Fianna Fáil Senator Mary White has said that while the principal and concept of introducing a Gender Recognition Bill is a significant step forward, a number of key concerns in the new legislation need to be addressed.
The Gender Recognition Bill 2014, debated yesterday in the Seanad, will allow for the legal recognition of transgender people. As it stands, Ireland is the only country in the European Union that has no provision in place for the recognition of the transgender and intersex community.
Speaking on the Bill in the Seanad, Senator White said: “If we are to introduce legislation aimed at protecting and respecting transgender people, then we should really be listening to the voices of those people.
“As the Bill stands, a transgender person must divorce their spouse if they are to be legally recognised. This means that if you are currently married, and if this marriage survived a spouse coming out as transgender, you will be punished by the State for keeping your family together. In a country that only legislated for divorce in 1996, it is ludicrous and inhumane that we are forcing people to give up one set of rights for another.
“The provision in the Bill that a statement must be obtained from a medical practitioner is also misguided and damaging because it relies on an outdated conception of the nature of transgender identity and serves to pathologise the identity of transgender people. The Department of Social Protection has received letters from transgender health experts worldwide stating unanimously that legal gender recognition is a human right and should have nothing to do with medical care pathways.
“Being a teenager is bad enough, but I cannot bear to think how painful it must be to be conscious that one’s gender may not be what it was at birth, having to go with the flow and having to hide who one really is. It is hard enough to establish one’s own identity without having to deal with this other issue.
“The transgender community have had the courage to come out and say to society that they exist and that they want to be fully recognised in Irish society. If they are saying that this legislation will not protect them, then we need to listen. We need to do better than this, we are dealing with people’s lives,” concluded Senator White.