In the dim and distant days of 1972, the UK government approved the use of ‘Ms’ as a female title on official documents: a victory for women everywhere, it was no longer necessary for a title to define your marital status. And yet, some 40 years later, the British government still refuses to acknowledge the need for a non-traditional gender option. Is it truly relevant for a person to declare their gender on a passport? Is it acceptable to force someone, someone who doesn’t define themselves as male or female, to make a choice? I would place myself firmly in the ‘no’ camp on this debate.
On 11th November there was a breakthrough in this campaign. The high court was granted permission to take forward the case of passport policy discrimination against transgender and non-gendered people. And about time too.
After 25 years of campaigning for complete recognition of non-gendered identity, it is high time that the voice of Christie Elan-Cane is heard. Elan-Cane was born female but identified as a man from a young age, and he believes that identity is a fundamental human right. This statement forms the backbone of Elan-Cane’s Non-Gendered campaign for complete social and legal representation. Identity is a right that the majority of people don’t acknowledge: if you have grown up always being represented by those ‘Male’ or ‘Female’ tick boxes, then it is understandable that this is an issue that has never been on your radar. I believe this is precisely why more attention needs to be given to the ‘Non-Gendered’ campaign.
In August of this year, Canada joined the nine others countries offering a gender neutral option X on their passports, including India, New Zealand and Pakistan. These are progressive but small developments on the road to the full recognition that Elan-Cane and others have worked so hard for.
According to the BBC, approximately 660,000 people in the UK are transgender, inter-sex, non-binary or have gender dysphoria. I suspect that the lack of gender options on our passports affects a great many more as well, and this change would help to include the many who may not feel represented in our society. I am not saying that providing option X on a passport would resolve this overnight, but it could be the precedent for further change.
The HM passport office has repeatedly dug its heels on the issue, however. First they claimed the cost would be too great, next that it would affect other legislation, and finally that those with gender X would need extra support at international borders. Sadly these are all valid points: undoubtedly there will be other countries with less accepting attitudes towards those who do not fit their mould. But rather than just allow this discrimination towards the LGBT community to continue, option X could be a chance to show an alternative to countries who are further away from recognising non-gendered people than ourselves.
Let us hope that this time is different, that 2017 will be the new 1972, and that we make the right choice to recognise all individuals and their preferences.