The government’s plans for voluntary identity cards could pose problems for trans people, an activist group has said.

Gender Spectrum UK has launched an online petition aimed at ensuring the safety of people “who present themselves in a manner which is not the same as the gender to which they were assigned at birth.”

A petition on the Downing St website asks the government to consider trans concerns in draft guidelines for the national ID card. The public consultation on the guidelines ends this week.

Last year the Home Office announced that people who are in the process of gender reassignment will be able to apply for two ID cards.

The government’s controversial ID card system is voluntary, and the new £5 billion scheme has been criticised by opposition parties and civil liberties groups.

The Identity Cards Act became law in March 2006 and the Home Office rolled out biometric residence permits for foreign nationals in 2008, with the first ID cards being issued to British citizens in 2009.

ID cards are already being issued to critical workers at Manchester and London City airports.

“If that project is successful, the cards could ultimately be required identification for all critical airport workers,” according to the Home Office.

“From 2010, young people will be offered the chance to sign up for cards. And, from 2012, ID cards will roll-out for the general population.”

Trans people will be issued a card in their birth gender, but those undergoing treatment to change sex will be allowed to buy a second card in their new gender.

Gender Spectum UK said the proposals could pose a danger to some trans people.

“If a person wishes to present in a manner that is not the same as their Birth Certificate they will have to undergo a process to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) or hold two ID cards,” it said.  

“This means that unless a GRC is obtained, the person will need to have two ID cards.

“Both will be in the person’s legal name, but one will identify the person as male, the other as female. The one in the birth gender will be valid for travel throughout Europe, the other will not.

“Once a full GRC has been issued, a single ID card will be issued in the acquired gender.

“The guidelines also state that the database will also keep details of your birth gender, even after a GRC has been issued.

“We believe that a person carrying two ID cards, each bearing details that conflict with the other, will be become vulnerable and at risk from harm from foreign security services or members of the public, particularly in
volatile countries and/or situations.

“We believe that this puts many people’s lives at risk. We also believe that this puts many people who do not have a
GRC in a vulnerable position.”

The on-line petition is available at:
petitions.number10.gov.uk/TransID

Speaking in Manchester last month Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, said:

“Identity cards are already a reality and thanks to Manchester Airport’s agreement to work with us, the city is leading the way in their roll-out.

“As the cards become more widely available the whole country will see real benefits for citizens, businesses and the country by giving a convenient and secure proof of identity that locks people to one identity.

“That is why we have brought forward our plans and this year will begin offering identity cards on a voluntary basis, giving British nationals the chance to access the benefits of identity cards as soon as possible.

“Those benefits include increased protection against identity fraud for the individual and help in protecting our communities against criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorist trying to exploit multiple identities.”