Trans identity

During the committee stage of the ‘getting rid of ID cards’ Bill – the issue was raised as to how this would impact on those living in an acquired gender. It is currently the case that a passport will be issued in the acquired gender on production of a medical report. In fact, it is the passport in the acquired gender that then helps the individual who is transitioning or who has transitioned to acquire the Gender Recognition Certificate which means that that person’s gender will become, for all purposes, their gender. There is more information about the Gender Recognition Certificate here.

The discussion on this centred around whether there would be an impact on the transgender community when ID cards are withdrawn.

Julian Huppert (LibDem MP for Cambridge), in the debate in committee on ID cards and their relevance to transgender identity, pointed out that the trans people he had consulted with, wanted anything but to be separately identified because they would then be the only people to hold two identities (legally) and more identifiable as not of one gender. In fact he went on to question whether there was any need at all, even on a passport, for there to be a description of gender. Cambridge is the first authority to have had a transgendered Mayor and several councillors.

I would be interested to know how many people with gender identity issues look in at this blog – as the Government is now committed to a Transgender Action Plan and information from the Trans community will be key to that plan. For those who don’t want to publish on a blog – please feel free to contact me more privately.

I read one blog piece from one member of that community who was clearly following the debate. I’ve pasted this below from one of Julian Huppert’s constituents.

It’s nice to see an MP who one voted for doing some positive work on issues that affect you, even if that positive work is having to defend the possibly well intentioned but certainly badly thought out actions of the new opposition. You’d think Meg Hillier, having proposed an amendment to the bill scrapping ID cards relating to transgender people, (Specifically, New Clause 3) might have done some basic research on the issue. Clearly she had not and neither had her colleague, Julie Hilling, before also speaking in support of the clause. They were, to my mind, rather unprepared for the somewhat better researched responses from Lynne Featherstone MP, Equalities Minister, and Dr.Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge. (My local MP)

The amendment was to keep ID cards for transgendered people for a period as, according to Ms. Millier, it’s the “only document that could be given to someone in an acquired identity without a gender recognition certificate”. As anyone that’s been through the process knows, this is nonsense. In regards to passports, the United Kingdom Passport Service will issue a new passport if you can produce medical proof that you are transitioning. This new passport will have the appropriate name, photo and gender marker. In my case, this took around three weeks mostly because I had not enclosed my original birth certificate but Dr. Huppert makes reference to another of his constituents who managed to get a passport in 5 days.

I was particularly pleased that Dr. Huppert went on to suggest that we simply remove gender markers from ID documents. This is, in my mind, a much more satisfactory solution to the problem for a much wider group of people, for example anyone neutrios that rejects any particular binary gender identity, than having to carry two ID cards. Indeed, as he points out, if it is only transgender people that have valid ID cards, the mere act of producing an ID card outs oneself.

Labour went on to try to push for a government consultation on the issue. This appears to be a rather poor attempt to save face on their part as the only issue is one they tried to construct in their own minds without conducting the most basic research.

118 thoughts on “Trans identity

  1. I agree with Paula about trans awareness in the Houses of Parliament

    However the problem is that some people (especially in the Lords) will have entrenched views on LGB and T issues and disproportionate influence on the debate.

    Lynne – please keep us informed of developments

  2. Thank you Lynne. We need all the help we can get…particularly in these straightened times (unless you work for a effing bank, in which it’s Party On!!!)…particularly as the right wing think tanks are now coming out of the woodwork to ‘just raise’ the possibility of massive NHS budget cuts (despite the Coalition’s intentions)

  3. Indeed the Equality Act has made things worse for trans folk.

    See Zoe Brian’s post of 1 August

    ‘It’s now legitimate to refuse help to victims who are “transsexual persons” because of the transphobia of others. ‘

  4. My God. I hadn’t seen this. I feel sick. Absolutely sick. To think that so many of us thought that the Equality Act was a step in the right direction. So many of us were given the impression that the world was moving in the right direction and we came out into the light of day and felt we could move forward to become who we are leaving behind the pain and despair because it looked the world was finally beginning to understand, a little. If these interpretations are enforced (and I guess they can be , and IMAGINE if these ‘explanatory notes’ referred to gay people not trans?) then we have moved back 35 years.

    And nor did I know that the issuing of a (worthless) GRC, doesn’t mean that the register of births isn’t changed. It’s all so much fucking window dressing isn’t it?

  5. I was personally affected by this when I recently obtained a new passport. I’m bi-gender, but I effectively had to lie and say that I was male, since that is what is on my birth certificate. That was distressing and should not have been necessary.

    If you want my suggestion: issue *all* new passports with ‘X’ in the ‘Sex’ field. Yes, all of them.

    Note that there’s no security reason not to do this, because the sex field provides, at best, only one bit of information (even when it is not actively misleading), and therefore is irrelevant to detecting identity fraud. If a person looks vaguely like their photo, then that has already taken into account all of the identity-relevant information that you could possibly get from gender.

    This does not actually require any new legislation, only a change in policy of the Immigration and Passport Service. It also does not require any international consultation, since an ‘X’ satisfies all of the ICAO requirements for this field. (Of course, it’s polite to announce that you’re going to do this a short time in advance, to minimize the problems that people might encounter with poorly trained airport staff in other countries.)

    Please do not be tempted to try to *remove* the ‘Sex’ field — that would not satisfy the ICAO requirements and would stuff up every other country’s passport handling systems.

    This solution would be a dramatic statement that the coalition government takes gender equality and identity issues seriously. It would solve almost all of the issues that have been raised about other solutions marking out trans people. It would also remove one of the reasons for having to jump through hoops to convince some quack that you’re “really” transgender, which is a start.

    (One problem that it does not solve is the case of someone who is ‘out’ only in some contexts and not others, and would benefit from having passports with two different names and photos. However, I think that issuing two passports in order to handle that case raises more problems than it solves. In any case, issuing all passports with ‘X’ in the Sex field is not mutually exclusive with issuing multiple passports.)

  6. In my last comment, “Immigration and Passport Service” -> “Identity and Passport Service”.

  7. Hi Lynne,

    I was very impressed by the commitment in your conference speech regarding transgender people. I am sure you will anyway, but I wanted to ask if you are intending to consult with trans people over this policy prior to its finalisation.


  8. The GEO undertook an excellent workshop with many representatives from the trans community on 15 March 2010. The output of the workshop was a listing of the problems and potential solutions to the many difficulties and inequalities that transgender folk and their families face. Specifically, the groundwork for the transgender action plan has already been completed.

    Agreeing with Natacha, there is a need to consult on what is actually in the plan and the March workshop output provides us with a comprehensive checklist to ensure that the plan represents the (already) expressed views of the trans community and any further issues that have arisen since.


  9. Dear Lynne,

    I think the new housing benefit rules are going to be discriminatory for trans people. The rule that people under 35 cannot get housing benefit for a flat of their own, no matter how small, is going to hit young trans people very hard. The chances of being able to find accommodation in a shared flat of you are transgender are going to be very small, especially in areas outside London. As such this measure will have a disproportionate effect on trans people under 35 who are coming out, who are out but not passing or who are still unsure or have a mixed gender identity.

    I believe that this whole measure is flawed and should be reviewed, it forces hardship on the young and poor when there are very rich people with multiple properties who are not paying their way on deficit reduction. However if the government does not give way on this, then I would suggest that an exception needs to be made for trans young people, especially outside London. Please could you take this issue up with George Osborne.

    Natacha Kennedy

  10. Dear Lynne

    I’d like to back Natacha’s comment, and add that young trans people are a group likely to be exploited in every possible way if they are not able to afford secure stable social housing by themselves. The new rules on housing benefit will lead to suicide, bullying and sexual and financial exploitation for a lot of vulnerable young people, and, since young trans people are one of the most vulnerable groups, it will hit them especially hard.

    Roz Kaveney

  11. I’d like to add my voice to Natacha and Roz’s comments. A policy like this is bound to have a negative effect on young trans people, and is making an already marginalised group even more vulnerable than they already are. Please speak out against these cuts, or at least pressure the government into adding some protections for trans people to the legislation.

  12. It is very worrying indeed. The housing benefit cuts will affect trans people (and in fact everyone who is discriminated against) by being forced to seek accommodation with others. This is outrageous really, that people under the age of 35 if they lose their job will lose their home as well. Trans young people are at risk and very vulnerable. Surely it’s the Government’s duty to protect the vulnerable in our society?

    I urge you to do everything you can to stop this becoming law.

  13. Now that it is known that GRC holders birth certificates are tagged with a specific code, what is going to be done about it?

  14. I am the Trans Officer for PCS Proud and our trans members generally agree that having gender-neutral passports is a good idea, as is gender neutral civil “marriage” (call it what you like).

    It is going to ever so hard to move away from binary gender structures, which are still used to impose the expectations of others on people.

    I look forward to seeing where this goes

  15. The GRA obviously does not apply to civil servants administering its requirements.

    There are many ways of solving the trans marriage issue (Joanna’s gender neutral marriage for example) but solving the misery inflicted on trans-affected marriages is not a coalition priority and I am told that there is no plan to amend the GRA.


  16. Hi Lynne,

    The Prime Minister has announced that almost everything is going to be privatised, not just the NHS. I also understand that these new privatised services will not be subject to public sector equality duty. This looks like it is going to be a very serious reversal of rights for all minority groups but particularly transgender people who are in the process of struggling for the rights and legal/cultural/social recognition which most other groups take for granted.

    This is obviously very worrying and something which needs to be addressed, does the government have plans to ensure that the public sector equality duty will be made applicable to private sector organisations or will this simply be a permanent reversal of the rights of trans people, LGB people, Asians, the disabled, etc…?

    Natacha Kennedy

  17. Hi Lynne,

    Like the trans survey, you seem to be getting into your stride with trans stuff. I am starting to forgive you about student loans (especially if I do manage to keep my job). There seem to be one or two glitches with some of the questions; where you have a multiple choice grid the follow-up text box doesn’t always send…

    Thank you for this,


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