Today ShoutOut made a submission to the group reviewing potential changes to be made to the Gender Recognition Act. Due to the impact this could have for young trans, non binary, and intersex people, we thought it was important that ShoutOut made a submission.
We have spoke to over 500 classes of students about LGBTQ+ issues, and seen first hand the difficulties faced by LGBTQ+ young people, particularly those who are trans, non binary, and intersex, as well as those who are gender non-conforming.
Below is our submission to the review group. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
ShoutOut Submission to the Gender Recognition Act Review Group
ShoutOut is an organisation which works with schools to tackle the bullying of LGBTQ+ students, and those perceived to be LGBTQ+, across all of Ireland, as well as providing training which aims to improve the professional practice of teachers and social workers so that it is more inclusive of LGBTQI+ young peoples’ needs. ShoutOut is committed to working with all agencies, departments and organisations to improving the lived experiences of LGBTQI+ youth in Ireland.
Do you think the current legislation needs to be changed?
The current legislation was a welcome development in 2015 and it has allowed a significant number of transgender people in Ireland access gender recognition. We believe there are a number of areas which need to be amended in order to improve accessibility for the rest of the Irish transgender community.
1. Arrangements for children aged 16 to 17 years:
· The lack of self-declaration based access for young people aged 16 and 17 is of concern as it creates an ageist inequality in the community which leads to barriers in the areas of education and healthcare in particular.
· The medical and psychiatric process which 16 and 17 year olds are currently forced to go through in order to access gender recognition is not fit for purpose. In the same way that these processes and assessments were considered inappropriate for transgender people over the age of 18 before 2015, they are inappropriate today for transgender people aged 16 and 17.
2. Arrangements for children under 16 years:
· Children under the age of 16 are currently prohibited under the existing legislation from accessing gender recognition. This is unacceptable as it leaves the most vulnerable transgender people behind.
· A lack of access to gender recognition for children under the age of 16 results in significant inequalities in education. This has a negative mental impact on the child if their wishes in school are not accommodated.
· Families are not given the right to access gender recognition for children under the age of 16. This can cause families distress when they are engaging with schools, health care providers, etc.
3. Arrangements for persons who identify as neither male nor female (e.g. non-binary):
· The current legislation accepts that people can be gender divergent and can identify as a gender which is different to their legal gender. However, it currently does not recognise those who identify as neither of the male or female genders. This is restrictive and unnecessary.
· Currently, those who identify as non-binary, for example, are required to inaccurately declare as their legal gender assigned to them at birth. This is a result of the gender recognition being closed off to them.
· Persons who identify as neither male nor female should be enabled to represent themselves with identification, government records and through the gender recognition processes. Thee should be legally recognised in their correct gender identity.
4. Arrangements for intersex people:
· Intersex people can access gender recognition if they wish to change their assigned sex at birth from male to female or vice versa. However, if an intersex person identifies as non-binary, or an intersex person is under the age of 16, then they are excluded from the gender recognition process.
· ShoutOut feels strongly that there needs to be an immediate ban of “normalising” surgeries on intersex young people. Intersex people in Ireland should be able to gain gender recognition at any age age (as per points 1 & 2) and that non binary options should be available to them (as per point 3). We feel that protection of intersex people is not currently provided in the Equal Status Act and we ask that sexual characteristics be protected in discrimination legislation. We are aware this is outside the scope of this review, however, we feel it must be mentioned as a matter of urgency.
5. Any other relevant issues, including issues relating to the operation of the current legislative provisions (i.e. Gender Recognition Act 2015):
· As Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland are unable to register for Irish birth certificates, and the UK government does not currently recognise Irish gender recognition certificates, many transgender people living in Northern Ireland with Irish citizenship are unable to avail of gender recognition through this legislation. This is a serious breach of the Good Friday Agreement which guarantees equal access to rights and legislation guaranteeing rights.
· As Northern Irish gender recognition is much more restrictive than in Ireland, transgender Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland are at a disadvantage with their right to gender recognition restricted or, in some cases, denied.
If so, what changes do you think need to be made?
1. Arrangements for children aged 16 to 17 years:
· Children aged 16 to 17 years should be able to access gender recognition on the same basis as those aged over 18.
2. Arrangements for children aged under 16 years:
· Children and young people aged under 16 should be permitted to access gender recognition on the basis of parental or guardian consent.
· Where a child under the age of 16 does not have parental or guardian consent then the state should be allowed intervene, subject to existing children’s rights legislation, to vindicate the best rights of the child where appropriate.
· There should be absolutely no medical criteria for trans young people.
3. Arrangement for persons who identify as neither male nor female (e.g. non-binary):
· Legislation recognising gender neutrality or a third gender of non-binary should be brought forward. The existing gender recognition act should then be amended to allow for someone to change their legal gender to gender neutral or non-binary on all forms of identification including birth certificates, passport, licences, GRCs, etc.
4. Arrangements for intersex people:
· Intersex people should be able to access gender recognition processes on the same basis as transgender people. Those intersex people who wish to identify and register as non-binary should be able to do so through the above suggested amendment.
5. Any other relevant issues, including issues relating the operation of the current legislative provisions (i.e. the Gender Recognition Act 2015):
· Gender recognition processes must continue to be available to people with non-Irish birth certificates. Irish transgender citizens living outside the state must not be at a disadvantage – or excluded – by the legislation. Specific amendments to be more inclusive of transgender Irish citizens living outside the state should be made to the Act.
What should the Review Group recommend in its final report?
· That the age for gender recognition on the basis of self-declaration be reduced to 16 years.
· That gender recognition be available to children under the age of 16 on the basis of parental or guardian’s consent, with a provision for the state to intervene without parental consent when it is in the best interests of the child. This should be on the basis of parental/guardian declaration on the child’s behalf. Medical and psychiatric assessments should not be used to establish gender identity.
· That legislation be brought forward to recognise a third gender (gender neutral or non-binary) outside of the binary system of male and female. This third gender should have an equal status to the other two genders, and access to this third gender should be available on the same basis within the context of gender recognition. This will also make gender recognition accessible to intersex people who identify as neither male nor female.
· That the Irish government officially request that the UK government recognise Gender Recognition Certificates issued by the Irish Department of Social Protection.
· That Northern Ireland-born Irish citizens have equal access under the law to Gender Recognition as per the Irish legislation.
Is there anything else you would like to say on this topic?
It is still our strong feeling that an expansion of the GRA to include trans young people and non binary individuals will have a positive impact on the daily lives of young trans people in Ireland, as the current GRA has already positively impacted trans adults in Ireland. It is imperative that we make the GRA fit for purpose by extending the provisions to include young people under the age of 16 and those who identify as neither male nor female.
The Irish government should be a government for all its citizens. Citizens who identify as non-binary should not be left out of legislation that aims to represent all people regardless of their sex or gender. At present this is exactly what the legislation does. Similarly, the Irish government needs to make provisions for all its citizens, including those living outside of Ireland. It is a failing of the government to enact legislation that excludes Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.