Last month I finally received a decision from the Irish Department of Social Protection regarding my appeal for legal gender recognition as a non-binary person. They responded with a resounding “No.” Although it was disappointing to receive this decision, I was not surprised. There is no precedent in Ireland for recognition of non-binary gender, nor even a hint of the existence of non-binary gendered individuals. My appeal had been based on an interpretation of the Irish Gender Recognition Act as failing to state explicitly that gender is binary. Quite clearly, as you can see in the letter below, the government officials disagreed.
The next stage in the process is either to appeal through the Circuit Court, or to bring a plenary action challenging the constitutionality of the Act. The Irish Republic is founded upon the Irish Constitution and is the fundamental law of the country. It guarantees certain fundamental rights and my lawyers believe that the best route for challenging this decision is to demonstrate that the Gender Recognition Act breaches certain fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. If the Act can be found to be in breach of the Irish Constitution, then they will have no choice but to recognise my gender as non-binary. This route will not be easy, nor will it be quick. However, I knew that this challenge to the Irish Gender Recognition Act could take years and I decided at the start that I was committed for the long haul.
If we decide to bring a plenary action, my lawyers will call oral evidence in order to properly assert my fundamental rights. I will need to give evidence, and my consultant psychiatrist from the Belfast Gender Identity Clinic will have to give evidence regarding non-binary gender as an inherent aspect of many people’s identity. We will also need at least one, if not two, other independent doctors to endorse the fact that non-binary gender is a reality for many people. An academic who can provide evidence about other countries’ acceptance of non-binary gender and a relevant NGO which could give evidence of the negative effect of non-recognition of people’s non-binary gender will also be called upon. We are going to have to convince the court that recognition of non-binary gender is a fundamental right of those people who regard themselves as neither male or female. (Paraphrased from an email correspondence with lawyers).
I’m both nervous and eager to move forward with this plan. My hesitancy is based on my abhorrence of the medicalisation of trans identities worldwide. By calling upon so many medical professionals to “prove” the existence of non-binary gender, we will be feeding back into this twisted understanding of trans people as somehow “sick” or “mentally ill.” However, I am aware that sometimes in order to break the system you have to do it from within. If this route will bring about non-binary legal gender recognition, then I’m willing to commit to it. Already, this process has been going on for over a year, and very little has happened so far. I’m ready to start the real fight.
I’m incredibly fortunate that TENI (Transgender Equality Network of Ireland) supported my initial appeal by helping bring together the fantastic group of lawyers who are working on my case pro bono. When it comes to human rights, there can be no half measures. It is not acceptable to only partially recognise the trans community – non-binary people deserve legal gender recognition too, and I refuse to back down until my gender is recognised, not only on passports, but on my birth certificate, in medical institutions, in educational institutions, by banks, by insurance companies, even by corporate entities. It’s evident, as demonstrated by the “pink pound,” that corporate advertising is as valid a measure of equality as any other, albeit one with many elements of discrimination inherent within it. I know that legal gender recognition won’t solve many of the issues faced by the non-binary community (particularly for those facing intersectional discrimination), but it’s a step towards forcing wider society to recognise that gender is not binary.