Review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015
A Joint Response from BeLonG To and TENI – Transgender Equality Network Ireland
Signed by Moninne Griffith and Sara Phillips of BeLonG To and TENI:
Like many members of the LGBTI+ community, we have been waiting for news about the review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015.
At the end of June 2018, the Gender Recognition Act 2015 Review Group submitted their report with recommendations to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, TD. These recommendations poised Ireland for historic reform including a simplified administrative process for legal gender recognition of children of any age with parental consent, and legal recognition for individuals who are non-binary or intersex.
Like many of you, we have been watching as the recommendations were reviewed by both Department Officials and the Office of the Attorney General. During this time, we spoke to government officials and worked to clarify any questions and concerns that could delay or block the process.
Today, the news we have been awaiting was finally published. The Minister’s Report on the Review of the Gender Recognition Act sets out some key proposed amendments to the Act that will improve the lives of countless trans people in Ireland. While we are delighted that some important recommendations were taken on board and that work is already underway within the Minister’s department in relation to some of the improvements that can be achieved without amending legislation, we are disappointed and concerned about what is absent from today’s report.
The Good News:
- The path to legal gender recognition for 16- and 17-year olds will be made available by self-declaration with parental consent. This includes a simple revocation process, and a mechanism for where there is not consent from both parents. No more court applications or doctors’ reports needed!
- A gender recognition certificate may be used to provide proof of change of name as well as proof of change of gender. No more expensive Deed Polls and this new system will protect the identity of applicants even more.
- Irish citizens born outside the State and living outside the State who will be allowed to apply for a gender recognition certificate now includes Northern Ireland.
And The Shortcomings:
- Individuals under 16 still cannot access gender recognition.
- The process to introduce a simple administrative process for legal gender recognition for non-binary individuals faces an interminable delay. But the Minister has committed to examine ways to improve inclusion in the meantime.
- The lack of full recognition for everyone means that Intersex individuals are denied inclusion. While there may be alternative legislation which will provide those of us identifying as either male or female, recognition will not be available to those who do not.
What Does This Mean?
Individuals under 16 still cannot access gender recognition.
As outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the rights of the child as set out in Article 42A.1 of the Irish Constitution, the best interests of the child should be of paramount concern. Trans young people and their families tell us how vital it is to their everyday lives, to have access to legal documents that reflect their true gender. This includes a passport, birth certificate and other official records.
Research clearly shows that this lack of recognition severely increases levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. For young people, who are already at a high risk of challenges to their mental health due to stigma, bullying and fear of rejection, the risk of suicidal ideation and self-harm cannot be over looked.
The process to introduce a of simple administrative process for legal gender recognition for non-binary individuals faces an indeterminable delay.
Despite the recommendation of the review group in setting out the principal of rights for non-binary individuals, today’s announcement delays the inclusion of legal gender recognition for what is an indeterminable time period. This has the effect of denying the rights and facilitating the mis-gendering of persons whose gender does not conform to the gender binary and who wish to secure legal recognition of a change of gender. Families, schools and medical professionals across Ireland are already offering care to transgender and non-binary individuals, we need the Government to show the same commitment.
These facts were presented to the Government by the review group as part of the ‘Review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015’, following an extensive consultation process with 92 groups, individuals, legal and medical experts, the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, trans young people and their parents. We welcome the Ministers commitment to establish an inter departmental working group to ensure inclusion in the future.
It is important that Intersex individuals should have access to recognition and the ability to change their documentation at any age, no matter their gender identity. The current proposals do not go far enough to ensure Intersex inclusion.
What Happens Next?
Minister Doherty has included a two-year review period as part of the report. This means that in two years there will be an opportunity to look at the recommendations and the impact of the proposed legislative changes.
Government Departments and public bodies will take steps to include non-binary identities including measures such as promoting the use and acceptance of correct pronouns, and improving official forms and documents to permit the use of a third gender option, or no gender at all.
Minister Doherty has commissioned a report for the end of 2020 to identify the requirements necessary to enact, across all departments, gender recognition for non-binary individuals. It is essential that rights conferred with gender recognition can be accessed across all sectors of government.
Minister Doherty and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, have agreed to fund further research into the lives of trans young people under 16, and the impact of legal gender recognition on their lives. This will provide additional evidence to legislate for gender recognition for young people under 16 as a matter of urgency.
The report will now go through a legislative process and then be debated in the House of the Oireachtas, before a final act is passed. This means that these improvements are not a done deal.
We are calling on the Government to listen to and act on the lived experiences of the trans community. We urge them to take swift action to address these serious shortcomings that impact the everyday lives of the trans community, and we will not stop campaigning for these changes.
-Moninne Griffith and Sara Phillips
Supports available –
If you feel concerned, upset or just want to chat following today’s news, please know that you are not alone.
- IndividualiTy the youth group for trans and non-binary folk from 14-23 will take place this Wednesday at BeLonG To (13 Parliament St) from 5.30pm.
- TENI : 01 873 3575 Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm
- Gender Identity Family Support Line: 01 907 3707 Sundays 6pm – 9pm and starting December 3rd every Tuesday from 10am to 12pm
- Transboree 2019 a free day of gender expression and body positivity for trans and non-binary folk from 14-23 will take place on Sunday, December 8th in the Chocolate Factory in Dublin from 10.30am-4pm. This is a fun day of self-care, relaxation and resilience.
- Crisis Counselling: Working with Pieta House, BeLonG To provide a free crisis counselling service in Dublin city centre. To book an appointment, call Pieta House Dublin South on 01 462 4792 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- LGBT Helpline: Call 1890 929 539 or visit www.lgbt.ie to use their free, confidential instant messaging support service.
- Crisis Text Line: If you need support about any time of crisis, you can chat in confidence, 24/7 with a trained crisis volunteer over text. Text LGBTI+ to 086 1800 280 anytime when you need support. Standard SMS rates may apply.
- Samaritans: 116 123
- Pieta House: 1800 47 47