Meet someone who isn’t male or female and wants a new type of passport

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

For over 20 years Christie Elan-Cane has fought to attain legitimate identity for non-gendered individuals. During this time Elan-Cane has gained the support of a number of MPs and leading international law firm Clifford Chance.

PinkNews discusses Elan-Cane’s campaign which calls for non gender-specific X passports, in order to increase social visibility and the rights of individuals who identify as neither male nor female.

How are you working with the global law firm Clifford Chance on your campaign to have legal recognition of non-gendered citizens?

“Around the spring of 2013 I approached Clifford Chance in the aftermath of a disastrous outcome from a passport policy ‘review’ that was undertaken by the former Identity and Passport Service (now renamed HM Passport Office). I wanted to discuss the legal position with regard to ‘X’ passports.”

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Document 9303 recognises non gender-specific ‘X’ as an alternative to ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ options on Passports. Changes were made to Australian passport rules in 2011 which allowed the option of ‘X’ in passports there, while New Zealand also offers the gender-neutral option on passports in accordance with the ICAO.

Elan-Cane says: “I was advocating for a third non gender-specific option on all forms of documentation and records whenever there is a requirement to declare as male or female, more specifically for essential items such as a passport”, because Elan-Cane believes that:

“No one should ever be forced to declare themselves either male or female when their core identity is inherently neither.”

Per added: “The potential issuing of ‘X’ passports made it into the government action plan with the announcement of a passport policy review but it subsequently became clear to me that there was no proper review and no further discussion as the door on ‘X’ passports was firmly shut.”

Elan-Cane called the ‘review’ process “a sham from start to finish”, but with the help of Clifford Chance, the issue is to be presented to Government as a legitimate human rights issue rather than a medical or psychological issue.

What success have you seen so far?

“As a resident of the UK I remain without legal recognition and still effectively have no civil rights. In all kinds of ways I feel degraded by everyday experiences that other people never have to worry about. When I began my campaign it was more a desperate plea for survival.”

However, Elan-Cane remarks how “it is an extremely positive sign that the issue is now acknowledged and recognised as a legitimate human rights issue by dozens of MPs“. Elan-Cane tells of how an Early Day Motion (EDM) in 2013 tabled by Simon Hughes MP was suspended, but Julian Huppert re-tabled the motion in June 2014 which currently has 51 signatures. EDM No.47 calls for legal recognition for those who do not associate with a particular gender.

Elan-Cane is aiming to get over 100 signatures to push for a full parliamentary debate. Per says there is “urgent need for a widespread raising of public awareness” because of the “lack of visibility within everyday life and lack of recognition from within the legislative system.”

The issues faced by non-gendered people are increasingly relevant and emerging, according to Elan-Cane who says that: “it is now accepted at least within the scientific community that we, the human species, are all part of a continuum where no one person is 100% male or 100% female – effectively we are all intersex to some degree.”

What do you think would help more people understand the specific issues faced by non-gendered people? What is the next step?

“Governments around the world, including the UK Government, should follow the example set by the Australian Government that issued guidance to all government departments to provide option ‘X’ on all forms alongside ‘M/F’.”

Elan-Cane raises the issue of non-gendered individuals facing barriers to goods and services in the private sector, and consequently argues for a non-specific option on all forms and records within the public sector, however questions the reasoning for requirement of a declaration of sex/gender within the private sector “because there is no legal requirement for banks to ask this question but they do.”

For a site such as Facebook, or car insurance, where typically ‘male’ or ‘female’ is necessary to create an account, would you propose that a third option is available, or just that the category is not included?

“I very much believe that the questioning of someone’s sex or gender is inappropriate and should not be included at all within the commercial sector because there is no justifiable reason or legal requirements to obtain that information.”

“Facebook’s multiple ‘gender options’ is a gimmick and nothing more – they have trivialised the issue.

“For essential proof of identification documentation such as passport, driving license, birth certificate etc. I would prefer a third option, either ‘X’ or another non gender-specific indicator because the purpose of this documentation is to affirm the identity. An ‘X’ or alternative third option is a statement, a visible validation of our existence that is vital in order to achieve real equality within gendered society. My personal feeling is that it is inappropriate to ask whether one is male or female from within the commercial sector but there should always be a third non gender-specific option when the question is asked – even if that option says ‘none of your damned business’.”

Do you see there is overlap with your campaign and, for example, campaigns to promote gender neutrality for children’s toys?

“Yes and no. Gender is used as a marketing tool far too much – a practice which further entrenches an unhealthy attitude, a societal dictation on how people are supposed to behave.” Elan-Cane signals per broad support for those campaigns towards gender neutrality, but says that they are focused however upon a concept of neutrality within a gendered societal framework which does not suggest there is capacity for identifying outside of the gendered structure.

In terms of the future for Christie Elan-Cane and the campaign, per said that a report being prepared by Clifford Chance, due for publication next year, “could prove to be ground-breaking” in terms of legitimising gender neutrality as an identity and a fundamental human right. This report will provide an analysis of the UK’s international and domestic obligations to address the issue of ‘X’ passports as well as a briefing on the status of non/third/other gendered persons in countries which already recognise identity including practices.

To support Elan-Cane’s campaign there are currently 2 online petitions:

Calling for the legal protection for all trans* and intersex in the UK.

In support of ‘X’ passports in the UK.

At the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Glasgow this October, the party unveiled a paper entitled ‘Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential’ which supports the inclusion of Gender X passports, and an extension of the Gender Recognition Act to include intersex people in a broad equalities policy.