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Ben Power of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) pictured earlier this week. Laura Hutton via Photocall Ireland

'They thought I had married myself': The experiences of transgender people in Ireland

One parent of a transgender child also spoke of the difficulties faced with schools.

TUESDAY SAW THE launch of an Amnesty International report into the rights of transgender people across Europe, reporting that their human rights are being violated.

The report details how in some countries. transgender people must undergo invasive surgery, sterilisation, and hormone therapy if they wish to change their legal status.

In Ireland, the option to change your legal gender is not available. Many will seek to change their name by deed poll, but even this small measure can be met with confusion in many parts of society, leading to misunderstanding on a regular basis.

Ben Power, Company Secretary with Transgender Equality Network Ireland, told about the basic problems he faced when he began transitioning in 2008.

After changing his name, he set about changing his name on as much documentation as possible, but to see some companies “it meant nothing”.

“For a while my electricity bill was being addressed to ‘Mr and Mrs Ben Power “, he said.

“Somehow they assumed I was married to myself.”

Everyone was so confused. It generally led to much longer conversations than just ‘I’ve changed my name’.

However, he stressed that the main issue is a gender marker attached to everyone’s PPS number, something a lot of people might not even be aware of, and it can not be changed without legal recognition of their gender – which currently is not possible.

Ben told a press conference last week that his had led to people being accused of attempting fraudulent behaviour as the gender they recognise is not their legal gender corresponding with their PPS number.

One man was left in the situation where he couldn’t obtain a passport with either his current or previous name.


While he was unable to obtain a passport with his previous female name as it was not his name any more, he was also unable to obtain a passport with his new name without having used it for two years.

Even in the medical profession, Ben has experienced doctors putting a huge emphasis on that fact that someone is transgender, despite it having no relevance to the procedure involved.

“Where I used to work, we had a doctor come in every year and give us a flu jab. When I told him I was taking testosterone, he didn’t want to give me the jab.

He made me call my own GP to ensure it would be okay, despite the fact that the testosterone in my system was the exact same as what would have been given to me if I was born with a penis but with no testosterone.

While these are serious impediments to the day-to-day life of transgender people, far more serious issues are present in Ireland.

“When there are discrepancies in our legal documents, we are outed against our will and left vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and even violence,” Ben said.

Ireland is moving to address this situation with Gender Recognition Bill 2013 Bill, which has so far received a positive reaction.


However a controversial part of this legislation is the act at which someone can legally change their gender.

Transgender children face bullying issues across the country as schools struggle to accommodate them, according to a support group for parents.

Catherine Cross of TransParenCI told that legislation would force the schools into action.

Personal beliefs

Without it, she said, schools are in no way obligated to accommodate transgender students, and leaves it up to the personal belief of those in charge.

She said her son’s school has been good with accepting his transition, although problems are occasionally encountered.

“He still gets his female name called out,” she said, “It’s a constant reminder to him and his peers that he is different.”

“We have to manage the situation on a daily basis.”

However, some children have been bullied out of other schools, where she says they handle the situation ‘dreadfully’.

There’s a lot of bullying issues. There’s a lot of schools just trying to ignore it, hoping it will go away, and treating it like just a phase they’re going through.

In one case a transgender child dropped out of school due to bullying issues. Home schooling was not a viable option, Catherine said.

Eventually they made an attempt to attend school again.

“The last I heard was that they dropped out again. This could be a person who never goes back to school”, she said.

“Education takes up such a small period of our lives, but can often affect everything that happens afterwards.”

“We need a system where you can get your identity sorted, sign a few documents, and then be able to get on with your life.”

You can read Amnesty International’s full report online here.

Read: ‘I want to be recognised as who I bloody well am’ >

More: Transgender woman awarded €5k after AIB did not recognise her new name >

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