Today, the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 was debated in Seanad Eireann.
Following the debate, Broden Giambrone, Chief Executive of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), said, “Today we should be celebrating as we are one step closer to legal recognition, and this has been a very long road. However, there are still serious issues with the legislation as it is currently stands. Unfortunately many members of our community are still excluded in this legislation. It was heartening, though, that these issues were raised almost unanimously today by Senators. Senators repeatedly criticised the single requirement; the process of recognition for young people aged 16 and 17; and the medical requirement. This legislation should have the lives of trans people at its very centre, and trans voices need to be listened to. This is, and always has been, a human rights issue. Trans people deserve the respect of being recognised and protected for who they are. And we deserve to be listened to.”
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “The Gender Recognition Bill is welcome but requires a number of important amendments to fulfil the requirements of international human rights law and tackle the serious issue of discrimination against transgender people.”
Gender Recognition Bill 2014: Seanad Debate
Ireland is currently the only country in the EU that has no provision for legal gender recognition.
During today’s debate, Senator Aideen Hayden read into the record the words of Sam Blanckensee: “In the eyes of the State, the man I have become does not exist.”
Senator Mary White, and a number of others, stated that because Ireland has taken so long to legislate for the recognition of trans people, the issues being raised by trans people should be listened to.
“As lawmakers, we need to listen to the voices of the real people whose lives and fundamental rights are affected by this legislation,” said Senator Katherine Zappone. This was a sentiment repeated throughout the debate.
Among the issues raised today were the problems associated with requiring a medical practitioner to affirm an individual’s identity in order to receive recognition.
Senator David Norris said: “The medical requirement suggests that this is an illness, or some sort of defect. It is diagnosis by any other name.”
This was echoed by Senator Jillian Van Turnhout, who said: “The current medical criteria act as a barrier. I don’t understand why we need to put these onerous barriers in place.”
The lack of recognition for young persons under 16, and the onerous process suggested for 16 and 17 year olds was also raised.
Senator Katherine Zappone stated, “by not including provisions for people under the age of 16, this is a blanket exclusion on our most vulnerable young people who will have no voice at all. Is this in the best interests of our children?”
Senator Averil Power added that ‘Young people deserve to be heard’ and that this is an omission in this Bill.
Finally, the criterion that you must be single in order to apply for recognition met with cross party disapproval.
“We should listen intently to the views of the people who will be effected by this legislation”, said Hildegard Naughton during her contribution; a sentiment echoed repeatedly during the course of the debate.
Responding to the Debate
Amnesty International Ireland and Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) today welcome that the Gender Recognition Bill has been brought before Seanad Eireann. However, much more needs to be done to make this legislation inclusive, and relevant to the needs of the people who should be at its heart. Trans voices need to be listened to and these issues must be addressed.
“This Bill must ensure that transgender people can obtain legal recognition of their gender through a quick, accessible and transparent procedure in accordance with the individual’s own sense of their gender identity. We are calling on the Government to take the opportunity when the Bill reaches committee stage to make these crucial reforms to ensure we have a new law that protects the human rights of transgender people,” said Colm O’Gorman.