People cannot define themselves as gender neutral on passports, court rules

'Non-gendered people are treated as though we have no rights,' says campaigner

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Tuesday 10 March 2020 12:06
Campaigner loses Court of Appeal challenge over gender-neutral passports

A campaigner who wants passports to include a category for those who do not identify as male or female has lost a Court of Appeal challenge over gender neutral passports.

Christie Elan-Cane, who wants passports to include an “X” category for such individuals, believes the current UK passport policy infringes the right to privacy.

But senior judges dismissed the appeal, a decision Elan-Cane described as “devastating”.

The campaigner, who has been fighting for legal and social recognition for non-gendered identity for more than 25 years, added: ”It is bad news for everyone who cannot obtain a passport without the requirement imposed by the UK government that they should collude in their own social invisibility.

“Non-gendered people are treated as though we have no rights.”

Elan-Cane deemed the UK passport system, which forces people to say whether they are male or female, to be “inherently discriminatory”.

The campaigner hit out at the three senior judges’ ruling and said lawyers will seek permission to appeal the decision so the case can be heard before the Supreme Court.

Christie Elan-Cane, who is campaigning for gender-neutral passports, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Delivering the judgment, Lady Justice King said it was “obvious and indeed beyond argument” that the facts of the case concern Elan-Cane’s private life.

“There can be little more central to a citizen’s private life than gender, whatever that gender may or may not be,” she said in the ruling.

“No one has suggested (nor could they) that the appellant has no right to live as a non-binary, or more particularly as a non-gendered, person.

“Indeed, a gender identity chosen as it has been here, achieved or realised though successive episodes of major surgery and lived through decades of scepticism, indifference and sometimes hostility must be taken to be absolutely central to the person’s private life.”

But she went on say that, while this case was limited to the issue of passports, “the driver for change is the broad notion of respect for gender identity”.​

Kirrin Medcalf, of equality charity Stonewall, said: “Everyone must have the option of having their gender correctly recorded on their official documents, such as passports, if they choose.

“But currently, for non-binary people, since the government does not formally recognise non-binary identities, there is no option to accurately reflect their gender on official documents. As well as being dehumanising, a lack of legal recognition can cause many practical and legal difficulties.”

Joe Nellist, of the LGBT Foundation, said they were ”very disappointed” about the Court of Appeal’s decision.

The campaigner said: “Non-binary people are non-binary, their identities are valid and they deserve to have the same recognition that many people take for granted.

“Continued denial of this amounts to a denial of their right to a private life, self-determination and personal autonomy. Over half of the trans respondents to the government’s National LGBT Survey identified as non-binary, and this figure continues to grow.

“The law must be reformed so that non-binary people can have their identity recognised and protected by law – including on official documentation such as passports – to bring us into line with international standards set by countries such as Iceland, Australia and Canada”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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