Just sharing the speech that my co-facilitator gave at the Annual Reception hosted by Equality Network at the start of November. Really important to point out that we were not asked about the inclusion of a spousal veto, and it’s just really fucking inhumane (I’m glad to report that Amanda chose better words than that though!)
One of the challenges of running Me & T has actually been finding the people who might benefit from the support of the group. Ever since I met my partner, almost 11 years ago, I’ve been looking for people in similar situations. And we’re hard to track down. Because we’re a diverse group of people. We don’t all belong to the LGBT community, we belong to many different communities. Sometimes all we have in common is that we have a partner who is trans.
But I think it’s important to keep trying to reach out to people. Because we do need each others’ support. We also need the support of our family, friends and of the wider community. We need access to information about what to expect when someone we love transitions. And we need good communication with our trans partners.
But we do not need the power to deny our partners the right to have their gender legally recognised.
We weren’t asked if we wanted this power. I wasn’t asked. None of the partners I’ve spoken to were asked – and after nearly 11 years I have found a few. In fact when I did ask partners about this, I couldn’t find anyone who supported it. Some weren’t even aware of it. Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch surveyed spouses of trans people and asked them if they felt they should have this veto. Everyone she asked said no.
Maeve Regan, who runs Me & T with me, told me ‘I don’t want – and absolutely disagree with the very concept that I should have – any say in whether another human, much less someone I love, is able to obtain the rights they are entitled to or the life they want. It’s putting one person’s humanity below the feelings of another.’
We also weren’t asked when the government decided to force couples to divorce in order for a transitioning partner to obtain gender recognition. This is an opportunity to go some way to fixing that mistake. To separate out the legal recognition of a relationship from the legal recognition of someone’s gender. Because they should be separate. That’s the equality we’re looking for.
And I wonder, where does it come from, this idea that being in a same sex relationship is something that people need to be protected from? That feels like homophobia to me. And I actually find it quite offensive that someone sat down and thought to themselves, ‘what would be the most difficult thing about being in a relationship with a trans person?’ And they decided the answer to that was to find yourself in a legally recognised same sex marriage. Because you know what, there are difficult things about being in a relationship with a trans person. And one of those is that as people see your partner changing, it changes how they see you. They start to assume things about your identity and your sexuality. And that can be difficult. But a piece of paper doesn’t change that.
Equal marriage should be about putting an end to the perception that same sex relationships are somehow wrong. But the spousal veto contradicts that. So get rid of it. It’s not wanted and it’s not needed.