Ireland passes gender recognition law, but US still unfriendly to the transgender community

In 1993, Ireland decriminalized homosexual activity. Twenty-two years later, the transgender community of Ireland celebrates a major victory.

In May 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote. Two months later, Ireland made history yet again by becoming the fifth nation worldwide to legally recognize a transgender individual’s self-identified gender without medical or government intervention.

Ireland now joins the ranks of Denmark, Malta, Argentina and Columbia.

The term transgender refers to an individual who identifies as a gender different from their biological sex. Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, Ruby Rose and Caitlyn Jenner are all examples of high-profile transgender individuals.

In many European countries, transgender people are required to receive sex-reassignment surgery, a diagnosis of mental disorder, a divorce if married or even sterilization before receiving legal recognition of their gender identity.

“Transitioning is a complicated process,” said Assistant Professor of Psychology Sarah Estow. “Individuals choose to do so in many different ways.  There is often an overemphasis on and, sadly, a lurid curiosity about the state of a trans person’s genitals, completely missing the complexity of what it means to be trans.”

Many feel setting requirements for legal recognition is harmful to how transgender people who desire to transition differently, or not at all, are treated and perceived.

This bill, however, allows individuals above the age 18 to receive this recognition without any such intervention or requirements, putting transgender individuals in control of the definition and determination of their own gender identities.

Critics of this bill point out that there is currently no option other than male or female, which they feel excludes intersex and non-binary-identifying individuals, a large part of the transgender community, from legal recognition.

“With any kinds of moments that appear as unmitigated wins, we have to be conscious of the message we are sending,” said Parker Hurley, LGBTQQA coordinator. “What this is saying is that it’s okay to be trans, so long as you are a certain type of trans.”

Groups such as the Transgender Equality Network Ireland are currently lobbying for the inclusion of these identities.

In America, transgender individuals still face many barriers to receiving legal recognition. Most states require sex-reassignment surgery to alter one’s sex on their birth certificate, with Idaho, Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee refusing to alter these documents altogether.

Additionally, these legal processes and medical procedures are extremely costly and often inaccessible to transgender individuals.

“These barriers cause a lot of issues for those who don’t have the money or don’t have the desire to physically transition but still identify as transgender,” said sophomore Aron Correa.

In America especially, transgender individuals face not only discrimination and lack of legal recognition, but also extreme cases of violence.

According to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, out of all of the instances of reported homicide against LGBTQ individuals in 2013, 72 percent were transgender women, 67 percent of which were transgender women of color.

Additionally, in 2014, the Williams Institute published a report stating that 42 to 46 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide, compared to a rate of 4.6 percent for the overall population.

Ireland has taken the first step in combating this violence and self-harm, and their demonstration of solidarity could go a long way.

“Having an entire country support the trans community in such a large way is really helpful,” said junior and trans student activist Taylor Brown. “It gives hope to trans kids everywhere who want to go through the whole process of transition.”