Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
Advancing transgender equality: A plan for action
“Prejudice and discrimination not only blight people’s lives, they also undermine the principles upon which this country prides itself. This Government is committed to making transgender equality a reality.”
“This first ever Government transgender equality action plan forms part of our wider work to build an equal and fair society. It includes firm commitments to improve the lives of transgender people and support businesses and public bodies so they have the right tools to support transgender people.”
“We do not underestimate the challenges transgender people face and the actions in this document are just the first steps towards achieving this vision.”
The government has published the outline details of its action plan for Trans Equality. The Ministerial Foreword is encouraging – and that there is reference to non-gendered in the document foreword represents a fundamental achievement in itself!
But it remains within the delivery of real and progressive change that the measures – and the people who have worked and given their time in order to bring the action plan to reality – shall be judged.
I became involved in the development of the plan from the perspective that some within the government had recognised that many transpeople were failed by the discriminatory legislation that was allowed to pass through under the stewardship of the previous administration.
I had lobbied my parliamentary representative for some time in addition to specifically targeting government divisions and public bodies with responsibility for areas where non-gendered human beings were relegated to a status that could be described as less than human due to policies that failed to accommodate the existence of non-gendered people, such as the Identity and Passport Service.
Eventually – and with persistence and a refusal to go away – my campaign led to a meeting at the Government Equalities Office and an invite to take part in the development of a forthcoming action plan.
I used the opportunity to define a critical list of areas where government measures (and legal enforcement where necessary) were urgently needed to enable non-gendered transpeople to have any chance to live fulfilled and socially functional lives within a gendered societal structure. I determined these measures were necessary if non-gendered transpeople were to have any chance of legal recognition and provision to acquire the correct documentation through the removal of inappropriate gendered references from identity documents and personal records and furthermore I determined these measures as necessary if non-gendered people were to have any chance of acceptance within the cultural mainstream because through these measures we would gain visibility within the social framework.
I have argued specifically that future government policy should enable non-gendered people to remove inappropriate gendered indicators from identification documents and from their personal records held by public and private sector organisations.
Most critical items that I’ve raised with the government over the last year would require new legislation or amendment to existing legislation in order to implement.
Here is a summary:
Non-gendered provision in Civil Partnership law
Equality of access to goods and services
Non gender-specific public bathroom facilities
Here is the detail:
Non-gendered provision in Civil Partnership law
Gender should play no part in Civil Partnership law.
The government are currently considering moves towards the harmonisation of the law with regards to access to civil partnership and civil marriage. This does not necessarily help non-gendered people.
The only way that equality of access to register a civil partnership or civil marriage for all can be achieved is through the removal of the requirement to produce a gendered identification document from the registration process.
The action plan makes reference to equal civil marriage. This is probably relative to the fact that gendered transpeople are forced to divorce in order to acquire a recognition certificate (married transpeople who did not want to terminate a formal recognition of their relationship were badly failed by the discriminatory GRA).
I understand there will be a public consultation on civil marriage starting March 2012 and this should give non-gendered an opportunity to express our views and state our needs.
There has been no government indication that measures to address specifically the situation of people of non-gendered identity will be included as part of the consultation on civil marriage.
I will continue to push very hard to ensure that non-gendered interests are not overlooked and ignored because we have rights as human beings. Human beings of non-gendered identity should not be forced to compromise the core identity in order to register – and have formally recognised – a personal relationship.
A non gender-specific identification document where birth certificate is required (civil partnership/civil marriage etc.).
I have suggested the statutory declaration document as a possible alternative to the birth certificate until such times that legislation will progress to permit the issue of a birth certificate without a gendered reference.
There is nothing explicit in the plan document that refers to this item and I did not really expect anything specific to non-gendered transpeople to appear in the basic plan structure because everything happens in stages.
The present situation where a relationship between two consenting people can be formally recognised dependent upon production of a document that contains a gendered reference is clearly unfair and discriminatory towards non-gendered people. The government representatives appear to accept this point and are “looking into” the issue but are giving nothing away. If they really are committed to an ideal of equal access to CP/CM for all then I expect progress and will continue to pursue this item.
‘X’ is the permitted non gender-specific option under international regulation* for transpeople and intersex identified people where gendered options male and female are not appropriate for the passport holder.
Following a Home Office announcement earlier this year, in the aftermath of an Australian Federal Government decision to recognise the rights of Australian citizens who need to use non gender-specific ‘X’, it was unsurprising to see included in the plan that the Identity and Passport Service are to “review” how identification is represented in passports and passport application forms. I expect there will be a public consultation in the early part of 2012.
We are on the way but not there yet.
If you are non-gendered or otherwise affected by this issue, again -
I urge that you write to the Identity and Passport Service and demand a change of policy.
The IPS address details can be found here http://elancane.livejournal.com/9210.html.
And contact your parliamentary representative and enlist their support for the measure to introduce non gender-specific ‘X’ (unspecified) as a legitimate passport option in the United Kingdom.
(*) The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations. It sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity. It is within this remit the ICAO defines the standards of data element requirements for the machine readable passport. The ICAO standards permit three value options under the ‘sex’ category: ‘M’, ‘F’ and ‘X’.
Equality of access to goods and services
The banning of commercial organisations use of gendered roles in the provision of goods and services.
This discriminatory practice is down to companies requiring a ‘customer profile’ in order to assist future target marketing initiatives and has nothing to do with providing good service. There are no legal requirements that determine it necessary for companies to require a gendered role in the process of offering their goods and services, and this unnecessary and offensive question frequently puts such services off-limits to non-gendered identified people who are not prepared to deny the core identity.
On a personal note, I have campaigned on this specific issue directly over the years and challenged companies within the commercial sector on a number of occasions. I have noticed a decrease in requirement to state a gendered role but the requirement continues at an unacceptably high level. When I make a complaint to an organisation I will point out that my custom will be with their competitors (on the basis there is a competitor company that does not require a gendered role when offering essentially a similar service – such as an online shopping account for instance).
The government position is that this item does not necessarily require legislation. On the basis the government does not want to burden business with more legislation, and that the chances of any demand to remove the question becoming law will be resisted by other government departments that represent different interests, I understand that corporations are to be ‘encouraged’ through published government recommendations and guidance on this issue.
I have yet to see the detail but will remain on their case as I am now officially ‘engaged’ with the government.
There is no officially sanctioned provision or treatment path for non-gendered transition.
Appropriate treatment lies at the discretion of the medical professional involved in an individual patient’s care and many within the profession would not support the non-gendered patient’s right to transition in the way the patient feels is right and appropriate when a non-gendered identity is not recognised within the gendered societal structure.
There is discussion at the moment regarding incorporating non-gendered into the Standards of Care although no decision has been reached. I hope to have more news on that in due course. And the issue has been acknowledged by WPATH in their latest Standards of Care version, despite the inappropriateness of the terminology they use to define non-gendered and bi-gendered identities
In the meantime, the process has already begun to determine appropriate treatment paths for non-gendered patients who present for reassignment.
In July I had an approach from the South East Coast Specialised Commissioning Group - the national lead for England - in what was referred to as an informal enquiry into how non-gendered transpeople accessed healthcare services in order to enable the physical transition.
As is now apparent from the action plan listing under ‘Health and social care’, non-gendered provision now looks set to become part of an ongoing formal process of dialogue concerning healthcare policy.
“Lead a dialogue between the transgender community, including non-gendered people, the
medical profession and NHS commissioners, to share best practice and review how this group
can shape health policy.”
Another specific part of this critical item concerns the NHS ‘gender streaming’ of patients.
Streaming limits access to healthcare treatment for non-gendered.
In regard to healthcare and problems that are not identity related but where streaming occurs this is still very much an issue.
A patient medical record has traditionally recorded the sex of the patient as if it were a mandatory identifier along with the patient name, address and date of birth. The sex appears on the medical file and when a patient is referred to another NHS division the sex would be recorded on another record.
The government action plan lists a range of measures to be undertaken by the Department of Health where the details are rather vague in presentation but the measures appear to go towards encouraging greater NHS transparency and ensuring better access for transpeople including those sections from within the transpopulation who were excluded in the past.
“Take active measures to ensure that the views of transgender users shape the Government's Care
and Support White Paper and create a care market that is more responsive to diverse needs.”
On a personal level, I have noticed there appears to be less gendered categorisation on patient forms in some NHS departments although some forms still retain this classification even when the specific healthcare issue does not require reference to the patient’s biological sex. Following a pelvic injury with ongoing complications I have had my own healthcare issues this year and as a result have had more contact with healthcare service providers than at any time since my transition and I’ve noticed a discernable improvement in that the medical professionals and front line staff are generally sensitive and respectful when I tell them I am non-gendered. There appears to be a level of awareness – and appreciation – of the issue that was absent in the past.
At the same time I still await confirmation from the Primary Care Trust that an inappropriate gendered reference has been removed from my medical record.
Employment – lack of access to employment due to discrimination as experienced by a high percentage of transpeople across the spectrum. For non-gendered this is compounded by lack of legal recognition, social invisibility and a broad societal ignorance of the issue.
It is clear from the document the government intends from next year to instigate a series of positive measures aimed at helping transpeople to find work and remain in work. While not underestimating the challenges that lie ahead, this is extremely welcome news for all transpeople who have experienced rejection for a job application as soon as they arrive for an interview – it is fundamentally important the issue of employment and the attitude of employers towards transpeople is addressed because poverty due to employment inequalities lies at the heart of many other areas where transpeople are subject to discrimination and disadvantage. The problem of poverty can only be addressed through ensuring that transpeople have access to salaried jobs.
Again the presentation in the plan document is vague on detail and I am interested to know more about the “bespoke” support referred in the foreword for this section. Some measures under Section 2: ‘A fair and flexible labour market’ cover state pensions – while not unimportant and I recognise this is a major issue for some gendered transpeople who are fortunate to be in work, it is not of much use to the many who cannot find employment at all and this is furthermore part of a wider government strategy to equalise the national retirement age.
Employment really does represent the major challenge for the government because it is workplace discrimination and negative employer attitudes towards transpeople that keep many transpeople out of the workplace. The battle for hearts and minds can only be addressed through the carrot and stick approach. The carrot being the positive presentation of transpeople, not just in the media but as part of government initiatives to establish a dialogue between employers and transpeople – possibly the facilitation of meetings where transpeople can explain to representatives of blue chip companies how it is possible to be trans and make a positive contribution among other things. The stick element involves acting upon existing legislation that prevents discrimination against transpeople. The legislation however needs to be amended as it should be specifically stated that all transpeople including non-gendered transpeople are protected under the legislation – otherwise the situation of non-gendered remains unclear. When an employer acts in a way that is in breach of the law, there needs to be an adequate mechanism where the victim of employer discrimination can seek redress.
I have urged that supportive measures to help transpeople find and retain work are targeted towards all transpeople of working age and not just the young who have time on their side. Many older transpeople have already experienced years running into decades of discrimination, sometimes leading to long term unemployment, and their situation also needs to be addressed. An employment history that appears poor and erratic on paper and a lack of references are further barriers for many transpeople and consideration needs to be given by employment providers as to the circumstances rather than blame the victim and compound their problem.
For non-gendered transpeople, it is only through visibility that we will not be forced to either deny our identity or feel the need to explain the issue to a prospective employer (or an existing one).
Non gender-specific public bathroom facilities
My suggestion as made to the government in order to resolve the problem experienced by non-gendered people (also experienced by gendered transpeople who avoid public facilities through fear of hostility from other users) is there needs to be a fundamental change to the standard accepted design model, moving from gender segregated communal facilities to a single unit design model that can be used by all.
This design would consist of non gender-specific standard sized cubicles with washbasin and dryer inside the cubicle rather than in a communal area. A smaller version of the model currently provided for disabled access (note: the disabled access facility is symbolised with a wheelchair and the common belief is these cubicles are reserved for disabled users – the legal position is that the chair symbolises the facility is accessible for wheelchair users but the facility can be used by everyone however this legal right is not publicised. I personally feel rather uncomfortable using a facility that is assumed as provided for disabled use only – and I feel that maximum provision should be given to disabled users and that it is not right that provision for able bodied transpeople is made at the expense of disabled people – the issues are separate and provision should be in accordance to needs. Therefore a non gender-specific single unit design model comprising standard size cubicles along the lines I have suggested is the best and the fairest option in order to resolve this problem).
Unsurprisingly this item was not incorporated into the action plan. The feedback from the government representatives earlier in the year indicated that bathroom provision could not be addressed in any way within the immediacy due to cost and logistics.
I had known when I raised public bathroom provision as an issue there would be minimal chance of getting this item into the action plan at this particular moment in time – but I maintain on the basis that we all need to use such facilities at some point when out of our respective homes – that equality of access to public bathroom facilities is something to be aimed for and I will continue to raise.
This is a start.
For non-gendered transpeople in the United Kingdom the action plan is the first evident sign that the governing authorities here can actually acknowledge our existence.
I did not manage to get all the items on my critical list into the plan and did not expect to.
But it is a start and it is encouraging. And I will keep pushing for the items that were not addressed this time around and I will work to ensure that non-gendered issues are not discarded when it comes to implementation for the items that have made it into the plan despite the odds.
Towards the end of last year – shortly after learning about the forthcoming government action plan – I wrote an entry that was reflective and more personal than usual
To live with hope and dare not feel – A moment of reflection http://elancane.livejournal.com/4760.html
I knew what I wanted and that this was the first and the best chance I would have to be involved in the process of change. I was afraid the reality of any outcome would inevitably disappoint but could not let go of the idea that – whatever the outcome – the fight for non-gendered equality must continue.
Meanwhile – over the rainbow – we can find the land of Oz
1st SGD Human Rights and Dignity Conference –Australasia. 2011 – For those unable to attend, further consultation remains open until 31 December 2011.
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered.
Copyright ©2011 Christie Elan-Cane
All rights reserved.