Trans woman in birth certificate change bid

A transgender woman in Northern Ireland seeking official recognition of her identity is being stigmatised by having to show she suffered a mental disorder, the High Court has heard.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 5:14 pm
Pacemaker Press 22/5/2013  Laganside Court Building  in Belfast City centre  Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 22/5/2013 Laganside Court Building in Belfast City centre Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A judge was told her human rights are allegedly being breached by a need to demonstrate a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

She is taking legal action in a bid to get the change in her gender reflected on her birth certificate. The woman, who was granted anonymity, began her transition to a woman more than 20 years ago.

But according to her lawyers anyone seeking the necessary Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) must show they had a specific mental disorder - gender dysphoria.

Karen Quinlivan QC, for the woman, argued: “The applicant contends that this requirement is stigmatising and, in any event, unnecessary.”

Judicial review proceedings brought against the Government Equalities Office (GEA) focus on the terms of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. In an affidavit the woman claimed the legal requirement has caused her to feel shame and distress.

“It makes me feel that what I am, at the core of my being, in terms of my gender identity, is pathological and disordered,” she stated.

Ms Quinlivan contended that the alleged difference in treatment is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

She added: “What we are talking about is a vulnerable group in society who face substantial discrimination and significant hurdles in getting legal recognition which causes severe distress.”

Counsel for the GEA, Tony McGleenan QC, rejected the claims of discrimination.

He submitted that the current process complies with the Convention, adding that there is a lack of consensus among EU countries about any potential alternative process of self-determination.

Judgment was reserved following the two-day hearing.

Pledging to deliver his verdict as soon as possible, Mr Justice Scoffield acknowledged: “Obviously this is a significant case.”

Outside court the woman’s solicitor stressed that she has lived in her preferred gender for many years.

Ciaran Moynagh of Phoenix Law said: “She simply wishes to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate to have her reality reflected on her birth certificate.

“She takes issue with the need for a medical report confirming she has gender dysphoria, given that the World Health Organisation no longer believes it is a disorder and the fact there is no medical expertise in Northern Ireland that can assist with the application process.”

Mr Moynagh added: “The lack of treatment, support and medical expertise in Northern Ireland that assists trans people in obtaining a GRC is a long-standing issue that the Government has acknowledged but taken no steps to resolve