘X’ Passports and I am reasonably certain, without having seen the report, that the Committee will recommend the trialling of ‘X’ Passports with cautions and caveats.

A token recommendation in favour of ‘X’ Passports for those who require non gender-specific documentation would be welcome (albeit very much overdue) however does not go anything like far enough to address the wider issue. The Ministry of Justice’s recent ill-timed intervention serves as a reminder, and the subject of my second HuffPostUK Blog:

No Specific Detriment?

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/christie-elancane/no-specific-detriment_b_8902698.html?utm_hp_ref=transbritain


The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered
 

Jan. 5th, 2016

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure




Future LGBT Leader

Congratulations to my legal adviser and friend Aritha Wickramasinghe who was recently awarded the No. 1 position in the Financial Times ‘Top 30 Future LGBT Leaders’ list http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/practice-management/pro-bono/case-studies/case-study--k-l-gates/.

K&L Gates LLP are assisting with my work to raise the profile of ‘X’ Passports and the wider issues surrounding NON-GENDERED IDENTITY within the political arena. Aritha and the team came to the rescue and delivered an excellent written submission on my behalf last year after Government announced it had launched a trans* inquiry without giving any prior notice , with little time given to respond and just as I was about to go away. It was mostly down to Aritha’s diligence that I was invited to present oral evidence before the Women and Equalities Select Committee in October 2015 http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/news-parliament-2015/evidence-transgender-inquiry-third-15-16/

K&L Gates is one of two distinguished law firms currently acting for me on a pro bono basis. The other is Clifford Chance LLP who are working on the legal side.

I want to express my deep gratitude to Aritha and indeed to both teams for their valued support.


Blogging on Huffington Post UK

NON-GENDERED – Fighting for Legal Recognition
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/christie-elancane/non-gendered_b_8870260.html

No Specific Detriment?
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/christie-elancane/no-specific-detriment_b_8902698.html


The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered
 

Jan. 1st, 2016

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



NEW YEAR’S DAY MESSAGE TO THE UK GOVERNMENT

No Specific Detriment?

We recognise that a very small number of people consider themselves to be of neither gender. We are not aware that that results in any specific detriment, and it is not Government policy to identify such people for the purpose of issuing non-gender-specific official documents.” – Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

I was not surprised when I read the MoJ’s negative response to a recent call to make provision for human beings who exist outside the gendered societal structure because this outrage provoking riposte represents current policy and gets repeated whenever Government is approached on the thorny issue of what to do about addressing the situation of individuals whose core identities are neither male nor female. The UK Government can no longer get away with complete denial of the issue per se, so ‘official’ policy has shifted in recent years from denial that “such people” exist to denying there is damage and suffering caused to individuals due to a systematic failure to recognise our identities as legitimate.

The government even admits here, albeit in a roundabout way, that current policy is not to identify people of neither gender through issuing the appropriate documentation but further twists the argument by patronisingly indicating its failure to make provision is entirely for our own benefit due to fear we should be “identified”. Identified and treated as equal human beings as opposed to existing in the shadows and on the margins of society?

That the statement goes on to indicate that [Government] is not aware of “any specific detriment” is a reflection of more than ignorance. It betrays a callous indifference towards the welfare of people who have no visibility and no voice. The indication being that ”such people” do not just represent “a very small number” but that ”such people” are completely insignificant. Government cannot deny our existence but nonetheless denies to us the foundations of legitimacy that are essential for any chance of a normal life and a better future.

In the course of my campaign work I’ve received numerous responses expressing similar sentiment from minsters and senior civil servants from different government departments. It is a dismissive response and conveys a message that we are unimportant as individuals, that our situation is hopeless and that our welfare does not really matter. I wonder how many people affected by this issue seriously considered ending their lives as a consequence of the MoJ’s very public reiteration of official UK Government policy.

It is ironic the MoJ should issue this response after a trans* equality inquiry led by the Women and Equalities Select Committee had already started gathering evidence. During a recent oral panel session before the Committee, I was asked to name some of the good and bad things about being trans* in the UK. I struggled with the ‘good’ and recounted aspects about my life that are good despite rather than because of my status as a non-gendered trans* person. As for the ‘bad’, I could have brought a shopping list but there would not have been enough time. I summarized in my response to the Committee that I am hundreds of thousands of pounds worse off than I would otherwise have been at this point in my life as a consequence of my decision to disclose. Would that be detrimental enough to satisfy HM Government I wondered?

Detriment is succumbing to societal enforced gendered classification and being required to accept inappropriate gendered references ‘M’ or ‘F’ on personal identity documentation. Detriment forces us to become unwilling colluders in our own social invisibility in order to ‘survive’ within gendered society. Detriment is having one’s identity consistently misunderstood by others. Detriment is that our most fundamental needs are ignored, an absence of provision that is almost universal from a lack of suitable public bathroom facilities to the withholding of access to essential surgery to correct our bodies. Detriment is the societal obsession with gender as a commercial marketing tool that puts many goods and services out of reach to anyone who cannot indicate either ‘M’ or ‘F’ on an application form. Detriment is exclusion from sporting and other gender segregated activities. Detriment is being unable to marry without compromise due to the gender-specific drafting of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Detriment is an unrelenting, oppressive, grinding annihilation of one’s identity until one is effectively rendered a non-citizen within one’s own country.

The outcome of detriment heaped upon individuals results in denial of the fundamental right of legitimate identity because Government perceives non-gendered identity as inconvenient therefore current policy is that ”such people” should remain invisible.

The Women and Equalities Committee will report its initial findings in January 2016.

This item was published today on HuffPost UK http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/christie-elancane/no-specific-detriment_b_8902698.html?utm_hp_ref=transbritain

Copyright ©2016 Christie Elan-Cane
All rights reserved

The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered

 

Dec. 24th, 2015

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



HuffPost UK

Pleased to be invited to blog on the Huffington Post’s UK site. My first blog can be found here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/christie-elancane/non-gendered_b_8870260.html

Essentially a (very) brief history of the issue and how the campaign came into being and the current position – it’s taken 20+ years just to get this far but when I started out I never would have imagined seeing the issue on a political stage during my lifetime. I’m hoping the next 20+ years will be kinder.


Early Day Motion

EDM 660 in support of non gender-specific ‘X’ Passports has been signed by 43 MPs so far and with assurances of more to follow. EDM 660 was tabled by Norman Lamb MP on 5 November 2015 and is very much on target to achieve 100+ signatures before the end of this parliamentary session.

Everyone who is affected by this issue, who knows someone affected by the issue or cares about the issue on a principle that legitimate identity is a fundamental human right should contact their local representative MP and urge that they support and add their signature to the motion http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/660


UK Government Trans* Equality Inquiry

The Women and Equalities Committee will report its findings in January 2016 rather than before Xmas as previously indicated. I have received an undertaking from Committee Chair Maria Miller to that effect. I have no further information about the content of the report and it should also be noted that the Committee does not in itself have the power to change the law.

I was invited to take part in the third of a series of oral sessions and presented evidence to the Committee on 13 October 2015 http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/news-parliament-2015/evidence-transgender-inquiry-third-15-16/


The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered

Dec. 5th, 2015

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



Transport for London to introduce gender-neutral public announcements

I’m really pleased to report that TfL responded positively and has agreed to replace its ubiquitous “Ladies and Gentlemen” public announcements on the station network with a phasing in of gender-neutral announcements addressing transport users as “Customers” or “Passengers”.

A communication from TfL explains there are different types of station announcements, some are ‘live’ announcements and these will be the first to switch to inclusive neutral terms when addressing the travelling public, some announcements are recorded at individual stations and these will be updated accordingly and I would assume probably not all stations would make the change at the same time. And pre-recorded announcements on TfL’s central system are changed “over time” therefore neutral terms will be introduced at the next change and TfL warn that it might take some time before all of the old announcements are phased out completely. However TfL management recognises there is a need for change and this is a positive move.

I’d be interested to receive feedback on the implementation of the policy from users of London’s underground network Christie.Elan-Cane@ukgateway.net

TfL’s decision comes after the Barbican Centre also responded very positively to my request for gender-neutral public announcements.


EDM IN SUPPORT OF ‘X’ PASSPORTS

Has your MP signed EDM 660? Contact your MP and request their support for the motion


The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered
 

Nov. 24th, 2015

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE
NON-GENDERED
Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure



EARLY DAY MOTION IN SUPPORT OF X PASSPORTS REACHES 30 SIGNATURES

Within three weeks of tabling by Norman Lamb MP on 5 November, EDM 660 has already achieved the support of 30 MPs across all of the more significant national and regional parties in the UK. I have received notes of encouragement and support from MPs who were signatories to EDM 47 in the last session who cannot sign EDM 660 because they now hold Leadership or Shadow Cabinet positions. An excellent start especially given there was a mini-recess shortly after tabling.

EDM 47 achieved 80 signatures in the last parliamentary session and it is possible, highly probable even, that EDM 660 can exceed 100 signatures despite that tabling took place more than halfway through the current session.

With deepest thanks again to Norman Lamb for taking on the mantle.


The W&E Select Committee will publish its findings from trans* equality inquiry in due course and there was never a better time to keep up the pressure on Government and HM Passport Office.

If your local representative MP is not on the list of signatories then please contact them and urge that they support the motion

Let’s aim for EDM 660 to reach 50 signatures before the Xmas recess (17 December 2015)!

All MP contact details can be found here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

On a principle of legitimate identity as a fundamental human right.

The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered

 

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