France tells trans woman her breasts don’t measure up

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If your breasts don’t measure up – you just can’t be a “proper” woman. If you thought such archaic attitudes had long since disappeared, think again: in a recent ruling, French authorities declared that before trans woman Delphine Ravisé-Giard could be classed as a woman, she needed to provide written evidence that she had undergone breast enhancement.

This appears to fly in the face of recent progressive moves in France to acknowledge that gender is a matter of personal identification rather than surgical procedure and organisations such as Trans Aide are now taking up the cudgels on behalf of Delphine.

The story starts in 2007, when Ms Ravisé-Giard transitioned: she is a long-term and serving member of the French Air forces, as well as national co-ordinator for Trans Aide. She takes hormones but speaking to this morning, she explained that she does not see the question of her gender as being defined by whether or not she has had specific surgery either to augment her breasts or to modify her face.

To begin with, the French military was happy to recognise Delphine’s gender, changing her name and gender status on all of her records in accordance with her new identity. However, in order to finalise this change of status, she also needs official recognition from a French civil court.

This request was denied in August, 2009, as it failed to meet French requirements that individuals must undergo sexual reassignment surgery in order to complete gender transition – and the French military had to reverse the changes already made to her records. Delphine was officially male again.

Hopes were raised again in March of this year, when the Ministry of Justice ruled that sex reassignment surgery was not a prerequisite for recognition of a trans man or woman’s gender. In doing so, the ministry brought France into line with the position of the European Commission on Human Rights for the recognition and treatment of transgendered individuals.

In an official statement, the justice minister indicated that “gender re-assignment surgery should not be required as a matter of course” when the petitioner is able to prove that they are undergoing other treatments designed to bring about the appearance of a change of gender.

That should have been that – but on returning to court, Delphine suffered a further setback, this time at the hands of the Chief Prosecutor in Nancy. As far as that court is concerned you need breasts to be a woman: and they need to be of a size and permanence that satisfies the French legal establishment to qualify. spoke with Delphine today. She said: “The request is ridiculous but this is what the state demands. I am satisfied with the progress I have made through hormones but as far as the state is concerned, unless I take steps to augment what I have now through surgery, I am not being serious about my gender change. A friend of mine – who is perfectly well-endowed when it comes to breasts – is facing the same problem.

“Of course, if the state applied the same test to cis [non-trans] women, it would have to redefine the gender of many French women. But of course, this would never happen.”

She added:”What size breasts are required for a change in civil status? Will that breast size be established nationally by the Minister of Justice or will it be up to the personal tastes of individual attorneys?”

Jane Fae’s blog can be found at