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A new film will shine a light on how the British government discriminates against LGBT+ families – and hopes to help change things for the better.
The campaigning documentary, Our Trans Family, will document the struggles of LGBT+ families against the lack of legal recognition granted to them by the state.
This situation is particularly acute for families where one or more parents are trans or non-binary: as PinkNews reported last month, thousands of British children are being disadvantaged from the moment they’re born by an archaic UK law from the 1950s that insists whoever gives birth to a baby can only be recorded as the mother on the birth certificate.
Our Trans Family aims to campaign to change this, with a petition calling on the UK government to reform British birth certificates so that trans parents and parents of children born via surrogate can be legally registered as the parental title they identify with.
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Victoria Holden, founder of Chalk Productions, which is crowdfunding to make the film, told PinkNews that she first became aware of the “barbaric and wrong” situation for trans parents because she follows Freddy McConnell, a trans journalist and dad, on Instagram.
McConnell, who lost a years-long legal battle to be registered as his first child’s “dad” or “parent” on their birth certificate, is pregnant with his second child and plans to travel to Sweden to give birth so he can be legally recognised as his baby’s dad.
“To have to travel to another country during COVID to give birth so you are recognised correctly on a birth certificate is barbaric and wrong,” Holden said. “I realised that it’s not just Freddy this issue affects but thousands of LGBTQ+ families.”
She continued: “It made me think, not just about the parents but also the potential discrimination for children involved too. These injustices need to be highlighted and British law needs to reflect a modern society, the laws surrounding birth certificates are no longer fit for purpose.”
If the money can be raised, Chalk Productions will film Freddy McConnell, whose first pregnancy featured in the film Seahorse, as he prepares to travel to Sweden to give birth. Then the team will spend nine months filming the stories of other LGBT+ families to highlight how they are impacted by the current law, and to call for change.
“We are really keen to take on crew who identify as LGBTQ+,” Holden added. “We want to hear from camera crews, editors, producers, directors, researchers – so if you work in TV, get in touch.”
As well as being filmed, McConnell is coming on board as a producer. He told PinkNews that LGBT+ people who want to be parents have “simply never been considered by lawmakers”.
“The film we plan to make will focus on trans parents but the associated petition we are launching calls for birth registration equality for all LGBTQ+ families,” McConnell said. “This is because we might only get one shot at root and branch law reform and we believe there can and must be a birth registration system that works equally well for all birth families.”
Freddy McConnell continued: “Lack of legal recognition means total absence of official data to count trans parents, let alone paint a more nuanced picture. It’s a vicious cycle as it’s precisely this lack of data that makes it hard to get government to take this issue seriously or… win a court case.”
Asked how many families are affected by this issue, both say that it’s impossible to say due to a lack of data – although Equality for Trans Families, a non-profit founded by McConnell, is planning to do some research next year in collaboration with a university that will address this.
“As an almost-comically rough guide, a bit of data from the Australian government (captured unintentionally) showed that 22 trans men gave birth there in 2018 alone,” Freddy McConnell adds. “Australia has a relatively small population of about 25 million.
“Anecdotally, I estimate there to be thousands of families with birthing dads in the world and certainly many thousands with a trans parent of any kind.”
LGBT+ families and legal recognition in the UK
This often unspoken-of situation has led to thousands of British children with trans parents being disadvantaged because they don’t have an accurate birth certificate – in some cases, they have no birth certificate at all.
Throughout their lives, these children are at risk of being discriminated against or harassed whenever they need to produce their birth certificate. This includes when these children apply for their first passport, go to school, take exams, attend university, get married and collect their pensions.
Children who were birthed by a trans man or non-binary person will have that parent listed as their mother, regardless of their gender. Trans mothers will be listed on birth certificates as “father”. This can be true even when trans parents have their gender legally recognised – an arduous process that few trans people access.
Three families who previously spoke to PinkNews about their experiences described being discriminated against, forced to register themselves in the wrong gender and sometimes name on their children’s birth certificates, and in some cases deciding not to have any more children because of the toll that the lack of legal recognition had on them.