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CHRISTIE ELAN-CANE

NON-GENDERED

Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the societal gender system

It’s been some time since I posted an entry on this site. It would be good for me to have been able to report firm evidence of real and perceptible progress resulting from various proposals that have been put forward in effort to reach the first rung on the ladder and achieve that very first step towards social equality – a legal requirement for the provision of a non gender-specific box in the sex/gender field on forms of application and registration - but unfortunately there is nothing to get excited about at the moment.

While still waiting for news from Australia – the pessimistic side of my nature tells me the Australian Federal Government will resist the recommendation from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that a non gender-specific option be provided on government forms and official records – we nonetheless have to hope the bold initiative of the AHRC will be replicated around the world until, finally, those in authority within the gendered societal structure start to listen.

In my last posting I said that I would be writing a formal letter to Trevor Phillips, head of Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in the UK. This letter was sent some months ago and was ignored and then followed up with an email to EHRC general enquiries address (same address where I had already sent several unanswered emails). To cut long story short, I unwittingly ended up as a complainant in their ‘complaints procedure’ and my complaint was upheld!

From more recent correspondence with them, I understand that EHRC policy on “transgender issues” does cover all groups that come under what they admit is an umbrella term and this includes those who do not identify as male or female. So far so good, or better than before anyway. Remember, previous correspondence from EHRC dating from 2007 alluded to the fact that non-gendered people are not a recognised group, and therefore the non-gendered are not legally entitled to protection from discrimination.

But I have yet to see any evidence of this transformative acknowledgement of our existence progressed into real activity on our behalf. There was no reference of the issue, for instance, on EHRC submission in consultation for the Equality Bill.

I now have a contact within EHRC with whom I hope to have a meeting scheduled shortly and I noted some vague reference on EHRC website of existence of human beings who do not identify as male or female – but what we need and want now is action. I have suggested to EHRC that a similar move as has already taken place in Australia is necessary.

That dialogue has now been established with EHRC, I am feeling more positive and I want to give the organisation the benefit of the doubt – but let’s see what happens next.

I have no further news concerning much awaited proposed parliamentary presentation at Westminster.


Caster Semenya - and wider debate over gendered societal structure

I have been following the ‘story’ surrounding the pitiful exploitation of Caster Semenya over the past few months and unsurprisingly found most of the initial coverage put forward by the media to be trite, ignorant of the facts and downright offensive to everyone with a personal interest in an issue that the gendered majority regard as taboo and would like to keep hidden and that had somehow exploded into mainstream consciousness.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) were due to announce the result of the “gender verification tests” and seal Caster Semenya’s fate on 20 November but, in typical gutless fashion, they have failed to do so and demanded more time. In the meantime Caster Semenya has emerged as the only person to retain a single shred of dignity in this sad affair.

I have had plenty to say concerning the matter and I have written and criticised the reporting of various media coverage where necessary, but – and again entirely unsurprisingly – none of my letters were published! So here is a copy of blueprint of my letter sent to most of the ‘qualities’ in the UK at some point or more over recent weeks:

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Throughout the furore surrounding Caster Semenya's humiliating and public ordeal, The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have referred to the tests she was forced to undertake as "gender verification tests".

Caster Semenya was ordered to undergo tests to determine her biological sex and not her gendered role. Her gender identity (self perception) is obviously female and the two separate entities should not be confused.

If (as seems probable) the test results prove Ms Semenya's physicality is intersex in accordance with medical profession accepted criteria, she stands accused of unfair advantage over female competitors. Would those same critics also say she would have unfair disadvantage if running against male competitors or just that she had no right to compete in competitive sport at all? It appears to me that Caster Semenya can win gold medals yet cannot win in this situation due to inability to conform within the gendered societal structure.

All human existence lies within a biological continuum between male and female and there are thousands of known variations, rather than the socially accepted but false perception of 'normality' provided by the bi-polarised gendered societal structure. We are all intersex to a certain degree but this is more apparent in some people due to a combination of factors.

Ms Semenya does not possess the typical and idealised physique of a woman but neither does she have the physique of a man. From a central axis, my perception is that Caster Semenya is closer to a typical female ideal and it is right that she should be allowed to compete against women in her chosen profession which happens to be a sport that is gender-segregated, for where else is she to go? Is she supposed to give up her career and become invisible because her physicality does not fit the profile of either gendered stereotype?

And why was there no public outrage at the suggestion that the IAAF could decide that Caster Semenya must undergo unnecessary surgery before being allowed to compete as a woman in future athletic events? To be co-erced or bullied into submitting her healthy body to invasive surgical procedures under threat of banishment is a violation of her rights as a human being.

Note, I respectfully refer to Ms Semenya in the feminine because she identifies - and has presented herself to the world - as female, despite the debate going on around her. She was raised as a girl. Journalists have interviewed her family, and her birth certificate indicates she was classified as female for registration purposes. Ms Semenya has not indicated she feels psychologically anything other than female, therefore her gender is female whatever the outcome of the 'sex tests'.

The notion of gender is a societal construct based upon the flawed belief that society should be categorised into gendered roles of male and female.

The gendered societal structure is perceived as absolute whereas gender really represents nothing more than social categorisation dependant upon aspects of physicality at birth and what is stated on the birth certificate, rather than the innate core identity of the individual.

Whereas most people within the gendered majority can accept the gendered role (male or female) as appropriated to them, others (transsexuals) seek reassignment in order to align the body with the opposite gendered role with which they identify.

As Caster Semenya's painful predicament has demonstrated, the accepted social model of gendered classification represents collective failure to recognise the possibilities of human existence and validity of identities outside the gendered societal structure, thus condemning a socially invisible section within society to life on the margins.

A growing number of people - and I am proud to count myself among them - have rejected the gendered role misappropriated at birth and the misconception of the gendered status as absolute.

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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Finally, I want to mention a new online petition to No. 10. The aim of the petition is “to end the systematic erasure of those who do not exist within the artificial binary of male and female”.

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/notmaleorfemale/

I strongly urge everyone to spread the word, show your support and sign the petition now.

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

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Christie Elan-Cane
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