Here goes.a copy of what i have now sent to the EHRC to see if they’ll give me “strategic support”. If they won’t, that’s OK…i’ll just head off to county court to take the case forward separately.
Meanwhile, any thoughts anyone has in respect of the argument. Also, anyone else who has suffered from GIC’s in this way, please let me know. All cases gratefully received.
The grounds for claiming discrimination are as follows:
1. I am transgendered. I was diagnosed as gender dysphoric earlier this year, and am pursuing a course of treatment that will lead, in time, to full gender re-assignment following.
2. I have been living full time “in role” since January 2010, including dressing, and as far as possible living as female. I have amended my name in respect of all significant services (including tax, voting and VAT) to be consistent with my personal identity.
3. It has been my experience that the majority of organisations with whom I have dealt – including the Inland Revenue, NHS, Customs and Excise, Utilities, Electoral Registration, the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages and many more besides – have been happy to change my name details on the basis that I prove my entitlement to services or privileges under guise of my old name and then simply to switch to my new name version.
4. A Home Office legal adviser has confirmed to myself that there is no such thing as a “legal name” in UK law: this has been further confirmed by a number of legal experts.
5. Earlier this year, I was referred to the NHS Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross in London for treatment in respect of gender dysphoria. They have stated both verbally and on the record that they will not recognise a change of name without production of a deed poll (or possibly statutory declaration).
6. This practice is at variance with the practice of all other government departments that I have dealt with (see 3. above), including the NHS own guidelines on the subject, which urge medical staff to deal with an individual according to the gender in which they present and as they would wish to be identified – and which permits individuals to change their name within the NHS own computer system on the basis of a simple verbal request for same.
7. I have been informed by management at the Gender Identity Clinic that even where an individual’s name has been changed within the NHS system, they will continue to use that individual’s previous name unless a deed poll is produced.
8. It is my understanding that the GIC do not apply the deed poll requirement to their own cis members of staff: this is therefore directly discriminatory, as the organisation applies different standards to cis and trans persons.
9. On visiting the GIC, my previous name was called out in public, by a consultant, in front of other members of the public even after I made it known to a member of staff at the GIC that I no longer used that name. This was both humiliating and acutely embarrassing.
It is my contention that this treatment is discriminatory in respect of transgendered individuals because it is applying a test to such individuals that is not applied to others. Specifically,
10. The GIC requires that individuals demonstrate “proof” of living in role. In fact, the effort required to obtain a deed poll is minimal: a cost of £5-£10 and a simple form that can be filled and obtained in an hour or less. The real effort to living in role is demonstrated by actually changing one’s name across a large number of bureaucratic systems: being known by that name in everyday life, to friends, family and work colleagues; and, more seriously, enduring the everyday burden of on-street transphobia that is the lot of most early days trans men and women.
11. In the case of the GIC, the fact that they appear not to require documentation to show staff members have changed names is an instance of direct discrimination in the way that they treat trans and cis individuals.
12. Varying explanations may be put forward around either security or computer integrity. These may be complex but in most cases resolve either to poor system design or organisational fossilisation: the view that because this is how the system works, it is how it should work. In fact, there are very few places where systems could not be amended very easily and very quickly to take account of changing names, with no loss of integrity or security. In no case does documentation of any sort help to make the case more strongly.
13. Although the demand for a deed poll is a small request, it is part of a wider pattern, which sees organisations continuing to place requirements for documentation on the transgendered and on women that tend not to be encountered by men. This is therefore an instance of sex discrimination in its purest form.
14. It is further humiliating, since it constitutes a social statement that an individual’s identity is not affirmed unless they pay for a piece of paper to confirm that identity: the GIC has also threatened that where an individual fails to obtain a deed poll, hormone treatment may be withheld or even withdrawn. This has such significant consequences for trans individuals that it cannot be seen as anything except the most egregious form of social control.
In addition to the above, it may be helpful to bear in mind that I am in the process of preparing a paper on behalf of to submit to the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, that argues that the demand by many organisations for documentation before they will recognise a change of name (deed poll for transgendered individuals: marriage or divorce certificate for women) is in most cases discriminatory on grounds of gender.
I believe that this case is worthy of support by the EHRC because there is an important point of principle at stake here that affects the lives of almost half the adult population in the UK – transgendered and women alike. The demand for proof of identity has become entangled with a non-concept – the “legal name” – and it is time that the two ideas were disentangled once more.