UK gender-neutral passports case headed for European Court of Human Rights after 30-year fight

Non-gendered campaigner Christie Elan-Cane stands in front of a brick wall while wearing black clothing

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is being asked to hear a non-gendered campaigner’s fight for X gender markers in British passports.

Christie Elan-Cane is fighting a landmark battle for legal recognition asking the UK government to provide X gender markers on passports for people who aren’t male or female.

The UK Supreme Court dismissed per case in 2021 and argued that making X gender markers in passports would have “adverse implications for the security aspects for the use of passports” which would “result in substantial administrative costs”. 

Elan-Cane announced Thursday (16 June) that per is appealing the case to the ECtHR, an international court of the Council of Europe. 

The appeal argues the British government’s current requirement to indicate ‘M’ or ‘F’ forces per to “deny the most fundamental aspect of per identity to obtain a British passport”. It also explains that the issue impacts a “wider section of society that does not define as either male or female”.

“The appellant and affected class are issued with a passport that also serves as an identity document,” the statement reads. “The appellant and affected class must bear an identity document that grossly misrepresents who they are.”

Elan-Cane said “legitimate identity” is a “fundamental human right” but that the current “position for non-gendered people in the UK is that we are treated as though we have no rights”.

“For three decades I’ve fought for legitimate identity that most people can take for granted,” Elan-Cane said. “X passports are not controversial. Gender neutral X passports are issued in a growing number of countries.”

Christie Elan-Cane wears a dark black outfit with per hands crossed over each other while resting on per knee

Christie Elan-Cane has campaigned for 30 years to achieve legal and social recognition. (Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty)

The campaigner continued: “This is in accordance with internationally accepted standards and regulated by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization. 

“It is the UK government’s choice not to adopt a humanitarian approach. It is the UK government’s choice to impose gendered classification as a condition for obtaining a passport even where such classification is wholly inappropriate.”

Christie Elan-Cane’s case was first heard by the UK’s High Court in 2018, and that judgment was appealed to the Court of Appeal in 2020 before making its way to the Supreme Court. 

Elan-Cane argued the Home Office’s refusal to provide a gender-neutral ‘X’ passport contravened per right to respect for private life, which is guaranteed under article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Christie Elan-Cane previously confirmed to PinkNews that per planned to take the case to the ECtHR in Strasbourg, France after per case was dismissed by the UK Supreme Court. Per described being “angry”, “furious”, “disappointed” but “not surprised” at the verdict. 

“I am not surprised but I am taken aback by some of the language in the judgement, which was quite appalling,” Elan-Cane said. 

“It [the judgment] seems to me to be so pre-decided, effectively repeating the government’s line almost verbatim in cases. If they knew the outcome from the beginning then why did they grant permission in the first place?”

The UK is lagging behind the host of countries – including ArgentinaAustraliaCanadaPakistanthe NetherlandsNepal and more – that have introduced gender-neutral passports in recent years. 

The Biden administration announced the US would quickly be offering X gender markers on passport applications from April 2022. US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the option will also “become available for other forms of documentation next year”.