We have a little list: HESA psychic consultation gives offence

No sooner have I done my best, locking horns with government and business, to eject from the vocabulary that silliest of new-fangled ideas, the “legal name”, along comes another institution determined to create yet more fancyiful law. Only this time its all about “legal gender”.

What’s a girl to do?

The issue arises with some fairly ill-thought out stuff from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, who have just published the results of their “consultation” on recording sex and gender. Oh dear: I may have to declare an interest here, having worked alongside that pedantic body a few years back attempting to construct new reporting arcs.

Did I say pedantic. I meant screamingly, nit-pickingly, hair-tearingly pedantic in a Vogon poetic sort of way!

Back however, to this consultation, which appears to have been a mostly psychic exercise, since they appear to have “consulted” on an issue of immense sifgnificance to trans folk without actually talking – as far as anyone is aware – to anybody in the trans community.

They have come up with a scheme that maximises both offence and capacity for outing trans men and women at an exceedingly sentitive age, essentially by requiring they provide the HESA system with details of both birth gender and identified gender.

I’ll be asking them tomorrow if they aren’t aware that it might be breaching the gender recognition act. Meanwhile, if you want to read a little more about the details of this exercise, you are encouraged to meander over to the excellent “Trans Youth” blog which explains and deconstructs.

Meanwhile, my beef is this multiplication of pseudo-legal status. Its not the first time I’ve heard the phrase. The legal bod over at the Telegraph used it not that long back to justify mis-gendering a trans woman. The Telegraph were simply referencing the individual by their “legal gender”.

No. Sorry. As I said in the opening par, there ain’t no such thing. There are legal obligations – like not drinking and driving: or not using a false name for fraudulent purposes. But there’s no such thing as a “legal name”. Nor “legal gender”.

Although there is “official gender”, which may have some bearing when it comes to contracting a marriage or, until recently, obtaining a pension. To be honest, I am not altogether sure I know what a “legal” gender might be – any more than a “legal height”.

I can see it now: “You have been found guilty of six foot two. You shall therefore go to prison until five foot nine”. Or some equally nonsensical stuff.

No. There are obligations on people not to commit fraud, by fraudulently claiming certain things. But when it comes to higher education stats, I can see absolutely NO law whatsoever involved in the requirement to stump up some fictional “legal gender” .

jane xx

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    zoebrain said,

    My UK passport says F. My UK Birth Certificate says “boy”. I’m being treated for “severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant woman”. Not being Transsexual (under the ICD-10, as I’m Intersex) a GRC is impossible to obtain – as it is for Caroline Cossey, who’s XXY.

    This is bad law.

  2. 2

    Jen DeKievit said,

    Hello there Jane,
    I just read some of your comments on another website (The New Statesman, I believe) and wanted to commend you on your thoughtful, well-considered views. I especially appreciated your ‘mea culpa’ regarding the ever-so-slightly stereotypical descriptions you gave of your two children. I only have one child, but I know that in one heartbeat I may describe her as ‘gorgeous’ and in the very next, the first word that comes to mind might be ‘tough’. Sad that we have to watch our words, but I guess that brings us right back to the reason the article was written to begin with: too many men still think that if women are not beautiful, then they are worthless, and that regardless of beauty, we should all just keep our opinions to ourselves. WELL … let’s keep fighting the good fight, shall we?🙂

  3. 3

    k said,

    They have really got their administrative knickers in a twist.

    A search of the HESA website reveals that the notes for the “sex” field for members of staff was to be clarified to say that it refers to “legal sex” rather than “biological sex”

    The concept of “legal sex” in this instance seems to be based on the assumption that your bith certificate might say that you are female but we know that you are “really” male.

    What is the definition of “biological sex”? it’s really much more complicated than they think – this is going back to the legal reasoning in Corbett V Corbett (1970).

    There is also a question on “gender identity” for staff:

    “Gender identity is recorded on the basis of the member of staff’s own self-assessment.

    ECU suggested question: Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were originally assigned at birth?”

    with valid responses of “yes”, “no” or “information refused”.

    This seems an obvious breach of The Gender Recogition Act and Article 8 of the European Convention; it means that somebody who may twenty or thirty years post transition is being asked to out themselves about a private medical matter.

    I don’t see why anyone without would refuse the information.

  4. 4

    […] changes were the result of “consultation with [the] HE sector and ECU“. Commentators noted that this consultation seemed to at no point involved actual trans […]


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