Wednesday 22 November 2017

Julia Molony: Once again, plight of transgender people is ignored

Gender Recognition Bill has been put on the long finger as Government buries its head in the sand

Julia Molony

Proposed legislation regarding a controversial issue languishes in front of the Government, seemingly stuck on the eternal long finger. It is an issue related to parity and social justice. We are already in breach of the European Commission of Human Rights with regards to this issue. Meanwhile, as politicians dither, a vulnerable group is forced to navigate a legal twilight zone of obfuscation and confusion, that endangers their quality of life and perhaps mental health. Sound familiar? No, I'm not talking about abortion. I'm talking about the Gender Recognition Bill, a motion to legitimise the new identity of transgender men and women.

The Gender Recognition Bill has been perennially pushed down the legislative agenda and delayed. It has now been put back until 2014. This, despite the fact that it's five years since the law, as it currently stands, was judged as being in breach of human rights by the European Court following a long-standing petition by Dr Lydia Foy, who since 1993 has campaigned for the right to have her birth certificate changed to recognise her self-defined identity as female.

Sure, there's a lot of stuff in front of the Heads of Bill right now, and no doubt they're pretty busy up there. But given the sensitivity of this piece of law, it's hard not to suspect that once again, our Government has come up against a reality of contemporary life and chosen to bury its head in the sand. In the hope, presumably, that by ignoring a contentious, divisive issue – one that will undoubtedly bring rifts and vehement opposition from leaders of the church – it might just eventually be forgotten or go away. It certainly seems that, once again, faced with changing values, the life-changing scope of modern medical intervention and progressive psychological discourse, our Government, rather than have the nerve to face the issue head on, chooses to bury its head in the sand.

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