Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the societal gender system
To live with hope and dare not feel – A moment of reflection
I am writing this today from the position that, with the Government Action Plan on Transgender Equality due to start public consultation early next year and having been given some assurances that the needs of non-gendered people would not be ignored and the fact that politicians are now able to openly raise this issue, there is now a definitive sense of real hope where for so long there was nothing tangible except a distant light that burned at the end of a very long tunnel and the knowledge that I could never ever give up the fight for legal recognition and equality of treatment as accorded the privileged gendered majority within the gendered societal structure.
Things are most definitely moving in the right direction and I feel it is time for some reflection because although I know what I want to achieve, I still remain unsure of what kind of outcome will be achieved within the short term and I remain equally uncertain about the outcome that the authorities will want to achieve.
I have waited all my life to be given the ’right’ to exist as a person within my core identity. I was not aware of my non-gendered identity during the earlier part of my life due to social conditioning and the inherent but false belief that all human life falls within gendered boundaries but my core identity was always there and that is now very clear.
To possess an identity that is politely perceived as diverse but nonetheless contrary to the gendered identities permitted to function within the gendered societal structure is to exist on the margins of society as a ‘non-person’. I remain legally, socially and culturally outside the dominant gendered societal structure and I have always been exempt from consideration when it comes to legal protection, routinely denied access to goods and services available to the gendered majority, denied the right to hold personal identification documentation that contains the correct information and humiliated by being forced to accept gendered references on my personal documentation that correspond to a gendered classification that was misappropriated to me at birth although I rejected the misappropriation a long time ago.
This is not a life as lived by the privileged gendered majority, it is an existence where I am denied a legitimate identity and routinely degraded within a society that attributes a person’s validity and worth in accordance to their conformity within a societally appropriated gendered role.
I have sought and continue to seek equality of treatment as accorded the privileged gendered majority from a position where it is still generally considered acceptable when my assertion that I am non-gendered can be overlooked and brushed aside, from a position where I can expect to be routinely denied access to goods and services that others can take for granted and from a position that I should still, after all these years, be denied the fundamental human right to be able to rejoin the workforce and actually get paid for my efforts because of the ignorance and prejudice of others.
Until there is a real and fundamental change in the way that gendered society perceives and treats those of its members who can never be party to their privileged club, the non-gendered will always be excluded from any realistic chance of productivity and participation within society. Until very recently all transpeople within the UK were perceived as the equivalent of the Victorian circus freaks – to be gawped at, probed and pitied and routinely debased and abused in many ways by the privileged non-trans majority within society who felt they had the right to treat us as something less than equal human beings. While there is now legal protection for some transpeople (those who are able and choose to assimilate within the gendered societal structure), the flawed legislation of the previous administration has done nothing to counter the common ignorance that a human being cannot exist without an appropriated or assimilated gendered role. The gendered majority opinion continues to purport a belief of some kind of innate superiority of the gendered state and that the social invisibility and exclusion as experienced by those of non-gendered identity are no worse than we deserve.
The non-gendered may represent a tiny minority within a broader transpopulation but there could be more non-gendered people within the whole population than is currently known, because governing authorities throughout the developed world have traditionally lacked the moral courage to acknowledge the issue of human existence and social identity outside the gendered societal structure and all legislation has resolutely remained bound within gendered terminology.
I regard the forthcoming Government Action Plan as being just one further step on the long road towards a more fundamental reassessment of societal values that will ultimately lead to real change.
Because it is really within the power of those who are most affected by the issue to bring about real change while any concessions from the governing authorities only serves to facilitate.
Getting rid of THAT question – a follow-up and a warning!
I have campaigned for years for removal of the offensive requirement to state a gendered role in order to access certain goods and services. I have enjoyed some successes and endured much frustration along the way.
I am engaged in an ongoing battle to have a gendered reference removed from my record on the NHS national database (linking to the Primary Care Trust systems) which I am about to take to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, whereas I had no problem at all at my local healthcare surgery where my medical records are actually held. Similarly, I was able to change my title to ‘Pr’ (an abbreviation of person) at the surgery but this is also apparently beyond the capabilities of the centralized system. I do not accept this and will pursue on both counts.
I had tried and failed for years to get my title amended to ‘Pr’ on my credit card statements and then had no trouble when I recently opened an account with another card provider who readily issued a card with ‘Pr’ embossed in gold letters before my name, a provider that addresses my statements and other written correspondence correctly and did not even require a gendered role in the application process. No prizes for guessing which provider will get my future custom (and it will NOT be Barclaycard).
I have come up against the most ridiculous and spurious of excuses along the way (the most frequent recourse for inactivity being that to amend to a title not already held on a computer drop down menu or to change anything at all regarding the most sacrosanct requirement that a human being must declare as male or female would present an unacceptable risk to security). Rubbish. Rubbish and lies! Justify that response! Why does this issue alone represent such a threat? Or does the same excuse abound in any area where the person or group arguing for equality of treatment are perceived as powerless and therefore ‘undeserving’? Just throw them the line on ‘security’?
I have also been rewarded on many occasions when my efforts have elicited a positive response and I have been able to get either my title amended and/or a gendered indicator removed from details that a company or institution holds on me.
But I am extremely concerned and wary in response to any suggestion that getting rid of the sex/gender question alone can serve as anything more than a means to an end in enabling people of non-gendered identity to function within the gendered societal structure.
Those of you who have been following my journal entries and read my mailings will be aware that I recently made a direct approach to the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and challenged them to remove the inappropriate and offensive requirement for non-gendered UK passport holders to state a gendered role. This will now be taken up under the Government Action Plan.
I argued strongly that the IPS should utilise the non gender-specific third option ‘X’ alongside gendered options ‘M’ for male and ‘F’ for female. The third option is an internationally accepted standard for machine readable passports and is in use by some other countries.
If it were permissible for non-gendered passport applicants in the UK to tick ‘X’ under the sex/gender field it would mean that non-gendered people in the UK would no longer have to falsely declare a gendered identity when applying for or renewing a UK passport and would not have to carry an essential item of personal identification that contained a false and inappropriate gendered reference.
But I have never regarded the removal of an unnecessary and inappropriate requirement to state a gendered role as anything other than a process that would make life easier for non-gendered people and a means to an end. And I would prefer a third option rather than removal of the question in certain circumstances.
For example, the coalition government are already planning to streamline many areas within the public sector and getting rid of a certain amount of gender segregation within government departments. This is being done in order to simplify the bureaucracy relating to areas where it could be argued the practice of maintaining gendered classification is discriminatory in that one gendered role might receive favourable treatment over the other. Removing gendered references from some government department records would undoubtedly benefit non-gendered and all transpeople when using those particular services as an unintended consequence, because it would improve trans accessibility through the removal of a demeaning requirement to explain and justify personal information to uncomprehending officials.
I have argued and made representation that a government initiative should be taken further in that there should be legislation that specifically forbids companies and organisations within the private sector asking this inappropriate and offensive question on all forms of application and registration.
But none of this alone will really achieve a thing unless there is VISIBILITY for the non-gendered identity within the social framework. There will never be equality of treatment and the non-gendered will not achieve parity with the privileged gendered majority if the existence of human identity outside the gendered societal structure is swept under the carpet by the authorities of the day through the introduction of new practices that have the positive effect of making it less difficult for non-gendered people to function on a routine basis but those same measures serve in fact to represent a blurring of distinction between the gendered roles rather than provision for human identity outside the gendered societal structure.
And this does matter. It matters a lot. In fact it is fundamental. Not one single person among the privileged gendered majority has ever experienced the soul destroying sense of aloneness or indignity that comes from being expected to justify their core existence within the world in this way, and the gendered majority will never have to assert their right to be perceived as the person they know themselves to be in the face of uncomprehending ignorance. This is something I have had to do every day of my life since disclosure.
I want to be able to acknowledge my identity without apprehension in EVERY situation. I want to be received by others and treated by others with the same level of respect as a human being as such respect would be given accordingly to a gendered person. I do NOT want my disclosure to be met with embarrassment, incomprehension, derision or to figure as warranting any of a wide range of ignorant responses and negative reaction that a non-gendered person can expect to encounter as routine.
I can foresee societal change happening because I need more than hope alone and I work and breath the message every day as I try and bring about change. I spent many years in a kind of ‘wilderness’ where I repeated the same message but saw no evidence of progress or that what I was trying to say would ever be taken seriously until, at some point, people began listening. And now the first signs of real progress are within reach. Politicians are listening. The government is listening. Non-gendered people across the world who have been traditionally denied a voice as well as denied an identity are refusing to tolerate the situation any longer.
The ‘democratic’ governments and world leaders of the western hemisphere are often prone to lecturing the governing authorities of more repressive regimes from other parts of the world in castigation of failure to uphold the human rights of their citizens, but for world leaders to suggest that we are living in a civilised and democratic society is disingenuous hypocrisy when some citizens within the transpopulation maintain a socially invisible and marginalised existence. The failure of governing bodies within the dominant gendered societal structure of the west to acknowledge and dignify the socially invisible human beings who exist on the outside of the societal structure is undemocratic, morally indefensible and it is WRONG!
There will be a time in the future when all reasonably minded members of society will hang their heads in shame at the way some of their fellow citizens were mistreated by the privileged majority within the gendered societal structure and reasonable people will find incredulous the fact that such outrageous social inequality could have continued right up until the 21st Century.
NO MORE LIES!
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The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered.