Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
RESPONSES FROM THE LEADERS OF THE UK’S TWO MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES ON ‘X’
I recently submitted questions to the leaders of both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in Q&A sessions for PinkNews. The leaders’ responses have been published and are predictably very much in line with what was said by representatives of both parties during PinkNews Debate on 19 March 2015.
For the Conservatives, the question and response from David Cameron:
Q – Christie Elan-Cane (Gender X passports): If you win a further term in government, what, if anything, would you do in order to rectify the situation for non-gendered and bi-gendered people in the UK who were desperately hoping the coalition government would follow the lead taken by governing authorities of Australia and New Zealand and permit the issuance of non gender-specific ‘X’ Passports to those who require them, and were very badly let down by your government in its first term of office as proposals in favour of ‘X’ Passports and the fundamental needs of those who require ‘X’ Passports were ignored? Are you prepared to personally look towards addressing our situation, starting with reversal of the decision to reject provision of ‘X’ Passports?
A - I understand the concerns of people who want to have their gender recorded differently on their passport, but this is a complex issue, particularly given the risk that people might encounter difficulties with entry restrictions into other countries. We would want to consider these issues carefully, and study the experience of those countries which have done it before making any proposals for change.
I’m afraid I got no sense of any real commitment to address the issues surrounding non-gendered identity in this response and neither did I detect a will to deliver what is required on ‘X’ Passports. Others may disagree but it is the result of my having been kicked in the teeth far too many times, not least by the coalition government, while fighting to achieve legitimate identity that most people can take for granted that I cannot see this as anything other than out of sight and out of mind.
And Ed Miliband’s response for the Labour Party (with thanks to PN for presenting my lengthy question to the Opposition Leader in full):
Q – Christie Elan-Cane (Gender X passports): Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Yand the wider issue that surrounds ‘X’ Passports, i.e. the current lack of recognition and provision in general for non-gendered people in the UK.
It was acknowledged that existing ‘equalities’ legislation is out of date. Yvette Cooper pledged the Labour Party would conduct a “specific review” of policy and legislation governing trans* issues. I would argue that existing legislation has always failed and does continue to fail those of us whose identities cannot be defined as either male or female.
My question therefore, would Ed Miliband care to elaborate on the proposed measures outlined by the former Shadow Home Secretary, and would he confirm whether there is definitive intention that the Labour Party, if elected to govern, would not just ‘review’ the situation but would commit to change existing discriminatory passport policy and implement the issuing of ‘X’ Passports to those who require non gender-specific documentation without further delay?
A - We need to go much further to ensure that Britain is a country which respects different identities. It is over ten years since the Gender Recognition Act was passed and our review would take a thorough look at issues surrounding gender identity. The specific issue of ‘X’ Passports will form part of that, but I’m not going to pre-empt the conclusions of the review.
So, should the Labour Party win the general election, the most that has been definitively committed is more time wasted on another ‘review’ when what is required is affirmative action right now.
The responses from both party leaders echoed responses from their respective party representatives at PinkNews Debate when I presented an extended question:
“Would your party commit to immediately introducing non gender-specific 'X' passports, and what will you do to address the wider issues facing lack of legal recognition for non-gendered people in the UK?”
A reminder of PinkNews Debate where I present my question to the panel (at around 01:14:30 into the recording) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b2L6nZl3uo
The Liberal Democrat Party and the Green Party both gave their unequivocal support for the introduction of ‘X’ Passports and this is indeed backed up through inclusion in their manifestos.
There is no such commitment from either of the two main political parties. There is a common perception that a left leaning Labour government would be more empathetic towards the issues I raise. Indeed EDM 47 was widely supported by Labour MPs from the backbench. The leadership however does not necessarily adhere to causes supported by the backbench and the leadership response is just too non-committal. There is a recognition that the legislation that they introduced (the Gender Recognition Act 2004) is out of date. But the Act was badly flawed in the first instance and this discriminatory and thoroughly nasty piece of legislation completely failed many of the people for whom it should have been there to protect. And I can never forget – nor can I forgive – the determined effort of the last Labour government to introduce compulsory ID cards at all cost that would have criminalised anyone who was not prepared to accept gendered references on their personal identity documentation. It will take a hell of a lot of effort for Labour to put this right.
David Cameron repeating the Conservative line that caution must be exercised because of the possibility that not all countries would recognise the validity of an ‘X’ Passport. This repetitive mantra has been expressed by the Home Office and by HM Passport Office in communications with myself and with other people as it has been repeated fervently in response to written and oral questions from a number of MPs. That travellers who hold ‘X’ Passports will (it is hoped) encounter problems when trying to use the document for the intended purpose. To those who know only too well the problems that occur through not having one’s identity recognised within either the law or society, that this potential ‘risk’ is being used by political leaders as an excuse to deny the provision of non gender-speciifc documentation is patronising and offensive in the extreme. It is as though we are being denied legitimate identity and are forced to accept inappropriate gendered references on our personal documentation by the governing bodies of the state for our own good!
At least we are no longer being referred to by Conservatives (and, in one instance, by a LibDem peer) as “insignificant” in number (an unquantified assumption that is almost certain to be false), and with the deeply unpleasant subliminal inference that we are insignificant as individuals. The perception that we were not important enough to really matter was made very clear. Representatives of the former government and HM Passport Office have since modified their tone however the excuses continue and our fundamental rights and needs as human beings are ignored. Without social visibility and provision in order to exercise our right to legitimate identity, we are non-citizens in this country. It has finally been accepted that we do exist, even the PM has acknowledged the issue to a certain degree, but we do not exist on paper!
Yes, we know there are countries where the regimes are truly repugnant even by UK standards. We are hardly likely to want to travel to those countries – but we would however like to be able to travel to places that we do want to visit and not feel embarrassed and misrepresented by our own identity documentation that we are required to present.
I have not fought for the ‘right’ to carry an ‘X’ Passport for all these years and not given a moment’s thought to the potential for encountering difficulties if, when it comes to using the document, I find its validity is questioned at other countries’ international border control.
And for this reason I have sought to engage with parliamentarians from other countries and push towards an international consensus on the recognition of the ‘X’ Passport as a valid travel document, both in terms of countries making provision for their own citizens and at international border control where the document is presented by inbound travellers.
I have effectively been doing the work that government and HM Passport Office should have done!
The fundamental right of legitimate identity for citizens who do not define as either male or female, validated through the provision of non gender-specific documentation by national governments, has been recognised by some within the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and I anticipate there will be an official statement to that effect in due course although I am not able to provide further details at present.
This right was more recently endorsed by the Council of Europe where the Parliamentary Assembly voted to adopt a resolution that specifically recommended that member states should consider including a third option in identity documents (Resolution 2048 (2015), Clause 6.2.4) http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=21736&lang=en
CLIFFORD CHANCE REPORT
The Clifford Chance Report strongly presents the case for ‘X’ Passports in the UK. The report was delivered by courier to the Executive Office of HM Passport Office on 24 February 2015 http://www.cliffordchance.com/news/news/2015/03/clifford-chance-submits-report-to-hm-passport-office-calling-for.html.
HM Passport Office has so far failed to provide a proper response to my legal team. An update on further steps being taken will appear in due course.
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered