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Column: Why do I have to choose between my identity and my family?

My identity is very important to me. But my family is my life itself. I love them so much. I should not be asked to give up one for the other.

Victoria Mullen

RECENTLY THERE WAS a reference made to a “broken home” on some TV programme.  My 12-year-old daughter innocently asked me what a broken home was.  I explained it to her and to cement the explanation, I embarrassedly admitted that ours was probably a “broken home”.

She leapt to her feet and stood before me. Hands on hips, she stamped her foot on the floor and declared:

“I am not from a broken home. I love my two homes and my family. I love my life and I am really happy. I am not from a broken home,” she said again. “Now take that back,” she demanded.

I did. My daughter makes such good sense and I am proud of her. Ours is not a broken family – it is just different.

Forced divorce?

The Irish Government hopes to shortly pass legislation that requires people divorce in order to obtain their basic human right of identity. I refer to the Gender Recognition Bill, which, for the first time, will give some Irish trans people the right to be identified in their preferred gender. However, legal gender recognition will not be available to people who are married or in a civil partnership.

My marriage is a valid, heterosexual marriage. This is because when I married, I then had a man’s body and was still living as a man. Though my wife and I no longer live together, we have decided that we do not want a legal separation, let alone a divorce. We feel a divorce could lead to serious difficulties which might hinder us in raising our children in a healthy family environment.

There is no provision in the Irish Constitution or Irish legislation that prevents a married trans person from undergoing Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS). Neither would such surgery invalidate an existing marriage. Following my transition and GRS in 2006, I am now a woman. I will remain a woman, whether Government cares to admit this or not.

I should not be asked to give up one for the other

My identity is very important to me. But my family is my life itself. I love them so much. I should not be asked to give up one for the other. A legislative requirement that I do is an obscenity.

It is truly historic that all political parties support the right of same-sex couples to marry.  Yet each and every one of these same politicians from Labour and Fine Gael will also support the introduction of forced divorce for trans people. Why? They wish to ensure that same-sex marriage cannot be introduced through some perceived trans back door!  Surely this is some kind of a sick joke? Unfortunately, it is not.

To avoid any possibility of legal action from the fundamentalist Catholic right, the Government has chosen to legislate for this immoral and certainly unconstitutional attack on my family. Instead, it will now face certain legal action from me and others like me.

Article 41 of our Constitution provides that the State must protect the family and the Institution of Marriage from attack. Any law which puts a citizen’s marriage under threat, as the existing version of the Gender Recognition Bill does, must therefore be Unconstitutional. Government already knows this but it is unwilling to admit it.  Otherwise, it would address my one question everyone in Government has so far refused to answer.

How does Government meet its obligations under Article 41 to defend and protect my family and my marriage by introducing legislation which, at best attacks, its very foundation and, at worst, could lead to my family’s destruction?

I appeal to the Government to take the humane path

See if you can get an answer to it because I cannot. The politician’s trick of answering a different question is usually employed to avoid giving a simple answer to my question. I acknowledge that granting me gender recognition while I am still married does create certain uncomfortable questions for Government. Does the fact that I was male when I got married mean that my marriage is a heterosexual marriage? Or does legal recognition of my preferred gender somehow now render it a same-sex marriage?

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If Government genuinely feels it will be damned regardless of whichever course of action it might take, would it not consider taking the humane path and choose equality? The marriages and families of those on the fundamentalist right will not be threatened if my gender is recognised. Yet my marriage and the existence of my family is threatened by Government, if this law is not amended.

Government has already acknowledged that it is the basic human right of any person to have their gender legally recognised. This right should not be contingent on a couple, who do not want to get divorced, being forced to do so. Remember, it’s been less than 20 years since we even had the right to get divorced in this country.

Who exactly is this Government legislating for?

Trans people have been fighting for our right of identity for decades – something every other citizen has always taken for granted. Trans voices have been largely ignored by Government in the preparation of this Bill, even though it deals solely with our rights. Who exactly is this Government legislating for?

Government congratulates itself on how “progressive” its proposals are and compares them to gender recognition rules in some other European countries. However, it would be much more accurate to describe Governments proposals as “slightly less restrictive”. But sadly, they fall far behind those countries that truly are progressive.

In the Dail debate last year and in the Seanad this month, all TDs and Senators who spoke, including Labour and Fine Gael members, did so to point out the Bill’s failings.  Nevertheless the Government ignores everyone, unwilling thus far to accept any compromise to the proposals.

I am a woman. All I need is a simple piece of paper from the Government confirming my legal identity as a woman. But because I refuse to destroy my own family, Government proposes to sentence me to live the rest of my life legally as a man.

Victoria Mullen is a proud parent of three children and runs her own tax consultancy practice in Dublin.

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About the author:

Victoria Mullen

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