New Irish transgender laws ‘will break up families’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Irish proposals designed to give transgender people more rights will break up happy families, trans campaigners say.

The plans say that trans people who married in their old gender will have to divorce or legally separate in order to be recognised in their new gender, regardless of whether they remain in a loving relationship with their partner.

Ireland does not currently give legal recognition to people who change sex. Yesterday, minister for social protection Joan Burton launched a report by the Gender Recognition Advisory Group as a precursor to legislation which will be introduced next year.

As well as requiring trans people to divorce, the proposals include restricting gender recognition to those who have undergone sex reassignment surgery or have a formal medical diagnosis; demanding that applicants have lived in their new gender role for two years; and requiring successful applications to sign a statutory declaration that they will live in their new gender for the rest of their lives.

The proposals say that a three-member panel would assess applications. Successful applications would then receive a Gender Recognition Certificate and a new birth certificate.

Ms Burton, speaking at the launch, said that allowing trans people to stay married when they are officially recognised in their new gender would be “constitutionally unsound”, as Ireland does not recognise gay marriage. UK laws also require trans people to divorce in order to gain legal recognition.

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) said it welcomed the move towards recognition but had “grave reservations” about the proposals.

In a statement, director Broden Giambrone said: “Some members of Ireland’s trans community are in loving marriages with children. In effect, this would force them to choose between the integrity of their family and accessing a basic human right. No one should be asked to make such a choice.

“Ireland is a progressive country whose constitution affords particular protection to the family based on marriage. This proposal shows no respect for Ireland’s married trans families. The idea of forcing a happy couple to live apart and divorce is unimaginable.”

Mr Giambrone added that the medical criteria for recognition were too restrictive and would exclude some trans people.

“A diagnosis of GID [Gender Identity Disorder] also excludes intersex people, many of whom who would benefit enormously from accessing gender recognition legislation,” he said.

“Furthermore, such a requirement would necessitate healthcare professionals with experience in gender identity who are trained to provide this service to people throughout the country. We’re simply not there yet.”

The push for transgender legislation in Ireland came after a transgender woman, Dr Lydia Foy, won a 13-year legal battle in 2010.

Dr Foy, a former dentist from Co Kildare, transitioned in the early 1990s and fought for a new birth certificate.

The High Court ruled in 2000 that the Irish government’s choice not to issue her with a new birth certificate violated international human rights laws and the state officially withdrew its legal challenge to the decision in June 2010.