GRC not fit for purpose

GRC-application-formTwo significant reports dropped into the Trans* Jersey inbox this week. Both highlight the need for a complete review of the gender recognition process in the UK by which a trans individual “becomes” their recognised gender in the eyes of the law. This is significant for us in Jersey as we have “outsourced” our gender recognition process to any other jurisdiction whose legal system/courts we recognise including and, most usually, the UK.

What is the gender recognition process?

At present, a Jersey trans individual who requires a gender recognition certificate (“GRC”) travels the following route through the UK system:

  • Live as their recognised gender for two years;
  • Collect proof that they have been living as their recognised gender for two years, e.g. letter from gender therapist, letter from GP, passport/driving licence showing recognised gender, invoices from utility companies showing title in line with recognised gender, pay slips from employer showing title in line with recognised gender, etc;
  • Apply to the Gender Recognition Panel (“GRP”) in the UK (although this could be any other jurisdiction that Jersey recognises) including the documentary proof gathered as evidence and a fee of £140;
  • Wait for the GRP to decide on whether they will issue a GRC. There is no automatic requirement to appear before the panel. The GRP’s judgement is made based on the documents submitted. However, if the documents are not satisfactory, the GRP can call for further evidence that might include an appearance before them;
  • Once the GRP rule that a GRC can be issued, the GRC must be passed through the Royal Court in Jersey and Jersey will then also issue a GRC.

At this point, the trans individual is their recognised gender legally in Jersey.

The above assumes a trans individual who does not have a spouse. If the trans individual applying for a GRC is married or in a civil partnership, things get more complex. The GRC legislation in England and Wales requires the trans individual to divorce/dissolve the marriage/partnership before a GRC will be granted and, if the spouse disagrees with that, they get to veto the trans spouse’s GRC application.Scottish law does not include this so called “spousal veto”.

Jersey’s same-sex marriage law will be following the Scottish model in allowing someone in a marriage/civil partnership who wishes to transition to do so seamlessly without the requirement to divorce/dissolve the partnership. However, this is then inconsistent with “outsourcing” Jersey’s GRC procedure to a jurisdiction (the UK) that has legislation that includes the spousal veto. This is a problem that the States of Jersey will need to address before 2017 when equal marriage legislation is due to come into force.

So, why bother with a GRC at all?

Some trans people don’t. Changing their gender on their passports is enough to do what they need to do in life. For others, not having their gender legally recognised could be problematic. For example, if the trans person wishes to marry as their recognised gender and not as the gender they were assigned at birth.

Some trans people may also wish to amend all records that show them to be trans and to protect any records that divulge their status from public scrutiny. This may be for reasons of personal safety. A GRC affords those people a greater level of protection in this regard than, say, the data protection or discrimination law. The amendment of records extends to birth certificates. Having a GRC is the only way to amend your birth certificate.

What needs to happen?

The two reports are consistent in their assessment of the GRC process as no longer fit for purpose.

The main criticisms of the system are:

  • it is long-winded and difficult to navigate;
  • in practice, it requires evidence of medical treatment before the GRP will grant a GRC, despite this supposedly not being a requirement;
  • applying to a panel, who may or may not be qualified in gender matters, for recognition of one’s gender identity is inappropriate and humiliating;
  • the financial cost of the application is greater than the fee of £140 as gathering the evidence required also incurs costs;
  • it does not allow for someone to identify as neither man nor woman;
  • the requirement for someone to have lived for two years as their recognised gender before being eligible is arbitrary and unreasonable;
  • the minimum age limit of 18 is out of line with other legislation that acknowledges young people can make life changing decisions from 16 onwards;
  • the link between having one’s gender recognised legally and the protection of a trans person’s personal data created by the gender recognition legislation leads to people being inappropriately asked for GRCs before transactions that should not require sight of a GRC will be carried out by employers, government departments, etc.

In short, both reports draw the same conclusion that gender identity should not be based on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria but should be self-determined by the person concerned.

The States of Jersey have an golden opportunity now in their work on the same-sex marriage law to do the right thing by the trans community and make the process by which a trans person “becomes” their recognised gender in the eyes of the law simple, affordable, inclusive and self-reporting. Trans* Jersey will be working towards this in 2016.

You can read the full reports here:

UK Trans Info’s report: “Gender Recognition: Where Next?”

House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee: “Transgender Equality”

Same-sex marriage will happen in 2017

stateschamberThe States of Jersey have voted overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage. The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, asked States members to decide whether they were for or against four principles.

(a) to agree, in principle, that appropriate legislation should be brought forward for approval to allow same-sex couples to get married in Jersey, with the legislation to:
(i) include civil marriage and religious marriage with appropriate safeguards in place to protect the rights of religious organisations and their officials who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages;
(ii) include allowing people in civil partnerships to convert their partnership into marriage;
(iii) include retention of terms such as ‘husband and wife’, ‘mother and father’ in legislation;
(iv) not include a spousal veto in respect of gender recognition;

This principle was passed 37:4 with 1 abstention and 7 absentees. The full result can be found here.

(b) to agree, in principle, that current legislation should be amended to confer parental responsibility automatically on unmarried fathers who are named on birth certificates;

This principle was passed 43:1 with 5 absentees. The full result can be found here.

(c) to agree, in principle, that new legislation should be brought forward for approval to allow for the introduction of a system of divorce and dissolution making it a legal requirement to access and use mediation services subject to appropriate safeguards and human rights considerations;

This principle was passed 41:3 with 5 absentees. The full result can be found here.

(d) to request that the Chief Minister bring forward for approval by the States Assembly, no later than end January 2017, the draft legislation necessary to give effect to these proposals.

This principle was passed by 42 members with 2 abstentions and 5 absentees. The full result can be found here.

The full proposition can be downloaded here.

gay-marriage-wedding-vows-100815-02Clearly, principle (a) (iv) is the most important for Jersey’s trans community as it ensures that none of us will be asked to choose between having our gender recognised legally via a gender recognition certificate (“GRC”) and our marriage. It is the case, in England and Wales, that those who transition within a marriage (or civil partnership) and wish to acquire their GRC must divorce (or dissolve the partnership) and remarry as a same-sex couple (or opposite-sex couple). To do this, they must get their partner’s permission. If the spouse does not give permission, they effectively “veto” the trans person’s ability to get a GRC and have their gender legally recognised. It is an impossible choice to ask someone to make – their gender or their marriage?

Jersey will be following the Scottish legal model where the marriage seamlessly changes from opposite-sex to same-sex (or vice versa) on the issuing of the GRC. However, this causes a problem as we have outsourced the issuing of GRC’s to other recognised jurisdictions around the world. Our Gender Recognition (Jersey) Law 2010, therefore, relies on our ability to obtain a GRC from a recognised jurisdiction – the most logical being England and Wales. But, because England and Wales require a trans person to divorce before a GRC is issued, then Jersey people applying for their GRC will be subject to the spousal veto “by the back door”.

As the above loophole shows, there is much work still to be done. This is why the expected delivery date for the legislation is 2017. This gives us time to work with the Chief Minister to ensure that a satisfactory outcome is achieved on the subject of gender recognition. Watch this space for updates…

Mx title now available

socsecTrans* Jersey has been contacted by the Social Security Department to let us know that Mx has now been included as a gender neutral title option in their computer systems. This is good news for all those who identify as in between the simple binary of man or woman.
The department have issued the following statement about the change: “Transgender people in Jersey will be protected against discrimination from September this year and so this is an appropriate change for the Department to make to ensure that our customers are addressed by us as they wish to be addressed.

We do not know yet whether any other States Departments intend to make a similar change.

We have not changed the title options on any of our forms as this would require a much bigger piece of work, but it may happen in the future.

They have also issued the following guidance to their employees:

What is Mx?
Mx is the most commonly used title that does not indicate gender (i.e. instead of Mr, Mrs, Miss etc) and it may be used by people who do not identify as either a man or woman. It may be  pronounced as ‘mux’, ‘mix’ or ‘mixter’. Mx has been adopted by many major national institutions in the UK and is a permitted title option for the DWP, DVLA, HMRC, NHS, Identity and Passport Service, Post Office, some local city councils and banks, universities and utilities companies.

What this means for the customer
A customer may request that their title is recorded in our systems as Mx.  If a customer requests this, you simply make the change. We do not need any details or explanation of why this is the customer’s preference. You should never make assumptions or offer this option to a customer if they have not requested it.

When a customer makes this request, it would be appropriate for you to explain the extent to which Mx will be used in our correspondence with them in the future, i.e. letters and cheques.

Press release: 10 April 2015

Trans* Jersey highlights the need to provide options for people of non-binary genders.

1-2% of the population experience some degree of gender dysphoria (a feeling that your gender identity does not match the gender role assigned to you by society). Not everyone who experiences this misalignment will take steps to do anything about it. However, some will, and when they do they may wish to adopt a new title, such as “Mx”, a gender-neutral alternative to “Mr” or “Ms”.

When Erin Bisson, a Jersey trans woman, went to change the title on her documents with various organisations, she found that her preferred title of Mx was not always an option open to her and some seemed baffled by her request. Mx Bisson says: “It should not be difficult and, quite frankly, it should be by choice. Personally, I am so happy and proud to be transgender, and I would like my title to reflect that.”

200452424-001Trans* Jersey’s founder, Vic Tanner Davy, said: “I am not surprised by Erin’s experience. Unless you are trans* or know of someone who is, you may not realise that there are people who don’t identify as either a man or a woman. The Mx title allows those people whose gender is fluid to show ID documents that match their presentation, irrespective of whether their appearance is masculine or feminine on the day their ID has to be shown.”

Trans* Jersey is aware that the Social Security Department is currently looking into adding Mx as a gender-neutral option for customers. Vic Tanner Davy says: “It would be a very positive step towards equality for the trans* community if all the States departments could offer this option. If you are someone who has a title, like Senator, Advocate, Reverend or Doctor, and you have ever felt aggrieved when it is dropped or misused, you will understand how it feels to be called a title that does not correctly represent you. It is the same for trans* people.”

Whilst other organisations catch up, Mx Bisson has received her new debit card from NatWest and she is delighted. She said: “I was surprised. They handled it very quickly and, although there was a problem at first, they handled it very professionally, and I have a card with my preferred title on it.” NatWest are now training their employees on the use of Mx as an optional title.

Trans* Jersey is very happy to assist to any organisation who would like to offer gender-neutral options on forms and computer systems. They are also pleased to offer organisations training sessions on how to deal with trans* service users. They can be contacted by email: admin@transjersey.org

Draft Sex Discrimination Law released

The Social Security Department has released a consultation draft of the Discrimination (Sex and Related Characteristics) (Jersey) Regulations today. The draft can be downloaded by clicking here.

The draft represents a great deal of hard work by the Social Security Ministers, Francis Le Gresley and Susie Pinel, and their team. It takes as its starting point the UK’s Equality Act 2010 but then improves upon it, taking into account areas where the Act falls short. Protection for transgender people is one of those areas and the draft has gone further than the UK in its recognition of the diversity of sex and gender by protecting both intersex and genderqueer people.

The highlights for trans* islanders are as follows:

  • Gender reassignment is a separate protected characteristic. So, even if we don’t identify as man or woman (the two genders mentioned under the protected characteristic of sex), we are still protected from discrimination (direct, indirect or harassment) because we have the characteristic of gender reassignment.
  • Intersex individuals are protected under the characteristic of sex. This is an addition Trans* Jersey asked for and recognises that there are more than two sexes and that being intersex is different from being trans*.
  • The regulations say:
      “A person has the protected characteristic [of gender reassignment] if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s gender by changing the person’s physiological or other attributes that are associated with a particular gender.”
      “A person who has the protected characteristic is known as a transgender person and persons who share the characteristic are known as transgender people.”
      “A person is a transgender person whether or not the person has or intends to have any medical intervention in order to change any attributes that are associated with a particular gender.”
  • This last paragraph protects the broadest population possible and gives protection to those trans* islanders who are genderqueer (ie. either have no wish to live as one particular gender or have no wish to fully transition to live as their recognised gender). This was something that Trans* Jersey asked for. As we know, living between genders is hard, whether through choice or because we are at an early stage in our transition. It is also when we are most likely to experience discriminatory behaviour.
  • The exceptions to prohibited acts mention gender reassignment in two places only. Otherwise, there are no exceptions, i.e. no circumstances under which it is acceptable to discriminate against a transgender person.
  • One exception is to allow religious organisations who do not wish to recruit a transgender person as a minister of religion to do so without being prosecuted. However, religious organisations may not discriminate in the provision of services to transgender people or in employing them in other capacities in the organisation.
  • The other exception is to allow Jersey sporting organisations working under national or international competition rules (that may have specific clauses regarding trans participation) to comply with those rules without being prosecuted. Unfortunately, the sporting arena is an area that is a minefield for trans sportsmen and women with a lot of myths about trans people’s physicality still persisting. The International Olympic Committee (one of the more progressive) allow trans competitors so long as they possess their gender recognition certificate, have had hormone therapy for at least two years and have had surgery. (You can find out more about various sporting organisations’ policies here.) Fortunately, for those of us who are not elite atheletes, the draft regulations do not allow your local sports club to discriminate against you participating in sport for fun as your recognised gender.

sportIf you have any queries about how the draft regulations might work in practice, please email admin@transjersey.org and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Press release: 26 November 2014

Trans* Jersey welcomes the Chief Minister’s report on equal marriage, especially its handling of the particular trans issue of the spousal veto.

Trans* Jersey met with Chief Minister, Ian Gorst, to discuss the findings of the consultation into the question of whether it is appropriate to introduce legislation to equalise marriage in Jersey. The resulting report is a significant document that has been compiled with consideration of both sides of the argument for and against equal marriage and, as such, is welcomed by Trans* Jersey.

Trans* Jersey’s founder, Vic Tanner Davy, said: “We are impressed by the work done by the Chief Minister and his department in addressing all aspects of the issue thoroughly and with great understanding.”

trans couple 2The report also addresses the issue of the so-called “spousal veto” that exists within the same-sex marriage law of England and Wales, but not the equivalent Scottish law.

Vic Tanner Davy again: “The spousal veto is a nasty piece of legislation that demands a trans person in a marriage asks permission of their spouse before applying for their gender recognition certificate, which makes them for all legal purposes their affirmed gender. This inclusion in the England and Wales law spoke to the concerns of some MPs that the non-trans party to an opposite-sex marriage would be forced into a same-sex marriage because of their spouse’s legal transition.

“In reality, a person’s transition does not happen overnight. It takes at least two years of living as your affirmed gender before you can apply for a gender recognition certificate in the UK. During those two years, a trans person will have undergone gender therapy, most likely started hormone therapy and may have had gender reassignment surgery. If their spouse is still with them at the point that the trans partner applies for their gender recognition certificate, they will already be aware that they are living in a marriage that, to the outsider, has changed.

“Transitioning is difficult and stressful at times as every trans person endeavours to maintain partnerships and family relationships intact throughout the process. The last thing they need is added pressure from the state intervening in what is a private matter between the two people who are party to the union. We are, therefore, delighted that the Chief Minister has taken this into consideration and will be proposing the Scottish model for dealing with the issue. This will enable marriages to change seamlessly between same-sex and opposite-sex with no requirement for divorce and re-marriage or for spousal permission when one party to a marriage transitions.”

Press release: 6 November 2014

On  27 November 2014, the Channel Island charity Liberate (supported by Trans* Jersey) is holding its first Rainbow Mufti Day and they are encouraging businesses, government offices, schools, places of worship, clubs and associations in the islands to get involved. Liberate are asking all Channel Island workplaces to fly a rainbow flag or allow their employees, members or pupils to dress in brightly coloured clothes to show the world that the islands support equality.

This year, Jersey has introduced the first of its anti-discrimination laws that protects all islanders’ from discrimination on the basis of race. Next year, the law will be extended to offer protection on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. Following that, protection for age and disability will be introduced. Liberate’s call for Jersey and Guernsey to show their support for their employees, members and pupils no matter what their race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, belief, age or disability is, therefore, timely.

It is also no coincidence that the day marks the anniversary of, San Francisco city supervisor, Harvey Milk‘s assassination in 1978. Milk was an early campaigner for equal rights for the gay community of the city and the first openly gay US citizen to be elected to public office. Thankfully, we live in a more enlightened age now and there are many LGBTQ people in public life. However, inequalities for minorities within society still exist and Liberate is prompting Channel Islanders consider some of these on 27 November 2014 and to then take steps to make changes that make their workplace more inclusive.1706530-3x2-940x627Although the rainbow flag is strongly associated with the LGBTQ community, its symbolic meaning is one of inclusion and equality for all. It was designed by San Franciscan, Gilbert Baker in 1978 and has undergone several revisions since. The modern flag has six predominant stripes, each colour carrying a different meaning: Red – Life.  Orange – Healing.  Yellow – Sunlight.  Green – Nature.  Blue – Serenity or harmony. Violet – Spirituality.

Liberate are hoping to make Rainbow Mufti Day an annual event so, if you don’t have a rainbow flag, why not get one this year that can be used again, and again! Flags can be obtained by emailing admin@transjersey.org. We have a supply of 5ft x 3ft flags for £5.00 and 3ft x 2ft flags for £4.00 each (the price includes a small donation to Liberate’s funds). We can also order other sizes if your flag pole requires it!

rainbow_heart_cakes_rainbow_partyIf you would like to raise money to help Liberate’s work, why not take up a collection from those not wearing something brightly coloured on 27 November or bake rainbow cakes to sell? To find out more about Liberate’s work and how to donate, please visit: www.liberate.gg

You can download a poster here (large size – suitable for office laserjets : small size – suitable for home inkjets) that you can use to advertise the event.

Liberate hopes you will show your colours on 27 November 2014 with others across the islands by joining in this initiative.

Pathway to Care leaflet

Trans* Jersey has now produced a Pathway to Care leaflet for islanders wishing to transition. The full document can be downloaded here.

The leaflet has been produced in consultation with the various States of Jersey health departments that are used when a person transitions in Jersey.

It is suggested that you download the leaflet, print it and take a copy with you when you go to see your GP.

In due course, Trans* Jersey will be providing all the island’s GPs with a copy of the leaflet.

Doctor