Transgender Equality III

Should a spouse be able to insist that a trans person dissolve their marriage?

The spousal veto allows a spouse to withhold consent to gender recognition, until the marriage or civil partnership is dissolved. The spouse might want the marriage dissolved; but if the trans person takes steps to dissolve it, the trans person may feel responsible for the break. Both parties are responsible, when a marriage ends- though neither may be guilty, as people grow apart- but people commit to a marriage, and the symbol of who breaks it matters. And while financial and other matters are sorted, until the marriage is dissolved, the trans person’s gender is not recognised.

I might not want to take the action to break the marriage- it would be admitting it was my fault, because of my transition that it ended- though the refusal to recognise my gender might be the Wrong which motivated me to end it, and so ending it would be empowering.

In the Parliamentary Committee, the Gender Equality Office evidence was that straight and gay marriage are different. Some people marry a person, some a man or a woman. Some couples marrying do not know the other, or themselves- it is easy for a middle aged woman to say that, with my hard-won self-knowledge. GIRES put it clearly: Trans people are the only group that can have their civil rights delayed by another. Dissolve the marriage after gender recognition, if you want. Why would that be so hard?

A domestic violence charity said, The spousal veto is extremely concerning and potentially dangerous for trans people who are experiencing domestic abuse. It is known that abusers will commonly try and prevent a trans partner from transitioning, and trans people may experience honour-based violence in response to their wish to transition. Abusive partners will typically be highly controlling and have a
sense of entitlement. The spousal veto gives abusive partners a tool to foster the sense that they have ownership and authority over their partner’s body and identity.

The committee decided that marriage is a legal contract which cannot be changed without the consent of both parties, and recommended that the government should find other ways of addressing the problem where an abusive  spouse used the power to withhold consent abusively.

Currently, the age limit for gender recognition is 18. Sweden is going to move to a 15-and-over self-declaration, and for 12-to-15 it is going to be with parental consent; and in Norway a similar procedure, but from the age of seven, will exist. There are over a thousand children and young people transitioning, developing important networks of peer-support and enjoying formative experiences in their preferred gender, so overcoming one radical feminist objection, that we are socialised differently.

The committee recommend that those 16 and over should have the gender they choose recognised. They fear possible risks if younger children, even with parental support, could change gender, and believe the Government should further consider the possible risks and benefits.

Degas, after the bath

2 thoughts on “Transgender Equality III

    • As the report says, the Gender Recognition Act was ahead of its time, but it set so many restrictions round recognition: is it real? Is it deluded? Is it permanent? My word was not sufficient, it needed confirmed by doctors, and evidence of my actions, such as wage slips to show I had publicly used my feminine name. And here, who else is affected? We move towards self-definition: frivolous declarations are not a serious problem.

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