Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

37.Submission from Ann and Kathleen[58]

  1.  Re Gender Recognition Bill, Section 3, CERTIFICATES, requiring existing marriages to be annulled or dissolved as a condition for issue of a gender recognition certificate.

  2.  We, Ann and Kathleen, are a legally married couple. Kathleen underwent "social gender reassignment" in 1983 and "surgical sex reassignment" in 1991. This submission is written by and on behalf of ourselves.

  3.  Having vowed to remain married for life no matter what circumstances befell us, to date we have kept our promises to each other for thirty two years. Now in our early 50s and being parents and grandparents, our responsibilities extend further than merely to each other, particularly believing so firmly in family values.

  4.  When Kathleen began reassignment twenty years ago many people were, in ignorance, hostile towards the condition, transsexualism, yet of all the people we spoke to, some of whom were quick to condemn "sex change treatment", only one person—a psychiatrist—suggested that we should divorce. During the twenty years since, the only other person to have agreed with him has been whoever inserted this peculiarly unique clause into the draft Gender Recognition Bill. It is not that the idea hasn't entered other people's minds; there have been occasions when we have asked others what they thought of our on-going marriage. People from all walks of life have responded that they think it's marvellous that we have remained intact.

  5.  Further, for some considerable time following our appearances on day-time national television in the early 1990s, strangers approached us to congratulate us on our on-going togetherness. We are aware of no support within society at large for any obligation for us to divorce. On the contrary, we are aware of a large general feeling that we should not be required to divorce. Suddenly people are now saying that if Government truly wishes to consider transsexualism to be like any other medical condition, it must be seen to treat it in the same way.

  6.  When our children were young, social workers monitored our family for fear of what might happen to our little ones. Their conclusions were that our "family unit is better balanced than most" (we have had to work harder at it). A large proportion of our coevals, who were never transsexual, have not kept their marriages intact. And Government now wishes to destabilise this, our family unit.

  7.  Government now proposes to give Kathleen equality with everyone else by first obliging her to do something it has never obliged anybody else to do: divorce. This bargain is cruel and absurd. We do not wish to terminate our marriage.

  8.  Having supported each other through extraordinary circumstances, we are also deeply concerned that this clause sends worrying signals to society that marriage has no sanctity, that promises are made to be broken, that contracts are worthless, and that "let no man drive them asunder" is perceived by Government as irrelevant and, by extension, marriage itself likewise.

  9.  If the reason for this clause is that Government fears never-transsexual same-sex couples will wish to emulate us, we would point out that this has not been an issue during the past twenty years. "Never-trans" same-sex couples do not see us in the same way that they see each other, because we did not marry as a same-sex couple. They are quick to draw distinctions between our situation and their own for that logical reason.

  10.  Ann sums up the situation so: why should my marital status be challenged just because my spouse suffered a medical condition? Had she become insane and dangerous or had she lost her genitalia to a disease or accident nobody would suggest my status be changed. I have done nothing wrong and neither has she. This clause suggests that the Government is still setting transsexualism apart from all other conditions and so is still discriminating against not only those people who have or had the condition, but now also against their spouses and entire families. We married legally, and for life.

  11.  Should we divorce as required by this clause in order for Kathleen to gain equality with others, then Government will have discriminated against us as it does not require persons with any other condition to divorce in order to retain privacy and so on. Should we not divorce because we do not wish to, then Government will discriminate against us by refusing genuine recognition of Kathleen's gender (although gender cannot be altered by divorce).

9 September 2003

58   The authors of this memorandum provided their full names and addresses but asked for them not to be published. Back

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