Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
We continue to wait for HM Passport Office (HMPO) to respond with anything more than a receipt acknowledgement in response to a report compiled on my behalf by a dedicated team from Clifford Chance law firm that presented a strong case for the issuance of X’ Passports in the UK. The report was delivered by courier to the Office of acting Director General, Tyson Hepple on 24 February 2015, although it has been noted a new Director General Mark Thomson has been appointed to head the organisation from an unspecified date “in the spring”. The new appointment was announced without any media fanfare on HMPO website on 17 March 2015. I will keep the site updated as soon as anything of substance to report.
In the meantime, as all who read this site should be aware, EDM 47 achieved a total 80 supportive MP signatures at the close of play on 26 March 2015 and, with assurances of more signatures that unfortunately missed the deadline, the motion would have been closer to the target figure of 100+ signatures had the 2014-15 parliamentary session run its full course. 80 is nonetheless an INCREDIBLE achievement and everyone who worked to achieve this figure through contacting their own MP, spreading the word, or helped in any way to increase the count can feel very proud.
Support came mainly from the Labour Party (49 signatures) with proportional support from the Liberal Democrats (20 signatures) who include ‘X’ Passports as a policy item in their party manifesto, as does the Green Party. Support from regional parties was led by Plaid Cymru with three signatories, with one signature from the Scottish National Party and one signature from Alliance Party (Northern Ireland). The only sitting Member representing the Green Party has signed the motion and there was one signature from an Independent MP. Notable was that, with four admirable exceptions, there was a distinct lack of support for ‘X’ Passports from the Conservative Party.
So, percentage wise, the Labour Party at 49 signatures comprised just over 61% of the total, then the Liberal Democrat Party at 25%, the Conservative Party a miserable 5% and others (Greens, Plaid Cymru, SNP, Alliance and Independent) a combined total of seven signatures and just under 9%.
Conservative MPs, many of whom would not be ‘natural’ allies to the cause under any circumstances, would undoubtedly have been acting under instruction to boycott the motion on the basis the Tory-led coalition government had tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to bury ‘X’ Passports and the wider issues surrounding recognition of non-gendered identity, and HM government went to disproportionate and almost unbelievable lengths in the process. The Conservative Party held a majority of seats in the House. Had it not been for lack of Conservative Party support, EDM 47 would almost certainly have surpassed 100 signatures. The silent boycott was not exactly a surprise given the government’s proactive stance on LGBT never really did include ‘T’ as part of the deal (evidenced in the early days after the 2010 election, when trans* initiatives were rapidly decoupled from LGB and put into a separate and specific trans* ‘action plan’ that proved to be nothing more than a convenient dumping ground where commitments that were made to the trans* community were quietly abandoned as the government forged ahead and delivered on its high profile LGB initiatives where any benefit to trans* was purely incidental). The coalition government were conniving, duplicitous and cowardly. Despite the coalition government’s undeniable achievements on behalf of LGB, its overall record on LGBT is tarnished.
The Labour Party’s record while in office was abysmal, where organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who rather than provide support for raising our issues to the government instead served not just as ‘gatekeeper’ but put up barriers. And never forget that Labour intended to introduce an ID card scheme where anyone not prepared to accept forced gendered classification under this compulsory national scheme faced the very real prospect of criminalisation. Labour were not just worse than useless while in government but its executive bodies were overtly hostile towards non-gendered issues and continued to deny the issue a necessary platform where profile could be raised. Given the history, that EDM 47 immediately found support from so many Labour Party backbench MPs was something of a welcome surprise, and Labour Party support continued as the signature count increased throughout the parliamentary session. Indicative that from the grassroots at least, there is a belief from within the party that the voices of those who are socially invisible must be heard.
Moving forward, I remind you all of the parties’ responses when I asked a direct question about provision of ‘X’ Passports to a political panel at recent PinkNews Debate http://elancane.livejournal.com/27076.html
However wondering whether the Labour Party executive has really learned any lessons after reading former Equalities Minister, Gloria de Piero’s article in PinkNews yesterday http://elancane.livejournal.com/27554.html.
Much still to be done before those who govern or aspire to govern accept that we are all equal within this so-called democracy and that people who do not define as male or female should be treated as citizens. I'd wanted to post full list of signatories here but LJ very unhelpfully is not letting me – will try on Facebook - preserved for reference should the public servants decide to ‘refresh’ the Parliament website:
LEGAL RECOGNITION FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT ASSOCIATE WITH A PARTICULAR GENDER
That this House recognises the issues faced by those in the UK who identify themselves as non-gender, bi-gender or intersex; believes that many of those who are non-gendered or bi-gendered feel compromised and diminished as a result of inappropriate gender references on their personal identity information; acknowledges that all passports issued by HM Passport Office are currently gender-specific and it is therefore not possible to obtain a passport that contains no reference to gendered identity; understands that, alongside F (Female) and M (Male), the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Document 9303 already contains X (unspecified) as a permitted character for three permitted characters under the mandatory sex element for machine-readable travel documents; notes that in Australia and New Zealand citizens are able to obtain a non-gender specific X passport and that India, Nepal and Pakistan also recognise the legitimacy of X as a preferred option when M and F are not appropriate; further believes that allowing this possibility in the UK would go a long way to amend this discriminatory policy which denies non-gendered and bi-gendered people a legitimate identity; and therefore urges the Government and HM Passport Office to make non-gender-specific X passports available to those UK passport holders who do not identify with a particular gender.er EDMs by:
To Julian Huppert and those Members who dared to support the motion - Thank-you all so much!
NAME AND SHAME
During the course of the year I sent regular mailshots to hundreds of sitting Members across the House, literally thousands of emails in total, attempting to raise awareness of the issue and encourage MPs to support EDM 47. I modified my approach when nearing the end of session, and focussed on a more ‘targeted’ selection of MPs, sending copious amounts of emails and then calling their parliamentary offices in the final weeks. The narrowed ‘target’ list of MPs were all eligible to sign EDMs (ie. they were not precluded through parliamentary protocol) and neither did they subscribe to unhelpful aversion to EDMs “as a matter of principle”. I also avoided known bigots. The responses were sometimes illuminating.
I found the whole process exhausting and in turn equally rewarding as I got encouragement from the vast majority even though a signature often did not materialise. I do believe there were some signatures ‘lost’ in the system due to the early prorogation. But there were unfortunately (and I suppose inevitably) a few disappointments.
Former Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson did not respond to a number of requests that he should support the motion.
Former Equalities Minster, Liberal Democrat Jenny Willott also did not respond after several requests.
Former minister Mark Hunter (LibDem), I understand, did refuse to sign the motion.
Rosie Cooper (Labour) I was reliably informed had definitely refused to sign the motion.
Diane Abbott (Labour), as I was loftily informed by her parliamentary office, is a big supporter of LGBT issues but had refused to sign the motion. When pressed for a reason, it was suggested that “Miss Abbott” did not like the way that EDM 47 was worded. As ‘X’ is the only non gender-specific data value permitted in accordance to an ICAO specification, maybe the UN should be alerted!!
Note that Diane Abbot has declared herself a Labour Party candidate for the 2016 London mayoral election. Also declared candidates for the Labour Party are David Lammy and Dame Tessa Jowell, both of whom have signed EDM 47 and both have expressed genuine support for this issue.
One of very few Conservatives on my ‘target’ list was Zac Goldsmith who, with a reputation as being something of a maverick within the party, I had hoped might just respond favourably. Maybe the volume of my emails, about a dozen in all over a period of weeks, was a bit overboard but was it really necessary for his office to put me on its ‘blocked senders’ list? He is also potentially standing as a Tory candidate for London Mayor.
With help from two leading law firms Clifford Chance and K&L Gates, and a growing army of supporters from both within and outside Westminster – and pushing an inroad to the European Parliament and about to approach the Council of Europe (again) – there is a long road ahead but the fight for legitimate identity is a battle we are winning!
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered