Passports Beyond Binary

Julian Huppert MP
Julian Huppert MP

Julian Huppert MP

42 MPs have now signed an Early Day Motion to allow intersex, genderqueer and other nonbinary gendered people to have accurate and honest passports.

At present they are obliged to have passports marked F or M for female or male; the motion, tabled by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, would allow an X passport.

It’s been blocked by the civil service on account of causing problems at immigration – implausible given other countries already have the facility. If our border control can cope with foreign X passports, they can surely cope with British X passports too.

Check if your MP has signed here. Remember ministers can’t sign EDMs.

The full text reads:

That this House recognises the issues faced by those in the UK who identify themselves as non-gender, bi-gender or intersex; believes that many of those who are non-gendered or bi-gendered feel compromised and diminished as a result of inappropriate gender references on their personal identity information; acknowledges that all passports issued by HM Passport Office are currently gender-specific and it is therefore not possible to obtain a passport that contains no reference to gendered identity; understands that, alongside F (Female) and M (Male), the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Document 9303 already contains X (unspecified) as a permitted character for three permitted characters under the mandatory sex element for machine-readable travel documents; notes that in Australia and New Zealand citizens are able to obtain a non-gender specific X passport and that India, Nepal and Pakistan also recognise the legitimacy of X as a preferred option when M and F are not appropriate; further believes that allowing this possibility in the UK would go a long way to amend this discriminatory policy which denies non-gendered and bi-gendered people a legitimate identity; and therefore urges the Government and HM Passport Office to make non-gender-specific X passports available to those UK passport holders who do not identify with a particular gender.

Dear Mr President…

US flag in bi coloursA White House website petition calling on President Obama to proclaim observance of Bi Visibility Day has just launched – but needs to reach 100,000 signatures to ensure a formal response from the White House. With four weeks to go, can we find 100,000 bisexuals and allies to sign their names?

The petition reads:

Recognize International Celebrate Bisexuality Day.

Every year since 1999, bisexuals and our supporters have celebrated our unique ability to love someone no matter their gender on September twenty-third. Some people refer to this day as “International Celebrate Bisexuality Day” and others refer to it as “Bi Visibility Day”. We face the unique problem of invisibility- when we are in same-sex relationships people assume we are gay, and when we are in opposite-sex relationships it is assumed that we are straight. In fact, many people assert that we do not exist at all. [Source: http://www.upmc.com/media/NewsReleases/2013/Pages/gender-racial-sexuality-differences-exist-in-attitudes-toward-bisexuality.aspx] Mr. President, can you help us by proclaiming the observance of International Celebrate Bisexuality Day in the United States?

You can add your name here.

Bisexual Asylum Seeker petition nears 2,000 names

photo: Houses of ParliamentEarlier this month the UK’s largest gathering of bisexual people, BiCon, heard the story of a bisexual man the Home Office proposes to deport back to a country where he faces isolation, persecution and violence – just for being bisexual. An online petition has been building momentum and is nearing 2,000 signatures asking the Home Secretary to grant him asylum.

The closing plenary debate session at BiCon in Leeds heard how local bisexual man Orashia Edwards faces deportation to Jamaica where he risks being murdered over his sexuality.

Home Office guidance says asylum seekers do not need to prove their sexualities, just that they face persecution. Despite this Edwards faces imminent deportation because UK judges do not believe he can be bisexual.

At the conference Gracey Morgan, who had previously been through the asylum system, explained that the caseworkers “… mean well but they say to us to claim we are [gay or] lesbian because they don’t think bisexual is understood. They say we will be better off if we don’t say ‘bisexual’, but Orashia has not done this.”

The risks he faces are real. As the petition, to the Home Secretary Theresa May, states: “His case has gained mass media attention and support in the past months and he has become well known both here in the UK and in Jamaica. This means that the danger his life is in, because of his sexuality, has increased and he was recently victim of a homophobic attack here in Leeds where he lives … All his family are settled in the UK and [in Jamaica] he would be completely isolated and in hiding.”

The deportation would separate Edwards from his baby daughter, who was born in the UK, and his mother who has also settled here. Campaign group Leeds For Change have already successfully fought to stop planes taking him out of the UK and have called on the Home Office to apply their own rules in this case.

The Home Office have said previously “We have changed our guidance to ensure that we do not remove individuals who have demonstrated a proven risk of persecution on grounds of sexual orientation”. Yet Edwards is one of the clear majority of LGB asylum seekers whose claims are still rejected by the Home Office and who face being returned to the threat of homophobic violence: a much higher return rate than other asylum seekers.

“How can the UK government claim to champion equality for LGBT people while breaking its own rules to deport bisexual asylum seekers? Why, in 2014, is bisexuality something that judges can dismiss as not really existing?” asked a spokesperson from Bisexual Index.

“We urge people of all sexualities to sign the petition calling on the Home Secretary to review this case, and to donate to Mr Edwards’ legal team.”

Even if the judge’s argument that Orashia isn’t bisexual were true, by now the profile of his asylum case would surely make Jamaica a sadly unsafe place to which to return him.

Government to review international LGBT work

Lynne Featherstone MP

Lynne Featherstone MP

In response to the passage of Uganda’s harsh new anti-homosexuality law, a UK Government LGBT policy review has been announced, to be led by Under-Secretary of State for International Development Lynne Featherstone.

Speaking about the review today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “When it’s published, I hope it will help us hardwire LGBT rights into our entire human rights agenda – through every bilateral meeting, every multilateral relationship and every corner of the world.

“The message is clear: LGBT rights are human rights. So we need LGBT protections to be a part of anti-discrimination laws everywhere.

“This means absolutely continuing to support LGBT campaigners on the ground around the world – they are the key to change in their local communities and countries.

“It means talking to multi-national businesses to encourage them to make the business case against homophobia.

Lynne was the MP who piloted the same-sex marriage law for Wales & England into Parliament, who has since been reshuffled from equalities to international development.

Ireland set to join the marriage club?

ROI flagIrish ‘prime minister’, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced that a referendum over whether to allow same-sex marriage will be held in the spring of 2015.

He made the statement in the Dáil yesterday evening. Most countries which have introduced same-sex marriage have not used referenda but made the subject a vote of elected parliamentarians.

Enda has previously said that his government would campaign for same-sex marriage in such a referendum.

Same-sex marriages have started to be held in Wales and England, and will begin to be conducted in Scotland later this year.  However in Northern Ireland the Stormont Assembly has blocked them in three separate votes over the last two years.

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