Non-binary American living in UK launches bid to have gender recognised: ‘What is my gender here?’ 

A British passport with the non-binary flag colours washing over it

A non-binary American has brought legal action against the UK government after their gender identity was recorded as “not specified”, leaving them in legal limbo. 

Ryan Castellucci has issued legal proceedings against the Gender Recognition Panel (GRP) and the secretary of state for justice, Dominic Raab, arguing the panel breached its duty to provide them with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) that matches their identity.  

Castellucci moved to the UK under a tier-one global talent visa in 2019 and has already obtained legal recognition of being non-binary on their official documents, including their California birth certificate and driving licence. 

After their move, Castellucci sought to obtain a GRC under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. 

The act states that people who moved to the UK from abroad can apply for a GRC if they have already changed their gender under the law of an approved country or territory. California, along with most US states, is on the approved list.

However, the cybersecurity expert ran into trouble while trying to obtain the GRC because the UK government does not legally recognise non-binary identities.

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After months of back-and-forth with the GRP, Castellucci was told the UK is a “binary system” and the computer programme only recognises male, female and “not specified”. 

They enquired if this third option would mean a gender that is neither male nor female. 

The president of the GRP, judge Paula Gray, subsequently approved their application on the basis that they have been legally recognised as non-binary in California, despite non-binary not being recognised by the UK. 

However, Gray told Castellucci that while “non specified” could be listed on their GRC, they could not confirm what the legal implications would be, given the government’s view on gender. 

“NHS England has over 100,000 people registered as ‘indeterminate’ rather than female or male,” Castellucci said.

“The UK government has defined non-binary people as those who identify in some way outside of the man-woman gender binary.

“Even so, they insist that allowing a person’s legal gender to be anything other than female or male would be too ‘complex’.” 

Castellucci noted that because their identity is legal in California but unclear in the UK, they have been left them in a legal limbo.  

“What, as a matter of law, is my gender here in the UK? I don’t know, and the government doesn’t seem to either,” they said. “Every time it comes up, they tell me I may freely choose between female and male. They imply that there’s no wrong answer. But neither is right, either. 

“Sometimes, I must fill out forms warning that giving dishonest answers is a criminal offence. 

“By maintaining the status quo, the government has merely created a different complex situation rather than avoiding one.”

Castellucci said that, on principle, they are happy to accept “non specified”, if the government confirms this has a non-binary meaning, whereby it means neither male nor female. 

However, they do not feel they can accept a GRC where “non-specified” is “legally ambiguous”. 

Kate Egerton, a solicitor at Leigh Day, the law firm supporting, Castellucci, said: “Our client is simply asking for legal recognition of their acquired gender, as the Gender Recognition Act explicitly requires the GRP to provide. 

“It is both unfair and illogical for someone who is legally recognised in one country as non-binary to be forced to choose to be recognised as either male or female in the UK, or to be given a third ‘not specified’ option which has no legal meaning.”

PinkNews has approached the Equalities Office for comment.