Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
HM Passport Office - sham ‘review’ report is published in HoC Library
At long last and after much prompting, HM Passport Office (HMPO) has published the findings from its thoroughly discredited ‘review’ of proposals for ‘X’ passports in the UK. The document is titled ‘GENDER MARKING IN PASSPORTS - INTERNAL REVIEW OF EXISTING ARRANGEMENTS AND POSSIBLE FUTURE OPTIONS’.
Of course, and as most people with a direct interest in the issue will know, there was no proper review and no serious consideration was ever given towards proposals in favour of ‘X’. This outcome report was inevitably going to be nothing more than a hastily cobbled together exercise in excuse making.
Having worked for many years to legitimize my identity, and specifically focusing on ‘X’ passports as a key element towards achieving this aim, my hopes were raised when I heard there was to be a review of existing discriminatory policy in the UK. To be honest, it always felt too good to be real. But the Australian government had recognised ‘X’ passports, New Zealand had been quietly issuing ‘X’ passports for some time. I had many concerns about the secrecy that surrounded the UK decision making process but my concerns were dismissed and I had no choice other than wait for an outcome that came reluctantly and several weeks after the ‘review’ period had ended. And the outcome was devastating to everyone who had waited – and hoped – for positive change as a sign that it was recognised by the governing authorities that we too are human beings with an equal right to be treated with dignity and respect.
I am thoroughly and totally bored with this – and desperate to move on – because there was no policy review despite commitments made by government to the trans* community under the trans* equality action plan and government announcements in the press at that time – and now the issue needs to be progressed through direct action working within a political process although questions certainly do need to be answered as to why HM government, having made a commitment to improve the lives of all trans* people, has subsequently gone to extraordinary lengths in its attempts to bury the issue.
I regard this outcome document as irrelevant and I am tempted to ignore it in order to move on but a response is required nonetheless: -
After setting out current discriminatory policy in the first section, the next section is titled ‘Calls for Change and Petition’.
After some digression where the report refers back to discussions surrounding the dismantling of the previous governing administration’s discredited ID card scheme – not actually part of this policy ‘review’ but effectively padding out the lack of content – the report states the following:
“We have sought to speak to key stakeholder groups and to relevant parts of Government (section 7). The fact that we are carrying out the work is welcome but there is little in the way of support to make changes that may as a matter of routine result in highlighting the status of the person.”
Highlighting that people who do not define as male or female are, in fact, recognised as neither male nor female is not exactly defeating the object and is precisely the point! HMPO claims there is little to support and ignores the desperate support that is there from people who would benefit from accurate non gender-specific documentation and ignores the opinions of many sympathisers from the UK and around the world.
“There are no outstanding applications in which the applicant has sought either change to the process of considering applications from transgendered people or of changing the passport itself with the gender marking.”
If I understand this correctly, there are currently no outstanding applications for ‘X’ passports. Of course there are not! Why should anyone state on an application they are applying for an ‘X’ passport when ‘X’ passports are not issued in this country? And it was stressed during a meeting with HMPO in September 2013, an application for a UK passport would be rejected if neither (or both) boxes are ticked. Unless the objective is simply to make a point, there is NO POINT in not declaring a gendered role when submitting an application for a UK passport no matter how distressing this is for the non-gendered or bi-gendered applicant.
“We remain open to suggestions for change but such a change would be on the basis that it was either required by law or that it provided additional benefits to the applicant. Choice is an important factor but we have received feedback that would suggest that enabling that choice may be more detrimental than beneficial.”
And here we are again, back to the fact that people who do not define as male or female are not protected under the discriminatory Equality Act 2010. There is no legal requirement to respond to the needs of this invisible section within society. HMPO would undoubtedly have sought reassurance from the Home Office on this matter and the consensus would have been there is no legal obligation and therefore it is ‘safe’ for the organisation to do nothing.
Again HMPO public servants are patronising as they tell us that they know better than we as to what is done against us is for our own good. It is apparently of no benefit, indeed detrimental to the wellbeing of those who desperately need ‘X’ passports that we should actually get to have them.
The report then goes on to describe my campaign in rather misleading terms. For the record, I have never and at no time contacted HMPO, its predecessor or anyone else for that matter about “recognition of the ability to choose both gender and not to be required to disclose gender”.
The “other ministries” to which the report refers is, I assume, the Home Office which, along with “No 10” were approached some months after ‘review’ period had ended rather than during – furthering towards an obvious conclusion this document was concocted some time after the sham ‘review’ period had ended rather than a genuine report of findings.
In the midst of that, the document notes “There are no calls for change from gender representative groups or civil liberties groups”. Well there should have been calls for change from such groups and shame on them for their ignorance and their apathy!!!!
Then HMPO helpfully refers to my petition with inclusion of a direct link
This is followed by a flow chart on the passport application process that could have been constructed by a five year old – attempting to justify HM government’s stance on maintaining gender as a requirement while ignoring relevant data factors such as name, nationality and date of birth.
After that comes the section covering legislation – and highlighting concerns that provision would have to be made in other areas if HMPO were to recognise the legitimacy of identity other than gendered identities male and female.
“Therefore, what may appear to be a simple and inclusive change to passports could have wider reaching consequences”
Yes, there it is, the government would be forced to consider the wider needs of a socially invisible and ignored group and would have to recognise that this section of society are no less ‘deserving’ than the rest of the population and therefore we are entitled to legal protection and civil ‘rights’.
There is a reference alluding that those affected by this issue are not covered under the discriminatory Equality Act 2010 and HMPO are obviously not aware of my other petition because they fail to provide a link http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/legal-protection-for-all-trans-and-intersex-in-the-uk.html.
Next section covers ‘Options’ although, again it is clear that no options other than Option 1 (Do nothing) were considered at all throughout, before and after the sham ‘review’ process.
While Option 4 (remove the ‘sex’ category altogether) is appealing for some and I understand the reasons for this, my preference is there should be a clear and definable non gender-specific option because removal of the sex category does not get to the core issue, which is lack of social visibility for those who do not and cannot define their identity as male or female. And, as the report indicates, the international standard defined by the ICAO requires a character indicator for a mandatory ‘sex’ category. ‘X’ is the ICAO’s permitted non gender-specific character.
For Option 5 (to add ‘X’) the public servants at HMPO have really overstretched and thrown everything possible into the ring to use against proposals for ‘X’. From treating people who require ‘X’ as imbeciles who would get an ‘X’ passport and then undoubtedly jump straight on a plane heading towards a known hostile territory and require rescuing by representatives of HM government, to suggesting that identifying a person who does not define as male or female in the appropriate way that person wants to be perceived is somehow going against that person’s human rights! Taking in that problems might occur if some gendered people might want to acquire an ‘X’ passport for themselves (well, cry me a river) and, of course, that a change of policy would cost money. And HM government does not believe people who do not define as male or female are worth state expenditure.
The following section is devoted entirely to cost and is completely devoid of evidence or credibility – summarising that approximately £1million would need to be spent on paper application forms and same again for online systems and that comes to - £2million – yes, someone at HMPO can count!!!
If anyone is still reading this, the final section seven covers input to the ‘review’ process from stakeholders. The publication of this section is the reason why it took HMPO several months, or so I was informed, to publish this document because stakeholder permission needed to be obtained before their comments could be published. So who were the stakeholders? Aside from communications where HMPO sought feedback from other nations and from the ICAO (and I would not describe other countries and the ICAO as ‘stakeholders’ ), there were just three representations. Out of three stakeholders who submitted evidence, two were in favour of ‘X’ passports being issued to people who need appropriate non gender-specific documentation and one was against.
The one stakeholder opting against changing current discriminatory policy was a trans* government employee at the time of ‘review’ period, whose name HMPO has confused with that of Sarah Rapson (Chief Executive of former IPS during sham ‘review’ period). This person (who I am very tempted to name and shame but will not due to concerns about possible legal ramifications) admitted “The inclusion of a third gender marker has merit for those transgender people who are bi-gendered or non-gendered.....” but ultimately did not support non-gendered and bi-gendered people’s legitimate need for appropriate documentation or the ‘rights’ of citizenship that she, herself, enjoys.
The next stakeholder was me, where none of the contents of evidence presented in the form of letters and documentation to the organisation were referenced at all, but HMPO have instead printed out my petition in its entirety as ‘evidence’ - and my permission to reproduce it was not sought although I am now giving HMPO my retrospective permission and will not pursue this as a breach of confidence. No reference to the link this time – so, here it is again and a reminder to anyone who has not signed or distributed to each and every person they know http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/in-support-of-‘x’-passports-in-the-united-kingdom.html
What was noted with concern is that none of the people, including many readers of this site, who responded to calls for action throughout this period and made the effort to write to the former IPS with their views were even given a mention in this document.
The final stakeholder is GIRES, again, submitting evidence that supported proposals for ‘X’ passports. I am aware that HMPO public servants had attempted to strike all positive reference of ‘X’ passports and the situation of those who need them from GIRES’ published evidence, however my good friend, a trustee of the organisation, did not let HMPO get away with it hence the clumsily added on Annex at the end of the document. The Annex contains the section of GIRES’ statement that HMPO had tried to withhold from public scrutiny.
HMPO lists some of those countries that permit ‘X’ as a legitimate option for their own citizens (list contains some countries whose policies I am not familiar with – will have to look into Argentina and Malta – the former has a unique and enlightened policy on trans* but not sure of the position in regards to ‘X’ passports). HMPO refers to the small number of ‘X’ passports issued in Australia where the inclusive policy has been in place less than three years (although I doubt the low figure of 11 ‘X’ passports issued to date is correct) and HMPO ignores the fact that New Zealand has approximately 400 ‘X’ passports in current use (NZ Dept. of Internal Affairs, 2007). Again, HMPO manages to be offensive to people who desperately require documentation that affirms rather than misrepresents the identity while pretending to be looking after our own best interests.
In this brief synopsis, I might have missed something but nothing of substance or relevance to miss. An excuse of a report, hastily contrived to try to disguise a sham ‘review’. HMPO all over the place. Full of holes. Full of shit. Not prepared to spend any more time on it right now. If anyone would like a copy, write to me at Christie.Elan-Cane@ukgateway.net. Certain rules apply about disclosure from a Crown Copyrighted document, therefore be careful when blogging – and ensure that quotes are properly referenced and attributed.
A reminder of HM Passport Office ‘Equality and Diversity’ statement:
“We're committed to promoting equality, fairness and respect. Our customers can expect to be treated in a manner that promotes understanding, dignity and respect.
· recognise the diverse needs of our customers in the development, access and provision of our services
· monitor and evaluate services to ensure that they do not unfairly discriminate against particular groups
· treat all our customers, partners and staff with dignity and respect”
Early Day Motion (EDM) 907 now has 29 MP signatures. Many thanks to Julian Huppert and to all Members who have lent their support and to everyone who is writing, blogging and generally cajoling their MP to sign the motion http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/907
More news on the way - keep watching this space!
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The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered