Senator Jillian van Turnhout describes the exclusion of children from the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 (being considered, Wednesday 17 June, by the Dáil Select Sub-Committee on Social Protection) as fundamentally wrong
She says “I cannot sit silently by as we tell trans children and young people to sit in the corner and wait for their rights to be upheld, maybe, at some point down the road.”
Statement from Senator Jillian van Turnhout 16 June 2015 *** Embargo 10am 16 June 2015***
“There are few groups in Ireland more vulnerable than our transgender (trans) children and young people. We don’t know exactly how many trans children we have in Ireland but we do have compelling anecdotal evidence from the groups supporting them that their number is significant; they live all around Ireland; there has been a notable increase in the numbers of trans children and their families contacting support groups for advice over the last 12-18 months; and in LGBT awareness training in schools the vast majority of teachers have questions around trans issues and trans identification. This is not a remote issue. We are talking about real children throughout Ireland right now. Many of these children are living a nightmare from as early as between three and five years of age when their gender identity is likely developed, where their gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth and therefore indicated on their birth certificate. These children and their parents face numerous challenges as so many of our services are driven by our birth certificates.
“Schooling is a classic example of the barriers trans children face in trying to live their young lives in the gender they identify with. We have a predominantly single-sex school system in Ireland where enrolment is predicated on a birth certificate. And so, we can have a 6 year old child who has clearly articulated that he identifies as a boy. His parents, friends, extended family and community all accept and support his lived reality. Is this young child, a boy, really going to be forced to go through a girls’ school, wearing a girl’s uniform, using the wrong name and personal details in order to access the education available in his locality? Are we really prepared to stand over legislation that in this case would allow unnecessary distress, embarrassment, humiliation and potentially serious psychological harm prevail in this boy’s life for 10 years before he is eligible to apply to have his gender identity recognised?
“As a children’s rights activist I am profoundly disappointed that children under the age of 16, and given the onerousness of the process for 16-18 year olds we can say in effect ALL children, have been excluded from the provisions of the Gender Recognition Bill 2014, which enables a person to apply for formal legal recognition of their preferred gender. I believe the new children’s rights article in the Constitution makes it incumbent on the Oireachtas, in any legislation directly impacting the lives of children, to ensure the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration; the views of the child are heard when key decisions are made about their lives; and the evolving capacity of the child is facilitated.
“The voices, opinions and lived realities of trans children have been deafeningly silent throughout this legislative process. I do not know of a single trans youth who has been consulted by Government but I have heard directly from many young people and their families about how significant a mechanism through which their preferred gender could be formally recognised in their childhood would be to them practically but also in terms of their mental and emotional well-being.
“It is fundamentally wrong that this Bill does not provide a mechanism for legal recognition, even on an interim basis, of gender for trans children under 16 who seek it, where there is parental consent, support of the child’s GP and agreement that this is in the best interests of the child. I tabled an amendment seeking such a compromise, an Interim Gender Recognition Certificate, at Report Stage of the Bill in the Seanad back in February.
“It is important to stress that an Interim Gender Recognition Certificate for children is completely distinct and has no bearing on any decision that might be taken by a trans person to pursue medical intervention, such as hormone replacement therapy or to undergo gender reassignment surgery at a later stage in their lives.
“I sincerely hope the Government is prepared to deal with the question of trans children in this Bill. We have this opportunity to make a massively positive impact on the lives of trans children in Ireland and to ensure, unlike too often in the past, that we are not compounding and ignoring the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.
“An Interim Gender Recognition Certificate for children would allow the rights and best interests of trans children to be promoted and protected, and for evidence gathering around models of best practice for a permanent arrangement, in the period before the issue is revisited in the two year review.
“I cannot sit silently by as we tell trans children and young people to sit in the corner and wait for their rights to be upheld, maybe, at some point down the road.”
For More Information, Please Contact: Senator Jillian van Turnhout,
Leader of the Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees)
Phone: 01-6183375 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editor:
- Gender recognition is an established human right to which children, as individual rights holders (Article 42A(1) of the Constitution), should be entitled. The Yogyakarta Principles (2006), which consolidated international human rights law, treaties and standards relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, is widely accepted as the authoritative legal statement and fully supported by Ireland at the International for a, defines gender identity as “each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth”. Principle 3 goes on to say: “Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation or gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom.”
- The Gender Recognition Bill 2014 will be considered, Wednesday 17 June, by the Dáil Select Sub-Committee on Social Protection.
- Senator van Turnhout’s Committee Stage contribution to the Gender Recognition Bill 2014 in the Seanad on 3 February can be found at http://www.jillianvanturnhout.ie/gender-recognition-bill-2014-2/
- Senator van Turnhout tabled an amendment at Report Stage of the Bill in the Seanad on 17 February 2015 seeking an Interim Gender Recognition Certificate for children under 16 years of age.
- Some paediatric specialists put the age of gender identity in children, whether transgender or not, at two or three. Other research cites gender identity development as occurring between three and five years of age.
- Senator van Turnhout welcomed the commitment in February conveyed by Minister Humphreys in the Seanad on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD, to convene a round-table discussion with all educational partners on issues effecting transgender children. However, she notes that to date no steps have been taken to this end.