I’m A Woman, Deal With It

No. 42 of #50cases.*

Times change. People change. Society and the law sometimes have to catch up, and catch up quick.

Christine Goodwin had changed. She was born a man but identified as a woman. She had been married with four children and was the children’s biological father. After decades dressing as a man for work but a woman in her free time, Christine began the long and difficult process of gender re-assignment. She had surgery and became a male to female transsexual. But Christine remained, in the eyes of the law, male. She could not draw a pension at age 60. She felt unable to do things which would require her to present her birth certificate, such as obtaining the winter fuel allowance and reporting that £200 had been stolen from her, as this would reveal her previous identity. The law also prevented her from marrying a man.

Christine took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that her right to private life and right to marry had been violated. The Court said that the law conflicted with an important aspect of Christine’s personal identity, which was a serious interference with her private life. Her right to marry had also been breached.

Because of Christine’s case, an Act of Parliament, the Gender Recognition Act 2004, was passed to give legal recognition to transsexual people as members of their new gender. The Act allows them to obtain a new birth certificate and permits them to marry members of the opposite gender. Christine passed away in December 2014. She was one of the few transsexual people to use her name in her application to court, because she “had nothing to be ashamed of”. Her victory strengthened the human rights of transsexual people throughout Europe. A great legacy for a very brave woman.

*Due to an error in tabulating the 50 Cases list (and the fact that there are two cases called Goodwin v UK), this case was missed. It has replaced Bancoult at number 42. Apologies of the confusion.

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

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