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Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the societal gender system


While progress towards legal reform continues at a painfully slow pace here in the United Kingdom, I would like to mention a truly groundbreaking initiative that recently took place in Australia.




This concluding paper of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s sex and gender diversity project was launched on Tuesday 17 March 2009 at Parliament House in Canberra.


Among the 15 recommendations contained in this report and presented for consideration to the Australian federal government is that provision should and must be made for Australian citizens whose identity is other than male or female. The report recommends introduction of a gender unspecified assignation on passports and all items of personal identification documentation issued by government departments for gender diverse citizens who do not identify as male or female.


Read the full report: http://humanrights.gov.au/genderdiversity/sex_files2009.html


I was impressed not just with the boldness of the recommendations made by the Australian HRC but also the non-judgemental attitude where there is clearly a firm belief that legal recognition within ones true identity is a fundamental human rights issue even when the core identity of the individual is outside the gendered societal structure.


The language used in the report indicated a movement away from the usual language of pathologisation and medicalisation so often heard in the United Kingdom when government authority figures and other official bodies get together to discuss how to progress human rights issues for transpeople.


In his presentational speech at the launch Graeme Innes, Australian Human Rights Commissioner, was completely respectful towards the citizens who would benefit if the Australian federal government decide to adopt the recommendations contained in the report.


I want to congratulate the Australian HRC for their foresight and courage in compiling and presenting this report and I want to extend my thanks to all those activists and campaigners in Australia whose tireless work has brought us to this point.

And now to the UK: -


For me to refer to our own representative body, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as an equivalent of the Australian HRC (or vice versa) would be doing the Australian HRC a great disservice. The organisation is simply not interested in this issue (or indeed any trans-related issues from what I can gather). Furthermore it is not EHRC policy to become involved with human rights issues in cases where the individual or group whose rights are being breached do not already enjoy the benefit of statutory legal protection from discrimination!


As it is also “not EHRC policy to provide names” of staff members with direct responsibility for certain areas within their official remit, I intend to write a formal letter to Trevor Phillips, chair of this publicly funded body and I will report the outcome on these pages. But, as EHRC has chosen to ignore all my emails to date, my expectation of a positive response (or any response) from them now is frankly and pragmatically very low.


However, thanks to our friends in Australia, the issue cannot be ignored by governing administrations and official bodies within European countries for much longer.



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




Christie Elan-Cane

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