Girl christened as boy wins right to new birth certificate

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The Independent Online
A GIRL who started life registered on her birth certificate as a boy has won an eight-year battle to be officially recognised as female.

Ten-year-old Joella Holliday, whose cause was championed by the late Princess of Wales, has convinced the Office of National Statistics to change her birth certificate, after a rare disfiguring illness caused her to be identified as a boy.

Joella was born with a medical condition affecting 1 in 150,000 and her chances of survival were thought to be slim. But after an operation at 17-months, surgeons were able to help her lead life as a girl.

Now, the Statistics Office has relented and has taken the unusual step of allowing a birth certificate gender entry to be reversed.

This was after it was presented with a 47-page report from medical experts and testimony from the chaplain who christened her Joel David.

The family are planning a second christening in her village church in Pinchbeck, near Spalding, Lincolnshire, before Christmas.

The ruling will not affect hundreds of transsexuals who want their gender officially changed, as the law does not allow them to change their birth certificates.

The official change of sex, which the family believe is a first, came after a crusade by Joella's mother, Julia Farmer, 30, who gathered medical evidence about her daughter's birth. Mrs Farmer enlisted the help of the Princess of Wales in 1996, who sent the family messages of support.

Yesterday Joella's words on hearing the news were: "Does this mean that I can get married, mum?" Joella added: "It's really good. I can look forward to getting married. It means a lot to me."

Mrs Farmer said: "There were that many obstacles in the way right down to us being refused legal aid that they must have thought we wouldn't carry on. It was our persistence that won out. When the letter came from our solicitors I couldn't open it. I just thought it was another delay.

"But when I read the first few paragraphs I couldn't believe it. I stopped and went back to the beginning to check there wasn't a catch.

"I don't think I will believe it until the birth certificate is in my hand. We are still waiting for a copy to arrive.

"I also feel annoyed that they put us through all this and they can only tell us in a letter.

"We knew the Office of National Statistics was discussing it and it would only have taken a `no' and we were ready to go to the High Court."

Joella has already undergone dozens of operations for her condition, called exomphallus ectopia vesicae and hemi-bladder.

It meant that her bladder and intestines were outside of her body, there was no abdominal wall and she had an unformed phallus in two parts.

The Office of National Statistics confirmed yesterday it would be issuing a new birth certificate for Joella.

A spokesman said: "There must have been an error at the time of registration and evidence would have had to have been supplied corroborating that."