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

Amnesty International Ireland says transgender people face discrimination and inhuman and degrading treatment
Feb 4th 2014, 12:01 PM 10,318 120

“LEGAL GENDER RECOGNITION is important because, once and for all, I wouldn’t have to battle with people [for anything] I have a right [to], like social welfare,” Victoria, a transgender woman living in Dublin, is quoted as saying in a major report released by Amnesty International today.

“I want to be recognised as who I bloody well am. It’s ridiculous that the state doesn’t recognise me as who I am,” she continued.

The research – entitled The state decides who I am: lack of legal recognition for transgender people in Europe – finds that European countries are “violating the human rights of people trying to change their legal gender identities”.

It details how transgender people are “forced to undergo invasive surgery, sterilisation, hormone therapy or psychiatric testing before they can change their legal status”.

According to Amnesty International Ireland executive director, Colm O’Gorman, it is “abhorrent” that people are put through “such invasive, degrading and inhumane hurdles”.

“Many transgender people in Europe have to overcome enormous difficulties in coming to terms with their identity, and problems are often compounded by blatant state discrimination.”

Many transgender people in Europe have to overcome enormous difficulties in coming to terms with their identity, and problems are often compounded by blatant state discrimination.

Amnesty’s report outlined that legal gender recognition is “key for the enjoyment of human rights” by transgender people.

It says that they are at risk of discrimination whenever they have to produce documents mentioning a name or gender-related information that “do not reflect their gender identity and expression”.

In Ireland, no procedures currently exist to enable people to change their legal gender.

Catherine Cross is the mother of a transgender son and she believes new laws could “make a real difference”.

“It will allow him to participate in society feeling valued and recognised for who he really is,” she said.

It will allow him the dignity of entering adulthood as simply male instead of constantly explaining his Trans status. Transgender is part of who he is but not what defines him.

‘Outed against our will’

The Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) believes the lack of recognition creates major problems for its members.

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

We are denied the basic right to respect for our private and family lives and this urgently needs to be addressed.

The report focuses on seven countries – Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Belgium, Germany and Ireland.

It highlights that procedures to obtain legal gender recognition in the first six violate fundamental human rights, while in Ireland, it outlines how there are no procedures to begin with.

“People have to make an odious decision – either they allow themselves to be subjected to a raft of degrading steps and measures for the state or they are forced to continue to live with a gender based on the sex they were assigned at birth – even if that contradicts their appearance and identity,” continued O’Gorman, who concluded by calling on states to ensure a “quick, accessible and transparent procedure in accordance with the individual’s own sense of their gender identity”.

It is estimated that there could be about 1.5 million transgender people living in the European Union.

In many states, there are strict conditions under which individuals can change their legal gender. Transgender people can obtain legal gender recognition only if they are diagnosed with a mental disorder, agree to undergo medical procedures such as hormone treatments and surgeries resulting in irreversible sterilisation, and have to prove that they are single. The whole process can take years.

In Ireland, legal gender recognition legislation is planned and a General Scheme of a Bill was published in July 2013. Last month, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection published its report on the planned legislation, proposing some changes, including that it be applicable to 16 and 17 year olds.

A date for the publication of the Bill is not yet known.

Download: The full report here

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

More: Fear of rejection still biggest barrier to coming out for trans community

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Sinead O'Carroll

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