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Stealth trans people having sex should not be criminals

UK law is now punishing transgender people – often very young – for having sex ‘by deception’ because they didn’t tell their partners their full gender history first
Royal Courts of Justice, home of the Court of Appeal.

Transgender people have to put up with a lot of stereotypes. Whether it’s the flamboyant ‘grotesque parody’ of our gender expression, or being the ‘bloke in a dress’ typically portrayed by the media, there is no shortage of harmful imagery associated with us.

Now one of our many stereotypes has got out of control, making the jump from media fantasy to legal precedent.

In a move that should shock anyone of decent mind, a recent court-case, which went as far as the Court of Appeal for England and Wales, punished one young person for having sex with someone without revealing their gender status.

According to the court report, the young person involved had talked about ‘wanting a sex change’ and spoke of a ‘history of self-harm and confusion surrounding [their] gender identity and sexuality’. Despite this, the case for the Crown was that ‘consent was obtained by fraudulent deception that the appellant was a male’.

The ruling has gone completely under the radar, barely even noticed by the LGBT press let alone the wider world. In fact, was it not for vigilant trans bloggers bringing it to the world’s attention, even I would have been unaware my rights have taken a direct hit.

I’m sure there will be people out there thinking this is a reasonable position to come to. After all, the idea of a trans person bedding partners by deception is a trope commonly associated with us. It’s even been used as a legal defense worldwide for transphobic murders.

To call it ‘deception’ is to deny who we are. Our gender history is ours to reveal when we feel comfortable, and not something which should be mandated by law.

My past has no bearing on who I am in the present. I am a woman – a transsexual woman, but still female. After my operation I shouldn’t be obliged to reveal this, because it doesn’t change the fact that I am a woman. It changes nothing to the dynamic of the relationship, and any questions that would arise would be answered naturally. It shouldn’t be a right for us to lay our lives out on the table, for a one night stand or otherwise.

The ruling does more damage than just making us reveal our history. Simply put, without drawing up a contract it could be impossible to prove our partners were aware of out trans identity before sex.

The potential for transphobic cases to spring up over a bad relationship is a terrifying prospect. I shouldn’t have to make a recording of everyone I give intimate details about myself to.

What’s more disappointing is this comes on the back of the same-sex marriage law not having concessions for trans people. The rights of our lesbian, gay and bisexual brothers and sisters are steaming ahead, whilst we are taking steps back.

It’s easy to feel complacent about our rights. We’ve certainly made strides within the last few decades. But this ruling goes to show we are always in danger of losing them, and should never give up the fight.

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