UK: Passports Cannot be Changed to ‘Gender Neutral’


A UK court ruled that passport-holders cannot have their genders as unspecified–even to protect their identity or private life.

Activists, who brought the “inherently discriminatory” passports to the attention of the Courts of Appeal, sought to add the choice of ‘X’ instead of an assigned gender on the legal travel document.

Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane, who led the legal battle in a court hearing in December in front of three senior judges, after a judicial review action was dismissed by the High Court in June 2018, argued that the UK’s policy on passports was “unlawful” and a breach of human rights, according to Metro.

In a tweet, following the court’s decision, Elan-Cane wrote: “‘X’ PASSPORTS”

“I regret to inform that the Appeal Court has ruled in the UK government’s favour in a judgment handed down this morning.”

“We intend to seek permission for the case to be heard at the Supreme Court.”

Under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the current passport arrangement was argued to discriminate on the basis of gender or sex, as well as failing to respect the individual’s private life.

According to Metro, in December:

Kate Gallafent QC, for Elan-Cane, told the judges: ‘This is an important case in the anxious context of the proper understanding and respect for the intimate, human rights of the affected class – persons whose gender identity is neither, or neither exclusively, male nor female.’

To which Lady Justice Eleanor King, reading out a ruling at the Court of Appeal, today said:

‘There can be little more central to a citizen’s private life than gender.

‘In this case, however, the passport issue cannot reasonably be considered in isolation, given that the driver for change is the notion of respect for gender identity across the board.

‘The court finds that there was no positive obligation on the state to provide an ‘X’ marker in order to ensure the right of the Appellant to respect for private life.’

The decision comes at a time where rights for non-binary individuals have dominated much of the spotlight.

Former conservative pundit, Lauren Southern, once legally changed her gender to male on her ID to prove how easy it was to mock Ontario’s system.

Schools, theaters, and other organizations in the UK have publicly amended policies and placing emphasis on being more inclusive to trans individuals.

The court added:

‘The court finds that the ‘X’ marker is just one part of a bigger picture that requires a coherent structured approach across all the areas where the issue of non-binary gender arises, particularly given the discussions as to whether there should be any gender boxes on passports (or indeed other official documents) at all.

‘There is not yet any consensus across Council of Europe states in relation to either the broad issue of the recognition of non-binary people, or the narrow issue of the use of X markers on passports, although there is momentum within Europe in relation to how the status of non-binary people is to be recognised and the time may come when the fair balance has shifted.

‘In relation to the alleged discrimination under Articles 8 and 14, the court found that the question of whether the difference in treatment was objectively justified would result in the same answer as that in relation to Article 8 private life, and that the current policy in relation to the issuing of X marked passports does not, therefore, amount to unlawful discrimination under Article 14.‘