9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Researching Transgender Building I, 1E8

Recognition and Regulation: Gender, Sexuality and the Uk Gender Recognition Act

Representing the civil recognition of gender transition, the UK Gender Recognition Act (GRA, UK, 2004) marks an important change in attitudes towards trans people; enabling the change of birth certificates and granting trans people the right to marry or civilly partner in their acquired gender. These developments reflect broader social changes around the conceptualization and the lived experiences of sexuality, and illustrate how questions of gendered, sexual, intimate and embodied identity and citizenship are being debated, contested and reconfigured. The paper will draw on research findings from an on-going ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council, UK) funded project exploring the impact and significance of the Gender Recognition Act.

The paper will explore understandings of "sex", gender and sexuality, and the relationship between these, within the GRA. While the GRA enables trans people to marry or civilly partner in their acquired gender, the criteria for "gender recognition" demands that existing marriages have to be annulled before a gender recognition certificate is granted. Within the law as it stands, then, married people have to choose between the recognition of gender or relationship. First the paper will examine how trans people and their partners are negotiating the GRA's "marriage clause" and will explore the effects of these choices upon intimate lives more broadly. In defending the "marriage clause", Ministers argued that, post-divorce, partners could register for a Civil Partnership; as enabled by the UK "Civil Partnership Act" (CPA, UK, 2004). The paper will move on to examine areas of connection and disconnection between the GRA and the CPA; pointing to a problematic fusing of "gender" and "sexuality", which fails to account for the nuanced formations and intersections of sexuality and gender .

In conclusion the paper will suggest that while the GRA and the CPA were guided by a need to further account for gender and sexual multiplicity, new regulatory practices emerging from processes of recognition may limit expressions of gendered and sexual diversity.