"We recognise that a very small number of people consider themselves to be of neither gender. We are not aware that that results in any specific detriment, and it is not Government policy to identify such people for the purpose of issuing non-gender-specific official documents." - Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
I was not surprised when I read the MoJ's negative response to a recent call to make provision for human beings who exist outside the gendered societal structure because this outrage provoking riposte represents current policy and gets repeated whenever Government is approached on the thorny issue of what to do about addressing the situation of individuals whose core identities are neither male nor female. The UK Government can no longer get away with complete denial of the issue per se, so 'official' policy has shifted in recent years from denial that "such people" exist to denying there is damage and suffering caused to individuals due to a systematic failure to recognise our identities as legitimate.
The government even admits here, albeit in a roundabout way, that current policy is not to identify people of neither gender through issuing the appropriate documentation but further twists the argument by patronisingly indicating its failure to make provision is entirely for our own benefit due to fear we should be "identified". Identified and treated as equal human beings as opposed to existing in the shadows and on the margins of society?
That the statement goes on to indicate that [Government] is not aware of "any specific detriment" is a reflection of more than ignorance. It betrays a callous indifference towards the welfare of people who have no visibility and no voice. The indication being that "such people" do not just represent "a very small number" but that "such people" are completely insignificant. Government cannot deny our existence but nonetheless denies to us the foundations of legitimacy that are essential for any chance of a normal life and a better future.
In the course of my campaign work I've received numerous responses expressing similar sentiment from minsters and senior civil servants from different government departments. It is a dismissive response and conveys a message that we are unimportant as individuals, that our situation is hopeless and that our welfare does not really matter. I wonder how many people affected by this issue seriously considered ending their lives as a consequence of the MoJ's very public reiteration of official UK Government policy.
It is ironic the MoJ should issue this response after a trans* equality inquiry led by the Women and Equalities Select Committee had already started gathering evidence. During a recent oral panel session before the Committee, I was asked to name some of the good and bad things about being trans* in the UK. I struggled with the 'good' and recounted aspects about my life that are good despite rather than because of my status as a non-gendered trans* person. As for the 'bad', I could have brought a shopping list but there would not have been enough time. I summarized in my response to the Committee that I am hundreds of thousands of pounds worse off than I would otherwise have been at this point in my life as a consequence of my decision to disclose. Would that be detrimental enough to satisfy HM Government I wondered?
Detriment is succumbing to societal enforced gendered classification and being required to accept inappropriate gendered references 'M' or 'F' on personal identity documentation. Detriment forces us to become unwilling colluders in our own social invisibility in order to 'survive' within gendered society. Detriment is having one's identity consistently misunderstood by others. Detriment is that our most fundamental needs are ignored, an absence of provision that is almost universal from a lack of suitable public bathroom facilities to the withholding of access to essential surgery to correct our bodies. Detriment is the societal obsession with gender as a commercial marketing tool that puts many goods and services out of reach to anyone who cannot indicate either 'M' or 'F' on an application form. Detriment is exclusion from sporting and other gender segregated activities. Detriment is being unable to marry without compromise due to the gender-specific drafting of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Detriment is an unrelenting, oppressive, grinding annihilation of one's identity until one is effectively rendered a non-citizen within one's own country.
The outcome of detriment heaped upon individuals results in denial of the fundamental right of legitimate identity because Government perceives non-gendered identity as inconvenient therefore current policy is that "such people" should remain invisible.
The Women and Equalities Committee will report its initial findings in January 2016.
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