Transsexual wins right to be recognised as a woman
Landmark decision after 13-year fight
IRELAND'S transgender community can now come out into the open to fight for their rights, campaigners said last night after the Government accepted defeat in a landmark legal battle.
Transsexual Lydia Foy spoke of her hope that young transgender people would benefit after she won her 13-year legal quest to be officially recognised as a woman.
The Government has formally withdrawn its Supreme Court appeal in the historic transgender court case lodged by the qualified dentist in her bid to be described as female on her birth certificate.
Dr Foy (62), a father of two who underwent a sex-change operation in the UK in 1992, spoke of her relief and delight that her "long and difficult" legal battle had come to an end.
The dentist, registered at birth as male, said she hoped the State's move would help others who had "endured the pain, abuse, isolation, humiliation and fear that have been the lot of those who are transgendered".
She urged the Government to now act swiftly to change the laws so people who have undergone operations to change their gender could be granted new birth certificates.
"It has been a very long road and at times I thought it would never end, but I felt I just had to keep going for my own dignity and self-respect and for all the other transgender people out there who were suffering in silence," said Dr Foy, who lives in Athy, Co Kildare.
"I am also glad this ordeal is nearly over for the sake of members of my family circle."
Solicitor Michael Farrell from the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), which represented Dr Foy during the case -- which began in 1997 -- described the decision as a "major development".
"We feel that, as a result of this case, young transgender people, in particular, may feel more confident that they will be able to assert their real gender, as they see it," Mr Farrell said.
It is estimated as many as 600 people in Ireland may be affected by gender identity disorders with many reluctant to reveal their difficulties to friends and family.
Martine Cuypers, chair of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), described the decision as a "landmark movement" both legally and socially.
Dr Foy will be grand marshal at the upcoming Dublin Pride Festival parade.
Louise Hannon, a member of the transgender community, who runs that festival, said many transgender persons emigrate as they feel more accepted abroad.
She said there was still a social stigma attached to being transgendered, particularly in rural Ireland.
The Government, which has been under fire for lagging behind its European counterparts, will now have to introduce legislation to allow people to be recognised in their new gender on their birth certificates.
The acceptance of the High Court ruling that Irish law on transgender rights breaches the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) must be reported to the Dail by Taoiseach Brian Cowen within 21 days.
A gender recognition group has been set up to advise Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv on the changes to the law required to provide recognition for transsexuals' gender.
But Mr Farrell described it as "very late in the day" as the Government had been aware since 2002 that the law would have to be changed after a key decision in a UK case taken to the European Court of Human Rights.
In the UK, laws introduced in 2004 protect the position of family members of a transgender person -- providing for succession and other rights.
The Irish Human Rights Commission said the decision was "overdue" and Ireland had been out of line with European Law.
In 1993, Dr Foy was refused by the Registrar General's Office after she applied for a new birth certificate as a woman following her sex-change operation.
In 2007, a decade after Dr Foy began High Court proceedings for legal recognition as a woman, a judge ruled that Irish law on the issue was incompatible with the ECHR. But the State appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.