CONTROVERSIAL laws allowing transsexuals to be recognised in their acquired gender are likely to go before the Dáil next year following demands from the Green Party.
Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin said work will get under way "immediately" to see how legal recognition for people who change their sex can be incorporated into law. This is likely to require new legislation.
Between 80 and 100 people are currently accessing hormone therapy after undergoing sex changes. However, the number of people who define themselves in a gender category different to that on their birth certificate could be much higher, according to Cat McIlroy of TENI, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland.
"There are under 100 people accessing hormones in the Loughlinstown clinic, but many more people identify as cross-dressers or transvestites and their family or work experiences can dictate if they go further. We believe there are potentially hundreds of people who could benefit from new laws in the area."
The difference between psychological gender identity and medical gender identity was one of the areas of disagreement between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party in talks on the revised Programme for Government.
At the request of the junior partner, the renewed government agreement says: "We will introduce legal recognition of the acquired gender of transsexuals."
Green TD Ciarán Cuffe said his party argued that "a person should be legally recognised with the gender they wish to be recognised with." However, Fianna Fáil were concerned that people would seek to change their gender for reasons other than psychological or medical, such as welfare or other entitlements.
In a written response to a Dáil question, Ms Hanafin said: "I will be moving to progress this matter in the immediate future."
She said: "The means by which legal recognition will be effected may include legislation and, in any event, will require careful consideration and consultation."
The state has dropped an appeal of a High Court decision that it is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in not having a process and a register legally to recognise the acquired gender of transsexual persons. Ireland is one of two European countries that refuses to allow people to change their gender on their birth certificate.
Ms McIlroy said she hopes the Government can see this as a human rights issue: "Having your identity validated and respected by the Government and the rest of your peers is important for everyone," she said. "Trans people can have their passport amended or have their name change, but not their birth certificate and that is crucial to the identity of many people.
"It needs to be shown in regard to marriage, meaning many trans people cannot legally marry their partner. It’s also important if you are arrested for a crime in relation to how you are charged and where you are detained. There is anecdotal evidence of trans women being incarcerated in male facilities."