Rees v. the United Kingdom (European Court of Human Rights)

A female-to-male transsexual complained that United Kingdom law did not confer on him a legal status corresponding to his actual condition.

The European Court of Human Rights held in 1986 that there had been no violation of  Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on  Human Rights. The changes demanded by the applicant would had involved fundamentally modifying the system for keeping the register of births, which would have had important administrative consequences and imposed new duties on the rest of the population. Furthermore, the Court attached importance to the fact that the United Kingdom had borne the costs of the applicant’s medical treatment.

However, the Court was conscious “of the seriousness of the problems affecting  transsexuals and of their distress” and recommended “keeping the need for appropriate measures under review, having regard particularly to scientific and societal developments” (§ 47 of the judgment).

The Court also held that there had been no violation of Article 12 (right to marry and found a family) of the Convention. It found that the traditional concept of marriage was based on union between persons of opposite biological sex. States had the power to regulate the right to marry.

Rees v. UK.


Sabrina Wilson v. Phoenix House (USA)

A transgender woman who alleged discrimination at a residential drug rehabilitation may proceed with her suit, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Debra Silber ruled. Sabrina Wilson, a male-to-female transgender woman, fled Phoenix House, a drug detoxification and rehabilitation center with facilities located throughout New York, including three in Brooklyn, after, according to a news report, “being denied the ability to fully express her female identity.”

Wilson, 32, was arrested in 2008 on a drug offense and agreed to enroll in a drug rehab center in lieu of prison. Having been diagnosed with gender identity disorder when she was 16, Wilson had struggled with her identity for years and had yet to make the physical transformation from male to female. Upon arriving at Phoenix House, Wilson made it clear to Phoenix House staff that while she is biologically male, she  “identifies with the female gender.” Notwithstanding her gender identification, Wilson was required to use the male restrooms and sit with the male population during group sessions, because Wilson is actually male, and was told to remove her wigs, makeup and high heels despite the fact that biological women wear able to don such attire.

Wilson asserted that a counselor advised her that “”[w]e can’t suit your needs as a transgender in our program,” and a program that did “meet her needs”  was not located by Phoenix House. Wilson subsequently fled Phoenix House and was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Wilson then sued, alleging that Phoenix House discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation as well as her disability of gender identification disorder.

Silber deduced that Wilson encountered “gender discrimination” for failing to “conform to stereotypical gender norms.” Therefore, as transgender individuals “transgress society’s gender norms in some manner,” Silber said, they should be granted a higher level of protection against discrimination and afforded the court’s protection for “aid or redress.”  It is not clear whether this was under a claim for sex discrimination or sexual orientation discrimination, as we could not obtain the decision.

Phoenix House proffered the argument that they could not have discriminated against Wilson because Wilson did not suffer from a disability and if, in the alternative, Wilson did possess a disability but it was not made known to Phoenix House. Silber dismissed this argument, stating that “[g]ender Identity Disorder is a disability under both the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law,” and therefore Wilson was afforded the protections of these relevant statutes.

Wilson v. Phoenix, 25755:11.

Transgender woman suffers from disability, Brooklyn judge rules _ Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Judge Says Transgender Woman May Sue Drug Program for Bias.

Norma Ballhorn v. Legends Food & Fun (USA)


Norma Ballhorn, a man who “identifies as a woman,” filed a complaint in 2012 with the Washington State Human Rights Commission alleging that the bar Legends Food & Fun removed Ballhorn for using the women’s restroom.

“One of the bartenders said I can’t be in there because as long as I have a penis I am not allowed to use the [women’s] restroom,” Ballhorn told a queer blog in 2012. Legends bartender Cathy Botkin and owner James Van Geyten indicated in media reports that Ballhorn was told to leave because Ballhorn used the women’s restroom and actually appears “like a man.”

It is unclear what the disposition of the complaint was.

Vancouver Trans Woman Files Discrimination Complaint Against Bar – Proud Queer (PQ Monthly).

Hyattsville, Maryland (USA)

By a 9-0 vote, the Hyattsville City (Maryland) Council adopted the Hyattsville Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or other categories covered by state law, and extends this protection to employment, housing and real estate transactions, and public accommodations.

Hyattsville bans discrimination against transgender people — Gazette.



Washington, D.C. (USA)

The D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) has amended its policy to permit transgender female inmates to shave, even when other inmates may not be permitted to use razors themselves, according to a memo issued by Thomas Faust, director of DOC.

The ruling comes after a violent incident in which one inmate injured another with a razor at the D.C. Jail, according to transgender activist Jeri Hughes. As a result, all inmates were prohibited from using razors to shave, including transgender female inmates. Last month, the Transgender Advisory Committee, a board that provides guidance to DOC to ensure it is compliant with the District’s Human Rights Act as it pertains to equal treatment of transgender inmates, raised the issue to Faust. Hughes said Faust told the advisory committee he would resolve it within two weeks. He implemented a change in the policy within a week, which took effect Nov. 4. He then followed up on that policy change by signing a memo Nov. 7 to make the changes a matter of record.

According to the memo, once a transgender inmate is identified, a case manager will interview the inmate to ask if she is interested in receiving shaving services. The case manager will keep a record of the inmate’s decision, and if the inmate accepts, she will sign a consent form.

To take advantage of the shaving services, which are offered on Monday and Friday of every week, the transgender inmates who agree will be taken to the female receiving and discharge area, where they will be allowed to shave. Administrators will also check to see that the services are being received and that each inmate has signed the appropriate consent form. Transgender inmates will also be given the opportunity to purchase Magic Shave, a shaving cream that dissolves facial hair. These services will be available to transgender inmates, even if the rest of the jail’s population is not permitted to access shaving services.

DOC classifies an inmate who  has male genitals as a male and one who has female genitals as a female, unless otherwise recommended by the Transgender Committee and approved consistent with this policy.

Activists Applaud DOC_ Amended policy allows shaving exception for transgender inmates at D.C.

Harriette Cunningham (Canada)

A 10-year-old Comox transgender girl, Harriette Cunningham, claims that facing US-Canadian border officials as a transgender girl — when his identity and outward appearance don’t match the sex designation on his passport — gives him “undue anxiety.” The Grade 5 student and his grandmother, Cathie Dickens, who lives in Comox and spends part of each year in Palm Springs, are mailing letters to MLAs and MPs, asking for changes to official identification policy they say discriminates against transgender people. They also have a meeting scheduled with their MLA, Don McRae, who is also minister of social development.

In British Columbia, where he lives, a person must have sex reassignment surgery before he or she can change the sex designation on a B.C. Birth Record, which typically serves as a basis for other forms of identification, such as passports.

In April 2012, Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal ruled the surgery requirement to be “substantively discriminatory.”

“It perpetuates stereotypes about transgendered persons and their need to have surgery in order to live in accordance with their gender identity, among other things,” adjudicator Sheri Price wrote in her decision.

That ruling provided the basis for a policy change that, in October 2012, made Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow trans people to change their sex designation on a birth certificate without sex reassignment surgery. Now, a trans person in Ontario can apply for a new birth certificate with only a letter from a physician or psychologist.

10-year-old transgender girl wages battle to change identification rules – Opinion – Times Colonist.

Royal Oak, Michigan (USA)

Voters in the City of Royal Oak, Michigan will decide whether to uphold a city ordinance passed by the local government to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity.  Gender identity means “a person’s actual or perceived gender, including a person’s gender identity, self-image, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, expression, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s sex at birth as being either female or male.”

It is unfortunate that Gay Rights Activists allowed such misogynistic, stereotyping language to be included in this ordinance, as the ordinance has the supportable goals of banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status.

One Royal Oak Unites for Human Rights Ordinance – Government – Royal Oak, MI Patch.

Human Rights Campaign Kicks Off in Royal Oak – Around Town – Royal Oak, MI Patch.

PrideSource – What’s At Stake In Royal Oak.

One Royal Oak rallies for human rights ordinance.

‘I thought I was the only one’.

2013 petition — Royal Oak (1).