Newsflash! It doesn’t have to be this way.
Changing my legal identity to reflect reality in terms of my sex and gender was liberating.
Now I no longer have to push to have my real name and pronouns used when I go to my GP. When I vote, I vote as Keeva. When I travel abroad, I travel as the woman I always was. There’s clarity about my legal name when I deal with social services. My pronouns speak for themselves. I’m at no risk of having my former identity revealed to strangers every time I use my bank card.
All that stress is a thing of the past. Thanks to the reform to the law in Ireland, I now have a Gender Recognition Certificate which means my gender has been changed legally. My birth certificate, passport and other official documents now reflect my true gender and match my real self.
Seeing trans people fight for their basic rights in Britain reminds me how far we’ve come in Ireland - and how far there is to go across the Irish Sea. How close trans people there are to enjoying the same freedoms I do – as long as Britain’s government changes the Gender Recogntion Act (GRA).
The environment for trans rights in Britain, particularly in the press and among some women’s groups, has become volatile and vitriolic. It’s a dangerous mix of misinformation, ignorance, fear and hate, and trans people are caught up in this toxic tangle. The contrast with how things were in Ireland is striking.
But that’s not to say it was plain sailing. Far from it.
For decades, Dr Lydia Foy and the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC) pursued legal action to get Dr Foy’s birth certificate corrected. The trans community lobbied hard for change. Two private members bills kept the pressure up and moved the discussion forward, and we had vocal support from organisations ranging from the United Nations, to the Ombudsman for Children, to the Irish Council of GPs. And, in the end, there was full cross party support in both houses of the Oireachtas which ensured the legislation passed with little contention.
The Irish press reaction to the new legislation was quite muted.
There were a few articles about it, but generally the issue was drowned out by the fanfare and celebration over the marriage equality referendum that happened around the same time.
It’s a world away from what’s happening in Britain. There was none of the transphobic vitriol masquerading as ‘feminist debate’ here. Women’s organisations in Ireland were nothing but supportive and welcomed the new legislation. Irish feminism is more radical, anti-colonialist and intersectional and there’s a tradition of women of different backgrounds and lived experiences working together in solidarity. There was no debate about changes to the law.
In contrast, the British press has seen misleading statements about people ‘turning trans’. It’s just a transphobic narrative predicated on fear and prejudice.
We have to clear the confusion, loosen the tangle of misinformation, free ourselves from the malice and lies. It’s not difficult to do.
We just have to listen instead to trans voices and their experiences around gender recognition. Look at their families and surrounding communities. These are the people who have the real stories, the real lived experiences, the real difficulties – and the
It’s only trans people whose lives will change if the GRA is reformed. That’s all.
In Ireland, things have gone on just as they were before. None of the supposed nightmare scenarios you see reported in the British press have actually occurred. All that’s happened is that trans men and women have the things that cis people take for granted – and that’s having a name on their bank card, phone bill, passport and driving licence that legally matches their true identity.
That’s all GRA reform is about. Away from all the media hullabaloo and vitriol, the fear of some deliberately misinformed groups, it really is that simple.
Trans rights are startlingly clear and straight forward - a realisation that’s ultimately as liberating for everyone else as GRA reform will be for trans people in Britain.