It took thirteen years , but Lydia Foy is finally getting an accurate birth certificate. Five years after her surgical transition in 1992, Dr. Foy applied for a new birth certificate that would accurately describe her as female. She was denied.
For thirteen years, Dr. Foy went without documentation that matched her identity. Having documents that do not list the correct gender exposes trans individuals to being outed in a world that is often hostile and downright violent to them—and then there are the demoralising effects of not being recognised as who you are:
It was as if I was a sexless robot,
she told the Irish Times. But this past Tuesday, things changed.
Not everything, of course. Dr. Foy, like all of us, still lives in a cissexist world where violence against transgender people is far too common, but what did change is that the Irish government dropped its appeal of a ruling that denying her an accurate birth certificate violated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). According to Aoife Nolan writing for the Human Rights in Ireland blog
Section 3 of the ECHR Act provided that all organs of the State had to carry out their functions compatibly with the European Convention unless prevented from doing so by Irish law. If Irish legislation did prevent a public body from complying with the Convention, the High Court could declare that the legislation in question was incompatible with the Convention, just as the House of Lords had done in the Bellinger case in 2003. The Taoiseach would then have to report the decision to the Oireachtas and the Government would have to decide what to do about it.
In accord with this section, the High Court ruled in the spring of 2007 against the law which prevented Dr. Foy from receiving a corrected birth certificate. With the government dropping its Supreme Court appeal, this ruling will now stand. What happens next precisely is unclear, but it is certain that the government must change the law in order to allow transgender individuals the right to corrected documents.
Let’s hope (and, if you’re in the Republic of Ireland, demand) that the new law will be equal to the importance of this ruling and just one step of many to come in recognising the rights of transgender individuals.
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