Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

34.Submission from Kay Nicholson

  I have a number of concerns relating to this Bill and I would be very grateful if the Committee could consider them.

  The publication of this Draft Bill is to be welcomed, it is reassuring that the Government has kept its commitment to provide legislation to give legal recognition to Transsexual people. Having said that there are a number of areas that do not provide for the full needs of Transsexual People, and in fact will continue to distress them.

  Many of these areas are complex and I am sure will be fully addressed by other individuals and organisations more qualified to do so than I am. Some of the comments that I wish to be considered are relevant to me personally, and others are derived from my experiences as a Counsellor working with people who have issues over Gender.

  1.  Paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 requires the Registrar General to maintain a register to be called the Transsexual Persons Register.

  This does concern me deeply. The only register I am aware of at present is that for Sex Offenders. I find it very offensive that a condition of my being issued with a Gender Registration Certificate is that I must accept to being placed on any form of register. I feel sure that if registers were to be proposed for people because of their colour, race, creed or even sexual orientation that there would be a huge outcry.

  I seem to remember that prior to the Corbett v. Corbett (1970) case that for anyone who "changed their sex" in those days, it was sufficient for the original Birth Certificate to have some form of endorsement and a shortened version of the birth certificate to show the newly acquired sex and new name(s). To my mind this would be a simple solution that does not require the setting up of a whole new, and presumably, electronic register.

  To ensure privacy of the Transsexual person is maintained endorsement should not be visible to anyone other than the Registrar General. The original birth entry would remain. There is no requirement for people who change their names by Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration to register the fact, so why should it be necessary for a Trans person to be registered just because they have had their gender reassigned?

  2.  The Draft Bill does nothing to prevent discrimination against Trans people where goods and services are concerned. Just one personal example. Earlier this year I wished to investigate alternative motor insurance policies, but because it would be necessary for me to divulge my Trans status either in person to a broker etc, or over the telephone to some clerk I "chickened out". I do not know therefore if I could have obtained a more competitive premium.

  I am concerned that the Bill does not appear to prevent any business from having a "No Transsexuals" policy. If and when I may need it, possibly in the not too distant future, am I going to be refused a place at a care home because of my acquired gender? There are many other examples of how I can be discriminated against to bore you with, I am sure that others will give examples.

  3.  The Bill does not appear to have any provision in it to extend the Sexual Discrimination Act 1975 to provide protection against friends etc who accompany me when I wish to purchase goods or services.

  The above are concerns that affect me personally to a greater or lesser degree, I would be most grateful if the Committee could give very full consideration to the points that I have raised.

  4.  In my role as a Counsellor and as a member of various Trans organisations I meet people who talk to me about their own personal problems. There is one area of the Draft Bill that is causing very considerable distress.

  This is the area of the Draft Bill concerning existing marriages. I am personally acquainted with three such married people and know of the circumstances of three more who will be devastated if the proposed requirement stands.

  A married couple who have gone through the whole wretched process of Gender Reassignment will have been to "hell and back" in the truest sense of that phrase. If they have survived this very traumatic process and still want to stay married then in all humanity they should be allowed to do so. To insist that the couple have to divorce to enable the Trans person to gain their Gender Recognition Certificate is cruel and, may I say so, spiteful. The accepted estimate of the number of Transsexual People in this country is given as about 5,000. Out of a population of say 60 million that is a tiny, tiny number. Out of that 5,000 I would guess that there are probably less than a couple of hundred who are still married. My plea is that the Committee does everything in its power to protect these couples who are in loving and stable relationships. After all this is a one off situation, it would not be establishing a precedent of same sex marriages for the future. We are talking only about those couples who are married now, as once the Bill becomes law the problem will no longer exist.

  I am sure that other individuals and organisations will also be making the same plea so I will not go into any further details of the pain and hurt that will be inflicted on Trans people in existing marriages if the requirement to divorce is insisted on. By forcing the Trans person to choose between staying married to the person they love or gaining their Gender Recognition Certificate must surely go against everything a liberal and humane society stands for.

  After so many years in the wilderness, this Bill is an incredible leap forward and without too many significant changes would improve the lives of Transsexual people beyond our wildest dreams for now and decades to come, and may even be an example to other countries in the world.

10 September 2003

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