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Jul. 24th, 2008

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE

 

NON-GENDERED

 

Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the societal gender system

 

 

Gendered society offers no provision for persons without gender to have a voice. Gendered society is structured in such a way that there exists no mechanism or social framework where the non-gendered person can challenge the absolute status of the gendered societal structure or their own status as a non-person within that structure.

 

Persons of non-gendered identity are excluded from all constructive forms of participation in gendered society.

 

I have rejected the gendered role (mis)appropriated to me on my birth certificate although the gendered role remains on my birth certificate and is a factor on other items of personal identification as though it were fact.

 

I do not feel a sense of identification with the other socially permissible gendered role that is strong or certain enough to make me want to transfer and become identified within that role. My need to identify as a person of non-gender was not addressed in any way by the Gender Recognition Act, the purpose of which was to align legislation in the United Kingdom with legislation in most other European countries and introduced new legal rights and protection for some transsexual people.

 

It remains socially and legally acceptable to discriminate against the non-gendered in all kinds of ways with no recourse for those on the receiving end of discrimination. Medical intervention has traditionally been practiced on the newly born if the physicality reveals evidence of the newborn as intersex, in order that the individual is gendered in line with the social structure and can “fit in” in later life. More recent scientific and medical research would indicate that we all occupy a place somewhere along a human continuum between the gendered roles of male and female.

 

Gender is a societal construct that does not allow a space for those who cannot identify within the roles of male or femaleand yet the societal system where the human being is categorised in accordance to gender (based on the exterior physicality at birth) could progress to embrace new identities including the non-gendered identity if the public and political will were there to make it happen.

 

There have been many marginalized groups who experienced extreme social injustice and had to fight to achieve a level of greater equality within mainstream society. The latter half of the 20th Century witnessed social change that would have been unimaginable to previous generations. And yet, despite having lived through a prolonged period where social equality is perceived as a democratic right that can be enforced by the law, the non-gendered person remains socially invisible, a non-person.

  

Gendered society denies the existence of those who live without a gendered role and who occupy a space outside the societal gender system. The denial of existence outside the gender system is the denial of a platform for the non-gendered to state their case. The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered.

 

It is impossible for any human being to function within a society that does not recognise their existence and fails to acknowledge their right to be: I have already mentioned the birth certificate as the first legal document issued to the new born. The birth certificate is required in order to obtain other documents and forms of personal identification that are necessary if one wants to participate fully within society and lead a regular active life. These documents also require a gendered role at the point of application, even when the gendered role is not shown on the item (or is coded or presented in a microchip format as is often the case now). Examples where individuals are categorized by gender include: passport, driver licence, NI record, medical record, tax record.

 

Access to goods and services is often determined by the ability of the individual to state a gendered role upon application. Examples here include: car insurance, private healthcare insurance, automated facilities where gendered role is demanded during access procedure, online accounts (such as My Space) that demand a gendered role when opening an account (this latter can be subverted through stating opposite gendered role to that appropriated on birth certificate - but nonetheless an inappropriate, insulting and unnecessary question that I would rather not be forced to answer).

 

To be non-gendered not only means social invisibility and disempowerment, the non-gendered person who refuses to be categorised by gender will soon be criminalized by the state. The United Kingdom government are set to introduce identity cards for UK subjects (as opposed to citizens). The identity card will hold every conceivable piece of information about the carrier in microchip format for the benefit of government departments and state institutions. I, like many thousands of others, find the whole idea of identity cards repulsive. Notwithstanding my objection to this scheme on grounds of unwarranted state intrusion, I would be issued with a card where the data used is taken from existing documentation and I would therefore be inappropriately gender categorised. I understand that, once this scheme is rolled out across the country, the card must be produced upon demand by certain authorities and refusal will be a criminal offence.

 

To identify outside the gender system equals exclusion from many aspects of society where categorisation according to gendered role occurs, such as club membership, gymnasia, participation in certain sports to name but a few. The National Health Service has no provision for appropriately sensitive treatment of non-gendered patients and it is common for the patient to be referred to a hospital department that only treats patients of the gendered role (mis)appropriated to the patient as a newborn.

  

The one aspect of life that needs to be recognised above all others as a serious social issue is the non-gendered person’s (lack of) access to employment.

 

The non-gendered person is effectively barred from employment opportunities due to the discrimination of gendered employers (quite legally, as the non-gendered are an unrecognised minority without protection or any enforceable legal right not to be discriminated against). When one is unable to gain employment, for whatever reason, the effect on the life of the individual is devastating. The non-gendered person can expect to endure extreme financial hardship throughout their entire adult life and then have no pension rights if actually reaching the age of retirement. The opportunity to fulfil potential and any personal ambition once held by persons trying to live outside the societal gendered structure are quashed for no reason, other than that gendered society seeks to marginalize those that it cannot comprehend within the framework of a gendered social structure.

 

The non-gendered identity has been oppressed by the societal system of the gendered majority.

 

 

ONGOING CAMPAIGN ISSUES:

 

Introduction of a Parliamentary Bill:

 

Purpose of proposed new legislation: to have non-gendered identity recorded on my personal records and official documentation thus granting legal recognition for my identity, placing issue within public arena and developing social framework to enable non-gendered to function within gendered society. Respect for my identity as of no less value than gendered identities of male and female.

 

This will be a truly groundbreaking piece of legislation that will change my status in society (and the status of others similarly unrecognised and invisible within society) from a non-person into a human being of equal value and worth.

 

I cannot give any details of timescale regarding the introduction of the legislation because it has to date been a painfully slow process and previous time deadlines have not been met. It had been expected that the Bill should go through parliamentary presentation (the first reading where the title is announced) towards the end of 2007 and this did not happen. I remain hopeful that 2008 is the year when the Bill does begin the long and slow process through parliament.

 

The Bill has been given a proposed title which could be subject to change. I will announce short and long title of the Bill on this web page as soon as I am confident that the information I am giving will remain accurate.

 

 

Census 2011:

 

I have been in discussion with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) regarding content of Census 2011 questionnaire. The sex/gender question does not provide options other than male and female. I would like to see the introduction of the third option of ‘non gender-specific’ for all individuals who do not identify as male or female, including those who identify as non-gendered.

 

When the proposed legislation passes through parliament, there will exist the legal right to challenge any organisation that fails to recognise existence outside the gender system.

 

 

Automated patient check-in facility at my local health care centre:

 

A new automated system has been installed at my local health care centre (and other centres in my area and beyond) that inappropriately and unnecessarily demands patients state a gendered role as part of the identification process in announcing their arrival at the practice.

 

I made an official complaint to my local Primary Care Trust. I have been reliably informed that my complaint led directly to a change of policy and that the insulting question will be removed from the patient check-in procedure in a software upgrade due to be rolled out across the borough later this year.

 

I intend to stay on their case until this is done.

 

Finally:

 

I have been asked on several occasions how I would prefer others to refer to me. There are no historic non gender-specific terms for a title and salutation generically applied across the board - the only non gender-specific titles in common usage denote a professional qualification such as Doctor.

 

I was reasonably content to not use a title but eventually became irritated after receiving numerous letters that lazily contained a gapped space before my surname in the salutation, in the place where a title should have been printed.

 

I use the title ‘Pr’ which is an abbreviation of Person and pronounced “per”. I also use ‘per’ (pronounced as spelt) as the third person singular pronoun for non gender-specific.

 

I have successfully been able to persuade most companies and organisations with whom I have a relationship to use my title although there are a few who unfortunately have failed to add my title to their computer system range of titles (there is no excuse – it is a straightforward procedure).

 

I am aware of a number of titles and pronouns used by individuals within the transgender community. If some terms are adopted and used as common reference points, in the eventuality, I may decide to adopt those terms for myself. In the meantime, I offer my terms of reference, which other non-gendered or non gender-specific persons are welcome to use.

 

 

The Fallacy of the Myth of Gender

 

Click on the link below to read my presentation at the Gendys2K conference at University of Manchester in 2000

 

http://www.gender.org.uk/conf/2000/elancane.htm

 

 Christie can be contacted at christie.elancane@yahoo.co.uk



 

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Christie Elan-Cane
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