LIn the summer, Ryan Castellucci was traveling on a train in Britain when a conductor began walking down the carriage checking people’s tickets.
As he walked, the conductor addressed each passenger as “sir” or “ma’am” until he reached Castellucci’s seat. Then Castellucci tells The Independent“He just kind of looked at me and very hesitantly said, ‘Dude’?”
It is a fine example of the confusion that often afflicts British officials when confronted with the existence of a non-binary person. Castelluci, a Californian cybersecurity researcher in his late 30s who moved to the UK in 2019, has already changed his US driver’s license, passport and birth certificate to reflect his gender. But now they are in legal limbo as the UK officially refuses to recognize anything other than male or female.
A number of British laws require immigrants to cross-check their identity documents in the UK with those in their country of origin. Still, Castellucci claims that the government agency responsible for issuing Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) — which change a person’s legal gender — will not allow them to change it to “non-binary.”
“I had no idea how to even determine my current legal gender in the UK,” says Castellucci with a sigh. “Because it doesn’t make sense that I have someone I can’t document, nor does it make sense if I’m someone I never claimed I was.”
So they are now suing the UK government. In submissions to the country’s Supreme Court, their lawyers argue that refusing to issue them a non-binary GRC violates their human rights, as they would be treated differently from a trans man or woman in the same circumstances.
Until now They have raised more than £15,900 ($19,705) to fund their case. They don’t just donate their own money in hopes of setting a precedent that might help others in their situation.
On Tuesday, Castellucci’s attorneys announced that the Supreme Court had granted them permission to begin a judicial review, meaning a judge will now consider whether their treatment violated other laws or elements of the United States’ complex, uncodified constitution kingdom or not.
“I have been working in cybersecurity for 20 years. Working in this space requires that I be viewed as trustworthy,” Castellucci wrote in a press release welcoming the decision. “It’s an important part of not committing crimes, such as providing false information on government documents.”
“Forcing me to misrepresent my gender on official documentation feels like self-betrayal, and I’m deeply concerned. All I ask is a piece of paper that will enable me to establish my legal gender in the UK, and that too.’ Be honest without fear of crime.
“My gender hasn’t changed.” I just stopped pretending.
Castellucci arrived in London in 2019 on a Global Talent visa and joined her partner who had taken a job in England. The couple bought a house and plan to start a family there. Castellucci hopes to apply for British citizenship.
Her uneasiness towards men and women goes back a long time. “Throughout my life I have had discomfort that I could somehow explain [something] “different than gendered,” they say.
“When I was in my mid-twenties, something happened that I couldn’t explain how I felt, other than unease about the gender I was posing as.
“[That’s] the way I like to imagine it. My gender has never changed. I just pretended to be someone else because I felt like I had to.
Even when they did so, they looked so androgynous that people often mistook them for a woman. These people tended to be appalled and ashamed of their mistake, while Castellucci himself noted that they “just didn’t back down.”
All of this helped set in motion a long process of questioning and discussion with other queer people that eventually led to them starting laser hair removal in January 2020. When corona lockdowns hit the UK, they were able to experiment more freely, which led to them logging onto Facebook and starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Eventually, they underwent surgery to construct a new vagina while preserving their penis – a rare but increasingly sought-after option that they liken it to “taking some gender from both the M and F menus”.
A more prosaic part of the transition was changing the gender markings on their US documents. Castellucci says they were the first person to receive a non-binary passport from the US Embassy in London after President Joe Biden changed government rules to allow it in 2022.
They hoped this would force the UK to follow suit. The Gender Recognition Act — a landmark law passed in 2004 in response to the government’s defeats at the European Court of Human Rights — requires GRCs to be granted to anyone who conforms to their official gender or gender in a list of permitted jurisdictions, including California, has already changed is a.
Castellucci and her attorneys argue that the law requires non-binary gender consideration because it makes no mention of males or females. The Government disagrees, claiming that UK law only allows sex change “from male to female or vice versa”.
However, as Castellucci claims, that didn’t actually happen. Instead, they claim that the Gender Recognition Panel — an obscure body of lawyers and doctors that reviews applications for GRCs — claimed it could not grant their application “because of the way the computer program is set up.”
The panel then allegedly offered to give Castellucci a certificate that said “unspecified,” but refused to say what the legal implications would be or if other institutions would accept it.
“If I just had a GRC that said ‘unspecified’ and didn’t say anything about what that means, is that legally equivalent to ‘no comment’?” asks Castellucci. “I don’t know, and no one I show will know.
“So it would be a Pyrrhic victory. From a practical point of view it will not help me. Now if I had an opinion from any section of government that ‘unspecified’ meant something specific, that would be fine.”
non-binary? Computer says no
This legal standoff is worrying for Castellucci as they seriously fear the discrepancy could land them in trouble with British authorities, although it is not their fault.
For example, last November they had to undergo a background check for their job, which was administered by the government and the application was processed by a private company.
However, the forms only allowed them to state their gender as male or female, while warning them that providing false information was a criminal offense. No one at the background check company knew what to do in this situation, and when Castellucci manually entered an “X,” the company simply wrote “female.”
Although they eventually passed, Castellucci said in her testimony that the situation “took me days to fear that I would not pass security, and my professional life would be negatively impacted by a legal and administrative failure to allow me to go through security.” be influenced.” Declared gender in the UK”.
It’s similar to the many endless battles they’ve had with private companies that have refused to update their title to a gender-neutral name or change similar data in their systems. Even when using a gender-neutral title before their name, sometimes people just use a headline without asking, under the mistaken assumption that it was a typo.
“I’d say the novelty and entertainment factor faded very quickly,” they say. “Coming from an IT background, I understand better than most what it takes to update systems, and the resistance people have to it seems totally disproportionate.”
In the long term, Castellucci hopes to help other non-binary people get their gender recognized in the UK. A parliamentary committee proposed removing gender markings from passports in 2016, But the idea faltered when anti-trans backlash was still fierce today.
“I see myself as able to fight for what I need, and in many aspects of my life I like to hold the door open to those who have my back,” they say
It is unclear whether a win in their case would set a precedent for all non-binary people or only for those applying for a GRC because they have already changed their gender in another country.
Castellucci is hoping for the former. “It seems to me a bit absurd if the UK’s position were: ‘Well, we will legally recognize non-binary people who move here, but we will not recognize non-binary people who are born here ‘”, They say.
In fact, they now prefer the train attendant’s confused but understandable approach to the government’s and board’s bizarre intricacies. Another example came in December when they were visiting New York City with their partner and accidentally sat where they weren’t supposed to be.
A security guard walked up to them and, looking Castellucci straight in the eye, said, “Sir-or-ma’am, you can’t sit there.” At least it had the benefit of simplicity.