UK trans woman calls for government to no longer retain information about her assigned sex at birth

According to The Telegraph, a trans woman, C, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, in the Greater London area is fighting a case requesting that the Government (particularly the Department for Work and Pensions) remove details on her life prior to her transition, including her old name. Her case rests on the claim that her transgender status is a private matter and "wholly irrelevant" to her ability to find work.

Trans woman and activist, Beatrix Grimbly, weighed in on C's case, saying:

It's outrageous that sensitive details of a woman's former identity are kept unnecessarily by the DWP, apparently allowing staff to harass and humiliate her when she is already vulnerable. Public servants should respect her legal identity and her privacy.

She continues, explaining that as long as C's benefit history can be tracked with her National Insurance number, there is no need for the DWP to keep details of C's previous identity on file. The retention of these files only creates an opportunity for prejudice, especially at a local Jobcentre Plus, a United Kingdom agency of the DWP that provides employment services.

C obtained her Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, and according to law, this recognition "should be fully realized, practically and effectively." However, the DWP has retained her gender change data including her previous male name on its Customer Information System and Jobseekers' Allowance Payment System.

While the DWP applied a 'sensitive account' marker to keep C's details confidential, Claire McCann, who is representing C, argues that these measures failed to give sufficient protection, leading to 'intrusive and humiliating interactions' on C's visits to her Jobcentre Plus.

Another trans recipient of state benefits, MJ Black, explains:

Once someone has their GRC I find it hard to understand why the previous details are still in existence. The potential to be reminded of a horrible point in your life at any moment, by any one, is always there. Removing the details would minimise the chances of that happening and thus the stress and worry it causes.

McCann referred to a ruling won by a Spanish man against Google that he had a 'right to be forgotten' and 'irrelevant' and outdated data about him held by Google should be erased at his request. About C's case, McCann said, "This case far more acutely concerns the right to be forgotten."

DWP lawyers argue its policies are not discriminatory and carefully balance the need to give effect to C's legal rights while carrying out the department's functions. They also argue that there is no requirement to delete information that records a person's previously held gender.

The National Center for Transgender Equality in the United States recognizes a few of the innumerable needs for identification documents, such as travelling, opening bank accounts, starting new jobs, purchasing alcohol, etc. While legal progress has been made to remove burdensome requirements, historically, state and federal governments have imposed intrusive requirements, such as proof of surgery and court orders, that have made it impossible for many trans people to obtain consistent and accurate ID. And inconsistencies in gender data between records can cause various governmental agencies and administrations, such as the Social Security Administration, to out individuals.

The Telegraph reporter Ava Vidal says:

Transgender people often face enough humiliation living in a society that does not always understand them. Trans people do not consider the sex they were born with to be the correct one. So why must they be forced to retain an identity that was never theirs to start with?

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