British Transsexuals Recognised as Women
[STRASBOURG, France] - Two British transsexuals have won legal recognition as women and all the rights that go with their adopted sex, including that of marriage.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that the United Kingdom, one of just four countries in the Council of Europe which do not recognise sex changes as legally valid, had violated the rights to respect for privacy and family life and to marry and found a family.
The two post-operative male-to-female transsexuals, 65- year-old Christine Goodwin and a 47-year-old identified as "I", complained about their treatment in relation to employment, social security and pensions and their ability to marry.
Goodwin, formerly a male truck driver, claimed that she faced sexual harassment at work during and following her sex change, and complained she had to continue paying National Insurance (NI) contributions until the age of 65 instead of 60 because she was still legally a man.
"She had to make special arrangements to continue paying her NI contributions directly herself to avoid questions being asked by her employers about the anomaly," the Strasbourg-based court said in a statement.
"She also alleged that the fact that she keeps the same NI number has meant that her employer has been able to discover that she previously worked...under another name and gender, with resulting embarrassment and humiliation."
Right to Live in Dignity"I", who used to work as a dental nurse, was unable to obtain admittance to a nursing course because she refused to present her birth certificate.
The court's 17 judges ruled unanimously that there was no evidence that any change to the status of transsexuals would bring substantial hardship or detriment to the public interest.
"...As regards other possible consequences, the court considered that society might reasonably be expected to tolerate a certain inconvenience to enable individuals to live in dignity and worth in accordance with the sexual identity chosen by them at great personal cost," it added.
Goodwin, emerging from the court with two of the four children she had while a man, declared herself "euphoric".
"It will change my life tremendously because I can now start my own business, I don't have to look back on who I am," she said. "I don't have to reveal my gender to anybody any more."
She estimated that some 5,000 people were in the same situation as herself in Britain, and said many had no job because employers found it too difficult to hire them.
The court, which had ruled the other way in a similar British case 16 years ago, said there was now "uncontested evidence of a continuing international trend in favour of not only increased social acceptance of transsexuals but also of legal recognition of the new sexual identity of post-operative transsexuals".
It awarded Goodwin and "I" 39,000 euros and 23,000 euros for costs and expenses, respectively, but said the finding of rights violations was in itself enough satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage they sustained.
Related Stories:July 11, 2002 - Press For Change: A Legal Landmark, But It's Not The End
July 11, 2002 - UK Ordered To Rewrite TG Laws
July 11, 2002 - Court Opinion: Grand Chamber Judgment in the Case of Christine Goodwin v. The United Kingdom