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elancane's Journal

Christie Elan-Cane
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NON-GENDERED - Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the gendered societal structure

I have worked for almost three decades to raise awareness of non-gendered identity.

My core identity is neither male nor female which rendered me socially invisible within a gendered societal structure.

I campaign upon a principle of legitimate identity as a fundamental human right.

What began as a plea for acceptance set in motion a chain of events causing the evolution of my work over the years into a full-time campaign. It was not the outcome I had wanted however, from a place of invisibility within gendered society and with no one working to raise the issue on my behalf, I was left with no choice other than fight for legitimate identity that most people [all people, it had appeared at the time] can take for granted.

Most of my work from the point I became politically engaged was necessarily under the radar. My work was generally unacknowledged until my legal case against the UK Home Office’s discriminatory passport policy attracted worldwide media coverage.

I was born in 1957 and grew up in a period when there were men and women but nothing else – or so I thought. I was conditioned to believe there were no alternatives to male and female. I'd have been far less confused if I'd known then what I effectively had to teach myself as an adult after I'd undergone the process of physical transition.

I’d transitioned before I became aware that I was trans. Today one might wonder how is that possible but it really was a different world. I was someone – or something – that supposedly did not exist within gendered society. I embraced my non-gendered identity and everything that had confused me or otherwise felt ‘wrong’ up to that point just fell into place and made sense.

I am trans however my core identity is [was always] non-gendered.

I have never regretted my decision to transition nor my decision to disclose although I do have cause to regret the outcome.

In March 1992 I made a fateful decision to be interviewed on national TV. That decision permanently changed the course of my life. The negative outcome over a period of years brought me to a point where I knew I could not [and would not] compromise or deny my non-gendered identity but must instead fight to achieve legitimate identity that most people can take for granted.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 [GRA] provided some gendered trans people with the means to gain legal recognition but the GRA made life harder and more complicated for many trans people who did not meet its narrow criteria.

We were effectively left behind and the consequences of that betrayal are poignant to this day.

I approached my local MP in 2005 due to the impending threat of a national ID card scheme that would have forced me to accept an ID card with an inappropriate gendered reference. The national roll out of this mandatory scheme was widely publicised in the media as though implementation was inevitable. I had very reluctantly renewed my passport on two occasions [1995 and 2005] where the passport agency had made clear that a passport would not be issued without a gendered reference. I was not however prepared to accept a gendered ID card and had made the decision to refuse to participate in the scheme. This would have eventually resulted in prosecution if news reports at the time were correct.

The ID card scheme did not materialise but nonetheless illustrated how the rights of the individual can be casually violated when a person is socially invisible.

In the following years I've worked to get the issue into the political arena. My campaign was directly behind a series of Early Day Motions [EDMs] tabled by MPs over five consecutive parliamentary sessions. One EDM was signed by more than 100 MPs.

'X' Passports became a focal point of my campaign.

HM Passport Office [HMPO] maintained its firm refusal to issue gender neutral passports that display an 'X' character despite their use in a growing number of countries. The UK has an international obligation to process 'X' Passports issued in other countries at national border control.

I'd got 'X' Passports into the government's Trans Action Plan in 2011. HMPO undertook to review its passport policy but the 'review' was a sham and used as a means to bury the issue.

Successive attempts to persuade HMPO to change its discriminatory passport policy had failed which left me with no choice but to take legal action.

I approached the esteemed international law firm Clifford Chance LLP early in 2013. A team was assigned to my case and initial approaches were made to persuade HMPO to change its discriminatory passport policy. Finally that process too was exhausted and legal proceedings against the UK Home Secretary began.

A judicial review hearing took place in April 2018. The landmark case set a new legal precedent. It was the first time a UK court had recognised that a non-gendered person’s right to respect and a private life were protected under ECHR Article 8. But the ruling went in the government's favour.

In October 2018 permission was granted for me to appeal. The appeal was heard in December 2019.

In March 2020 the Appeal Court again ruled in the government's favour. The ruling affirmed the engagement of ECHR Article 8. As a non-gendered person I had fundamental rights.

A Permission to Appeal application has been lodged with the Supreme Court.

Despite the ongoing fight for 'X' Passports in the UK, over many years of campaigning to raise awareness and achieve legitimate identity that most people can take for granted, I have won a number of victories as organisations changed their computer systems, public announcements and overall procedures to accommodate people who do not and CANNOT define as male or female.

I was shortlisted for 2019 National Diversity Lifetime Achiever Award.

Many people are now visibly and vocally defining outside the gendered societal structure because there is a platform that did not exist when I made that fateful decision to disclose.

Twitter @ChristieElanCan

The Fallacy of the Myth of Gender (presentation, Gendys2K, University of Manchester, 2000)

Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right

The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered