Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

15.Submission from Press for Change


A.1  Basis for this Submission

  A.l.a  This submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has been prepared by the leadership of Britain's campaign for the social inclusion and non-discrimination of transsexual people, Press for Change. It follows the publication of the Government's draft Gender Recognition Bill on 11 July 2003 and the call for evidence issued by the JCHR by press notice on 17 July.

  A.l.b  Prior to assembling this response the leadership of Press for Change undertook work to explain the detailed provisions and practical implications of the draft Bill to our membership[37] who were then polled for feedback. This submission therefore represents a distillation of the views from a significant and varied sample of the community.

A.2  About Press for Change

  A.2.a  Press for Change (PFC) is the largest representative organisation for transsexual people in the UK. PFC was formed in 1992 to "achieve equal civil rights and liberties for all transgender people in the United Kingdom, through legislation and social change". Today it has a postal membership of approximately 2,000 transsexual people and, through a web site and bulk email distribution, is able to reach a subset of around 450 of that membership almost immediately. This provides especially valuable feedback to the leadership when it is necessary to speak with authority on behalf of a representative sample of transsexual (or "trans") people[38]

  A.2.b  The campaign has always sought to achieve its objectives through education and engagement rather than confrontation or demand-making. Consequently, good relations have been established with Ministers and officials over the last few years, as Government has sought to address the problems faced by trans people.

  A.2.c  In 1997-99 PFC took part in consultation and negotiation with Margaret Hodge MP and her officials as the DfEE set out to introduce the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 as a Statutory Instrument by negative resolution. Subsequently, in 2000-01, the authors of this document made substantial contributions to the work of the Interdepartmental Working Group set up by Jack Straw and have gone on to provide further advice and guidance to officials at the LCD/DCA following the 2002 "Goodwin and I" judgments in the ECtHR.

  A.2.d  The authors of this report have all therefore been close to the processes through which the key provisions of the current draft Bill have evolved. We are particularly well-placed to understand and comment on the provisions which we regard as essential to the integrity of the Bill's objectives. ie Those topics which, if not approached in a specific way, will fail to provide meaningful protection for the privacy of trans people's lives, the security of their families and the equalisation of trans people's overall place in society. Equally, we are also keenly aware of those provisions which we have lobbied-for and which have not survived into the first draft of the Bill.


B.1  The Bill as a whole

  B.l.a  Press for Change welcomes the draft Bill overall. In summary the draft Bill contains:

  B.l.b  Many of the provisions which we have lobbied for and which, if not present, would compromise the legislation's ability to provide real solutions to the serious problems encountered by trans people in their everyday lives. It is essential that the purpose of these key provisions should be properly understood and that they should not be watered-down or replaced. Important features of the Bill include the fact that it provides recognition for all purposes (partial recognition would be meaningless), the use of an administrative (rather than judicial) application process, a realistic approach to evidence collection (recognising the practicality of obtaining some information long after treatment), strong direction concerning privacy protection / disclosure (the "need to know"), recognition that not all trans people are able to undertake surgical reassignment and provisions for those who live abroad and the needs of those who have come to live and work in Britain. These and other positive features are itemised in full below

  B.1.c  Certain aspects which were not sought by trans campaigners but which we nevertheless feel able to welcome. We warmly endorse the "conscience" provision awarded to Anglican ministers. To us this represents the achievement of an equitable balance of interests between one minority group and another, where these overlap. It would not be in the interests of a couple to insist on being married by someone acting under legal duress, who didn't approve of their union.

  B.1.d  A small number of features which concern us and which will lead to hardship and distress not only for trans people, but for their families too. Our principal concern relates to the requirement for those in pre-existing long term stable marriages to divorce as a prerequisite to legal recognition of the trans partner. This provision affects a very small number of couples but has potentially devastating consequences in those cases. It requires an impossibly cruel decision to be made and affects the emotional and financial interests of the non-trans partner and children of the family as much as it affects the trans partner. We believe that it represents a unique requirement in legal history—there is no precedent for the state requiring a couple to divorce in return for a right freely enjoyed by others. In social terms it achieves nothing: such couples are already perceived in their communities as a single-sex couple. In political terms, the survival of these thirty or so marriages does not represent a step towards single sex marriage if that is the Government's concern: getting married and remaining married are different issues, and there are simple means to prevent any growth in cases of this type. This issue is discussed in further depth in section C.2 and the submissions of many of the families concerned have been assembled in Appendix 3[39]

  B.1.e  Other aspects of the Bill which concern us include the cost of application, the failure to address the issue of discrimination in the supply of Goods and Services (other than vocational training), the possible conflict of interest for medical members of the Gender Recognition Panels, and the privacy of the index to the Transsexual Persons Register. Again, these issues are itemised in full below.

  B.1.f  Readers should note that a clause by clause detailed analysis of the draft Bill has been published prior to this submission by Press for Change at

B.2  Provisions Which Are Essential As They Stand

  B.2.a  The following aspects of the draft Bill are considered by Press for Change to be important or essential in order to ensure that the Bill works effectively for all transsexual people:

  B.2.b  Recognition for ALL purposes

  B.2.b.1   The Interdepartmental Working Group noted in its April 2000 report to Ministers[40] that

    ". . . we have not been able to identify any areas in which recognition could be given without leading to confusion and uncertainty. We were very doubtful whether there could be a half-way house between the present position and full legal recognition for all purposes" (paragraph 3.8)

  Press for Change therefore applauds the unequivocal direction set by the Bill in this regard.

  B.2.c  Privacy Protection and the legitimate "Need to Know"

  B.2.c.1  Discrimination and even overt violence towards transsexual people is an unfortunate and distressing fact of life and cannot simply be legislated away. Next to employment discrimination, any requirement to disclose this aspect of medical history to others (and the consequent potential of casual or malicious disclosure) stands as the most serious threat to the ability of trans people to integrate and live full and settled lives.

  B.2.c.2  Disclosure can come about in a variety of ways. The European Court of Human Rights considered several typical examples faced by all transsexual people conducting the most basic of affairs in everyday life. Whether or not negative consequences actually occur, the fear of the potential adds immense stress to a trans person's life, rekindling the traumas of having undergone a treatment to which so much unjustified stigma is attached. Any disclosure of a trans person's status is therefore a serious consideration and, whilst it is acknowledged that there are occasions when matters of fact have to be disclosed with good reason, PFC is pleased that the authors of the draft Bill have considered the legitimate "need to know" with great sensitivity and put provisions in place which, whilst not perfect, certainly provide a form of redress against malicious behaviour and spell out the seriousness with which any other form of abuse of this nature should be viewed by courts. Our only concern in this respect will be the degree to which possible attempts can be made to widen the initial range of exempted organisations and circumstances in the future.

  B.2.d  Non-surgical requirements

  B.2.d.1  This aspect of the draft Bill is discussed in detail in section C.l. Suffice to say in summary that this aspect of the proposed legislation is of particular importance in order to ensure that transsexual men (ie those who have transitioned from female to male) have access to the protections and rights envisaged, regardless of the status and affordability of the medical techniques to create a male phallus for the individual concerned.

  B.2.e  Flexibility and discretion in Recognition Panels

  B.2.e.1  PFC also welcomes the way in which the draft Bill empowers the proposed Gender Recognition Panels to take a responsible and realistic approach towards the question of qualifying evidence. This is especially important for trans people whose treatment took place many years ago or in another country. The evolving and client-driven nature of treatment for trans people over five decades means that many different but valid trajectories exist. Surgeons/Counsellors may have retired or died, or may practice in another country. GP records may be incomplete. Trans people have needed to cover their tracks for their own protection. Panel members therefore need some latitude for considering the available evidence. This is largely provided as the Bill stands, although the wording is not clear as to whether existing medical reports are acceptable (an important cost consideration for applicants). It will also be helpful to obtain agreement from the NHS to issue guidelines to GPs which at least limit any fees charged for medical reports, and preferably require that the report be produced without charge to the patient.

  B.2.e.2  Whilst welcoming flexibility we are additionally concerned that the present wording of the Bill potentially enables Panels to repeatedly ask for more evidence. This could at a future time render successful applications by some or all trans people simply unaffordable and such a policy could be implemented without reference to Parliament. We would therefore recommend that this potential loophole be removed.

  B.2.f  Administrative application process

  B.2.f.1  Some other jurisdictions have used recognition processes which were judicial rather than administrative in nature. These are always subject to judgement, require special forms of training, are difficult to conduct in a confidential manner, and introduce uncertainty into what needs to be a straightforward and consistent process. PFC therefore welcomes the kind of administrative process proposed, subject to the concern (see below) that the evidence gathering must not be too expensive for people on low income to afford.

B.3  Provisions Which Are Welcomed

  B.3.a  Conscience Clause

  B.3.a.1  As observed in B.1.c, PFC welcomes this clause as a fair and equitable means of achieving balance between the rights of people who wish to marry in their corrected gender and those Anglican clergy who feel that this would be counter to their personal beliefs and conscience.

  B.3.b  Fast-track provisions for those who transitioned long ago

  B.3.b.1  The early application period creates a welcome fast-track procedure for those who have been waiting the longest for legal recognition. However, the draft Bill does not allow the procedure to be used after the six-month period. PFC is concerned that this could create an unfair disadvantage for people unable to apply in that time. This could happen for many reasons, such as illness or because the person is living or working overseas. Many trans people also lose contact with others once their transition is complete—especially those who are not online, and we do not think it likely that this provision will receive widespread mainstream publicity.

  B.3.b.2  Unless the fast track procedure remains available after the initial six-month period, some people could not merely be excluded from using it, but might also find it difficult to meet the stricter evidential requirements which apply after that period. Such evidence is likely to be far more expensive to obtain than in the case of someone who has only just completed their treatment. PFC therefore recommends that the draft Bill should be amended to allow the fast-track process to remain available after the initial six-month period, but only to those who can demonstrate that they would have been eligible to apply in that initial period.

  B.3.c  Recognition of AID trans fathers

  B.3.c.l  Couples in which the man is of transsexual background are able to begin a family using the same techniques available to any other couple where the man is infertile. Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID) enables the woman to conceive and carry the children to term and, at birth, the law normally allows the male partner to be recorded as father on the children's birth certificates (although there is no genetic relation). The draft Bill's provision serves to protect the interests and rights of the children (and mother) in families where the father is a trans man and has only been previously prevented from registering himself as such because of his unrecognised gender status. This is therefore welcomed.

  B.3.d  Recognition of previous family responsibilities

  B.3.d.1  PFC likewise applauds the explicit guidance which the Bill provides in terms of responsibilities and obligations acquired prior to legal recognition. Above all, we view this as valuable reassurance to the children of parents who have transitioned after their birth, eliminating any fears about their own legal status as a child with legal parentage and rights stemming from that.

  B.3.e  People living I born abroad and foreign nationals

  B.3.e.1  We welcome the fact that the draft Bill contains protections for (a) those trans people who felt forced to move and live abroad to marry and enjoy the peaceful pursuit of a private life/ career, (b) those British Citizens who, by virtue of having been born and registered abroad, may otherwise become disadvantaged through the inability to correct their birth registration in that country and (c) the citizens of other countries who, having been legally recognised in their own country, may need the reassurance that such legal status extends to the UK (eg marrying a British national here).

B.4  Provisions or Omissions Which Concern Us

  B.4.a  Pre-existing Marriages

  B.4.a.1  This is the most significant failing of the draft Bill. Whilst it affects (by common estimation) fewer than two to three dozen families, the consequences are of enormous importance to those couples and, in particular, the non-trans partner and any children, who face the forced break-up of their family and loss of their financial security in order to secure the convention rights of the trans partner. The implications and possible mitigating strategies are discussed in greater depth in section C.2 and the personal perspectives of many such couples are provided in Appendix 3.

  B.4.b  Cost of Application

  B.4.b.1  As noted earlier, the cost of application for trans people is a significant concern within a community that has endured employment discrimination for many decades. Research spanning the last ten years[41] has demonstrated that, in spite of the inclusion of protection within the Sex Discrimination Act[42] trans people remain far more likely to lose employment as a result of their treatment and, for those who retain jobs, the majority are generally likely to be found in roles that are significantly below their pre-transition employment. The draft Bill leaves the setting of application fees to Ministerial discretion. Appendix 5 contains a comprehensive analysis of the potential overall costs for applicants—especially if a policy of "full cost recovery" were to be pursued.

  B.4.b.2  Notwithstanding the concern that such fees may become an obstacle to those on benefits or minimum wage levels, however, we are concerned (as noted above) that the cost of obtaining medical evidence could also become prohibitive if copies of existing medical reports are not explicitly allowed as an alternative to a fresh medical report (which is likely to incur private fees). If the reports already on file are not acceptable to the panel, applicants will face a significant expense in consulting specialists, and paying for new reports: the costs could routinely amount to hundreds of pounds per applicant. There is also no guarantee that NHS specialists would agree to compile such reports as part of their NHS work, and specialists in the private sector often have long waiting lists. In either case, there is a very real risk that the limited pool of specialists would not have enough time to handle the extra workload without neglecting their current patients.

  B.4.c  Failure to prevent discrimination in the supply of goods and services

  B.4.c.1  Whilst the draft Bill contains welcome amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act, removing Genuine Occupational Qualifications (GOQ's) for employment and vocational training which become inappropriate following legal recognition, the question of protection regarding the provision of Goods and Services remains. As in other areas of minority discrimination, this omission serves to perpetuate discrimination in daily life, regardless of legal status. In this respect the Bill therefore regrettably fails our test that it "Provides recognition of a change of sex for all legal purposes". A trans person, having been legally recognised, remains in the position that the SDA will fail to protect them against discrimination when shopping or socialising, or when trying to access services available to others of their sex. It will remain possible for a provider to offer the argument in court that they have not discriminated against (say) a legally recognised trans woman by excluding them from their premises, because they would have discriminated equally against a trans man on the basis of their transsexuality. This may result, of course, from permitted categories of disclosure.

  B.4.d  Powers of the Gender Recognition Panel to refuse a Gender Confirmation Certificate

  B.4.d.1  Though the draft bill provides some protection to those who believe their Gender Recognition Certificate has been unfairly refused it is limited in that, combined with the section which allows the Gender Recognition Panel to ask for further information, it leaves the applicant with no protection against excessive or unfair bureaucracy. PFC believes that where an application has been made twice and rejected on each occasion that the applicant should be able to appeal to the High Court for the decision of the Gender Recognition Panel be overturned on the basis of factual evidence presented to the court.

  B.4.e  Potential conflict of interest for medical members of Gender Recognition Panels

  B.4.e.1  The size of the medical community having sufficient qualifications to sit on Gender Recognition Panels is relatively small. Expertise is concentrated into a small number of centres. Unfortunately some of those practitioners have also acquired a strongly negative reputation among transsexual people and have, in some cases, faced litigation on grounds of abuse of their power over patients' lives. There is therefore a significant possibility that panel members may find themselves ruling on the applications of their own patients. We are concerned at the conflict of interest which this introduces, especially if panel members are not directly obliged to state such relationships and stand down when they occur.

  B.4.f  Privacy of the Index to the Transsexual Persons Register

  B.4.f.1  Whilst the public does not normally have direct access to the registers of Births, it is conventional to grant access to the indexes. The index to the Transsexual Persons register has considerable significance, and access would conflict with the Bill's provisions elsewhere regarding disclosure. We understand that this is not the intention of the registrars department but would nevertheless welcome the reassurance provided by an explicit provision to keep the index to the new register private.


C.1  The Importance of Evidential Flexibility

  C.1.a  A flexible approach to the qualifying criteria and evidence requirements of Gender Recognition Panels is essential in order to ensure that the protections and emancipation provided by legal recognition are made available to as many legitimately transsexual people as possible.

  C.1.b  Trans people are diverse and, with a long history of having had to struggle to obtain the treatment they require to be comfortable in themselves, some of the paths followed by individuals are equally varied. Some have had access to sympathetic medical assistance, hormonal and surgical treatment on the NHS. Others have had to obtain hormones on the black market through necessity (especially in the 1960's-70's) and trod the path to overseas surgery (eg the famous Casablanca practice of Georges Burow mentioned in the biographies of Jan Morris and April Ashley).

  C.1.c  Even by the standards of today, many transsexual people encounter obstruction from GPs who are not properly informed, they may find it easier to purchase hormones directly from the many Internet Pharmacies which exist, and some may shop abroad for superior and cheaper surgery when forced to finance their own treatment by blanket policies still (illegally) operated by some PCTs and SHAs. Many of these activities are regrettable, but they are not uncommon in circumstances where people are driven to desperate measures by inadequate or harsh treatment elsewhere.

  C.1.d  Furthermore, this is an area in which medical advances continue to be made, opening up aspects of treatment which may not have been available only months before. Treatment choices have consequently varied over time and, indeed, are likely to continue to evolve once the Bill becomes law. Whatever these advances may bring, however, there are also individuals for whom certain procedures will be precluded simply because of their own medical circumstances. All forms of surgery carry greater risks, for instance, with advancing age. People with blood clotting abnormalities or pre-existing heart conditions may be unsuitable candidates for sex hormones or some kinds of extended surgery. Availability and affordability of procedures do not necessarily go hand in hand and, in particular, genital surgery for transsexual men (female to male) remains a lengthy, costly and high risk procedure, which many such men are wisely cautioned to defer until the technology has advanced some more.

  C.1.e  This latter aspect is particularly important. Large numbers of trans men have followed good advice to defer genital surgery until it is safer and more widely available from a cohort of surgeons offering a range of techniques and choice suitable for the individual's circumstances. In the meantime they are simply "men without penises", in common with many men who have lost all or part of their genitals through accident, war or disease. Such men are no less men (and certainly not women) by virtue of that misfortune and, whilst medicine is unable to complete or restore this aspect of their bodies, all such men deserve to be protected and respected by society for who they are in terms of that more influential sex organ—the one between their ears.

  C.l.f  Certain sections of the media have, of course, highlighted the corresponding possibility in trans women—which is that the Bill provides the possibility to legally recognise someone who retains aspects of what appear to be male sex organs. There are, of course, people in this position by other causes—people born with physical intersex conditions which involve forms of hermaphroditism or who, although otherwise assigned as female, possess a greatly enlarged clitoris.

  C.1.g  In practice, the number of trans women who are in the position of having been unable to undergo genital surgery (other than as a result of NHS funding policies) is very small. Part of the existing diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria is based on the persistent distaste for the individual's male sex organs, which serve to limit the ability of the person to progress to intimate relationships that are consistent with their identity. This is therefore a small minority within an already small minority. Nevertheless, the distress of Gender Dysphoria is just as real, and the need for legal protection just as great, whether people have undergone genital surgery or not. Human rights cannot hinge on the ability to undergo a particular operation. We therefore welcome the sensible proposal to invest Gender Recognition Panels with the ability to consider the merit of applications, having regard to all the medical factors prevailing in individual circumstances, to arrive at humane and inclusive conclusions.

C.2  Pre-existing Marriages

  C.2.a  It used to be commonplace for transsexual people to be expected to divorce or end a relationship before hormonal or surgical gender reassignment treatment of any kind was even contemplated. Part of the reasoning for this was the belief that a transsexual woman (male to female) could only possibly desire men if she genuinely desired to be a woman. Divorce from a previous relationship with a woman was therefore regarded as a diagnostic indication of being "serious" about the reassigned role, and trans people who were bisexual or whose sexual orientation was completely independent of their own gender role, found it necessary to conceal these facts in order to obtain treatment.

  C.2.b  Some may question, of course, why someone with Gender Dysphoria would marry in the first place. The answers are manifold. Certainly in the past trans people, like Gay and Lesbian people, have been encouraged to marry heterosexually in order to "cure" them. In hindsight we know that this doesn't work, although the struggle and denial may go on for several years, especially when children arrive as well.

  Even post-reassignment the law has, for the last 33 years, perversely encouraged trans people to marry (if they should wish to do so) in what appears to be a same-sex manner. ie Trans women have been told until now that they could only marry another woman.

  C.2.c  It was generally accepted, until recently, that gender reassignment treatment was a prima facie example of "unreasonable behaviour" in a marriage, enabling a quick divorce to be initiated by the non-trans partner. No consideration was given to the effects of adding the stress of a partnership break-up to the other challenges facing the trans person, nor whether the outcome was in the interests of the other spouse or any children. Any consequences tended to be regarded as the responsibility of the trans person for "choosing" the path of change in the first place.

  C.2.d  Nowadays it is recognised that transsexual people do not "choose" their need for reassignment, and that (given the pre-existing nature of their gender identity from birth) it is only the label for their sexual orientation which sometimes needs to change to match their new role. ie Someone who was attracted to women and who remains that way following reassignment merely alters in the perception of others from being heterosexual to lesbian (or vice-versa).

  Sexual orientation is independent of Gender Identity—the one does not dictate the other and orientation may remain constant in spite of reassignment. Only the social label for that orientation alters.

  C.2.e  If anything, this change in external perception of a relationship is harder for the non-trans partner to deal with. Having, for life, regarded themselves as heterosexual, they have to suddenly deal with other people's perceptions having changed when (to them) all that has happened is that they continue to love and support the same person (long after sex has ceased to have any relevance to the dynamics of the relationship in any case).

  These are not "same sex" relationships all of a sudden, following the reassignment of one partner. They are "non-sex" unions.

  C.2.f  Few such remarkable relationships exist. Most couples do continue to divorce when a partner embarks upon transition—perhaps more amicably than at times in the past, but nevertheless acknowledging that the fundamental basis of the relationship has changed for one or both of the partners. In other cases, couples set out with good intentions to remain together, only to find that the emergence of the trans partner's suppressed personality and interests once again leads to an irrevocable breakdown. Few relationships survive any sort of change of this magnitude.

  In practice, there are only a handful of such relationships—probably between two and three dozen at the most.

  C.2.g  Where such relationships have survived, it is often because of the long-standing nature of the relationship. This adds to the seriousness of any moves which threaten the continuance of the union ie the partners are often by now of an age where joint pension and other rights, dependent on marriage, weigh heavily in the balance of arguments for remaining in a legal union of some kind. Consequences may include the loss of joint pension and life insurance rights, loss of inheritance tax immunity and indeed all of the disadvantages already identified by the Government as reasons to support the principle of civil union for other couples excluded from the rights of marriage.

  The financial and social consequences of an obliged divorce are great for such couples—especially for the non-trans spouse who stands to lose their own security in exchange for their partner's convention rights

  C.2.h  It is also important to reflect again that these relationships already exist without serious comment or consequence in the community ie whilst appearing to be an arrangement of two women (or men) living together, it is unlikely that anyone actually notices or finds it remarkable that the two are, in law, married rather than simply in an (as yet) non-legal relationship.

  The drive to require dissolution of such long-term and stable relationships for legal recognition does not stem from social unquiet about a state of affairs which already exists. It results purely from political fear of the consequences of what the relationship technically becomes—A Same Sex Marriage.

  It is not that such a relationship is considered nowadays to be "improper". Rather it is the case that it is regarded, for the moment, as "inconvenient".

  C.2.i  The reaction of all the couples who've contacted Press for Change in relation to this provision in the draft Bill is one of uniform horror and distress. Indeed, it is already serving to destabilise such relationships by posing the partners with impossible choices, which tend to set them apart from one-another.

  C.2.j  The non-trans partners understandably wish the best for their companion but also, especially when already retired, need to be concerned for their own continuing welfare and that of their children. Such partners have already perhaps suffered greatly to come this far with their spouse and now face the uncertainty and fear which accompany not really knowing which way their partner will "vote" when faced with such an impossible decision—your marriage or the legal recognition of everything you've struggled for.

  C.2.k  Meanwhile, the trans partners often experience enormous guilt already. It is their needs which the family has so fulsomely respected in the past and now this question transforms their medical condition into a divisive threat again. What are they to do? Forgo the rights confirmed for them by the European Court or, in taking them, earn the blame for the dissolution of their family and the economic mayhem which results in all those lives?

  C.2.l  The possibility of Human Rights cases arises, of course—and opinions are divided on what the outcome would be when such a provision is tested. Press for Change believe that insufficient consideration has yet been given to ways and means of addressing the political concerns so that the rights of couples in this position can be respected.

  C.2.m  In our submissions to the Interdepartmental Working Group in 1999 and 2000[43], PFC recommended that the extent of the "problem" could be readily contained by legislating a cut-off in pre-existing marriages which could be allowed to continue. That is, marriages already contracted for a certain time (eg five years) at the time of the legislation coming into force could be exempted from the requirement to be dissolved. Normal attrition then means that the number of such marriages would diminish over time, and there would be less ability to try and draw parallels between this exception of trans couples remaining married and same sex couples wanting to marry.

  The question isn't about enabling same sex partners to get married, but to enable existing partners to remain married.

  C.2.n  We also believe that insufficient formal consideration has yet been given to the way in which the provisions of the draft Bill interact with proposals to facilitate the legal recognition of same sex partnerships. It has to be understood that the needs and sensibilities of both partners in a pre-existing marriage need to be accounted-for prior to rushing to a conclusion that the financial interests of families could be met by seamlessly transforming a marriage, on legal gender recognition, into a same sex partnership with equal rights and protections. For one thing it begs the question as to whether the rights and protections really are as equivalent and, if so, what purpose there would be in requiring the change at all. Just as importantly, however, the non-trans partner cannot suddenly be regarded as having switched their sexual orientation simply by virtue of having remained with their partner. As explained before, many such relationships survive simply by sidestepping the question of orientation altogether. It is simply not relevant to the relationship—only to a prurient society. It may therefore be an unpalatable "step too far" to expect the partner to be content with labelling themselves as something they are not—simply to meet the needs of political expediency on the part of a Government which thinks it has found a neat way of keeping the same sex partnership and marriage questions artificially separate.

  C.2.o  Whatever the outcome, however, the proposals as they stand are brutal and cruel. Requiring an inhuman choice by partners and threatening the end of a long-standing convention that Government has no place in determining who should remain married.

  In an age when such a large proportion of marriages fail to survive more than a handful of years, relationships which continue and flourish in spite of the gender reassignment of one partner deserve to be revered. They represent a beacon of hope for all those who pine for long-lost certainties and stability in society—rare modern day examples of couples who really do understand the importance and value of their marriage vows.

  The current proposals requiring the dissolution of such "model" examples in return for the already-determined right of legal recognition are simply a kick in the teeth to those who have selflessly upheld values which many others in society value highly.


  Press for Change estimates that there are fewer than three dozen marriages of this type. Many of those couples volunteered their personal accounts and we have featured a selection of them here. These and others will also be published on our web site.

Granny Julia and Granny Delia

  Forty-one years we've been together. Married in August 1962, we celebrated our Ruby Anniversary last year. Two daughters we've raised, and there are now five grandchildren who love their Granny Delia and Granny Julia enormously. We lost our only son at his premature birth in 1964. It hasn't all been roses. We've had our differences, some were really very serious, for example my gender problems. But we've come through. Our love and respect for each other has carried us through. We talked; we compromised at each stage. Mostly we've had some wonderful times and shared a fantastic life together.

  And at the ages of 67 and 65, what is our reward? It is suggested that we must annul our marriage just so that I, Julia, maybe awarded full legal recognition in my new and chosen gender. The gender that I believe is right for me, and in which I have lived for nearly ten years. Delia and I are citizens of this nation. We have both paid all our dues and taxes without question. Yet if we remain legally espoused, then I shall have to remain a second-class citizen. A stark choice indeed. And what of Delia, who has found herself in this mess through no fault of her own? Is she to be punished also? She who lovingly gave her support and whose sacrifices held this family together, often against her better judgement. We just feel that we have got things together, when someone comes and pulls the carpet out from under our feet

  The alternative of a Civil Partnership would, we suppose, be an acceptable compromise. However, that is only a real proposition when that separate legislation becomes law. It might not. There has been no assurance that we would benefit from the same security as if we remained married. There has been no clarification of the way that pensions, inheritance tax and other financial issues will apply to couples in Civil Partnerships. Until we have assurances that there will be no change in all of these, and other related areas, we would have to remain as we are now. We would not wish to be in a Civil Partnership if it was to be a Second Class Partnership. If the religious organisations are so worried about our marriage, then we would be quite willing to have their section of our present contract annulled. It would, however, be crucial to retain the civil section after the appropriate name and gender changes had been inserted for Julia, simply for our mutual security.

A partner's tale

  I am 56 and my husband (P) is 52. Three years ago. after a long period of depression. and just after our silver wedding, P told me that she was trans. Soon after she was "officially" diagnosed and we went through a terrible six months together before gradually coming to terms with this. Now P has decided that she must transition to avoid sliding back into depression. We love each other deeply and talking through this difficult situation has brought us even closer, so we have no intention of parting. We were married in church as practising Christians arid have always been faithful to each other. The commitment we made then means a great deal to us both and it would be extremely painful and wrong for us to divorce. We have three loving and supportive adult children whose main anxiety about P's condition has been that we might separate. A divorce, however much undesired by us, would hurt them dreadfully. Ideally, we want our marriage to stay as it is, so that those close to us know that our relationship is in no way diminished, and that others will see us as we will see ourselves—as a married lesbian couple.

Show compassion

  Only couples affected by gender change can possibly appreciate the trauma, tragedy and immense suffering, for themselves and families. Often the marriage will end, but surely this is a personal decision, not something to be imposed? I was plunged, suddenly and reluctantly, into gender reassignment at age 54, I did not expect my wife to stand by me. But I could not have survived the darkest, suicidal times without her unselfish love and support. I'm now a free woman, after 50 years of self-imposed imprisonment. Our marriage survives in a mutually caring, non-sexual relationship. Surgery will complete my transition soon. Why should my legal status only be available with the stigma, additional hurt and trauma of a divorce, with all the complications of property and financial division? It may seem logical, but, for goodness sake, rethink in HUMAN terms. Show compassion. Gender Recognition is not retrospective, so all we need is a saving provision preserving the pre-existing personal legal rights of the couple (a lawful marriage when transacted) unless and until they wish to end this. If it needs to be converted to civil partnership, the change should, with consent, be an automatic process of gender recognition.

Another committed partner's view

  I entered into, and wish to continue in, a religious marriage, therefore this legislation would be a devastating blow. My own Anglican Vicar concludes that marriage cannot be "voided" in the way that the Bill suggests. My husband and I took part in a public act of sacrament in which we made a mutual commitment. At that time (36 years ago) we were a man and a woman who intended to remain together in the state of matrimony for the rest of our lives.

  To those of us (and our children) for whom marriage is not just a civil matter, this legislation is grossly insensitive. Our spouses' right to privacy and need for an amended birth certificate is not something to be taken lightly and it is unjust that a choice has to be made between the certificate or the marriage. Suggesting that we convert our marriage to a civil partnership is unacceptable. Surely a government that prides itself on the promotion of family values should be doing everything it can to preserve marriages rather than encouraging their dissolution. Even the Roman Catholic Church felt able to accept married priests converting from the Anglican Church, whilst still requiring Catholic priests to remain unmarried.

Even when living apart . . .

  Christine and I got married in 1971,we first met at school in 1963, 40 years ago at age 14. We have always been in love but me being transsexual has been devastating to our marriage. We have three sons and a daughter. Holding our family together has been difficult but we managed this for most of the children's childhood until the youngest was 18. 1 left home in 1999 when I transitioned and had surgery after many years of personal agony. I still love all of them but because of their feelings of fear and shame, I have not seen my children since. At present Chris and I see each other every two to three weeks, our children are not aware of this, and we usually phone twice a week. I am saddened by all of this and Chris has very low self esteem and much anger. I want to have full legal recognition but I just can't divorce Chris, we seem to want to stay married. We are both practising Christians and take our marriage bond seriously. Having lived for over three years apart, seeing the effect my gender change has had I cannot bring myself to hurt any of them any more by stirring it all up again.

Married for 14 years . . .

  My husband and I have been married for 14 years, and we have 3 small children. We have weathered his diagnosis and initial gender dysphoria treatments, and want to remain together after his transition.

  However, when we encounter social stigma, and when some friends and family doubt our ability to stay together, it is difficult. At these times, our marriage promises become very important to us, and give reasons to work through the changes in our relationship. If we have to convert our marriage to a civil partnership, the feeling of continuity and permanence would be removed, and the impetus to stay together through difficult times would be much less.

  In addition to our feelings, we have made various decisions (legal, financial, child care etc) based on the shared rights and responsibilities of marriage, and fear that a civil partnership will not be able to retain all of these in every situation.

  The new legislation seems to us the unenviable choice; whether my husband must explain his life and medical history to every official who asks for identification (while most other transsexuals no longer have to), or to risk considerable emotional, financial and legal insecurity for us and our children.


  I married the person I knew I'd spend the rest of my life with 18 years ago. During these years, we have witnessed all our friends and family divorce. My mother has seen all her other children involved in unhappy marriages. I was always her rock.

  I wasn't the son she cherished, I was really another daughter, but I was still her rock. One of the overriding strengths was my partner, supporting me, even through these changes. We remain as close as ever, very much in love and determined to remain married.

  Now we may be forced to divorce, because of a Bill that will force me to choose between remaining married or correcting the gender mistake. We have discussed this and reluctantly agreed there is no choice. If the Bill goes through, we will divorce so I can eradicate the hateful markers still left on some of my official records.

  Would a Civil partnership replacement scheme be acceptable? I suppose it would have to be, but what really would be the difference, if it was equivalent to a marriage? It just seems petty, pointless and vindictive to force it onto us. I have done nothing wrong. All we want is to live our lives in peace, put the past behind us and allow me to live and finally die as the woman I've always claimed to be.

37   See the full analysis of the Bill in our dedicated web index at Back

38   We welcome the Government's correct use of the term "transsexual" as an adjective (rather than as a noun) in forms such as "transsexual people". However the increasingly preferred term among the community is "trans" -emphasising the fact that the driving force in a trans person's life is not "sexual", but a deeply held conviction about their personal identity as a man or a woman. This document employs both adjectives in appropriate ways. Back

39   Not printed. Back

40   eport of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People, Home Office, April 2000. Back

41   Employment Discrimination and Transsexual People: Dr Stephen Whittle Ph.D., Reader in Law, The School of Law, Manchester Metropolitan University. Published 2002 by The Gender Identity Research and Education Society. Back

42   Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations: 1999.


43   Recognising the Identity and Rights of Transsexual and Transgender People in the United Kingdom, Press for Change, June 1999 : Meeting the Needs of Transsexual People, Press for Change and others, January 2000: Protecting Stable Families: Issues regarding a change in civil status for trans people who are already married, Press for Change, February 2000: http// Back

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