Joint Committee On Human Rights Written Evidence

22.Submission from G D and S L Brooks

  1.  We have just seen details of the Draft Bill in the Gendys Journal. We welcome the Bill. It is a major development to the rights of transgendered individuals. It will remove many from a legal limbo.

  2.  We are concerned however that this development will in practice take away the rights of spouses and push some transgendered people further into a legal limbo.

  3.  We are a couple who have been married for almost 31 years and are near full retirement.

  4.  About 15 years ago one of us came to accept they are transgendered. The adopted policy was to put family first and gender considerations second. This repression led to depression resulting in failure to gain promotion and eventually, in 1995, retirement on ill health grounds.

  5.  Since then there has been a continued decline in both physical and mental health. It became a choice of either full gender reassignment or a very short life expectancy.

  6.  The problems seemed immense. Our commitment to our children has meant there has only ever been one income earner. Both of us are now suffering health problems.

  7.  After much anguish we determined a way to stay together as a couple yet allow the gender reassignment to take place.

  8.  We will for instance be moving from our long established family home to another location.

  9.  The proposals in the draft Bill appear to have practical difficulties for couples like us.

  10.  We understand there will be a requirement that people seeking recognition under this proposed legislation will have to dissolve an existing marriage.

  11.  There may be a general expectation that all eligible transgendered people will take action under the new legislation and consequently there could be a marginalisation of those who choose not to register in their new gender. Such people could be in a deeper legal limbo, and subject to increased discrimination.

  12.  There may be an inclination for Gender Identity Clinics to require divorce prior to any reassignment treatment. This will deprive some people of appropriate treatment which is currently available even for those who remain married.

  13.  For a medical practitioner to require a patient to divorce and in so doing affect the status of a third person is an infringement of that persons rights.

  14.  We have agreed we will not divorce to enable the registration to go ahead unless there is adequate protection of rights for both of us.

  15.  We will preserve our married rights even if it exacerbates the already mentioned health problems.

  16.  One suggested solution we have seen for protecting spouses is through the government's proposals for same sex civil partnerships.

  17.  We, along with other couples we know, are not too happy with this suggestion. Despite subsequent gender problems we believe our marriage vows were a commitment for life.

  18.  We can also see a number of pitfalls in following the suggestion.

  19.  Firstly the proposals are only that and are under separate legislation.

  20.  There may be an unwelcome insinuation of sexuality about the non-transgendered spouse who takes part in a same sex agreement.

  21.  Some pension providers will not grant a pension to a partner of a deceased pensioner when the marriage took place after retirement. There is a risk that where a couple such as we divorce that pension rights will cease. The civil partnership may be treated as a fresh relationship and the pension rights will not be restored.

  22.  There may be similar problems in such areas as life insurance.

  23.  We suggest that a protection of the spouse can be achieved in a number of ways.

  24.  Gender identity clinics should not be able to insist on divorce prior to treatment unless there is adequate protection available for the spouse. Registration in the new gender should remain an option not an obligation.

  25.  There could be a procedure whereby divorce and a civil partnership are enacted in the one process and that this should count as a continuing relationship in such areas as pension provision.

  26.  That the proposed procedure is given a separate title which indicates it is a continuation of a legal marriage. This would help preserve the status of the spouse who is neither transgendered nor homosexual.

  27.  Whilst our suggestions relate to separate pieces of legislation we could not take full advantage of provisions in the Gender Recognition Bill until there is full protection for both of us.

  28.  Our preference is for our marriage to continue but if the JCHR cannot find a way of incorporating such a measure in this Bill then we ask that the rights of spouses are included in other human rights measures.

7 September 2003

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