While the passing of the Gender Recognition Bill is a huge victory for the Irish trans community, more has to be done to protect trans young people, says Rob Buchanan.
Ireland has once again cemented its recent position in the vanguard for equality as we become the fourth country on Earth to guarantee the rights of citizens to gender recognition based on their self-declaration. This week, the Seanad passed the Gender Recognition Bill after it passed through the Dail last week. After the president signs it off the Bill will be enforced within weeks. This is not just a victory for the Trans folk of this country whose very existence and identity was trapped in a cruel limbo. It is also a victory for Irish society as a whole.
If you were to believe some of the usual hate brigade, under the false flag of Catholicism or “natural” law, the Gender Recognition Bill meant mandatory enforced sex changes for everyone. Perhaps there is something Freudian in that , considering so many of these ejits will view any subversion of the status quo as a symbolic castration of their power. And also to those who remain willfully ignorant of what Gender recognition, and what being trans is all about, there is a morbid obsession with the anatomy of the situation. They are preoccupied with the body and not the soul, much as they tried to hijack the same sex marriage debate, bringing it to the level of a tackier 50 Shades fan fiction.
Equality is the tide that lifts all boats. A state which enshrines tolerance and the sanctity of individual identity is also a state which is more likely to care about its citizens and respond to their needs. It is the sign of a state which will cherish all its children , as the 1916 proclamation upon which the state was forged guarantees all. So what will this Bill mean? Simply put if you are not a trans person , or the lover or friend ,parent or child of one that it will mean absolutely nothing. It will not affect your life or your taxes, your daily commute to work or the price of cabbage. However if you are trans or care about someone who is then it will make a whole world of difference. It will grant dignity and recognition to an existential struggle which has broken so many lives and hearts lived in the darkness. It will grand legitimacy to an identity which trans people didn’t choose, but which chose them.
Trans folk will now have their self-declared gender recognised on birth certs , passports etc. The road to this simple yet profound acknowledgement of human dignity was not an easy one. Previously proposed Bills had shockingly degrading strings attached. On reading them in the light of this triumphant year for LGBT rights they are almost laughable were they not deadly serious to the lives they tainted. There is still a major flaw in the bill however , and one which critically affects the most vulnerable section of the trans community. The self-declaration which the bill requires can only occur when the applicant is aged 18 or over. It appears someone forgot to tell the body and soul of trans people that they should not feel trans until the state declares they are of appropriate age.
Whether you are CIS or LGBT your adolescence are the fragile foundations upon which you build your future. Happiness, security and guidance during these formative years will produce a generation of productive , stable citizens and families. Those precious years can sadly be hellish for even the luckiest of us. This crucible in which our personalities are forged can seem like the end of the world at times and for a tragic few young people it turns out to be. Suicide rates among LGBT kids are disproportionately high, and among the trans community even more so. Whilst bullying is obviously a factor a huge contributor to the feeling of hopelessness and despair is the lack of recognition by the outside world of the truth of that persons gender. To deny Irish kids the security and support they are guaranteed by our constitution ,just because they are trans, is ethically unacceptable. Lives will be at risk and lives may be lost as so many have been before.
A caveat of the new Bill is that 16 and 17-year-olds may be granted recognition if they testimony from a doctor and obtain a court order. Whilst on paper this may seem like a happy medium however it doesn’t go far enough. The psychological health and sense of self-worth of kids feeling smothered by the lie of their birth gender must be a feeling worse than being invisible. Because people are seeing the opposite of who you are, whilst your government and society are labelling you as the very thing which every ounce of your being is struggling to be free of. So whilst we celebrate this incredible milestone for Trans rights and for a more equal Ireland for all , lets also remember among the young people who are the future of this country there are trans kids for whom this equality is still not quite equal enough. To help close this gap we must remember the job is not finished , not till this vulnerable foundation of youth has been secured.