A still from the PinkNews General Election Debate video showing the moderator and all 5 of the panelists

PinkNews UK General Election Political Debate – X Passports Question

X passports question in video at 1 hour, 14 minutes, 37 seconds.

Earlier today the UK LGBT news site, PinkNews, ran a political debate in the run up to the 2015 UK general election. Representatives from 5 political parties were present and were posed questions from both the audience and a Google Hangout. Late in the debate, the focus shifted to the question of recognising the genders of people who are not female or male.

As this was such an important discussion, there are no subtitles on the video and the audio quality is very poor in places, I thought that I would transcribe the video to make it more accessible. The transcript follows below. Please feel free to reproduce this transcript (and to correct any transcription errors) anywhere else. There is no need to seek additional permission or give credit, this is freely provided to aid accessibility.

Speaking were:

  1. Evan Davis – PinkNews Debate Chair
  2. Christie Elan-Cane – Campaigner, Non-gendered Fighting For Legal Recognition
  3. Natalie Bennett – Green Party Leader
  4. Peter Whittle – UKIP candidate for Eltham, in charge of UKIP cultural policy
  5. Don Foster – Liberal Democrat Chief Whip
  6. Yvette Cooper – Labour Shadow Home Secretary
  7. Baroness Tina Stowell – Conservative Peer

Transcription of the YouTube video from 1:14:37 to 1:22:16

ED: I want us to spend a little time on gender issues now. So I’m going to jump a few questions and move to Christie Elan-Cane for the next question. Christie, hello.

CE: I run a campaign called Non-gendered Fighting For Legal Recognition and my question to the panel is would your party commit to immediately introducing non-gender-specific X passports and what would you do to address the wider issues facing lack of legal recognition for non-gendered people in the UK?

ED: So the proposal would be you could have a male, female or ungendered passport. Would that be it? Would–

CE: X is permitted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation which is the UN agency that, ah, that sets the international standards for passports. And they can be X which is, uh, non-gender– an unspecified alternative to M or F.

ED: Anybody doing it at the moment? Anyone in the world? Any countries doing it?

CE: Australia, New Zealand have been doing it for several years. India, Nepal. Um, Germany and Denmark but their systems are not to be emulated. But New Zealand have the best policy.

ED: So if we did what the Aussies and New Zealanders are doing, that that would be the kind of answer –what you’re looking for?

CE: [Inaudible] New Zealand have the best policy for passports.

ED: New Zealand. OK, well I think we can be fairly quick on this. Because [gestures to panelists] you can tell us whether you support that or don’t support it. Do you understand the question, basically?

[Panelists indicated understanding]

ED: Yep, good

[Natalie Bennet raises a hand]

ED: Natalie?

NB: Ah, yep, I’ve been well informed on these issues because the Green Party conference, the spring conference, passed a motion supporting this. Ah, and that’s seen as something that was a very important issue at the Green Party conference.

ED: Peter?

PW: [Turns to Evan] Um. I have to say I’m non-committal on this(!)

[Evan laughs]

PW: I really have to say I don’t know much about it. [Shakes head]. Um, um, and so I [gestures to Christie] I couldn’t be honest and give you, uh, uh, an honest answer.

CE: [Difficult to hear off mic] Wouldn’t you say that [inaudible] identity is a fundamental right?

PW: Yes but, ah, in terms of your technical question about passports, um, I really don’t have an answer for you, I’m just being honest.

ED: OK let me put it in a slightly different way. What do you think when you see Facebook, as they do in the United States, offer the gender category and give you a range of choices, that are beyond male and female? Do you think that’s silly–?

PW: [Speaking over] Gender is slightly different–

ED: –that’s PC gone mad, or–?

PW: No, no, no, no. Gender is slightly different to sex, isn’t it? Gender is a sort of [gestures juggling-like motions] whole number of different things. So far as I see. It’s different sort of set of criteria to the [inaudible as talked over]

ED: But what do you think when you see that? Do you think that’s PC gone mad or do you [inaudible as talked over]?

PW: No I don’t. It doesn’t have any affect on me at all. It doesn’t worry me at all. [Shakes head] But I mean that [gestures to Christie], I’m sorry to not be able to answer your question.

ED: OK, no, You know, it’s perfectly reasonable to say look I haven’t got an opinion. Uh, [gestures to Don Foster] Don?

DF: The answer’s yes. There’s already in parliament a Liberal Democrat, what’s called an Early Day Motion, uh, advocating this and Simon Hughes, one of our government ministers, is currently, within the department, working to try and achieve it. [Gestures hands upwards in a lifting motion]

ED: OK. That’s–

DF: A straight yes.

ED: That’s 16 to um–

[Christie says something inaudible off mic]

[Natalie Bennett nods]

DF: Yes.

ED: OK, so we’re left with the 2 big parties. Now, Yvette, you’re Shadow Home Secretary. [Grins] I think passports come under your–

[The audience laughs]

ED: [Pauses for laugh] Your watch(!)

YC: Well I think we should look at this as part of, of the transgender review — ah, the trans review to look at — because there’s the Gender Recognition Act — there’s a whole series of other legal issues that we think should all be looked at, ah, as well as par — as part of this.

ED: [Hesitates] Sometimes this ‘we should look at that’ is a kind of [inaudible as spoken over]

YC: [Gestures to Evan] It’s a review

ED: It’s a kind of a cop out — because we don’t want to offend someone — people who you [gestures sweeping motion]

YC: No this, I think, uh, partly because there’s a whole series of issues around — the way the law currently affects, ah the issues around intersex — or gender variance, and ah, trans people as well. Which includes the gender recognition act, which is now about 10 years old and in an area where things have moved on a lot. So, Sharon Hodgson has announced that this would be part of — would be one of the issues we would specifically look at as part of the trans review that we would intro– introduce. So it’s not just, I’m not saying ‘oh well these are things to just review it’, no no no. This would be a specific review that we would do in government.

ED: [Points to Christie] Ah, Christie. Christie, just take the microphone if you would, just so people can hear, thanks.

CE: So – so there would be some sort of commitment from the Labour Party to make provision for X passports and, and exploring the wider issues of, ah, economic and social exclusion that non-gendered and people who don’t identify as male or female actually face? Because we’ve not benefited at all from any legislation from this government or, or the last one. We’ve been excluded from everything and this issue is only just starting to get above the radar.

YC: We have– and this is an important campaign. That’s — it’s a, a relatively recent campaign. I think it’s a really important one–

CE: I’ve been going for 20 years.

YC: Yeah– [Gestures] — And you’ve — you know — you’ve built up a lot of support recently. You know — huge tribute to you for doing so. But — I won’t — I’m not going to pre-empt the conclusions of the review, but just to say that this is a specific issue that would be looked at — alongside a whole series of other things because I think that there are wider legal issues that we would like to look at as part of that review.

CE: Right.

ED: Tina?

TS: Well I think that I, I, I too — I mean — Well clearly this is a very important, ah, topic. But it’s not one that I could give you, ah, the kind of, uh, clear commitment that you’re looking for, beyond saying that it’s certainly something that, um, I personally would want to ah, explore. And, uh, and find out, a bit more as to what the issues are that ah, may be preventing, uh, us from making a decision on, on something like this. And I’m aware that there are, for example, some, ah, risks involved in terms of if — you know — some, some countries not recognising, ah, intersex, ah, as a, as a general — or requiring passports that are specific in their genders, and uh, and so I wouldn’t want to, uh, wouldn’t want us to do anything where we created a new problem or a new risk for people whilst we were actually trying to address their fundamental concern.

CE: I– I just wanted to clarify that non-gendered and intersex are not exactly the same thing, although some people might identify as both, but they are different, it, they, they share many of the same issues but they are not in themselves the same, the same issues. So for non-gendered — people that don’t identify as male or female, it’s fundamental that we get the correct documentation, so that we’re not forced to accept inappropriate gender cat– categorisation and we’re not excluded from society. There– there should be no compulsion on anyone to have an X passport, and that’s what many of the intersex groups fear, that there should be a compulsion, because many intersex people are actually gendered and identify as male or female. So they are, they are separate issues.


CE: But, it is absolutely imperative that this issue is not left behind, that this group of people — we are socially invisible — I’ve been in– socially invisible for most of the time that I’ve been campaigning to raise awareness of this issue, and it’s not acceptable to me to have — I’m sick to death of hearing why things can’t be done. We need to adopt a can do attitude because no one should be left behind, and–

[Audience applause]

ED: That’s — That’s one of those ones where perhaps the question was more — [gestures] — you know, more useful than the, the answers. [Gestures to panel] And I don’t mean that in a negative way about the panel — I mean — It raised the point in — very effectively.


Christie Elan-Cane has summarised this debate question and elaborates on what was said off mic after Don Foster spoke.

The Nonbinary Inclusion Project have raised similar questions in writing, read responses by the UK political parties here.

Practical Androgyny joins 8 groups in supporting a campaign to ask your general election candidates to pledge support for nonbinary rights.

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