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Fri, 27 November 2020

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The Government Is Facing Fresh Calls To Introduce 'X' Gender Passports

The Government Is Facing Fresh Calls To Introduce 'X' Gender Passports

Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

3 min read

There are fresh calls on the government to introduce an 'X' gender passport for non-binary people after a private member's bill requesting the change was delayed due to the Covid response.

Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Canada already have a gender-neutral passport option for those who identify as non-binary or non-gendered and the Liberal Democrats and charity Stonewall have said this type of provision could benefit hundreds of thousands of people in the UK.

The Home Office does not currently issue the passports and they won their right to maintain that position, using ‘M’ or ‘F’ gender options, in March this year, following a legal case brought by activist Christie Elan-Cane.

Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine’s ‘Non-gender-specific Passports Bill’ is a private member's bill that was due to be debated this month. However all of these bills have been pushed back to next year because of Covid-19 and an effort to reduce attendance in the Commons.   

Ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020 on Friday November 20, Jardine said it was time the UK caught up with the “rest of the world” and rolled out the passports.

She said: “Countless people across the UK do not identify as exclusively male or female. Many have written to me to express their utter dismay that the Conservative government still refuses to give them the dignity of recognising their identities.

“With MPs now unable to consider my Bill until next year, the government must show leadership. An ‘X’ gender option on passports is a small but much-needed change. All it would take is a change in Home Office policy.

“It is time this government listens to those campaigning to protect the rights and dignity of trans, intersex and ngn-binary people. It is time the UK catches up with the rest of the world and and introduces an option to record gender as ‘X’ on a passport.”

Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane has recently been granted permission to appeal the Home Office’s refusal to introduce gender-neutral passports in the Supreme Court. In March 2020 the Court of Appeal said the Home Office was acting lawfully though acknowledged that as yet, there is no international precedent for passports for non-binary people.

However three judges in the case did state that the overall trend is for non-binary and intersex people to be recognised.

Bangladesh, Denmark, Germany, India and the Netherlands have a gender neutral passport option, as well as 18 US states that allow residents to mark gender ‘X’ on their driving licence.

The Lib Dems have said the Home Office does not need to embark on a lengthy change of the law to make this happen, but could re-write its policy.

Elan-Cane, who brought the case against the government, said: “Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right but non-gendered people are treated as though we have no rights.

"The UK government barely acknowledges our existence and refuses to acknowledge our disenfranchisement while its bureaucracy renders us socially invisible.

"The case for ‘X’ Passports will now be heard before the UK Supreme Court where I hope finally to get justice on this matter.”

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, which backs Jardin's bill, added: “Travelling abroad can present many challenges for non-binary people, and trans communities more widely, who can face intrusive questions and difficulties at passport control.

“That’s why we urge the government to include an X category on passports, so non-binary people can have documents that reflect who they are.”

A Home Office spokesperson said:  “It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

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