THE BLOG

Non-Gendered - Fighting for Legal Recognition

24/12/2015 12:03 | Updated 23 December 2016

I have worked for more than 20 years to achieve legal and social recognition that others can take for granted. I campaign upon a principle of legitimate identity as a fundamental human right.

The notion of being 'in the wrong body' is often derided but that is exactly how I felt throughout my earlier life, not just in the wrong body but on the wrong planet because this was the 1970s and there were men and there were women. There were no cultural references, nothing discernible or tangible that I could relate to. There was nothing. I did not even conceptualise that I might be trans* until I reached my 30s and postoperative after a protracted process to find a sympathetic surgeon. I was ready finally to acknowledge the fact that my identity was neither male nor female. I experienced a quiet euphoria over having 'found' my non-gendered identity that was all too brief.

Life thereon would have been more straightforward if I could have accepted my identity but nonetheless presented myself as gendered, retaining inappropriate gendered references on my documentation and not flinching at gendered pronouns and salutations. A double life, essentially. But if I had compartmentalised my identity, lived out part-time then obscured as a shameful and guilty secret then I would rather not have lived at all.

It was 1991 and I had no idea how to address my situation. I'd never heard of anyone in this position although instinctively knew there must be others who identified in this way. Within a year I had 'outed' myself to friends, acquaintances and on national TV after an approach by the BBC. The backlash meant I had to leave my job and I became increasingly reclusive over the next few years while still the subject of occasional media intrigue. I would use the media to raise awareness and educate others while at the same time still in the process of educating myself. There was no internet and communication was difficult. I had no resources. I enquired of the UK passport authority whether I could return a renewal application without ticking either 'M' or 'F' and explained my predicament to bemused civil servants. The response was a definitive "No".

Fast forwarding to 2005, it was the threat of an impending mandatory national ID card scheme that led me to tentatively approach my MP on the basis that I would soon be required to obtain an identification card that grossly misrepresented my identity. I had made the decision to refuse to participate in a scheme that forced me to deny my non-gendered identity. My noncompliance would eventually lead to prosecution and a criminal record. I was facing the prospect of criminalisation by the state for exercising my right to be recognised as myself. My former MP Simon Hughes took an interest in the case although it was not until after the 2010 UK general election and a new government that things really started to change. The threat of ID cards was gone and I was determined that no one and no government should ever have the power to violate my fundamental rights in that way again. But the rights of individuals can be violated to devastating effect when those individuals are socially invisible and I needed to get non-gendered issues into the political arena.

I became involved with the coalition government's trans* equality action plan where my recommendation for the issuance of non gender-specific passports with 'X' in place of 'M' or 'F' was incorporated into the plan. A policy review was announced.

'X' passports are compliant with international standards determined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN agency that governs specifications for machine readable travel documents. 'X' passports are issued in a small but growing number of countries on the basis of need. I have strongly recommended the UK Government should adopt a policy of self-certification that works in New Zealand where 'X' passports have been issued for many years.

The HM Passport Office 'review' outcome was an unequivocal rejection of 'X' passports but there are serious outstanding questions concerning the credibility of the 'review' because it is clear that proposals in favour of 'X' were not considered at all.

I am currently going through the preliminary protocol stages prior to litigation, calling for a judicial review. And a series of parliamentary Early Day Motions have been tabled over three sessions in support of 'X' passports.

I am urging all MPs who want to express support for this issue to sign EDM 660 tabled by Norman Lamb MP on 5 November 2015.

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