Thursday, 30 July 2009

European Commissioner for Human Rights Report on Gender Identity

Is here. Unfortunately, it does not address Intersex conditions, apart from a passing mention in the first paragraphs. While they are in theory separate, in practice, when it comes to many of the issues raised in the report regarding docmentation, there is considerable overlap.

For one thing, the EUCHR report assumes as an unspoken axiom that everyone has a gender identity of male or female. While this may be true for the majority of people, it's not true for all. It's not even true for those who are cis-sexual (ie who fit exactly the biological binary sex model), and certainly not true for every Intersexed individual, just the majority of them.

While there may be an arguable case based on biology for coercing cis-sexual people into conforming to a societally-approved binary gender model (not that I'd argue in favour), for many Intersexed people with gender identities that don't follow the norm, there can be no case. There is no logic, no justification, no reason, the coercion is there purely to make third parties less uncomfortable, and enable them to blindly ignore biological reality.

So while this report is good for the vast majority of transsexual people, and for many transgendered people whose current somatic form and gender identity are mismatched, there are still some left out in the cold, excluded from the human rights that most enjoy.

In my own situation, it fits my requirements exactly. I fit well into the binary gender model, at least, when it comes to gender identity, and relatively well when it comes to biological sex. But my experiences of being on the receiving end of bigotry have left me sensitised to the needs of others. Even others I consider weird, and peculiar, people who I don't identify with at all, and who make me feel uncomfortable, as many cissexual GenderQueer people do.

Because I am considered by many to be weird, and peculiar, and make other people uncomfortable just by existing. I cannot in all conscience demand human rights for myself, and exclude others. Not even when excluding them would make my own fight easier. In fact, especially not then, because morality and ethics cannot ever be a matter for pragmatism.


Emily said...

Whilst it is true that the a great deal of the issues faced by intersexed people overlap with trans people, the fact that they didn't specifically mention intersexed people in section 3.3 could result in continued mistreatment of adult IS people in some countries.

In France, for example, adult TS people are given a treatment path whereas adult IS people aren't (conversely, IS children are whereas TS children find it very difficult). The normal approach in France is to treat an adult IS person as a TS person and to specifically avoid any diagnosis which may point to an IS cause. If any such IS cause is discovered in any tests made, the treatment path can be withdrawn by the central authority that manages such treatments.

Without specific IS clauses in such documents, this situation, which causes IS people a great deal of worry, will remain.

As for the issue of the assumption of a gender binary, whilst I am not surprised, it is a disappointment. Like you, I'm happily inside the binary, but Europe is so set up with that binary in mind(from the social level all the way through to the legislative level) that this must be horrible for those outside of it, be they trans, IS or cis.

Zoe Brain said...

Emily - I concur completely.

Battybattybats said...

Thanks Zoe!

I appreciate your comments for us TG's outside the neat boxes.

Has the AHRC's IS paper had any impact yet? Seems to me the government is big on blinkers these days.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, for any progress to be made - morality and ethics do have to handled pragmatically. Martin Luther King said it best when he noted "the long arc of justice" - it's not a cliff of justice, in other words.

Women's Rights, for example, took about 70 years to gain ground. Civil rights for gays took over 20 years. And that's in the western world - much of the world, as you know, still subjugates women, and gays are executed simply because they're gay. In those places equal rights for women are viewed as sinful - this makes it impossible to do anything but be pragmatic, and patient, in asserting a moral and ethical view that differs from the official one.

(I'm going to ignore the whole field of moral and/or ethical quandaries!)

It's not nice, and contemporary moral relativists keep getting in the way - but it is, unfortunately, realistic. But while I'd like to see a simple "everyone is equal" ethos, pragmatically speaking - it's simply not going to happen quickly. Life simply does have a habit of throwing unanswerable moral questions in the way. Usually at the most inconvenient time...

(Sorry about the inarticulate phrasing in this; I'm still on my first coffee of the day.)

Carolyn Ann