Are you? Male Female
Often, this is the very first question I encounter when trying to do something in life. Recent places/times I’ve been asked this include: connecting to Starbucks wifi, booking travel to visit friends, and signing up to a Beyoncé fans mailing list (I hope I can be forgiven for the last one, it means you get access to tickets on pre-sale). So, what’s the problem? Easy – I’m a non-binary person. Being non-binary means, for me, that I don’t identify as either a man or a woman. When I think about who I am, how I’d want to describe myself to others, and how I want to be seen in the world, neither of the terms “man” or “woman” feel like they fit for me. Yet I’m faced on a near-daily basis with having to make a decision between two options. Two options that don’t allow me to be truthful about who I am, and that make me feel invisible.
Whilst there are handful of places that do allow you to select a “third option”, my invisibility extends much further than just forms and getting on the internet. Non-binary people have no legal recognition in Scotland. This means that my ‘legal gender’ (the gender on my birth certificate) remains the same as it was recorded when I was born. And it means unlike trans men or trans women, I cannot apply to have my birth certificate updated to reflect my identity. It means that no matter how many places I can select ‘non-binary’ on forms in my day-to-day life, I will always be, legally, something that I’m not.
The Scottish Government has just consulted on reforming the Gender Recognition Act to improve the process that allows trans people to update our birth certificates to reflect our lived realities. Whilst the government is committed to improving the process for trans men and women, it has been less definite on whether changes to the law will also include finally legally recognising non-binary people.
Whilst the words ‘man’ or ‘woman’ don’t describe who I am, the term trans always has. Yet often, non-binary people are not explicitly included when journalists or politicians use the terms “trans people”, “trans rights” or “trans equality”. Because it has often been easiest to simplify trans people as being people who don’t fit the “M” so need to be the “F” or vice versa, we have been left with a situation where non-binary people have been explained out of our own community. On International Trans Day of Visibility, I’m calling on this to change.
The reform of the Gender Recognition Act is an unbelievable opportunity to take a huge step forward for the rights of all trans people. It is so important that we make sure that these changes include our whole community in all of its diversity, and don’t leave anyone behind. So please, visit equalrecognition.scot to find out how you can join the campaign to improve gender recognition for all trans people in Scotland.