Landmark case on gender neutral passports brought to UK Supreme Court

Lifelong activist Christie Elan-Cane has been involved in a decades long legal battle for the introduction of an X marker on UK passports.

A bald headed person in a black shirt

The case for gender neutral passports has been brought to the UK Supreme Court by equality campaigner Christie Elan-Cane, as the UK government does not offer ‘X’ gender markers on British passports. 

Elan-Cane, who is non-gendered and whose pronouns are per/per/perself, has campaigned for almost 30 years to achieve legal and social recognition. Per first asked the government for a passport without an ‘M’ or ‘F’ gender marker in 1995. 

The case before the Supreme Court this week was first heard by the High Court in 2018, and that judgment was appealed at the Court of Appeal in 2020. 

Last year, the Court of Appeal ruled that the policy requiring British passports to have a male or female gender category did not fall foul of Elan-Cane’s rights. The court acknowledged, however, that the European Convention on Human Rights acknowledged a right to respect for non-gendered identity.

Kate Gallafent QC, barrister for Elan-Cane, told the Supreme Court on Monday (July 12) that “there is nothing controversial per se about having a passport where the sex is unspecified.” Elan-Cane’s case is that adding an X, for “unspecified gender,” to a passport is “far less controversial” than it would be to add a third gender option.

Gender neutral passports are not uncommon elsewhere, with the ‘X’ marker being an option in 13 countries, including India and Pakistan, as well as 20 US states having introduced identity documents with an X-type gender marker.

Elan-Cane has previously stated, “Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right but non-gendered people are treated as though we have no rights. The UK Government refuses to acknowledge our existence as its systems and bureaucracy render us socially invisible. The case for ‘X’ Passports will now be heard before the UK Supreme Court where I hope finally to get justice.”

The case continues today, and more can be read about it on Elan-Canes live journal as well as through per Twitter account. 

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