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Friday 24 March 2017

Transgender legislation 'will tear families apart'

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

WHEN Cat McIlroy met Leslie Sherlock at University College Dublin four years ago, he told the American student he was born a woman but was now a transgendered person, unsure of whether he wanted to be a man or a woman.

Sherlock, who has been McIlroy's partner for more than three years, didn't care.

"I just see Cat as a person, not a gender," said Sherlock, who attended the launch yesterday in Dublin of the long-awaited Gender Recognition Advisory Group report.

It comes almost a year after the Government was defeated in the High Court after Dr Lydia Foy, a transgender woman who was born a man, waged a 14-year legal battle to secure recognition in her new, acquired female gender.

But many of the transgendered groups at the launch rounded on Social Protection Minister Joan Burton over the strict criteria that would be applied to anyone who wanted to have their "new" gender recognised by law.

This would be a gender recognition document indistinguishable from their original birth certificate.

The criteria include:

•A ban on anyone who is married or in a civil relationship from having their gender recognised unless they divorce or legally separate.

•A formal diagnosis by a mental health professional or proof that they have undergone gender reassignment surgery.

•A statutory declaration that they intend to live in their preferred gender for the rest of their lives.

•Applicant must have been living in their new gender for at least two years before they apply.

McIlroy told the Irish Independent the planned new laws were "transphobic" and said he was "offended that I would have to be diagnosed with a mental illness" to have his gender recognised by the State.

McIlroy, who would prefer to have a genderless X on his birth certificate, also claimed the marriage ban was "state discrimination" and would tear families part.

"There are people who have married and have partners and have transitioned; so this completely disrespects their life experience. Many people won't divorce because they wish to remain a family," said McIlroy.

The minister defended plans to ban married people from changing their gender.

"Failing to exclude people in an existing marriage would be constitutionally unsound," said Ms Burton.

Retired civil servant Oliver Ryan, who chaired the working group, said if the legislation was introduced without any reference to marital status, it could "in effect" be regarded as bringing in same sex marriage.

"It leaves two [married] people who want to stay together in a practically impossible situation," admitted Mr Ryan.

The publication of the report was welcomed by Dr Foy, who was praised by Ms Burton for her "long and tenacious" battle to have her true gender recognised by the State.

Irish Independent

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