Press release: 14 July 2015

Channel Island equality charity Liberate and transgender support group Trans* Jersey have welcomed the proposal for same-sex marriage in Jersey lodged in the States Assembly today by the Chief Minister.

Chairman of Liberate in Jersey, Christian May, said: “We are heartened by the wording that the Chief Minister has chosen to use in his proposal that says, unequivocally, that ‘it would be unreasonable, and inappropriate, to continue to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to get married’. This is, of course, a sentiment that we share.”

gay-marriage-1105-1280x960Liberate also supports the Chief Minister’s decision to not propose legislation that compels religious groups to marry same-sex couples. Mr May said: “It is important that all the faith groups in our island reach their own conclusions on equal marriage and, if they decide they would like to celebrate it, to be able to do so when they are ready. The protections being proposed are proportionate and an appropriate response to the problem of allowing people the freedom to practice their religious beliefs within their sacred spaces without interference from the state, whilst not permitting discrimination against same-sex couples.”

Liberate supports the proposal’s recommendation of an overhaul of the divorce laws that place the emphasis on mediation and reconciliation before a divorce can be granted and a move towards no-fault divorces. Mr May said: “It is a sad fact that divorces happen to opposite-sex and same-sex couples in equal measure. Any legislation that takes some of the pain out of the process for the couple, and any children involved, is to be welcomed.”

The ability for a transgender partner in a marriage to transition and have their gender recognised in law without the so-called spousal veto that exists in England and Wales is good news for Trans* Jersey founder Vic Tanner Davy: “We welcome the re-examination being proposed for the process of gender recognition in the island and the commitment by the Chief Minister to follow the Scottish model for same-sex marriage that allows an opposite-sex marriage to seamlessly convert to a same-sex marriage, and vice versa, where someone transitions. There are a number of problems that exist currently for transgender people in Jersey looking to recognise their gender legally and we look forward to seeing more detail on this aspect of the proposal.”

The timetable for the implementation of the legal changes means that equal marriage could be a reality in Jersey by the end of 2017. Liberate is pleased that the process is still on-track despite a delay at the start of this year. Mr May said: “The proposal shows just how far-reaching and extensive the legislative changes need to be. It is right that Jersey undertakes the process thoroughly and examines all aspects of marriage at the same time as introducing same-sex marriage. Liberate understands that this will take time but that the end result will be worth the wait.”

The proposal can be downloaded here: http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2015/P.77-2015.pdf

Press release: 2 June 2015

Trans* Jersey welcomes Jersey’s sex discrimination regulations that go further than the UK in their protections for people of non-binary genders.

rainbow-respect-375x250The States of Jersey have passed regulations today that expand the island’s anti-discrimination legislation to encompass sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation and pregnancy and maternity. The new regulations, due to come into force on 1 September 2015, give protection to transgender islanders, but also protect all those who do not identify with the gender binary of man or woman.

Jersey has gone further than the UK’s Equality Act by recognising that there are more than two sexes. The island’s regulations explicitly protect intersex people as well as men and women from discrimination under the protected characteristic of sex.

“This is an important inclusion that recognises a small and often misunderstood section of society. It makes clear the distinction between intersex and transgender people – a common misconception – and it allows those who were born neither biologically male nor female and who identify as intersex to do so, knowing that they do not have to choose man or woman if they do not want to and they will still be protected from discrimination under the law,” said Vic Tanner Davy, Founder of Trans* Jersey.

For the 1-2% of the population that experience some degree of gender dysphoria (a feeling that your gender identity does not match the gender role assigned to you by society), they are also given protection under the new regulations. Jersey’s regulations state that a person is transgender whether or not they intend to have medical intervention to transition. This, again, goes further than the UK in its protection.

Trans* Jersey’s founder, Vic Tanner Davy, said: “Not everyone who experiences gender dysphoria will take steps to do anything about it. As well as those who decide to transition, the regulations protect those who identify as any one of a number of genders that can be termed genderqueer from discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

“The trans* community in its widest sense is at its most vulnerable from physical and verbal abuse when it does not fit society’s ideal of men or women. This means that those early in their transition or those who cannot, or do not want to, transition are the most likely to experience discrimination. Jersey has recognised this and put in place protections. We are pleased that Jersey is leading the UK in this and we congratulate the States members on their decision today.”

Trans* Jersey is offering training sessions for organisations on how to deal with trans* employees and service users ahead of the new legislation coming in on 1 September 2015. 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.

Discrimination Law update

susiepinelTrans* Jersey and Liberate met with Susie Pinel, Social Security Minister, on 23 January 2015 to discuss the progress of the next phase of Jersey’s discrimination law that, amongst other things, deals with discrimination of transgender people.

The good news is that, although more work needs to be done on the parts of the new law that deal with pregnancy mainly, the policy team are confident that it will be in force by September 2015. It is hoped that a draft document might be publicly available soon.

From the partial draft available at the meeting, the parts of the law dealing with sexual orientation are well-written and provide protection for sexual minorities.

Those parts of the law dealing with gender reassignment still need a bit of work to get the wording right, but the basic principles are in place. Trans* islanders will be protected no matter what stage of their transition they are at. This includes those who identity as trans* but have not yet started any form of treatment. Intersex islanders will also be protected. Both these inclusions are improvements on the UK’s legislation.

It was obvious from the meeting that the policy team are working hard to make Jersey’s law as good as it can be and have learned from mistakes made in the UK’s Equality Law. This is all positive news for trans* islanders.

States release consultation results

The States of Jersey have released the results of their consultation paper on the next phase of the island’s anti-discrimination law due to come into effect in September 2015. The section on Gender Reassignment demonstrates that trans* realities are poorly understood by some people and that the old myths surrounding toilet usage and gender specific job roles still persist. There is, therefore, work to be done to educate employers about trans* issues and how they cope with trans* employees.

You can read the results here (link at bottom of the page):

States of Jersey consultation on equal marriage

The States of Jersey are currently asking for comments from the public on proposals for an equal marriage and partnership law. They have published a consultation paper, which can be downloaded here.

The consultation process closes on 22 October 2014 and the Chief Minister will report to the States in November 2014.

What the consultation does not do is ask whether a respondent is in favour of same-sex marriage. As far as the consultation is concerned that argument has been had and the island has to move on. Same-sex marriage is going to happen. It is now a question of how. The consultation paper offers a number of options for equal marriage and tackles a couple of other inequalities in current marriage law at the same time.

The consultation document is quite weighty but it is well-written and researched. It is also progressive in its thinking and doesn’t just copy what other jurisdictions have done. It offers three options for same-sex marriage:

  • Same-sex civil marriage only
  • Same-sex civil marriage and same-sex religious marriage
  • Same-sex and opposite-sex civil marriage only (also known as civil union)

All three options provide a means for someone to transition within a marriage without having to dissolve an existing union. Trans* Jersey is most keen to ensure that any legislation brought in does not contain the so-called Spousal Veto that is enshrined within the England and Wales Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and that, should option 1 or 2 be adopted, any law is modeled on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

The other section of specific interest to trans* islanders is part D that deals with adultery as grounds for divorce. As people who may or may not have the genitals that are expected of a man or woman, the legal definition of adultery doesn’t always make sense within a marriage in which one or both partners are trans*. In a farsighted move, the States are proposing either doing away with adultery as grounds for divorce or redefining adultery to include same-sex acts. Clearly, removing adultery altogether is the simpler option here.

We have requested involvement in any forum convened by the States to discuss the proposed legislation and were involved in the first round of meetings on 29 July 2014.

statesGet involved

Whilst Trans* Jersey encourages you to complete the online survey, we would also like to receive your comments about the States’ proposal regarding equal marriage and partnerships.

We believe that by speaking together as a group of trans* islanders our comments on the consultation will carry more weight.

Our partner organisation Liberate’s Jersey group has already responded and you can read their response here.

We therefore invite you to email us with your comments, suggestions, thoughts or concerns at admin@transjersey.org

Equal Marriage update

Trans* Jersey met with Chief Minister Ian Gorst on 29 July 2014. In attendance were Senator Paul Routier, Ruth Johnson (Assistant Director, Social Policy), Martin Gavet, Ellie Jones and Pippa McCarthie from Liberate, Emma Poulliquen and Sara Garwood from the LGBTQ liaison team of the States of Jersey Police, Vicki Twohig and Mark Capern from the Youth Service, Christian May from change.je, Dr Elena Mora and Toni Roberts from Jersey Community Relations and Montfort Tadier from the Human Rights Group.

Martin Gavet opened the meeting by presenting a video produced by Liberate (below).

Vic Tanner Davy of Trans* Jersey followed this with a presentation discussing two possible options for same-sex marriage that would provide LGBT islanders with equality. You can download the Powerpoint presentation here.

The presentation started by asking the question, “they’ve got Civil Partnerships, why do they want marriage?”, which is something that has been heard more than once since the debate started. For the trans community, having a single means for two people to marry is really important as it means that divorce is no longer a requirement when someone transitions within a marriage or civil partnership. Having two “streams” (marriage for heterosexual couples and civil partnerships for homosexual couples) does not work.

The term GRC (gender recognition certificate) was explained to the meeting and its significance for trans people. It was pointed out that the state cannot ask a trans person to choose between their right to be married and their right to their GRC.

The presentation suggested two possible solutions: adopting the Scottish model (the Marriage & Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014) or the Union Civile being proposed by Guernsey’s Chief Minister, Jonathan Le Tocq.

The Scottish same-sex marriage law is an improvement on the England & Wales law because it enables couples who are converting from a civil ceremony to a marriage to have a ceremony (in England & Wales you simply get a conversion certificate); it provides a route for gender recognition and converting a civil partnership into a marriage all in one process; it also contains no “spousal veto” clause; and it includes adultery as grounds for divorce (the England & Wales law ignores the possibilities of dissolution by adultery and of non-consummation of a same-sex marriage).

The meeting was informed that this was because the lawmakers could not decide how to define same-sex adultery (or non-consummation) so, rather than change the legal definition of adultery as penetrative sex, they left it out. As both Vic Tanner Davy and Ruth Johnson pointed out, if you can prosecute homosexual rape, you can define what legally constitutes homosexual sex. The meeting was in general agreement that if opposite-sex marriages can be dissolved through adultery or non-consummation so should same-sex marriages because the emotional consequences are just as devastating.

The presentation moved on to look at the proposed Union Civile in more detail. A handout explaining how the law might work and its implications can be downloaded here.

The meeting discussed the implications of the Union Civile for the Anglican church in particular. Both Liberate and Trans* Jersey are sensitive to fact that they would be the religious group most affected by the Union Civile and that its proposal could be seen by some as a first step towards disestablishing the Church of England. Having spoken to church leaders, Liberate and Trans* Jersey know that the Union Civile, although the ideal solution for many, will be a very difficult motion to put through the States.

This is why two solutions were proposed. Although the Scottish model still retains two laws for marriage, it does provide all the non-negotiable elements that we are asking for. The question then becomes, is it wise to pick a battle with the Anglican church, via the Union Civile, that possibly does not need to be had?

Ruth Johnson responded to the presentations and opened the meeting up to further discussion. She informed the meeting that the States are intending to move quickly on this because there is no good reason not to. There will be a public consultation from mid-August to mid-September that will ask the public to comment on a number of options for same-sex marriage. In addition to the two options favoured by Trans* Jersey and Liberate, there will be one that allows for two marriage “streams”, but this time divided between civil marriage and religious marriage, and one that offers civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples as well as marriages to same-sex couples.

The States are endeavouring to encompass a number of matrimonial loose ends in the consultation process, not just same-sex marriage. They also want to know whether opposite-sex couples would like civil partnerships and whether humanists and non-religious groups would like to carry out marriages.

The meeting discussed a number of issues arising from the presentation and from Ruth’s outline. There was no suggestion from those at the meeting that what the States of Jersey are proposing to publicly consult on is in any way inappropriate, although a copy of the consultation document was not available and would not be available until after the Chief Minister had met with religious leaders on 1 August 2014. It was felt by all that Ruth Johnson, in particular, had done an impressive job of understanding the issues and researching the various marriage laws to come up with a number of options.

Following the public consultation, it is anticipated that the Chief Minister will bring a report before the States at the end of September/beginning of October. Liberate and Trans* Jersey both expressed the hope that an educational presentation to States members would be possible as part of the process of bringing draft legislation before the States Chamber in order that the issues for LGBT people could be explained to members and they would have a chance to ask questions. The Chief Minister confirmed that was part of the plan.

The meeting was friendly and open with those present feeling very encouraged by what the States of Jersey are proposing to do regarding enabling every islander to have equality when it comes to marriage.

Discrimination Law update

Trans* Jersey met with Senator Francis Le Gresley on 29 July 2014. In attendance were Martin Gavet (Liberate), Ellie Jones (Liberate), Pippa McCarthie (Liberate), Kate Morel (Policy Principal, Social Security Dept) and Darren Newman (Legal Consultant).

Vic Tanner Davy presented Trans* Jersey’s response to the consultation document. You can download the Powerpoint presentation here.

The presentation started by discussing the differences between sex and gender. The consultation document uses the word “sex” when it is often referring to gender. It was felt that it would be helpful to unpack the differences in order to better understand the non-binary nature of both features for trans* people and intersex people.

The use of the “X” maker on passports and birth certificates was touched on. Trans* Jersey would like to see this option being used in Jersey but, at the moment, although it is internationally recognised and legal in the UK, it is not policy to allow people to elect to have it on their documents.

The meeting acknowledged that there are more than two genders and, because of that, some explanation and guidance on the spectrum of gender would be required to assist organisations like the Jersey Tribunal and the Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service in their decision making. The gender grid was put forward by Trans* Jersey as one way to define multiple genders.

Trans* Jersey went on to bust three myths about trans people that had, without malice, crept into the consultation document by implication:

  • That trans people’s medical and surgical histories are other people’s business, and that surgery is a requirement to be “really” trans;
  • That transition has an easily definable start and end, and that it will be the same journey for every trans person;
  • That trans* people cannot be trusted to use facilities marked for use by the gender they present as.

bathroom signThe meeting was hugely sympathetic to this last point and understood the need to ensure that the law does not accidentally enshrine discrimination around this point. It was felt that, when the draft law is debated in the States of Jersey, this point will be the one that takes up most time and causes most concern. The meeting agreed that educating the public and politicians to allay fears around this point would be helpful. The Minister and his team said that they would welcome any help Trans* Jersey and Liberate could provide in this regard.

The meeting discussed how trans people should be treated with regard to exemptions under the law for gender-specific employment and sports teams. Trans* Jersey suggested that, for those employers, such as a women’s refuge, who are exempt from discriminating when hiring, transmen should not expect to be able to be employed but that transwomen should be considered for the job along with natal born women.

Trans* Jersey explained that sports teams were still a difficult area for trans people, even at the professional level, as transwomen in particular were seen to have an unfair advantage over natal born women. In fact, research has shown this is not true. Once a transwoman starts hormone therapy, she looses the muscle bulk and testosterone advantage that she had.

In essence, for all purposes, the moment that someone self-reports as transgender they should be treated as the gender they present as – even if they are worse off. The meeting then asked about pension entitlement for trans people and Trans* Jersey said that the same rule applies. For transmen, that might mean working an extra 5 years before they are eligible for their pension.

Trans* Jersey, finally, suggested some wording, based on the UK’s Equality Act, for how the new law might be drafted.

Liberate stated their support for the consultation’s proposals on sexual orientation and asked for confirmation that maternity/paternity leave applies equally to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples. The Minister confirmed that same-sex couples are equally covered by the law.

The draft legislation is expected to be publicly available in February 2015.