The concept of self-identification can seem unusual to those unfamiliar with the concept, and those unfamiliar with the people that would use self-identification. Put simply, self-identification is the idea that trans people would be able to self-determine how they are legally identified. Seems reasonable. Cisgender people get the luxury of not needing to self-identify, because they do not have any grievances with how they’ve been assigned. So, it would only seem reasonable to allow trans people to identify themselves, right? According to current legislation, no.
The UK, in terms of progressive countries, is one of the slowest when it comes to addressing trans rights. Focussing on Denmark, their trans rights currently allow non-binary people to have a “x” on their passport, if they do not identify with the gender binary, which when you think about the UK’s approach to non-binary people, especially when we consider the media’s approach (I’m looking at you, Piers Morgan), is horrendous. Denmark even removed trans gender identity from its list of mental illnesses before the World Health Organisation, becoming the second ever country to do this, following France’s example. Furthermore, Denmark has one of the most comprehensive sex education systems in the world, including LGBTQ+ people in their education.
The biggest problem at the moment is the failure to address the lack of trans rights as an issue. We still have the extremely outdated piece of legislation allowing single-sex services to turn down trans women based on what they have in their trousers, which is completely irresponsible on the government’s part. It’s extremely fortunate that many female refuge services, such as Women’s Aid, aren’t discriminatory, but the idea that single-sex services such as refuges have the option to refuse trans women is completely absurd. It’s odd to think that trans women are treated like predators in many places, to the point where people think it’s okay to check what we have in our trousers. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we check everyone? No. Of course not. That’s ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that trans women are simply women, and many of the people that argue against this have outdated views that they’ve taken from a year 7 biology book from 1989.
This is why self-identification is so important. It’s so expensive to change your passport, driver’s licences and other ID cards, and a lot of the time you need to change your passport first for many services to accept your name change/gender. Recently, I set up a petition to allow trans people over 16 to self-identify. This would force businesses, health boards and education systems to allow trans people to change their names on their systems with going through the whole palaver of paying a stupid amount of money to get deed polls and change their passports. Many trans people don’t have the access to this money or have barriers blocking their way to get these services. The constant underestimation from cis people who think they know better is our biggest enemy in terms of making change. Many a time I’ve heard a cisgender person saying “well trans people have the same rights as I do.” Um, no, we don’t. We’re discriminated against in sport, schools, “same-sex” services, workplaces, medical services, the list goes on and on. And it’s all down to legislation. The Equality Act 2013 says that we cannot be discriminated on based on the fact that we’re trans, but then they release other legislation contradicting this (such as the “same-sex services” legislation). My only hope right now is that my petition covers the ground we need to secure self-identification, and maybe we can finally move forward and gain progress with trans rights.