The Caribbean Overview of Legal Gender Identity Recognition

The recognition of the rights of transgender persons continues to warrant
international attention and remains an area that requires targeted advocacy in the
Caribbean. While there are a number of international human rights conventions
which protect all persons regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,
there is still no single international human rights treaty which specifically protects the
rights of LGBTI persons. Additionally, although countries that are signatories to
binding regional and international treaties are required to respect treaty provisions
and to integrate human rights principles into national legislation, there are still
concerning numbers of punitive national laws and policies that restrict the rights of
trans people throughout the Caribbean. Through restrictive legislation and limited
interpretations of international human rights principles, Caribbean territories either
intentionally or inadvertently do not recognize or affirm the identity of the trans
community throughout the Caribbean.
The lack of a legislative framework for the recognition of trans people’s affirmed
gender identities adversely impacts their ability to access education, health,
employment and privacy and poses serious threats to their personal liberty, human
dignity and personal security. Additionally, the failure to acknowledge trans persons
in their self-identified gender acts as a gateway to broader discrimination. 1
Institutions such as schools, workplaces, governments and healthcare facilities
which are expected to provide services in a non-discriminatory manner are often
guilty of subjecting transgender people to ill-treatment, disrespect, abuse, violence
and the denial of their human dignity.

Legal Gender Identity Recognition
A significant barrier which arises is in relation to the formal processes necessary for
the legal recognition of trans and non-binary identities and how these processes
impact gender markers and identity documents used by trans persons in navigating
spaces. The issue remains complex in nature, as there are instances where
Constitutional and legislative barriers prevent the recognition of trans and non-binary
identities. Similarly, there are cases where governments have taken steps to develop
laws and policies to recognize trans identities but continue to rely on the restrictive
medical model instead of applying the self-determination model. Both scenarios
present a unique set of problems for the trans community and warrant targeted
advocacy and interventions to enact change.
Identity documents are noted as being crucial in solidifying the relationship between
an individual and the State and acts as verification of the classification and identity of
Identification remains an essential requirement for most
significant activities including applying for benefits and social support, finding a job,
opening bank accounts, renting accommodation, accessing health services,
engaging in voting, and travelling across a border. Many forms of official documents
and identification include a biometric photograph and gender markers, often in fields
labelled “sex” with an M or F signifying “male” or “female” respectively. Issues arise
here for trans people as their sex and gender do not align in the way that it does for
cisgender people. As such, photographs or gender markers on official
documentation do not reflect the gender identity of trans people.

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