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UK to rule on gender-neutral passports in landmark case

Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta and Pakistan already offer an ‘X’ option - so why can’t the UK?

UK to rule on gender-neutral passports in landmark case
Christie Elan-Cane is challenging the UK government to introduce 'X' passports (Photo: CreativeCommons | Supplied)

A gender-neutral activist will return to court in the UK next week. Christie Elan-Cane has been fighting to carry a passport that reflects per gender neutrality. Per is Elan-Cane’s preferred pronoun, rather than his/her/he/she.

Elan-Cane has been fighting for 25 years to get official forms to offer options besides male and female.

It is a priority for per to legally challenge the UK’s Home Office ‘discriminatory passport policy’. Elan-Cane believes people should have the option of an ‘X’ passport if they do not identify as male or female.

The case will reach its judicial review full hearing at London’s Law Courts on 18-19 April.

Elan-Cane argues in per claim that HM Passport Office’s current policy fails to recognise the identities of individuals who are neither male nor female. The claim says the policy is part of wider failure failure to address the needs of gender neutral individuals.

Supporting Elan-Cane’s passport challenge are Kate Gallafent QC and Tom Mountford of Blackstone Chambers, and a pro-bono team of solicitors at Clifford Chance LLP.

‘Fundamental human right’

‘Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right but non-gendered people are often treated as though we have no rights,’ said Elan-Cane in a statement.

‘The UK’s passport application process requires applicants to declare whether they are male or female. It is inappropriate and wrong that someone who defines as neither should be forced to make that declaration.’

Narind Singh, Clifford Chance Partner, said, ‘Access to justice is central to Clifford Chance’s responsible business strategy, and the firm is proud to have worked alongside Christie’s Non-Gendered campaign for many years as it strives to attain recognition for individuals who do not identify as either male or female.’

Nine other countries already offer gender-neutral passports or a third-option in addition to ‘M’ and ‘F’.

Last fall, Canada joined Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and Pakistan in offering an ‘X’ option on passports. India and Nepal also offer a variation on a third-option to ‘M’ and ‘F’.

The Irish government is currently consulting on whether to introduce ‘X’ passports in Ireland.

Elan-Cane blasts cost criticism

The UK Home Office recently announced it will be changing the color on UK passports from burgundy to navy blue.

The cost of the new, post-Brexit passport contract will be £480m ($670m, €565m).

When news of the of the blue passports was announced, Elan-Cane cried hypocrisy after the UK Home Office told per a £2million figure was the ‘prohibitively expensive’ reason they could not implement the call for ‘X’ non-gendered passports.

Spending money on a new passport contract, without including the X option – feels like just another lost opportunity in a 25-year history of setbacks for Elan-Cane.

‘The Government perceives the blue passport as symbolic to the national identity. What about the personal identity – and the integrity – of the passport holder?

‘I’m very angry that this ongoing battle with governing authorities has dominated my life. I just want to achieve legitimate identity that most other people can take for granted.’


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