Christie Elan-Cane (elancane) wrote,
Christie Elan-Cane

Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure


A particularly nasty letter has emerged that aims to settle once and for all the issue of non gender-specific documentation and quash the voices of those who call for recognition based upon a principle of legitimate identity as a fundamental human right.

This letter from new Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire (Conservative: Old Bexley and Sidcup) was written in response to a representation in support of ‘X’ passports.

While mostly a standard repetition of the same drafted rhetoric that first manifested in a letter signed by Sarah Rapson, former Chief Executive of the passport agency, entirely dismissive of the need for ‘X’ passports and negating the wishes of those who want appropriate identity documentation without inappropriate gendered references, this government rhetoric is repeated pretty much verbatim by ministers from the Home Office and DCMS in response to any Member of Parliament who tries to raise ‘X’ passports as a legitimate issue and is repeated over and again by HM Passport Office (HMPO) as a standard rebuttal response in its dealings with communications from members of the public. But this letter goes further, providing an insight into how the government perceives ‘X’ passports and those who require them, with an additional paragraph....

We recognise that a very small number of people consider themselves as being of neither gender. We are not aware that this results in any specific detriment, and it is not Government policy to issue documents identifying such people as non-gendered. If any protection for them is required, the Equality Act protects people from discrimination if this arises from a perception of them being either male or female.

Ignorant and arrogant – intended to firmly dispel any remaining doubt that this particular Tory led coalition government does not believe in non-gendered identity as a legitimate issue and that government has no interest in the welfare of human beings who are condemned to social invisibility and a life on the margins due to discriminatory laws and policies that negate our existence.

So now all the gloves are well and truly off – in the aftermath of government embarrassment at having been thoroughly caught out over the former Identity and Passport Service (IPS) conducting a fake ‘review’ of proposals for ‘X’ passports in the UK in response to an action point within the government’s now discredited trans* equality action plan, and that subsequently saw the government going to extraordinary lengths in its attempt to bury the issue entirely. The hammer inevitably fell on the not-quite-so-nasty-but-not-so-bright Mark Harper, hapless former Immigration Minister at the Home Office, who agreed to publish the findings of the IPS ‘review’ in the Parliament Library in response to a WPQ from the Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP in what was almost certainly an unguarded moment. His ministerial resignation was accepted four days after the Deposited Paper was placed in the Library with gaffes for all to see.

Enter James Brokenshire, new Minister of State for Security and Immigration (note that reference to security in the title in order to give extra gravitas to the ministerial role – as the government’s ongoing defence against amending current discriminatory policy is that ‘X’ passports would somehow pose an unacceptable risk to the security of the country). Here is a man who, judging from the content of the letter he has signed off, makes clear the government view is that people whose lives are ruined by lack of recognition and social marginalization are of no consequence to the rest of society. We now have a tough-talking-no-nonsense-straight-down-the-line-mean-government-machine-no-illegals-in-my-closet kind of minister at the helm with a brief to kill the issue of ‘X’ passports stone dead. Am I worried? I might have been if I could take him seriously but this really is a case of dumb replaced by dumber – he really should have checked what he was signing off on as much has already been disproved.

With a background in the legal profession James Brokenshire appears to have an astonishing ignorance of the law, the same ignorance that was evident in the letter signed off by former IPS Chief Sarah Rapson (which, it came to light, was actually written by a senior civil servant at IPS). It was established from the outset during the development of trans* equality action plan that there are no requirements for any changes to Primary legislation in order to provision ‘X’ passports. This was subsequently confirmed by current HM Passport Office Chief Executive Paul Pugh in response to questioning by Simon Hughes during a meeting where I was present. And yet this letter, from the new Immigration Minister, repeats the same assertion to the contrary along with repetition of all the standard quoted misinformation.

It is unfortunate there are many unqualified parliamentarians in high office that can be called upon to make statements and sign off on issues they know nothing about and care even less. There is always reference to the perception this issue affects a very small (read ‘insignificant’) group of people when the rejection of ‘X’ passports has nothing at all to do with numbers – first of all, the government are aware the number of people who openly define as neither male nor female represents less than the tip of an iceberg given that people are forced to remain socially invisible and secondly, legitimate identity is a human rights issue and provision should not be dependent upon numbers (the Australian authorities made provision for one person in January 2003, eight years before ‘X’ passports were drafted into national policy) and, one more thing, as part of its much promoted but thoroughly contemptible ‘Equalities’ initiative this government tweaked with the law governing succession to the throne in order to change established policy going back hundreds of years, a gesture with absolute minimal relevance to most people and where the number of current and future beneficiaries to this legislative change are miniscule. The same government is consistently refusing to make provision for people who do not define as male or female because it does not see us as a part of society and believes we are not worth the bother. And, going back to the previous paragraph, provision for ‘X’ passports requires administrative amendments and not changes to primary legislation.

In this instance, I did some brief research into James Brokenshire and would place him right there in that unqualified category. He is a man who comes across as a cog in the wheel in every respect, a suit, a former grammar school boy from Essex and now a parliamentary glove puppet with a background in company law and corporate finance, who had a stint in the shadow cabinet (on Crime, naturally) before ending up on the winning side and going on to be a Home Office minister respectively covering Crime Prevention and then Security with a remit that included the overseeing of counter terrorism activities before being promoted to his current role.

How the hell did ‘X’ passports shift from being a potentially controversial (if mishandled by government) but basically innocuous and inconsequential action point buried deep and cryptically within the government’s now discredited trans* equality action plan to becoming an issue that landed on the table of the minister with responsibility for crime and counter terrorism?????

I take this opportunity to remind all that, during more than 20 years of work to raise awareness of identity outside the gendered societal structure in order that I, and others in my position, might one day have what others can take for granted, I have received a lot of supportive encouragement along the way from people who do ‘get’ what I am doing and why this work needs to be done by someone. I have people onside who would generally be described as ‘intelligent’ thinkers and included among their ranks are many of the more enlightened politicians, academics within various disciplines, scientific observers etc. Those who support the principle of legitimate identity as a fundamental human right understand the reality of the situation and that the issue needs to be addressed by the government. It is beyond sufferance that a relatively small group of people who have power without intelligence can stand in the way and prevent the issues I am raising being taken forward and can have the impact of rendering those in my position socially invisible non persons within society and over and above all – they really just do not care!!!

With the government firmly believing that people who do not define as male or female should be condemned to a socially invisible existence and denied the rights that others can take for granted, this same government is also ready to self-congratulate and take credit for the advancements of LGB issues during its term in office that even manifested in a kind of evolving communal self-outing process during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

I am reminded how many of those in government now singing they are so glad to be gay actually voted in favour of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, a deeply unpleasant piece of legislation that prohibited local authorities in England and Wales from "promoting" homosexuality and labelled gay family relationships as "pretend". I raise this to note the hypocrisy and the moral cowardice apparent within a government who, pandering to the bigotry that exists within the mainstream of society, are vehemently ignoring the case for ‘X’ passports and ignoring the desperate situation of people who have no stake in society while at the same time they are claiming to be champions of equality.

As an afterthought, is it not totally inconceivable that history might repeat and the transphobic rulers of  today might one day look altogether different when it is ‘safe’ to do so (ie when other people have taken the risks)?  Yes, I suspect there are some deeply closeted and self-loathing trans* within their midst. James Brokenshire might like to think on that!

If anyone who is affected by this issue is residing in the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup, I would like you to get in touch with me

My response in the aftermath of sham ‘review’:
Meeting with HM Passport Office:
‘Review’ outcome published as Deposited Paper in Parliament Library:
My response to ‘review’ document:

Petition: ‘In support of ‘X’ passports in the United Kingdom’‘x’-passports-in-the-united-kingdom.html

Petition will remain active until ‘X’ passports are available in the UK to all who need non gender-specific documentation. Has now reached one thousand signatures  - at last!!!!

Petition: ‘Legal protection for all trans* and intersex in the UK’

Petition will remain online until the discriminatory Equality Act 2010 is amended and affords equal protection from discrimination for all trans* and intersex people.

Please keep circulating the petitions and let the government be made aware there are many people who are affected by these issues and many more who disagree with current discriminatory laws and policies that are ruining lives.


I have been working hard to raise the signature count on Early Day Motion (EDM) 907, through a series of meetings with parliamentary representatives and sending out phenomenal volumes of emails. I have received undertakings of signatures from Members who have yet to sign (although not sure why they cannot sign right now) and many supporters have responded enthusiastically to the call to contact their local MPs which I am optimistic will bring in more Member signatures.

We need at least 100 Member signatures to stand any chance of a floor debate. 100 signatures deos not guarantee a debate but would certainly raise the profile of the issue.

Ministers and certain MPs with committee responsibilities cannot sign EDMs due to protocol, and some MPs choose not to sign EDMs which is not helpful when there are very limited resources available to highlight issues that do not enjoy widespread public support.

This leaves over 300 Members who are eligible to sign and not averse to the principle of EDMs. It should be possible, with considerable effort from all sides, to move towards the 100 figure.

EDM 907 text and signatures:

To everyone whose local parliamentary representative is not listed as a signatory, I urge you to contact your MP and request their support for this issue.

As the current Parliament session ends within a few weeks, I am informed Julian Huppert’s EDM will be re-tabled in the next session although, as a new EDM, this means that all existing signatures are rendered void and will need to be collected again. It is therefore imperative to ensure the ongoing support of our parliamentary representatives.

I want to extend my sincere thanks to all Members who have signed EDM 907 so far and trust that your support for this important issue will continue into the next session.

Communications with HM Passport Office and your local MP

I am interested  to know just how many enquiries the governing authorities are receiving from members of the public on the need for ‘X’ passports and how many times the response is repeated that this issue affects a small or ‘insignificant’ number of people.

I am asking everyone who has a written response from their local parliamentary representative on this issue and any written communications from HM Passport Office to send a copy to me at:

There is a purpose to this exercise and I thank you in advance for your co-operation.


It really did not have to be like this. With no requirement for legislative change, the government could have waved through ‘X’ passports with utmost discretion while the bigots’ attention was focused on ‘gay marriage’. It would probably have taken several months before anyone even noticed and by that time no one would have cared. This is, after all, an administrative change that would have no negative impact on the rest of society while significantly enhancing the lives of everybody who desperately needs proof of identification documentation without inappropriate gendered references in that we would, at long last, finally have documented evidence lending credibility to our right to legitimate identity.

New Zealand adopted this inclusive policy over 20 years ago and the country did not fall apart. The Australian passport authorities do not report any problems with ‘X’ passports in the two and a half years the policy has been in place (a fact that HM Passport Office seeks to undermine). The UK government could – and should – have recognised this as an important human rights issue and done the decent thing. It would have been so easy, comparatively speaking, but the Tory led UK coalition government just had to do things the hard way.......

‘X’ passports WILL happen for the UK eventually – the government machine and the cogs in its wheels can deride and negate the lives of those who they are denying legitimate identity but this issue will not go away.


More positive is that I have had the opportunity recently to engage with more MPs and there is certainly a growing awareness of the issue and indeed support from within the ranks of parliament, if not from government, as evident from the list of signatories to EDM 907

I am also pleased to report the internationally renowned law firm Clifford Chance are providing me with pro bono support and legal advice which should prove invaluable in the future.


In my work I have necessarily tended to focus upon the impacts of social invisibility from the perspective of the victim. What is often overlooked is the negative impact on those closest to that person whose own lives are invariably adversely affected by this issue

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

Copyright ©2014 Christie Elan-Cane
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