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26 August 2014

The woman who lost her gender

Kim Walmsley of Liverpool is a female cis heterosexual.

Kim Monaghan was born in 1965.  As expected, her parents received a birth certificate for her that said ‘girl’ but somehow she had been entered into the registration book as ‘boy’.

She grew up as a girl, married in a Church of England ceremony in 1991 and became Mrs Walmsley, and she and her husband, Jack, had four sons and a daughter.

In 2003 they decided to emigrate to Australia.   As governments do they were required to send in their original birth certificates.   Wary of losing them they decided to get duplicates.    The registrar insisted on calling her Miss Kim Walmsley, and desired to speak to her alone.  She insisted that it be said in the presence of her husband. "We can't issue you with an identical birth certificate," she said, "because you're registered as a boy".    Kim’s initial response was to attempt common sense: "Obviously I am a girl. I've had five natural births. Just change it for me."   But common sense is not an integral part of how bureaucracies operate.

Kim left with a new birth certificate marked ‘boy’.  She had already used her original ‘girl’ birth certificate for the emigration process and they received their Australian visas.   They left the registration process with a solicitor, and moved to Queensland.

The solicitor received a letter from the registrar saying that the “original birth certificate, because it wasn't a true copy of the original registration, was considered an illegal document”.   Kim would not be able to renew her passport, nor would she be able to extend her Australian visa.

Eventually they accepted that they had to return to Liverpool.  Rumours went around, some said that Kim and Jack were two men, and homophobic graffiti was sprayed on their gate and garden wall.
They wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he replied that he could no longer recognize their marriage. Births, deaths and marriages have offered to reregister Kim’s birth, which would allow her to have a passport with "female" on it again, but she would be registered as female only from when the correction was made: the original – and legal – entry would still say "boy".

The Walmesleys estimate that with solicitors’ fees, lost business, and the cost of moving to Australia and back, they are out over £150,000.

This is offered as background for trans persons to consider as they have somewhat different problems in changing gender.   It shows that bureaucracies cane be perverse even when they are not be transphobic or otherwise prejudicial.

At least the Walmsleys’ marriage was not deemed to be annulled.

It is rather pathetic that the Church of England would let its opinion of the marriage be determined by a clerical error, rather than standing on the common-sense ground that Kim is a cis woman and should be recognised as such.    In general a religious marriage and secular marriage may be different, and the church and the state may differ in which marriages they recognise.   It may be that the Church of England, in being established, feels more strongly that it should align its recognition of marriage with that of the state – however it has not taken this attitude with the introduction of gay marriage in England and Wales.

A transgender person is one who changes gender to match gender identity.   The change of gender involves two major aspects: a) presentation and being accepted in the new presentation b) changing the gender designation on identity documents.     Kim never lost her presentation gender.   But she did lose her legal gender.

1 comment:

  1. I think that it is the case that Births, Deaths and Marriages never alter their registration book, not for transsexuals, not for intersex persons, and not for clerical errors. Kim has been offered the same deal as intersex persons get: an official birth certificate with the true or preferred gender, but their internal book, which no outsider gets to see is merely annotated with a correction. However that birth certificate is the key ID document and enables gender on passports etc.

    The Walmsley's solicitor obviously did not know what to do. I suspect if Stephen Whittle, in nearby Manchester, had been contacted for advice at the beginning, lots of aggravation and lots of money would have been saved.


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