So we’re a little over three days into the new year, three days after the end of the so-called Year of Trans, and things are looking decidedly dodgy for people like me who identify as non-binary.
I have been following Parliament’s Transgender Equality Inquiry avidly since I first heard of it a few months ago.
I’ve sat through hours of videos, watching the Women and Equalities Committee listen to evidence from transwomen, transmen, non-binary people and those who identify with no gender at all.
MPs on the committee such as chairwoman Maria Miller, Jess Phillips, Ben Howlett and Angela Crawley became heroes and heroines in my eyes.
As well as hearing from Ministers like Ed Vaizey, they listened to some harrowing stories from people involving everything from transphobia to serious issues with passports, prisons and the NHS.
They seemed to show genuine concern and a desire to right some of the problems – and they usually referred to “trans and non-binary” people when speaking.
Finally, I thought, we’re not being left out. These people on their green, leather seats in the Commons committee room realise that non-binary is “a thing”. They realise that gender is not as black and white as male and female.
And then, yesterday, the #transinquiry hashtag on Twitter went mental as people reacted to a report about the committee’s forthcoming report in the Sunday Times.
Much of the reaction was positive, trans people overjoyed at plans for them to be able to declare their gender simply by filling in a form. That has to be better than the previous panel arrangement. Wonderful news!
There was also mention of improved services for transgender children and the scrapping of the “F” and “M” gender initials in passports – though personally I’d keep them and add an “X” option for non-binary people.
But non-binary people were angry at this line in the story:
- The inquiry is expected to stop short of addressing demands for more rights for intersex and non-binary people, who do not identify as male or female, saying more work needs to be done.
Here are a few of the responses:
- @HoveHumphreys: Today’s Times report on the
#TransInquiry. Stuck in a binary world. Still damaging for us all.
@aimsetc: Just seen the Times article on
#TransInquiry proposals for gender recognition. We absolutely cannot sell out nonbinary people… An injury to one is an injury to all. If #TransInquiry recommendations leave NB people out in the cold, we have to reject them.
- @rupazero: Based on current information, it seems non-binary people will not be getting a similar sense of relief. Unacceptable… I will resist using the phrase “the right to choose a gender” when it comes with an obligation to choose a binary gender.
- @WintersLex: “Massive side-eye for anyone celebrating
#transinquiry as some massive win when a) nothing is implemented. b) explicit rejection of nonbinary.
- @crnflakevolcano: It’s hard to be totally over-joyed by the
#TransInquiry when it only applies to those identifying with binary genders. This is not equality.
Damned right it’s not equality!
I felt particularly sorry for Ashley Reed, who started the online petition that helped force the Parliament debate in the first place.
Writing on her Facebook page, she says:
- I knew even as I was writing it (the petition) that I didn’t push non-binary issues anywhere near hard enough, and from even only a few hours after posting the petition I was writing up material stipulating that non-binary people must have the same ability to self-define, and to be able to define in any way they choose.
- Today the news is that we’re likely to see the implementation of what my petition asked for, but that non-binary and intersex people are unlikely to see any change in the near future.
- I suspect that non-binary issues will be pushed aside and ignored even as we make great progress on binary trans issues. That’s why, even though this is potentially fantastic news – non-binary issues need to be at the forefront of all trans-related campaigns going ahead, and why we’re still a long way away from any semblance of equality.
I don’t blame you for one second, Ashley, and it was your petition that got me interested in trans issues more than ever before, hence starting this blog and a Twitter account. You should be proud of the work you’ve done.
The Sunday Times article came out before the inquiry report, so let’s hope the reporter got it wrong and that non-binary and intersex people do get some crumbs of comfort when it is published in the next few days.
For many generations, transgender people have been ignored at best and treated as freaks at worse. Now, thank goodness, things have begun to change for the better.
To the ladies and gentlemen of the Women and Equalities Committee, please don’t forget the non-binary and intersex people. We’re real people with real feelings and we don’t deserve to be ignored.
I’m male in the eyes of the law because of how I was born – but I’ve not been truly male for a long time, if ever, and I have no desire to be fully female. If “more work needs to be done”, I would urge haste.