Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

30.Submission from F[56]

  1.  I refer to the call for evidence on the recent, though long overdue, proposals in the Government's Draft Gender Recognition Bill to legislate in the near future to give transsexual people their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. I would like to take the opportunity in this individual submission to raise a few personal points for your consideration on this matter, elaborating a little on those I previously raised in my letter to Rosie Winterton MP of 7 April 2003 (as was copied to Press for Change).

  2.  I would also wish at the same time to register my personal intention to apply for legal recognition and thus correct my birth certificate at the earliest instance under the initial six-month fast-tracking procedure (having had my gender reassignment in 1996), and thereby assist in advancing your process of "data collection" on likely candidates.

  3.  Before I go any further, it may help to provide a little context and background on my personal situation. I was born in 1972, before studying at university, graduating with my Degree, Diploma and Masters Degree, since when I have been employed at a senior level in local government. I made my "change over" in role to my true self during my year out between my university degree and diploma courses, and having been on the NHS gender dysphoria programme I underwent my gender reassignment corrective surgery in 1996 (part funded by my home health authority).

  4.  Despite considering myself to be pretty convincing and natural, as well as reasonably successful, like many transsexuals I have suffered my (un)fair share of indignities! Further to the comments in recent statements related to the draft Gender Recognition Bill, a few of these issues I would wish to draw to your consideration for further thought in enabling those like myself to live our lives with the minimum of unnecessary hassle and hurt.

  5.  My first episode, and getting to arguably the crux of the matter, has regard to the crucial inability to be able to amend my birth certificate to reflect my real self, whilst also highlighting issues with regard to participation in sport. I have always been a keen sportsperson, having represented my schools and university regularly in a range of sporting pursuits. Given my love of sport I have naturally wished to maintain my leisure interests. I joined my local women's football club in 1997 and gradually established myself as a key member of the first team squad, although I was not always a first choice for the team in every match. The following season I was on the substitute's bench for one particular game having been dropped from the team, but was brought on as a second half substitute—we went on to win, with me scoring two goals (my first of that season, and one of which was a complete fluke) and setting up another. However, that evening I received a call from a senior team mate wishing to come round for a chat, upon which she informed me that the opposition had made an official complaint to the league that they thought we had a transsexual playing for our team and that I'd changed the course of the game, and furthermore that they were considering going to the local press! Though pretty quick I was by no means the best or most skilful player (as inferred by me only being on the substitutes' bench for that game), and at 5' 7" tall and about 10 stone 71b I was often smaller than girls on the opposition teams so would regularly receive my fair share of hard challenges during the course of a game! I felt it was just a case of sour grapes in that they'd lost, but nevertheless I eventually confided in her and told the truth, on the premise that nothing was said to the press. She also informed me that, unbeknown to me, there had been some rumours circulating about me in some corners for a while. It was subsequently requested that if I wished to continue playing I should present the Women's FA with proof of my birth certificate, and this just for playing sport purely for enjoyment at an informal and amateur level! Ridiculous as it may be, of course that I couldn't do, so I was left with no choice in the matter but to take the hurtful decision to stop playing for a while, citing to other team mates the fact that I was, as it happened, moving house and changing jobs the following week as an excuse for not having the time to train and keep playing for the time being. Ironically perhaps, the new house I was buying is only a short walk from the team's home pitches, but I do sometimes go to watch and support the team play (and often get asked by others in the team if I'm going to play again!), whilst also to maintain a presence in the hope that at some point I will have the opportunity to rejoin the club and continue to fulfil my enjoyment of playing the game.

  6.  Essentially, my argument here is that, whilst understanding the implications at higher and professional levels, surely it is an infringement of my human rights to be prevented from engaging and competing in sports when played at such non-professional levels. I therefore believe that it is essential that the forthcoming Act fully clarifies the legal situation as regards the freedom for participation of people like myself in all fields of the sporting arena. The inability to be to be able to have my birth certificate amended to properly register my corrected identity has clearly hindered my sporting participation over recent years, particularly where, in my instance, I was never the best, fastest or strongest player on the pitch! In the meantime I have resorted to keeping fit and healthy primarily through running and going to the gym (when not injured as at present!), and whilst I cannot apparently for the same reasons compete professionally for any athletics club (on the evidence of a case at the recent World Veterans Athletics Championships in Gateshead) I do at least have the freedom to enter many informal open races—including having completed several half marathons, raising much funds for charity in the process, plus this year I successfully ran the London Marathon!

  7.  My second point has to do with matters of National Insurance numbers seemingly revealing aspects of my past identity. Despite assurances that NI numbers do not reveal sexual identities my experience has been to the contrary. Before I started work after finishing university I was "signing on" and claiming benefits for a short period of time. However, on several occasions when visiting the job centre I suffered the indignity of staff clearly having found out my personal details on having had to see a senior colleague for access to supposedly protected records! I would therefore urge you to ensure that all such personal records are properly amended and treated so as not to reveal any details of past identities. This will also be a key aspect in the proposed Register to be kept by Government.

  8.  Thirdly, I should like to draw your attention to a recent police incident that I have been involved in. I was recently the victim of a knife attack in a local nightclub, though fortunately I was unscathed having somehow managed to prevent her from physically harming me. Whilst not wishing to go into the somewhat complicated details of the case, as it happens it was by a jealous pre-op transsexual, and formerly a good friend too! The police arrested her at the scene and whilst their treatment and attitude has generally been good to me, I did suffer some minor though hurtful indignities of inconsiderate attitude. Firstly, and despite my appearance, the officer driving me to the police station to give evidence asked me if I was male or female! I can only guess it may have been something to do with their having already caught her and so become aware of her position, as well as having been in a gay club where they encounter all sorts of people—incidentally, I'd never actually been there before as I'm not in the habit of visiting gay pubs and clubs, preferring to avoid that scene and socialise instead with friends elsewhere. Then during questioning and giving evidence I constantly had to correct the officer from referring to the girl who'd attacked me (and also occasionally to me) in terms of "he", "him" and "his". This sort of lack of consideration from those in authority on little aspects of our lives also has to be tackled with urgency.

  9.  As regards the issue of corrected birth certificates. I should like to also present here my comments and questions on PFC's own consultation on this matter for your consideration. I currently have a post-1969 (1995) format birth certificate and short form certificate. However the main one is hand written in a calligraphy style as opposed to being typed. Does this affect the format of the new certificate at all, ie will they be typed or handwritten or is there a choice? I am generally happy with the general format of the post-1969 certificates, and as far as I am concerned the only aspects that would need change are the details relating to my first/second names (I have kept my birth surname), sex (obviously!) and my NHS number. As regards the latter, I note suggestions that this aspect should be omitted altogether from the new certificates. However, would the omission of any standard section such as this not cause questions to be asked at some later stage? I understand that this section isn't included post-1995, although for those of us born between 1969-95 if the new style format is to be used only for transsexuals then surely any differences from the norm for our birth date would effectively identify us, thereby somewhat defeating the object of the exercise! Are there other instances when a post-1995 style certificate excluding the NHS no. box (which sounds as though it may be the ideal version) may be retrospectively issued for people born between 1969-95? Or if retaining the original style for our birth year, is there any reason why our new NHS numbers cannot be cited instead and still linked back to the original birth certificate number (if that is indeed really required)? Does our new NHS number link back to the original number in some form on the NHS records anyway; if so then citing the new number will not totally cut any links back to the original birth certificate number if this was required? Are there other instances when people's NHS numbers are changed that would mean that the inclusion of a different number to the birth one would not be uncommon? Or can the NHS number box not simply be left blank? Again, are there other instances where such an omission would mean that we are not effectively identified? All these issues need to be considered as part of the enactment of the legislation.

  10.  Incidentally, I am aware of a friend who runs a local support group who has recently had her birth certificate already amended, I believe as a consequence of her having been previously diagnosed with Kleinfelter's Syndrome. Whilst doctors claimed there was nothing hormonally or chromosomally wrong with me, I would suggest that the fact that I developed breasts naturally at puberty (and suffered the hurtful consequences from schoolmates!) was a clear indication of my transgendered development from birth. Like myself, I'm sure all transsexuals in this country could put forward cases for themselves to be treated more favourably. So whilst there are now positive signs of progress in putting forward the proposals in the draft Bill, the time taken in progressing this change for the rest of us remains a matter of concern and a barrier in our lives, and the sooner this is rectified the better.

  11.  I hope this letter of evidence has helped to put a few issues of personal concern into perspective for your consideration, and I would urge you to progress the proposed Bill through Parliament as soon as possible so that matters of amending transsexuals' birth certificates can be progressed at the earliest opportunity.

10 September 2003

56   The author of this memorandum provided their full name and address but asked for them not to be published. Back

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