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UK government urged to recognise people who aren’t male or female

Joe Williams September 1, 2015

The UK government has been urged to recognise people who don’t identify as male or female – as it undertakes a review of trans issues.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee is this month meeting to conduct a review of provisions for trans people in the UK.

The new committee – which has oversight of equality issues across all government departments – is holding evidence sessions on September 8 and 15, focussing on issues including trans children and trans healthcare.

However, the committee has been urged to also specifically look at the treatment of non-gendered people, who don’t identify as male or female and have no current legal recognition.

Law firm K&L Gates has made a submission to the committee, representing non-gendered campaigner Christie Elan-Cane on a pro bono basis.

The campaigner recently urged politicians to consider recognition of non-gendered people at the PinkNews Debate – with Labour’s Yvette Cooper calling for a review of the issue. 

Christie Elan-Cane told PinkNews: “Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right.

“Non-gendered people are forced to deny our identities in order to survive within a gendered societal structure that recognises nothing other than male and female.

“For years the fight for non-gendered legal recognition was dismissed as a non-issue and a lifestyle choice and it was claimed by successive governments that those who suffered the effects of social invisibility were not disadvantaged from the rest of society while our lives were being ruined as we were punished for no reason other than for being who we are.

“This issue will not go away – we are socially invisible but we are here. And we want legitimate identity that others can take for granted.”

Jonathan Lawrence – partner of K&L Gates, and chair of its London office diversity committee – told PinkNews: “Led by associate, Aritha Wickramasinghe, we are representing Christie Elan-Cane on a pro bono basis in per campaign for the legal recognition of non-gendered identity and persons.

“Our submission to the Transgender Equality Inquiry being held by the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee highlights that further clarification of and amendments to UK legislation are required to expressly recognise and protect non-gendered persons from discrimination and unfair treatment.”

The UK’s Gender Recognition Act was passed in 2004, recognising trans men and trans women. However, some campaigners have called for it to be updated, given more progressive laws passed elsewhere.

The Republic of Ireland recently passed a new gender recognition law that allows trans people to legally change their gender through a statutory process, without medical involvement – while countries including Australia have begun to issue ‘Gender X’ passports for people who don’t identify as male or female.

The new committee was formed in May after years of pressure from a group of MPs.

Former equalities minister Maria Miller was elected to chair the Committee – and promptly confirmed the committee’s first actions will be a review of provisions for transgender people.

More: Christie Elan-Cane, K&L Gates, Maria Miller, UK, Women and Equalities Select Commitee

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