Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure
TOO MUCH MISINFORMATION
Following my previous posting and the inevitable outpouring from the media there is now a considerable amount of confusion about exactly who can or more specifically who cannot apply for an Australian non gender-specific ‘X’ passport.
I am relieved to confirm and reiterate the ‘X’ option has been granted to Australian citizens in accordance with a recommendation from the report compiled by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Sex Files: the Legal Recognition of Sex in Documents and Government Records - presented to the Australian Federal Government in March 2009.
This is confirmed on the Australian Passport Office website and is very clear:
“A passport may be issued to sex and gender diverse applicants in M (male), F (female) or X (indeterminate/unspecified/intersex).”
Under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards, sex is one of four mandatory personal identifiers contained in a passport. A passport must include either the letter M (male), F (female) or X (indeterminate/unspecified/intersex).
Unsurprisingly, the media picked up and ran with the ‘X’ aspect although the Australian government recognition of ‘X’ as a valid option is part of a wider story of passport reform based on recommendations from the AHRC report. The journalistic media awareness of the issues is, again unsurprisingly, often very limited. I believe that confusion has arisen because some of the content further down the Australian Passport Office web page refers specifically to intersex in relation to ‘X’, presenting an ambiguous – in linguistic terms - picture of the facts.
It makes me wonder how the media will react when presented with the fact that we are all intersex to a certain degree!
Note of caution (or caveat to cover my backside): Although the above statement taken from the Australian Passport Office website appears to be unequivocal to me, I have sent multiple email requests to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) asking they can confirm the position - as I understand - is correct and DFAT have unfortunately not responded. I post this on my website on the basis the information uploaded onto the Australian Passport Office website on 14 September 2011 has not been removed or amended and therefore assumed as correct.
An overview of the present global position for non gender-specific passport provision, all correct to best of my knowledge:
New Zealand – Non-gendered can apply to Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) for ‘X’ passport with signed statutory declaration – no medical support or ‘evidence’ required. The online version of NZ passport application form has just two gendered options so I assume that applicants seeking the third option should apply in person to the DIA with statutory declaration. The ‘X’ option originated in NZ as an option for gendered transpeople without the required documentation to amend the gender (certification is needed for gendered transpeople to amend gender on passport in NZ). However the option has been embraced by non-gendered and approximately 400 ‘X’ passports have been issued (2007, DIA figure). There are no rules that prevent non-gendered NZ citizens retaining ‘X’ indicator on passport when time to renew.
Australia – The new regulations authorise non gender-specific ‘X’ with supporting letter from medical practitioner. Despite media confusion, the non gender-specific provision will be available for transpeople who do not identify themselves as male or female and also voluntarily available to intersex people. The alternative Document of Identity remains available to Australian citizens – non-gendered and gendered transpeople – who cannot get requisite medical letter to obtain ‘X’ passport. This is a non gender-specific travel document but valid for three years and not accepted at all international border controls. A passport substitute but not a satisfactory alternative.
Denmark – A vile system. Denmark does recognise the ‘X’ option and the option was introduced for same purpose as New Zealand (a proposed temporary measure or alternative option for gendered transpeople without requisite certification). In practice, however, applicants must undergo a tortuous round of ‘diagnostic’ examination involving multiple visits (reportedly between six and eight visits) for psychiatric assessment at the Department of Sexology, National Danish Hospital before the passport document can be amended to ‘X’ – and, as the exercise is in order to assess the ‘suitability’ of gendered transpeople, non-gendered Danish citizens should not even think of applying. As reported here some months ago, Danish campaigners recently attempted to have the situation reviewed at the UN Human Rights Council but were not granted a proper hearing. I await further news.
India – It is possible to apply for an ‘X’ passport by ticking “Others” on the passport application form – which is available online http://passport.gov.in/pms/OnlineRegistration.jsp. There are cultural reasons behind this – and it is so extremely unfortunate that Western imperialism has suppressed the wonderful diversity that still exists in some parts of the world.
Malaysia – I understand the non gender-specific option is available – I received this information by word of mouth but not able to find any further details online.
Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan – I could find no specific information regarding passport provision for these countries but all have moved indicatively towards granting legal recognition for the identities of citizens who do not identify within the ‘dominant’ gendered societal structure.
The United Kingdom – The UK Identity and Passport Service continues to drag its feet and bury its monolithic ostrich head in the sand. I am still pursuing my fundamental right to carry a travel document that does not contain an inappropriate and false gendered reference. I am regularly on the case of those whose job it is to be on their case and will report further when I have more news. I will add however that I am not prepared to be a lone guinea pig for the UK – as such an exercise would undoubtedly be set up in order to fail – I am working towards enabling the non gender-specific ‘X’ option to become a reality (on a voluntary basis, of course) for all non-gendered people in the UK.
NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
The use of inappropriate terminology has become a central focus of my recent ‘journal’ entries. This remains a fundamentally important issue for non-gendered because the language and terms with which we are referenced has a profound effect on the way we – as a diverse section within society - are perceived and a profound effect on the way we are treated by others within society.
The terminology is WRONG!
In this second video recording, I focus again on inappropriate terminology as applied towards non-gendered transpeople http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqVh3Lug_Xw.
Consultation on preventing suicide in England
On a sombre theme, my attention was recently drawn to this Department of Health live consultation
At the back of the consultation document is a section titled ‘Information from engagement with protected characteristic groups’. Not surprisingly, the “transgender community” are identified as an at-risk group (Annex B). Although it should be noted that where gendered transpeople are one of nine categories protected under the Equality Act 2010, the position of non-gendered transpeople is unclear - because legally we do not exist at all.
An online response form is available on the DH website (and a downloadable version for response via email or post), although it is also noted that respondents are asked to enter whether they are ‘male’, ‘female’, ‘transgendered’ or ‘rather not say’. It would have been helpful for transpeople to have had a broader range of options (as applied to ethnicity) on the questionnaire – in order that non-gendered transpeople can have visibility in making a response – the questionnaire has a ‘comments’ section however so a brief verification in there will have to suffice. Enquiries, write to email@example.com. The consultation closes 11 October 2011.
I re-emphasise the message repeated over and again on this website. The lack of social legitimacy and visibility accorded to non-gendered transpeople has pushed us outside the societal margin. We exist yet we are unseen. The reality of our existence is denied and we are denied an identity. The lack of provision, in legal terms and on a practical level where a gendered role is demanded in almost every area of life - and where gender is indeed an assumed prerequisite of identity - renders impossible the capacity for an individual without a gendered identity to function within society. The act of survival, for many non-gendered people, involves the need to compromise and deny the core identity as routine.
But more so, because where gendered transpeople are presented with a clear visible objective, the gendered societal structure offers no definable answers or truths for non-gendered transpeople – and non-gendered people can remain ignorant about the core of their identity throughout their lives. Non-gendered transpeople may experience extreme distress and are unable to comprehend the root cause, possibly presenting at healthcare services with other ‘symptomatic’ problems such as depression, anxiety, extreme confusion and low self esteem, self-harming, anorexia or exhibiting behavioural problems as children. I wonder how many people inhabiting our hospitals and other ‘care’ institutions, rehab, prisons, hostels and homeless shelters – and the streets – are non-gendered and either undisclosed or unaware.
And for the self-aware and self-defined, there are the problems associated with disclosure – where the non-gendered transperson effectively becomes a ‘non-person’ within the eyes and mindsets of the law and society. If there is nowhere for non-gendered transpeople to go – if a human being cannot identify within either one of two socially ‘permitted’ gendered roles and gendered society will not ‘allow’ an alternative self-definition that feels right and appropriate – then where does that person go? Non-gendered transpeople not only experience rejection by society but sadly are often rejected by their families. Non-gendered people can end up alone without any place of support.
The position of socially invisible non-gendered human beings within a gendered societal structure is often desperate and hopeless – to such extent that suicide would appear to be the only option – because there is literally nowhere else to go. That is why it is imperative that non-gendered transpeople are specifically recognised as a significant at-risk group in the government consultation.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – what is the point? (Revisited)
As readers of this site from way back may remember, and ironically this was at the time the Australian Human Rights Commission launched their report as referenced earlier in this piece, I was engaged in dispute with our own representative body.
I was possibly being terribly naive but I had believed the EHRC remit was to promote civil equality and human rights for the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, admittedly these were alien concepts under the auspices of their puppet masters - the collectively cretinous dictatorship better known as New Labour (the former ruling government that would have criminalised non-gendered transpeople if we refused to collude in our own social invisibility and accept an inappropriate gendered reference on a personal identity card under that administration’s discredited – and now defunct – ID card scheme).
I ceased contact with EHRC after an incredibly frustrating 16 months, having realised I had been misled into believing the organisation were prepared to engage with me on the extraordinary plight of the socially disenfranchised non-gendered transpopulation. The period of contact with EHRC included my instigating two formal complaints against the organisation (one upheld, the other evaporated into thin air after contact ceased). After the 2010 election brought about a very welcome change of government, I was invited to participate in the discussions and was able to present the issue to the government – this happened DESPITE and not because of the EHRC.
I had no contact with the EHRC at all for about five months – and was dismayed to learn the organisation had any involvement with the Government Action Plan on TransEquality (I suppose their presence in the proceedings was inevitable but I had just ‘forgotten’ about them as events had moved on). Eventually I inadvertently found myself in conversation with one of their representatives at a meeting, and decided for some unfathomable reason to ignore my gut instinct which was to run a mile and instead to run with it and try once more to garner EHRC support in presenting the issue to a wider audience (in the form of EHRC issued recommendations and ‘guidance’ to public sector bodies and the private sector).
I briefly outlined the background and my thorny ‘history’ with EHRC and then suggested there was much the organisation could do to raise awareness about the dire situation of non-gendered transpeople in the UK. I further suggested ongoing contact should be reinstated in order that EHRC could properly engage with this issue, which I then followed up in an email on 27thJuly 2011.
In response, I was asked to provide evidence and examples of the infringement of non-gendered peoples’ rights (!) and duly responded on 4th August with a lengthy email containing pretty much the same information they already held on file. On 15th September I received the following reply:
Please accept my apologies for the long delay in responding to your e-mail.
The Commission has re-examined it’s [sic] policy as outlined in an e-mail between yourself and [NAME REMOVED] dated 9th July 2010 and still supports the decision that the issue of non-gender is not one that it can engage with at this time.
I realise that it must be frustrating considering how long it has taken for me to respond. I would just like to say that the Commission does recognise the significance of the issues you raise for those affected by them.”
So I ask again, what exactly is the point of an organisation in receipt of considerable sums of public money that consistently and shamelessly fails to accommodate within its mandate the needs of the most marginalised?
The EHRC claim to recognise the significance of the issues “for those affected by them” - but the organisation’s senior ranking members still can’t even pretend to give a damn. The EHRC is an anti-discrimination body that discriminates.
And furthermore, as non-gendered transpeople are very much part of the coalition government action plan and the EHRC have stated in their response “the issue of non-gender is not one that it can engage with at this time”, on what basis should this cherry-picking quango remain involved with the Government Action Plan on TransEquality at all?
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered.