Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
Terminology – Inappropriate terminology is an issue that needs to be addressed
This is an issue – for me, as a human being of non-gendered identity – when governing authorities and other official bodies and commercial organisations produce written material, policy statements or advisory recommendations that concern the transpopulation – and use ‘gender identity’ as the defining reference point.
I am non-gendered and I am also a transperson. I would like to believe the issues that affect non-gendered human beings are now finally beginning to be addressed after having been ignored throughout the long dark period before, during and (most definitely) immediately after the inauguration of the GRA (2004). And our marginalized position within the gendered societal structure (and the reality of our socially invisible existence) was indeed ignored for a very long time.
I make no apologies for possibly appearing over sensitive in that I do not willingly accept and will challenge where I sense that something is not right and that, despite having been thrown a few ‘crumbs of comfort’ due to the political shift, I am aware the forces that have never acted in the best interests of non-gendered human beings are still maintaining their presence. There is a no more effective way of rendering something (or someone) impotent in the mindsets of others than to reduce the perspective through a seemingly innocuous exclusion through use of inappropriate terminology that effectively invalidates what has been excluded.
Fact! The NON-GENDERED identity cannot be a ‘gender identity’.
Fact! An identity that is neither male nor female is NOT a ‘gender identity’ in a societal structure comprised of two genders: male and female.
By definition, there is a contradiction. And furthermore, as a non-gendered human being, I object to the casual negation of the non-gendered identity through careless use of an indication reference marker that serves to exclude and ignore the socially invisible non-gendered members of the transpopulation.
This might appear to be an odd thing for me to start complaining about. Perhaps, it might be perceived that my timing could have been better. We have people occupying positions of power within the government who want to address our situation and make a positive contribution to the lives of non-gendered people. On the surface this does not appear to be the right time for me to take such particular issue over a standard reference that has become commonplace terminology.
It is precisely because non-gendered human beings are now ‘officially’ part of the process in an ongoing movement towards trans equality that now is precisely the right time for me to express an opinion when I see something is wrong. And if I had chosen to say nothing and bypassed the terminology issue now, it would appear even less appropriate for me to raise it as an issue to be addressed at some future date.
It has been suggested on more than one occasion that non-gendered should learn to ‘embrace’ the term because the intention was that ‘gender identity’ should be inclusive to all transpeople. But the problem is that ‘gender identity’ cannot possibly include non-gendered.
Furthermore, how exactly is this (underlying) message of inclusivity to be conveyed to others, governments, corporations etc.? We, as a ‘category’, are presented within a bundling of ‘categories’ under an overarching ‘trans’ umbrella and collectively referenced under ‘gender identity’. Is it not fair to expect others to assume that all who are being referenced should possess a gendered identity? Where does this leave the non-gendered transperson? Nowhere – as ever!
On 23 June 2011 the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe launched his report ‘Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe’.
An otherwise excellent report that contained a number of recommendations addressed to the leaders of the 47 member countries that make up the Council of Europe. The report was commissioned in the aftermath of a potentially groundbreaking issue paper from the same commissioner Thomas Hammarberg in 2009 entitled ‘Human rights and gender identity’. https://wcd.coe.int/wcd/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1476365&Site=CommDH&BackColorInternet=FEC65B&BackColorIntranet=FEC65B&BackColorLogged=FFC679.
Although the subsequent report covered LGB and T, there was considerable insight into the difficulties faced by the (gendered) transpopulation – and just one reference of the fact that not all transpeople could be defined within the two socially accepted and legally recognised gendered roles. This in a report comprising 134 pages and the reference is located in the glossary (page 132) under ‘queer’. It states “.....currently often denotes persons who do not wish to be identified with reference to traditional notions of gender and sexual orientation and eschew heterosexual,
heteronormative and gender-binary categorisations”. The main body of the report contained one extremely generalised reference to “......those who identify themselves as “queer”” (page 21).
The title of the report served as a warning that the needs (and the existence) of the socially invisible non-gendered population would not feature prominently within the content but I was nonetheless taken aback when I read the report and this served as a stark warning as to how non-gendered interests would continue to be ignored when standard terminology does not address us correctly.
And, for your information, – I AM NOT QUEER!
I am only too well aware of the antagonism that any suggestion of ‘gender identity’ being a not entirely appropriate reference marker will attract. There are those who for some reason do not want non-gendered and other marginalized sections within the transpopulation to have any involvement in the ongoing pursuit of equality (and indeed there are some who do not want us to achieve the equality that they themselves aspire).
Bigotry, unfortunately, exists everywhere and common prejudices are expressed when opinions differ as does misconception and the transpopulation are no exception to this rule. I do not want to dwell on the subject but it is a statement of fact that there are some gendered transpeople who believe that a gendered identity is innately superior to the non-gendered identity and that non-gendered human beings should forever remain outside the extreme margins of society. More fortunately, and I stress, I have only encountered these views as expressed by a very small minority, albeit a vocal small minority. I have generally received encouragement and support from gendered trans and cisgendered (gendered non-trans) for my campaign and for what I am trying to achieve.
But the vocal minority of gendered transpeople who believe the granting of fundamental rights to non-gendered somehow impacts and equates to a diminution of ‘rights’ for gendered transpeople tend to have the ear of those who hold the reins of power in many ‘listening’ governments.
In my effort to achieve for non-gendered human beings the rights and privileges the gendered majority can take for granted, I have never sought to undermine the rights of others – and it would not be possible for me to undermine the social supremacy of the gendered majority even if that had been my intention. In making accusations to the contrary, I fail to understand how anyone can reach, let alone justify, such a ridiculous conclusion. However I know that in choosing to ‘make an issue’ about inappropriate terminology and urging a rejection of ‘gender identity’ as a reference category, I take an inherent risk of fanning the flames.
Rather than questioning how I can have the temerity to criticise a reference that is pretty much ordained as a reference inclusive to all transpeople, is it not possible to consider there is justification? And consider the reasons why I find ‘gender identity’ – a blanket reference category that is contradictory to my core identity – an inappropriate term of reference for non-gendered human beings as ‘gender identity’ is misrepresentative of the core identity of non-gendered human beings?
And I make reference to the criticism deservedly levelled towards public servants, the media and others who deliberately and provocatively address a gendered transperson using the gender or pronoun of the pre-transition gendered role. To deliberately address a transperson using reference to the rejected role is disrespectful and should never be tolerated. It is now recognised and accepted that a gendered transperson should always be addressed appropriately and in accordance with the presented gender. This is incorporated into many organisations and public bodies’ recommended good practice. Why therefore does the same rule not apply when the core identity is non-gendered? It is equivalently inappropriate to refer to a non-gendered human being’s identity as their ‘gender identity’. It is disrespectful to the individual and it is extremely hurtful to be on the receiving end and have one’s core identity negated in this way. Or do the feelings of non-gendered transpeople count for nothing?
There are alternative references that would be acceptable for non-gendered transpeople that do not undermine the gendered status of the majority. Rather than ‘gender identity’, it would be preferable to use ‘personal identity’, ‘core identity’, ‘social identity’ or just ‘identity’. These terms are inclusive of all human identity, both inside and outside the gendered societal structure. These reference terms are not gender-specific or indeed specific to a gendered identity and no one is excluded by definition. As a worst possible choice and an admittedly cringe worthy moment, I have even made the suggestion that ‘gender identity’ could be amended to ‘gender and identity’ which is not entirely satisfactory but the inclusion of ‘and’ at least offers scope for differentiation as it removes gender as the auto prefix of identity and reduces the inherent assumption that gender is the prerequisite to identity.
‘Identity’ is the most definitive word with which to describe the whole of any human being (whereas the sexuality, the religion/lack of religion etc. are elements or components –aspects of the personality).
The identity represents everything about a person and when the word ‘identity’ is prefixed with ‘gender’ the non-gendered identity is negated – as non-gendered human beings are negated to nothingness within a gendered societal structure that fails to recognise our existence.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (The General Assembly of the United Nations, 1948): Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
All human beings - including non-gendered human beings. The Yogyakarta Principles, based on the application of human rights law in relation to LGB&T was intended to be inclusive and respectful of human diversity – but the definitive term of reference ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ (often abbreviated to ‘SOGI’) automatically implies a gendered role and excludes the non-gendered identity from the process. As a basis for human rights legislation as applied by various governing authorities – non-gendered human beings are implicitly excluded and the spirit of UDHR is lost in practice.
There is nothing so perfect it cannot be amended and improved and there is nothing cast in stone.
There are no perfect solutions to this problem because we exist in an imperfect world – but there is no reason to not seek to improve when there is manifestation of a clearly defined problem.
‘Gender identity’ is not an appropriate reference term for non-gendered people. It must be recognised, that there IS a problem and that the problem needs to be addressed.
Terminology (continued) - or rather, Who are you calling “queer”?
Referring back to the recently released Council of Europe report, I would also like to comment further on the report’s use of “queer” as a reference item. The one brief reference on page 21 (of a 134 page report) finds diverse categories bracketed together in one brief sentence and labelled “queer” (or more specifically “......those who identify themselves as “queer””). And the glossary on page 132 “’queer’......currently often denotes persons who do not wish to be identified with reference to traditional notions of gender and sexual orientation and eschew heterosexual, heteronormative and gender-binary categorisations” - a wider cross section that probably includes non-gendered are again unspecifically bracketed together and referenced under ‘queer’.
I have never used the term ‘queer’ as self-reference or as a reference towards others. Many people of non-gendered identity accorded this inappropriate label (a label originally accorded to us by others) would not use this word for self-definition. This term is irrelevant and deeply offensive.
‘Queer’ is an inappropriate misrepresentation of human identity outside the gendered societal structure and I find its use in this context thoroughly objectionable.
What non-gendered human beings aspire is equality of treatment as accorded the gendered majority within society. We are not ‘queer’. We are a socially disadvantaged ‘category’ in that we are invisible within the gendered societal structure and we want and aspire for essentially the things the privileged gendered majority can take for granted. I would like to see a move away from such inappropriate reference in order that non-gendered human beings can be seen in a credible light – that we are taken seriously and therefore perceived ‘deserving’ of same fundamental rights as accorded the gendered majority - when the process of societal education has advanced our legitimate cause to a level where social visibility can be achieved – and that time draws closer every day!
‘Queer’ as a label is nothing more than a weapon that can be used against the most marginalized who are trying against what might sometimes appear to be almost insurmountable odds to establish credibility for our FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT to have our identities recognised as legitimate within a gendered societal structure.
I question how and why this word ever came to be used as a term of definition for those whose core identities are not defined in accordance with socially recognised gendered identities: male and female. It saddens me that this word is now often used as self-definition. If non-gendered and other marginalized sections within the transpopulation accept self-debasing terminology as reference, we are condemning ourselves to an existence that is permanently outside the margins of society.
As a word with origins in a hatred of gay people, is it possible that ‘queer’ was introduced into the trans vocabulary by those within our midst who actually want to perpetuate the kind of division I referred to earlier in this piece? Because there are enemies to this cause and there are those who want non-gendered human beings never to enjoy social equality and parity of treatment as accorded the privileged gendered majority. To bestow an inappropriate label is a way of keeping the most marginalized ‘in our place’. Interestingly, when used as a verb, to ‘queer’ means “to put (a person) in a hopeless or disadvantageous situation” (online Dictionary).
Mainstream society will never accept the non-gendered identity as legitimate or treat non-gendered people as fundamentally equal human beings when we allow ourselves to be defined using terms of such derogatory language. The issues that adversely impact upon our lives (ruin our lives) will not be resolved if we appear as not to be taken seriously. And the battle for non-gendered transpeople to attain legal recognition and accordant fundamental rights as human beings is a serious business.
It has been a very long haul but I can foresee there will come a time when the United Kingdom passport authority does bow to pressure and it will be possible for non-gendered passport holders in the UK to obtain a non gender-specific passport with ‘X’ as an indicator. It really is a matter of time before the UK joins New Zealand and other countries around the world that offer to their trans citizens the option to obtain a non gender-specific passport. As a non gender-specific indicator ‘X’ is internationally recognised in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation accepted standards for machine readable passports (ICAO – UN agency that sets international accepted standards of passport regulation). ‘Q’ on the other hand will never be recognised as anything other than a barrier to our credibility within the cultural mainstream.
GOVERNMENT ACTION PLAN ON TRANS EQUALITY – 2nd online survey (reminder)
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) second surveys is now online.
For ALL non-gendered in the UK, the GEO want your views as part of an ongoing information gathering exercise that will go towards shaping the Government Action Plan to be launched later in the year.
It is really important that non-gendered transpeople within the UK participate in this process because the results will go towards directing future government policy. If we are to make a convincing argument to the government for provision, then we need to let them know we are here and that this issue will not go away!
The second survey is focused on healthcare – the area identified in response to the first survey as having the most serious impact on the lives of the transpopulation. For non-gendered, specific healthcare services are nonexistent. We urgently require good quality healthcare that is respectfully appropriate and meets our needs throughout such times as before, during and after the period of physical transition.
It is morally indefensible that non-gendered human beings should be forced into a treatment path that was designed for gendered transsexual patients or are otherwise denied access to necessary surgery.
In the ongoing debate about same/mixed sex wards, where do non-gendered fit into this? As neither are appropriate for non-gendered but where are the alternatives?
The NHS process of ‘streaming’ for targeted screening programmes means the central computer system will default to enter a gender on the non-gendered patient’s medical record – overriding any amendment made at a local level by the patient’s own GP. I may eventually seek to opt out of the screening programme because I do not want inappropriate gendered references on my records – even though this could mean I am placing my future health at risk. In the meantime I am still trying to get inappropriate gendered references removed from my record on the central database.
The GEO survey can be accessed on page 2 of trans e-bulletin no. 2 http://www.equalities.gov.uk/pdf/2nd%20transgender%20e-bulletin.pdf
The survey should be returned by 17 July 2011. The GEO assure all response will be treated as confidential. Contact the GEO at email@example.com for all related enquiries.
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered.