Legal systems for determining and regulating gender
In Phase One of the research, we looked at current international developments and activist arguments to chart possible pathways for legal gender reform in England and Wales. We continue to keep a close eye on developments around the world. We also continue to draw on a wide range of feminist and other critical and radical writing to explore more broadly the long-term future of legal gender.
The starting point for our project are the strengths and weaknesses of “decertifying” legal gender . This would mean gender (including sex) no longer formed part of our legal personhood. In this scenario, the state would no longer record a person’s sex on their birth certificate (although it could be recorded on a database for medical purposes).
This would not stop the law from recognising the gendered effects of social, economic and legal life in other areas. For example, it could recognise discrimination on grounds of sex/ gender, in the same way that the Equality Act recognises discrimination on the grounds of race or religion, even though these are not part of our legal personhood.
Would not having a legal sex registered at birth help, in any way, to address problems of gender stereotyping, and gendered inequalities in England & Wales (the jurisdiction we are focusing on)? Would it have any impact (positive or negative) on other forms of social injustice or generally make little, or no, difference? In assessing the law reform proposal to “informalise” gender, we explore its relationship to other moves that would seek to pluralise legal genders, to affirm progressive aspects of gender as it’s lived, and to confront the problems feminists and others have raised about toxic genders.
These challenges are now explored in Phase Two of the project.
Currently in Britain, we all bear a legal gender, starting with the sex registered at birth. But should state law determine our formal gender status? What would be the social, political and cultural implications of abolishing such status, or reforming it in other ways?