Campaigner says saying your gender on passport breaches human rights

Christie Elan-Cane brought the case to the High Court

An equalities campaigner fighting for gender-neutral passports has urged the High Court to rule that the Government’s current policy is ‘unlawful’.

Christie Elan-Cane believes the UK’s passport application process, which requires people to state whether they are male or female, is ‘inherently discriminatory’.

However, the Home Office which is in charge of the passport system claims that changing the gender category system could affect national security.

Elan-Cane, who has campaigned for more than 25 years to achieve legal and social recognition for non-gendered identity, sees the issue of ‘X’ (for unspecified) passports as a key focal point of the non-gendered campaign. 

In a hearing in London which started today, Elan-Cane’s lawyers challenged the Passport Office’s current policy, saying it breached the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender or sex.

Lawyer for Elan-Cane, Kate Gallafent said: ‘For (Elan-Cane), obtaining and using a passport currently involves making a false declaration of gender identity, which causes considerable distress.

‘The lack of a non-gender specific passport option impacts on the ability to obtain and use a passport on equal terms with persons who identify solely in terms of male or female.’

She told the judge that the impact of the passport office’s refusal to provide for X passports ‘affects not only non-gendered persons such as Elan-Cane, but a broad section of the public,’ including intersex and transgendered people and other individuals with gender dysphoria.

The policy requires Elan-Cane to ‘deny a fundamental aspect of the (their) identity.’

It was akin to requiring a person of Asian ethnicity to ‘declare their ethnicity to be either ‘white’ or ‘black’, or requiring a bisexual person to declare their sexual orientation to be either ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual’.’

The judge is being asked to quash the policy and order that it be ‘reconsidered according to the law’.

Elan-Clan's lawyer said the current system has forced people to deny a fundamental part of their identity

Elan-Clan’s lawyer said the current system has forced people to deny a fundamental part of their identity

However, legal representatives for the Home Secretary argue that the current policy does not ‘interfere’ with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In written submissions, the Home Office argued that the current gender policy was necessary to maintain security and to combat identity theft and fraud, and ‘to ensure security at national borders’. 

 Home Office lawyers added that a change in current policy would ‘create a huge administrative burden. There would be associated financial costs.’ 

Elan-Cane said in a statement before the hearing: ‘Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right, but non-gendered people are often treated as though we have no rights.

‘The UK’s passport application process requires applicants to declare whether they are male or female.

‘It is inappropriate and wrong that someone who defines as neither should be forced to make that declaration.’