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Where Trans Rights and the Right to be Forgotten Meet

Where Trans Rights and the Right to be Forgotten Meet

When earlier this month the European Court of Human Rights handed down its decision that users of the Internet have the right to have their information removed from the online sphere, it provoked a whole range of reactions.

Some said this was an important case to give power back to Internet users, while others were concerned that the ruling was a blow to public disclosure and that eventually it will allow corporations to shield information of misdeeds from the public eye. One woman from the UK, known to the courts as “C,” saw a different opportunity though.

C is a 44-year-old trans woman from the Greater London area. She is asking the courts to mandate that the government’s Department for Work and Pensions erase the fact that she was birth-assigned male from its records. She contends that her gender affirmation treatment is a private matter and that, particularly now the surgical portion of her treatment is complete, there is no reason why the government should want to keep that information on her employment status file.

The DWP routinely keeps personal identification details to ensure that it can accurately track job seeker allowance payments and make sure they are being made to the right person. The DWP does take precautions to safeguard customers, including marking cases dealing with gender transition as a “sensitive account.” However, trans rights groups who are backing C’s claim say that this often fails to give proper protection to claimants.

To bolster her case, C points to the fact that she has received a gender recognition certificate, a legal document which shows that for all other legal purposes C is affirmed in her female identity. As someone who has faced long-term unemployment and thus must rely on job-seekers allowance, C says that she has faced having her female identity questioned as part of the job seeking process. In addition, she contends that a number of her payments have been late, threatening her financial security, and that a number of staff who live in her region have as a result of the government retaining this information found out that C was birth-assigned male. According to reports, C does not say she has been harassed as a result of this disclosure, but that the very fact that this information is being disclosed puts her at risk of harm.

However, some trans rights commentators say that while they understand the use of the recent ruling against Google that people have a right to be forgotten, it’s actually superfluous to this case. The UK’s own laws give great deference to equal treatment under the law and, given that C has received a gender recognition certificate the mechanism should be in place for wiping the previous record. In effect, the government is keeping this data despite having a clearly traceable line should it ever need to work back through C’s paperwork. They claim that the government is in violation of the Equalities Act and must stop preserving this data. This line of argument may also feature as part of C’s case.

The possibility of discrimination in the employment sector is particularly concerning. For instance, some US studies show that trans people are at least twice as likely to face unemployment when compared to a wider national sample, a statistic that ramps up if that trans individual is a person of color. This contributes to high levels of poverty and homelessness, and while there are many trans people who are incredibly successful at their jobs can, at the other end of the spectrum, also lead to tragic losses of life, too.

The right to be forgotten, in this case then, takes on a new meaning: it’s about a simple right to a harassment-free future, and one with the same opportunities and prospects as everyone else.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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34 comments

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9:55PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

thanks

7:56AM PDT on Jun 5, 2014

Thanks for sharing

6:17AM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

Do we even still know what privacy is ? Good for her that she is pursuing this .

6:35PM PDT on Jun 2, 2014

When you change your gender description or assignment on your Legal Documents, you are NOT "changing sex"!!!
When you are affirming the gender you feel you ARE, and always WERE, whatever some stupid piece-of-paper falsely said, you are NOT "changing sex"!
When you are cutting off a penis, which some Hetero men do for various reasons, that is also NOT "changing sex"! If your penis was suddenly cut off in a car accident, would that make a Hetero man a Woman???
Their are some Clown Fish, and other Fish, that actually CHANGE SEX. Clown fish who are Female, BECOME MALE under certain circumstances. In every sense of the word. Including Reproductive!
In Humans, sex is in the MIND, also chemical and lots of things we are just discovering. You can be Male or Female, or some other sex {there are apparently more than one, according to some cultures and languages} - and be MIS-ASSIGNED from birth on. On some stupid documents!
Changing externals, and changing the documents, DOES NOT CHANGE YOUR SEX.
Changing externals, and changing the documents, can bring your body and your social life MORE IN SYNCH WITH WHAT YOU ALREADY ARE.

5:38PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

marcia soooo wrong cisgendered heteronormative privileged much???

5:12PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

In the United States, even parents cannot protect their young children from Internet abuse. A certain pedophile has pictures of himself (not pornography) with a young girl as his avatar throughout the internet. The child's parents have asked the various sites to remove the photos to no avail. The answer is always "no," despite the fact that the parents object and the pedophile has no rights to use the child's pictures. The "right" to privacy has shrunk to such a small thing, it's not even worth talking about.

3:26PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

A person's private life should be kept as private as the individual wishes it to be. There are exceptions: yes, we do need to know if a sex offender or pedophile has moved onto our street, our neighborhood, but what gender you were assigned when born is no one's business but your own.

12:54PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

Right quick we have those like John M, claiming that you are what you were born as.

ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

HOWEVER, the fact is that a doc can only GUESS. He can't see inside a person to what their gender is. He guesses based on the outside bits. There are those of us who have BOTH sets, so which are we? Until recently, if your penis was under 1" at birth, you were assigned female. Doesn't matter what you really were, you were forced into a female gender ROLE. If it was 1" or more, you were forced into a male gender role. It was NOT unusual for babies to have fully formed vaginas sewn shut to enforce this gender role. The FACT is that genitals are a poor yardstick to measure gender by.

I had ovaries AND testes. Which gender was I? I have friends that have XXY Kleinfelter's syndrome, where they are NEITHER male nor female or both, on a genetic level. Which gender are they? They have the XX. They have the XY. Genetics is likewise a piss poor yardstick.

The gender I developed was female. The gender ROLE I was forced into at birth was the mistake. Doctors are not omniscient gods, no matter how much they think they should be seen as such.

12:51PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

Agreeing with Spencer Y.

12:50PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

Of the GLBT community.

The Trans gender people have by far the giggest cross to bare.

Instead of trying to ease the situation.

So many ignorant people are lining up to throw stones.

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Steve Williams Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human... more
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