Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
GOVERNMENT ACTION PLAN ON TRANSGENDER EQUALITY
I still have no details of launch date for open public consultation stage of Government Action Plan. Not necessarily a bad thing because a good deal of effort is being made to get the preliminaries right and the intention is to implement policy change that brings real and lasting improvement to the (often blighted) lives of the transpopulation.
I have had the opportunity to voice my concerns and I have highlighted many difficulties faced on a personal level through my social invisibility, and I have discussed in some detail the resultant exclusion of non-gendered transpeople from many routine aspects of everyday life where the privileged gendered majority can take access for granted.
Particular issues affecting the lives of non-gendered where I believe it is possible to make a difference and raised at various points include the following:
Lack of provision when a form/questionnaire asks THAT dreaded (and usually completely irrelevant and unnecessary) question – State your Sex/Gender with options MALE/FEMALE. It is inappropriate on many levels to expect a human being of non-gendered identity to answer the question when provision is not made to enable the non-gendered person to give a truthful answer. To force a person to deny their core identity (and become an unwilling colluder in the enforcement of their own social invisibility) in order for that person to obtain essential items of personal identification, get medical treatment, gain access to goods and services deemed necessary to function within society is inhumane and wrong. This practice is discriminatory to non-gendered human beings and it has to end.
There has been a degree of movement away from a perceived requirement to attach a gendered role to every piece of information about an individual (at least on a surface level, such as in written correspondence sent from a government department to an individual where titles are frequently not used) and there is an increased tendency where the person (or ‘service user’) is treated as ‘gender-neutral’ on paper, but this is really limited to departments within the public sector and was done to reflect equality between the gendered roles. The transpopulation will undoubtedly benefit at some level but this subtle change did not come about to benefit transpeople and certainly did not come about in order to benefit the socially invisible non-gendered members of society.
Whereas the private sector continues to demand an answer to this inappropriate question as a mandatory prerequisite in the supply of some goods and services. With few exceptions (there are still a few), it is necessary to state a gendered role when applying for many different types of product offered by the financial services industry – most notably insurance products where policies are often tailored dependant upon the gendered role of the policy holder and certain policies (car insurance included) are impossible to obtain without declaring as either male or female.
All enforced, compulsory and inappropriate gendered categorisation is offensive but among the most offensive due to the sheer arrogance and contempt of those asking the question is enforced gendered categorisation done purely and simply for customer profiling and targeted marketing (where non-compliance effectively results in the withholding of goods and services).
I believe the practice of demanding a gendered role for purpose of ‘profiling’ for future marketing initiatives should be illegal unless there is provision - a non gender-specific option for the benefit of non-gendered human beings and indeed for everyone who just does not want to answer this inappropriate and offensive question which is, after all, only there because the goods and/or service provider believes ‘targeting’ will increase their profits.
I have referred to this point before and maintain there are certain situations where the question of a person’s sex/gender is so completely irrelevant there is no need for the question to be there at all – I believe this applies to everything relating to and coming from the private sector, but when it comes to areas that relate to the identity of the person (which normally would be from within the public sector domain) then I believe there should be a third non gender-specific option because what we need is social visibility and it does no good to sweep the issue of human identity outside the gendered societal structure under the carpet by simply removing the question in all instances. The passport system provides a good example and I am still awaiting final outcome from my attempt to persuade the Identity and Passport Service to change their discriminatory policy and permit passport holders within the United Kingdom to carry a non gender-specific passport (as allowed under ICAO internationally accepted standards). Point of note: it would be preferable to have a non gender-specific option that does not dehumanise. Terms such as ‘indeterminate’, ‘unknown’ and ‘other/s’ are better than nothing at all but these words do not make me jump for joy! Can we not have something more user-friendly???? ‘Alternative identity’ for instance or how about ‘non-gendered’? Now there’s a thought!
Gendered society’s failure to recognise human identity other than gendered identity, and the resultant lack of provision and enforced gendered categorisation of the non-gendered human being breaches the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (The General Assembly of the United Nations, 1948) and of the European Convention on Human Rights (The Council of Europe, 1950).
The following issues can have a detrimental effect on the lives of all transpeople to a certain degree dependent upon the circumstances of the individual. The detrimental impact is exacerbated when applied to a section within society as marginalized as non-gendered people. I intend to ensure that non-gendered interests are considered during consultation process:
Discrimination: at the root of all problems. The other issues listed below could be bundled together as resultant to societal discrimination towards the transpopulation. For human beings of non-gendered identity, the discrimination is compounded through general lack of awareness of our existence and it is EDUCATION that is most needed, although I accept that any initiative has to be handled with extreme care for reasons both too numerous and too obvious to repeat here. And NON-GENDERED VISIBILITY within society can best be achieved through provision by government departments and agencies to enable a non-gendered identity to be legally registered and non-gendered people to function productively within society. On many occasions the discrimination is unintentional because there remains complete ignorance within mainstream society to the factuality of human existence outside the gendered societal structure.
Gender-segregated facilities: mainly bathroom facilities although this also applies in many other arenas such as changing rooms, sporting facilities and gymnasia etc.
For bathroom facilities, it is essential to move away from the model of two gendered facilities comprising small private cubicles and a communal area for hand washing, mirrors etc – and latrine for men - (gendered facilities most frequently identified by a little man/woman figurine on the entrance door). It would be preferable to have batches of stand-alone, standard sized cubicles with own washing facilities, similar to the disabled access facility but cubicles would be smaller. Yes, readers of the Daily Mail will then have something else to complain about but why should non-gendered people (and gendered transpeople who fear verbal or physical abuse in a gender-segregated facility) have to routinely monitor our fluid intake in order to lessen the risk we might need to visit the public bathroom when out and in a public place.
Other gender-segregated facilities are optional in that usage of such facilities is not due to an involuntary bodily function, but a lack of safe provision/privacy for a transperson to undress or engage in sporting or physical activity is discrimination and so is the complete lack of provision for non-gendered when shared facilities are advertised as for use by men/women only.
Civil Partnerships: gender should have no part in a contractual agreement between two people to register their partnership. Period.
Then there is the issue of the Birth Certificate itself. I personally do not want to see legislation that is fudged and overly complicated – I most definitely do not want a non-gendered variation of the GRA.
The solution? I would like to see a straightforward system where a legally recognised statutory declaration signed by the non-gendered person in renouncement of an inappropriate gendered role based upon what was recorded on the birth certificate can be used in place of the birth certificate. This is something I intend to raise because, although not the most interesting or pressing requirement for non-gendered equality, it is nonetheless an issue that does need to be addressed when all subsequent documentation (first passport application etc.) uses the information as stated as fact on the birth certificate. If the birth certificate cannot be changed there needs to be an acceptable substitute document that represents a true and accurate record of our identity.
Access to healthcare: NHS gender streamlining causes intense difficulty for non-gendered patients who are often reluctant to seek treatment for conditions where hospital departments are gender segregated. Hospital staff are frequently insensitive (and can be hostile) when confronted with a trans patient who is obviously uncomfortable and embarrassed in these surroundings. There are no designated facilities for non-gendered in areas that are normally gender-segregated and, whereas this might not be the most appropriate time to ask for such provision, what would it cost to curtain/partition a small area within a department and remove signs that indicate a particular facility as gender-specific – such as ‘Women’s Gynaecology Unit’ etc?
Education and Employment: I have put these two issues together because the experience and outcome as experienced by a sizeable proportion of the transpopulation are depressingly similar and predictable in both areas. There is no data specific to non-gendered but plenty on transpeople where the pattern reflects a disproportionate number of transpeople dropping out of education without any qualifications and being further disadvantaged within the labour market. Employers can easily get around existing equalities legislation by not recruiting transpeople in the first place. Non-gendered people are, of course, not part of ANY existing ‘equalities’ legislation and have no recourse against discrimination whatsoever. The problems experienced within the broader transpopulation would undoubtedly be compounded through the greater level of social exclusion and marginalization of non-gendered people. There is a desperate need for wording and terminologies in future legislative drafting to move from being gender-specific when such legislation is intended to apply to all people, and there should be specific reference to non-gendered and all currently unrepresented sections within the trans and intersex populations in future anti-discrimination policy and law.
In various meetings and discussions I’ve raised the issues that I regard as most pressing where there is urgent need for change and provision for the non-gendered identity. If there is something I have left out and you would like me to raise, write to me at Christie.Elancane@yahoo.co.uk . Please note however that I do not draft the law (unfortunately) and cannot offer any guarantees regarding satisfactory outcome.
Change that I believe is possible and working towards:
Legal recognition of non-gendered identity backed with legislation that promotes the equality of treatment for persons of non-gendered identity as accorded the privileged gendered majority, leading to awareness and eventual acceptance of human beings of non-gendered identity within society;
The legal right and provision for non-gendered to enter into a registered Civil Partnership;
Provision for parity in access to goods and services through appropriate non gender-specific option where a form/questionnaire requires sex/gendered role (and removal of question where this information is not necessary);
Improved access to healthcare;
Improved access to employment and better career opportunities;
A safer (and non gender-segregated) learning environment for young non-gendered people leading to improved access to education.
Change that I believe is not possible at this moment in time (so please don’t ask):
Removal of gendered roles from society completely. That is not what most people want and not feasible. I would not be part of the process if I made demands that were considered unreasonable.
I will post the public consultation details of Government Action Plan as soon as known.
In the meantime, I await Census 2011 with mix of indignation and dread (27 March, if you didn’t know). As anyone who read my postings from about two years ago might remember, I tried to persuade the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to include a non gender-specific option alongside gendered options male and female on the Census 2011 questionnaire. I was not successful ultimately although there were some people within ONS who were sympathetic. It is very unfortunate that those with the final say (the previous ruling government) had no interest in this issue. I wonder whether things might have been different had the census year fallen in 2015.
Just to remind, I was informed it would be permissible for me to write ‘non-gendered’ where the questionnaire requires respondents to state whether they are male or female. I was assured this would be accepted by ONS, no risk of prosecution (apparently) and that the written information would be accurately recorded on their system (crap – it is bad enough that my right of legitimate existence within my core identity is ignored but don’t lie to me).
And, in condemning non-gendered human beings within the United Kingdom to what then appeared to be ten more years of social invisibility, the ONS have missed a valuable opportunity to assess the true diversity that exists within the transpopulation – but then the authorities would have been obliged to make provision for us!
Time is running out and I wish I had been able to do something. If anybody out there is thinking of returning a more creative response to this inappropriate and offensive question, do let me know.
One last thing – I really wish that people would not refer of my non-gendered identity as my ”gender identity”. I am non-gendered. I have a core identity that is as real and valid as the core identity of any gendered person but it is not a gender identity. It is an identity.
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered.