Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
The judge observed the Claimant’s rights under ECHR Article 8 [Right to respect for private and family life] were triggered in this case ‘’ ….. I am satisfied that the claimant’s Article 8 rights are engaged in this case so that the claimant’s right to respect for private life will include a right to respect for the claimant’s identification as non-gendered.’’
In conclusion Mr Justice Baker determined the UK’s passport policy administered by HM Passport Office was not unlawful having accepted the Government’s argument that passports could not be treated in isolation from wider legislative change and ‘’ ….. that the Government is currently collecting and collating research material with a view to undertaking a comprehensive review of the issues both surrounding and those raised directly by the claimant in this case.’’ And observed ‘’ ….. in particular in the present case the claimant will be entitled to scrutinise with care the results of the Government’s current review, which will be required to be undertaken without any undue delay.‘’
I want to express gratitude to my legal representatives Kate Gallafent QC and Tom Mountford of Blackstone Chambers and to all members of the team at Clifford Chance [past and present].
These highly skilled and dedicated people have worked for me on a pro bono basis over the last five years on what I am sure will be remembered as a landmark case.
I approached Clifford Chance for assistance to launch a legal challenge against HM Government’s passport policy because engagement with the Government had proved futile and the political process had failed.
The significance of ECHR Article 8 as applied to my non-gendered identity cannot be undermined as a new legal precedent has been established however I am bitterly disappointed that my case for the judicial review of the UK Government’s discriminatory passport policy was not upheld. Not just for myself but for everyone who is compromised by this policy.
The ‘review’ being proposed by the Government Equalities Office purports a remit that extends beyond the provision of ‘X’ Passports and towards full legal recognition for UK citizens who define as neither male nor female. The indication of this review came as news to me during the latter stages in the course of proceedings. HM Government has now committed on record its proposal for a comprehensive review therefore I trust there will be no repeat of the false assurances that led to a sham passport policy review just a few years ago. I have justifiable reason to doubt the sincerity and the motivation behind this Government proposal.
HM Government’s position throughout my period of engagement with key policy makers [2010- 2013] was not to treat the issues surrounding non-gendered identity as credible or worthy of respect. That position was maintained throughout the protracted period of legal dispute right up to and including the hearing that took place on 18-19 April 2018.
There is significant history to this case and I am not convinced there is a genuine intention on the part of HM Government to address the issues that I’ve fought to raise for nearly three decades.
Our most basic needs are ignored because our existence is perceived by HM Government as ‘inconvenient’. As though an historical failure to meet our needs somehow justifies the continuation of discriminatory exclusionary policies that force us to deny our identities in order to navigate gendered society. Our social invisibility enables public service providers to ignore our needs. Human rights and civil liberties organisations were not interested in the issue for a number of years. Society had chosen to look the other way. Easier for people to turn their backs. Ignore the violation of our rights. Ignore our predicament. Ignore our existence.
But societal marginalization is my reality. I cannot turn my back and walk away. Where can I go when gendered society perceives my identity as illegitimate? I deserve better. As a minority section within society we deserve better. We exist. We have suffered and we continue to suffer due to governmental and societal indifference to our situation.
Denied legitimate identity. Denied recognition within the legislative framework. Denied civil rights that others can take for granted. Denied the provision to obtain accurate identity documentation.
Our access to appropriate healthcare is often restricted. We are rejected by employers with no means of redress. We are denied access to public facilities due to the imposition of gender-segregated spaces and we are often forced to use unsuitable public bathrooms. Our lives consist of compromise. Compromise, stress and fear that our identities once known will become the issue when all we want is to live our lives.
And we are not discriminated against according to HM Government. The rationale is that our identities are not recognised in accordance with the law. Our identities are compromised and we are rendered socially invisible. Unable to exercise our fundamental human rights. Suffering the most appalling social exclusion and yet not discriminated against according to HM Government. And the vicious circle goes around and around.
I’ve fought for most of my adult life for legitimate identity that most people can take for granted. The need to legitimize my identity in order that I might move on with my life became an ongoing campaign and an ongoing battle. It is not a battle that I’d wanted to fight and it came at an unacceptable personal cost. It is a battle that has often left me physically and psychologically exhausted. My work has led to progressive policy changes in key areas yet has been generally unacknowledged. I’ve rarely received credit for my achievements as my voice was silenced time and again.
It has for the most part been an emotionally draining, unrewarding, long hard slog with no end date in sight.
In the submission of this case for the judicial review of the UK Home Office’s discriminatory passport policy, I was not seeking special treatment. I was seeking to be treated as a human being. I was seeking to not be forced into making a false declaration on my passport application. I was seeking to not be forced to accept an inappropriate gendered reference on my personal identity documentation. I was seeking to not be forced into being an unwilling colluder in my own social invisibility. I was seeking to break the vicious circle that has impaled upon my life and affects the lives of many socially invisible human beings in the UK today.
I am sure that most reasonable people would consider my request to be issued with an identity document that does not contain a grossly misrepresentative gendered reference as entirely logical and reasonable.
HM Government has rejected calls to follow the lead taken by countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Malta and more recently Canada among a growing number of countries that recognise the legitimate and genuine need for ‘X’ Passports.
Despite today’s ruling, the tide of history is turning and for many people the change cannot come soon enough. We cannot wait any longer. The time for change is NOW. The time for ‘X’ Passports is NOW.
I cannot comment on whether we will appeal today’s decision at this moment.
Full written judgment should be available shortly