Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
HM PASSPORT OFFICE ‘REVIEW’ OF PROPOSALS FOR ‘X’ PASSPORTS – THE FACTS
The UK government’s recent failure to properly address the issue of non gender-specific identity documents has left people such as myself who do not define as male or female in a state of limbo where we are without proper rights of citizenship unless prepared to accept inappropriate gendered classification. In this instance a ‘review’ of passport policy that turned out to be a sham where proposals for non gender-specific ‘X’ passports were not really considered at all.
HM Passport Office has just published its annual report and accounts for the year 2012/13 (under former name IPS). I looked through the document and found no evidence at all that a review had been conducted. While there might be an explanation for omission, such as that no proper review actually took place, I did however find a page relating to Equality and Diversity on Page 15:
“Equality and Diversity
We are committed to promoting and achieving equality, fairness and respect in engaging with the
diverse society that we represent.
The Equality and Diversity Strategic Centre in the Home Office provides expert advice and a
strategic steer on our legal requirements and duties under the Equality Act (2010) and in support
of our diversity commitments in the Agency’s Equality and Diversity Action Plan, which follows the
five objectives of the Home Office Diversity Strategy 2012-13:
1. Managers at all levels demonstrate effective leadership on equality and diversity.
2. Potential of under-represented groups developed to create a representative workforce at all levels.
3. An inclusive working environment where staff respect and value each other’s diversity.
4. Effective Home Office implementation of statutory obligations on equality and diversity.
5. Services delivered in a way that promote equality and respect diversity.”
From the evidence contained in the agency’s annual report, it is apparent the extent of any ‘review’ on policy concerning ‘X’ passports was based entirely upon whether there was a statutory duty under the Equality Act 2010 rather than on commitment to delivering on the trans* equality action plan (ie. could they get away with doing nothing?). IPS took advice from the Home Office regarding the legal position on the issue of ‘X’ passports and whether or not there was a statutory duty to provide for people who do not define as male or female. As non-gendered, bi-gendered, intersex identified people, basically anyone who does not define as ‘M’ or ‘F’ are excluded from protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore no statutory requirement, IPS were able to get away with brushing the issue of ‘X’ passports aside and still claim to have met its statutory obligations (see objective no. 4 above) despite evidently failing to honour objective no. 5.
And what of former IPS Chief Executive Sarah Rapson (whose high handed and facetious response to a letter from my parliamentary representative revealed an astounding lack of knowledge of domestic law for someone in such a senior position)? She has joined the ranks at the Home Office in a newly created executive role. In the meantime I am still awaiting the apology I am owed and have demanded after her casual and highly inappropriate use of gendered pronouns in reference to me throughout the letter.
Better news is that Paul Pugh, Interim Chief Executive at HM Passport Office, has agreed to meet with my parliamentary representative Simon Hughes and myself. The meeting is due to take place in early September.
I do not accept the negative outcome and will continue to challenge through every channel available to me until ‘X’ passports are made available to people who desperately need non gender-specific documentation that affirms rather than misrepresents the identity.
Further, it is time to end legalised discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 discriminates in accordance to who is and who is not protected within the protected character relative to trans*. It is inconceivable that other protected categories, such as race, religion or disability, would be subject to discrimination that resulted in some sections within the category protected while others were excluded. Why is it somehow acceptable that the protected character in accordance to trans* is different and that some trans* do not also deserve protection?
Government commitment turns to shameful failure
While the former IPS was never in favour of the introduction of ‘X’ passports in the UK – and senior civil servants from within the organisation were able to get away with ignoring the issue for several years under the previous governing administration – following the 2010 general election that brought about an extremely welcome change of government, the passport authority was tasked with conducting a review as part of the trans* equality action plan. At the point the action plan was being developed, there were people within the coalition government who were genuinely supportive towards the need for non gender-specific identity documentation while there were others for whom, I suspect, did not fully appreciate what they had actually signed up for and committed the government to do. As an addendum to a wider LGB&T initiative, the public launch of the trans* equality action plan went almost unnoticed. As the government forged ahead in relentless pursuit of the pink (ie. LGB) vote, trans* issues quickly faded into the background where commitments could be quietly dropped. All it took was a government reshuffle that saw the outbound redeployment of a minister who had been pivotal in the advancement of trans* issues and the ‘putting in’ of a team of ministers with no interest in trans* issues and making them responsible for delivery on an action plan for which they had no input. Further reshuffling saw the exit of senior civil servants who were extremely supportive and the whole line of accountability blurred through moving the equalities portfolio away from the Home Office to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport while individual actions rested with different government departments (in the case of ‘X’ passports, this remained with the Home Office as HM Passport Office is an executive agency of the Home Office). While representatives of the government will continue to opine there was no deliberate attempt to scupper what some would perceive to be a controversial commitment made by the coalition government under the trans* equality action plan, it certainly does not take a genius to work out this was a calculated, cynical and very deliberate failure to address the needs of people who remain invisible within a gendered societal structure.
My two petitions will remain active online for foreseeable future:
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered
Copyright ©2013 Christie Elan-Cane
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