Today, the Seanad Éireann voted the Irish gender recognition bill into law. It allows for anyone over the age of 18 to self-determine their own gender, and it has some measure in place for those between the ages of 16-18 to apply for a gender recognition certificate through the courts. It’s far from perfect – there is no pathway available for trans people under the age of 16, the process for those between the ages of 16-18 is arduous, and there is no recognition of non-binary gender.
Despite these drawbacks, the passing of the gender recognition bill (#GRBill) is an historic moment for Ireland. It is the first time legislation has been passed that allows trans people to change their birth certificate in the Irish state.
I want to feel ecstatic about this. Part of me does feel over the moon that my trans brothers and sisters will be getting the recognition they need in order to live life as equal citizens in Ireland. But there’s another part of me that’s sad. I suppose I was hoping that the Irish government would go one step further and legislate for non-binary recognition. I was also hoping that young trans people would be included in this bill. It’s such a pity because Ireland could really have led the way on this front. Although self-determination is an incredible step forward, it feels like so many young trans people and non-binary trans people have been left out again in the cold.
I don’t blame the campaigners, who consistently brought up the issues of lack of inclusion for non-binary genders and young trans people. I blame the legislators, the people at the very top, who stalled and backed away from what would have been an even more significant gender recognition bill than the one that has just been passed.
As a non-binary Irish transgender person, I already feel invisible on a daily basis. The society that I live in isn’t ready to see gender beyond the binary. There’s an acceptance to some extent of those who dress outside of the binary norms, but there’s no social understanding of a person whose gender identity is outside of the box. Cultural acceptance can be seen through the language that we use, and the English language hasn’t yet accepted a third gender.
I know this because I use third person pronouns, but few others use them for me. I know this because I have searched for words that can replace girlfriend as a gender neutral version and have struggled to find one that didn’t imply long-term commitment. I know this because each and every day I am gendered incorrectly – as either female or, less often, as male.
Each time I see legislation passed that is trans inclusive, I try to smile and feel good about it. But until our culture changes, until our use of language changes, until our understanding of gender changes, I will always feel left out in the cold.