26.Submission from Melanie and Sue Cherriman
1. We wish to make a submission concerning
the above bill and the impact it will have on our lives, and the
lives of other transsexual people, if it is enacted as currently
2. First of all we wish to endorse the submissions
made to the committee by The Gender Trust and by Press For Change
3. In addition, may we draw the committee's
attention to a much more comprehensive analysis of the bill on
the Gender Trust's website at www.gendertrust.org which we also
4. We welcome the fact that this bill has
at last been proposed and we wish to place on record our thanks
for those who have worked so hard to get it to this stage of completion.
5.1 Mel is a transsexual woman, who transitioned
from male to female in January 2001. In common with many others,
she first felt some awareness of her condition as a young child
aged five, however a strict catholic upbringing combined with
the social mores of the time (she was born in 1961) impressed
upon her, even at such an early age, that to "choose"
to be anything other than "normal" was totally unacceptable,
indeed, impossible. She had a conventional upbringing as a male
and this socialisation added many more layers of disapproval which
she could only deal with by going into total denial and immersing
in diversionary behaviour by throwing herself into sport, studying
and work. She was taught to believe that she could choose to be
a normal, heterosexual male, that the transsexual feelings would
go away as she got older and that there would be huge sanctions
if she were to choose otherwise. With the benefit of today's knowledge
and her own personal experience, this belief might be considered
ill-judged, even naive, but at that time there was a total lack
of any accurate information about transsexuality (by today's standards
at least) and it was clear that there was no one she could turn
to for help, so she had to deal with the condition in total isolation.
5.2 Sue is a gender female, with a conventional
5.3 We met and, over time, fell in love,
getting married in May 1987. Mel did not declare her transsexuality
to Sue because she felt that there was no need. She is intelligent
and capable, and had been taught to believe that it was a question
of choosing the "right" thing to do, and getting married
was one of the right things.
5.4 We had a normal marriage, although we
didn't have any children.
5.5 Through the years, Mel continued to
suffer in silence, immersing in numerous activities and presenting
a normal face to the world however, by January 2000, this became
impossible and she could no longer keep the genie in the box.
5.6 We have spent the last three and a half
years coming to terms with Mel's condition and dealing with it.
5.7 Mel has now transitioned successfully
and had all the necessary surgery.
5.8 Because of our great love for each other
and determination to do our best to stay together, we embarked
on a course of couples therapy and resolved all of the problems
we faced along the way. We are still together and have every intention
and belief that, all other things being equal, we will continue
to be so.
6. HISTORY OF
6.1 Historically the treatment trans peoples
received when dealing with medicine and the law (and, for that
matter the rest of society, including the church and the press)
has been censorious and disapproving because of great ignorance
of the condition and the more judgmental social mores of past
6.2 Medicine viewed the condition as a sort
of deviant lifestyle choice and access to appropriate treatment
was often denied by the NHS and, in many cases still is, or unreasonable
hurdles are put in place to prevent access.
6.3 The law was no better. The infamous
"Corbett" case made a ruling based on what little was
"known" at that time and, despite much evidence to the
contrary (the committee are no doubt aware of the document "the
current medical viewpoint", for example) case law continued
to invalidate the condition.
6.4 Socially, being transsexual attracted
much social stigma, discrimination and even violence. Even today,
the term "transsexual" is still used pejoratively by
much of the media and reporting can be sensationalist and prurient.
6.5 It is also worth commenting on the role
of the church. Historically, many prominent religious people claimed
that Judaeo Christian belief stresses how wrong such "lifestyle
choices" arethey portray anything other than a fixed
bipolar male/female view of the world as invalid. Many, if not
most trans people were raised in families who practised, or were
influenced by such religious dogma and much law and institutional
policy also has its roots in it.
6.6 Much more is known now, particularly
as modem knowledge is disseminated into society and social mores
are less judgmental of difference. For example, many people have
said to us that they understand much more than they did 10 years
ago and can accept us now, when they would have been unable to
just 10 years ago. However the old ways still drive much of "the
system's" approach, and the view of religion despite the
evidence and opinions of some of the most eminent clinicians in
6.7 These realities have necessitated how
trans people dealt with the condition. There are some notable
exceptions but, for most, there was a long period (often many
decades) of denial, followed by a difficult journey towards their
solution and, ultimately, assimilation back into society in their
new gender role. Because of the difficulties outlined above, many
of which remain, many trans people still live in great fear of
their status being discovered.
6.8 We would like to reiterate some of the
realitiesthese are practical and real world examples of
some of the issues which the legislation needs to take into account.
Some are very recent.
6.8.1 Many, if not most, trans people build
a whole life based around projecting an image of themselves to
others that does not accord with their internal self knowledge.
They make decisions based on the perception that they can beat
the condition for their entire lives and, for example, get married
in the expectation that they will remain in male role.
6.8.2 After transition There have been so
many examples of the possible negative consequences when others
become aware of one's trans status that many learn to go to great
lengths to protect their privacy and secret.
6.8.3 More recently, a few trans people
are starting to emerge who are very open about their trans status
(Mel is one of these) however we believe that the overwhelming
majority are unlikely to be sufficiently "out" to make
representations to the committee.
6.8.4 It is not unusual for trans people
to find it hard to get decent employment and the cost of privately
obtaining the vital elements of treatment which are not funded
by the NHS is a huge drain on finance and, as a result, many carry
very large burdens of debt.
7. OUR GENERAL
7.1 We understood that there had been a
great deal of consultation before the bill was drafted and yet
important parts of the draft have clearly not taken account of
that consultation. The issues we mentioned above must be considered
if the bill is to have any validity for trans people.
7.2 We are disappointed that, despite the
consultation, the bill doesn't address our own specific situation
and is lacking in a number of other areasperhaps its our
lack of experience of the parliamentary process but we expected
the bill to address the issues raised by PFC and the Gender Trust,
however there seems to be a lot more work needed to make it fair
7.3 We are confused as to the intention
or logic underlying much of the draft bill. The explanatory notes
provided give no insight into the reasoning behind many of the
key provisions, which appear to us to enshrine in law a different
set of problems for trans people, when there is no need to do
so and which will actually make things more difficult for many.
8. SOME OF
8.1.1 We don't know how many marriages actually
survive the transition of one of the partners, but it is rare.
Mel knows a few couples who stayed together.
8.1.2 For any marriage to survive, it takes
a huge investment of emotion, energy and money, and a great deal
of love. This bill, if passed as proposed, would ignore the realities
of people like us in the cruellest possible way. We would be put
in the invidious position of having to choose between a female
birth certificate for Mel, and our marriage. We cannot believe
that someone has actually suggested that we should have to trade
one set of rights for another.
8.1.3 Frankly, we do not know what the impact
of the legislation will be on our marriage and this is a particularly
distressing and stressful turn of events.
8.1.4 While there is a vague allusion to
same sex marriages, this legislation is not in place and we do
not yet know what rights would be given away if we took this route.
It is totally illogical to require a marriage to be annulled in
order to qualify for a different type of marriage. In addition,
there would be a financial cost for the process to put ourselves
into the same position, legally as we are now!
8.1.5 Its unclear why the draft bill has
made it a requirement to get divorced/annulled. If it is because
of fear of public reaction, our own experience has been that other
(non trans) people have been totally accepting of our situation.
Those with whom we have discussed the issue have been amazed and
horrified that we would be forced into the position of having
to divorce in order to change Mel's birth certificatethey
recognise a great love between two people that has endured through
one of the most traumatic experiences that could possibly happen
to any relationship.
8.1.6 We are also very concerned regarding
the position of other documentation and legal paperwork, such
as passports, driving licence, sex stated on insurance and so
8.1.7 The current situation is that all
primary documentation except the birth certificate can be amended
when the trans person begins to live in role. We are concerned
that, unless there is specific provision in the bill, this concession
could be rescinded and any change of documentation could be made
conditional on obtaining a gender recognition certificate. This
will exacerbate the "trap" we would find ourselves in
and put even more pressure on us to get divorced. This is totally
unfair and does not take account of the reality that Mel only
ever did "the right thing" as enforced by the social
mores and legislation of the time.
8.1.8 Should people in our position "choose"
to stay married, there is a very real risk that others (including
the law) will perceive that people like Mel have "chosen"
to be male, when in fact, all we have done is chosen to stay together.
Such perceptions will inevitably influence the way that others
treat us and we are likely to be forced into a position where
our treatment by the institutions is similar to how it was decades
8.1.9 Because of the realities outlined
in section 5, there will still be many trans people who are in
denial who get married in their birth certificate gender role
and at least some of these marriages will survive so this difficulty
will perpetuate for a long time to come.
8.1.10 When the couple finally have to deal
with one spouse being trans, the legislation as proposed will
add a further layer of stress and complexity to what is already
a very difficult situation.
8.1.11 The gender recognition panel are
effectively going to define a set of criteria by which one is
judged to be male or female. In the case of this draft bill, remaining
in a pre existing marriage will automatically define one as being
of birth certificate gender even if all other criteria are metit
seems to us that this is a false criterion.
8.2.1 How many other minorities in this
country have been told that they must register on a central database
in order to receive basic human rights? For example, no one would
seriously propose that it should be a requirement for Jews to
register in order to practise their religious freedom.
8.2.2 As drafted, this bill is totally insensitive
to the history of oppression of trans people and the very existence
of a national register of trans people, while no doubt proposed
for rational administrative reasons, would be anathema to many.
Again, even non trans people have been amazed and horrified that
this should be proposed. They can see that the potential for misuse
of such a register is huge, especially when considering that this
is such a vulnerable group and they are very aware that human
history has shown not every future administration could be relied
on not to misuse the information. Couldn't happen here?
8.2.3 The very existence of the register
introduces a huge risk to the security of any trans people who
are on it. The security contained in the bill is totally inadequate
(and there is an open ended list of exemptions) and is only a
sticking plaster to cover up the fundamental flaw in the process.
Even if security were 100 per cent watertight (impossible!) it
could never sufficiently ameliorate the risk introduced by the
8.2.4 We personally know at least some trans
people who feel so vulnerable that they are likely to feel unable
to take the risk of registrationsuch people will be in
a catch 22 situationthey are already so vulnerable that
suicide is a very real and viable option but, we believe, introducing
such a conflict may increase the risk of suicide for them. The
committee must bear in mind that these people probably do not
belong to any lobbying trans organisation and are unlikely to
feel able to write to the committee.
8.3 THE PROCESS
8.3.1 We are particularly concerned that
the panel will be in a position to add "hurdles" to
any application. While we recognise that this is probably to allow
them some flexibility, the history of trans people has so many
examples of ignorant (or, even, expert) people setting unnecessary
conditions for access to treatment or any other aspect of transition
that this provision appears insensitive.
8.3.2 The minimum requirements set out in
the bill are already quite onerous. Many trans people will not
have all the documentation required and most GPs feel out of their
depth when dealing with TS people, so many will feel unable to
give a medical report. There is absolutely no provision in the
bill to enable people to obtain any documentation they don't already
have and, for example, getting access to NHS gender specialists
is very difficult (many Gender Clinics are oversubscribed and
several have closed their lists) and they may not even agree to
see trans people who are post operative anyway.
8.3.3 The bill clearly states that operative
status is not to be taken into account, and then goes on to impose
a requirement to state the details of all medical treatment. This
is inconsistent and introduces a very real risk that the panel
will, in practice, consider operative status to be very relevant.
Add this to the open ended ability to introduce additional hurdles,
and trans people who have been unable to have surgery could find
themselves unable, in practice to obtain a recognition certificate.
9. Mel was a young child when the infamous
"Corbett v Corbett" case ruled that transsexual women
were really men and, as a result of this, Mel lived the first
half of her life with her own sense of what she is invalidated
by English law. This proposed legislation is intended to put right
some of the wrongs that were done to her, and to people like her,
over 30 years ago however, if the bill is passed as proposed,
she will be condemned to live the second half of her life invalidated
by a different law, that fails to recognise the realities she
faced many years ago. We are sure that the group is aware of the
heavy responsibility that lies on its shoulders, please do not
condemn us in law again.
10. If in any doubt about which choices
to make please, please, take the humane choice. Consider what
impact the bill you are drafting will have on decent human beings
like us who, throughout our lives, have done our best to deal
with an unbelievably difficult condition in a hostile world. Please,
please make the choices that recognise our reality and not the
choices that condemn us to yet more decades of living in legal
limboexcept this time with primary legislation reinforcing
a status as non persons.
11. We realise that the committee may wish
to interview individual trans people and their spouses to hear
their stories and to explore some of the issues in more detail.
If it will help, we would be happy to meet you.
8 September 2003