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May. 18th, 2012

CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE

NON-GENDERED

Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure

The United Kingdom coalition government’s Equal Civil Marriage Consultation is preliminary in extending to same sex couples the legal right to marry and the privileges associated with civil marriage.

Behind the proposals lies the suggestion that the laws that govern civil marriage should become “gender-neutral” – a term that implies legal provision in order that all couples – all adult people – can enter into a civil marriage. In other words, ‘Equality for All’.

But this will not necessarily be the case.

The fact that something is classified as “gender neutral” will not make any difference to persons of non-gendered identity if the accompanying legislation is drafted using gendered terms and references. Referencing the terms ‘same sex’ and ‘opposite sex’ could also prove problematic to those who cannot define the core identity in accordance to procreation. And there remains the requirement for couples entering into civil marriage to produce documentary proof of identity – not a problem for most people but the requirement for identity documentation represents a barrier to those who cannot possibly obtain documentation that does not grossly misrepresent the identity. All the accepted items of personal identity documentation contain gendered references, either explicitly or in a coded format.

Until quite recently, the concept of my partner and I being able to register our relationship (either through civil marriage or civil partnership) was so far off the radar that I rarely raised the subject, preferring to concentrate instead on what I felt was ‘achievable’. Now this, along with so much else, has completely changed and it would appear that with determination anything is possible. And we should have the same fundamental right to marry as everybody else. Why should any couple be denied the right to register a relationship and access the benefits associated with a legally recognised commitment because either one person or both people in the relationship do not enjoy the privilege of socially legitimate identity within the gendered societal structure?

Of course it is technically possible for us to register our relationship but the act of doing would require unacceptable compromise due to the requirement for couples entering into civil marriage or civil partnership to provide proof of (gendered) identity. Compromise is NOT equality. The denial of the core identity is a compromise that no one should be expected to make.

I have for some time campaigned for the removal of inappropriate gendered references on essential documentation, and directly challenged the Identity and Passport Service to end the discriminatory policy that forces inappropriate gendered classification on non-gendered people.

There is provision in the ICAO specification for Machine Readable Travel Documents for a third “unspecified” category indicated with ‘X’ http://www.icao.int/Security/mrtd/Pages/Document9303.aspx

There are precedents – and Australia is the latest in a small but growing number of countries that have revised policy on non gender-specific passports and where it is possible to obtain an ‘X’ passport https://www.passports.gov.au/web/sexgenderapplicants.aspx

The IPS are currently undertaking a policy “review” which is due to last until next February. In the meantime, non-gendered people in the UK remain unable to obtain an essential personal identification document that does not misrepresent the core identity. The implications are fundamental in that the passport is now more often used as an all-purpose personal identification document with a much wider remit than its origination as a travel document. While forced to wait for the outcome of the IPS policy review (and with no certainty or guarantee of a satisfactory outcome), those who cannot identify within the gendered societal structure remain in a legal and social limbo where we are denied the ‘right’ of legitimate identity and denied the privileges associated with social legitimacy that others can take for granted (such as obtaining personal identity documentation that should enable civil marriage without compromise).

“...... it’s not right that a couple who love each other and want to formalise a commitment to each other should be denied the right to marry.

That is why we are, today, launching this consultation” (Equal Civil Marriage Consultation, Ministerial Foreword)

The Equal Civil Marriage Consultation document does not reference in any way the position of non-gendered, bi-gendered or intersex identified people within the United Kingdom. In the present format, the government consultation offers no suggestion the interests of any of these groups will be considered when legislation is passed to enable same sex couples to enter into civil marriage.

While this omission is possibly due to oversight (in that the needs of the socially invisible can very easily be overlooked and ignored), one must never forget the consequences of the inauguration of the highly discriminatory Gender Recognition Act (2004) which failed so many transpeople and in many respects made the legal position worse for those who fell outside its narrow remit who were effectively left behind.

Therefore I urge that the government ensure that proposals and measures are inclusive and that equality of access to civil marriage is indeed extended to ALL COUPLES within the United Kingdom.

Further, I ask that in response to the consultation the government are reminded that no one should be excluded from the legal right to marry as a consequence of non-conformity within the gendered societal structure http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage/ The consultation closes 14 June 2012.

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

Copyright ©2012 Christie Elan-Cane

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