ID cards trial scheme to be voluntary

June 30, 2009

ID card (front) smallA few weeks ago I wrote (link here) about the proposed launch of a trial of the ID cards scheme in Manchester. Today the Press Association carried the news (link here) that the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has announced that the trial scheme “which would have required some airport staff and pilots to carry the controversial cards” has been abandoned.

Mr Johnson said: “Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens – just as it is now to obtain a passport. Accordingly I want the introduction of identity cards for all British citizens to be voluntary and I have therefore decided that identity cards issued to airside workers, planned initially at Manchester and London City airports later this year, should also be voluntary.”

Asked if the cards would ever be made compulsory he said: “No”. “If a future Government wanted to make them compulsory it would require primary legislation,” he added.

In addition:

He also ruled out ever requiring the public to own a card. Previously, ministers said ID cards could become compulsory once 80% of the population was covered.

Which, superficially at least, is good news, especially from the point of view of those trans people who are in the difficult position of having “no-match” documentation. As the Daily Mail reported it last November:

People who are undergoing a sex change will be allowed two cards – one in each gender. But they will also be forced to pay twice – landing them with a £60 bill.

It has decided they will have to hold a card in their current sex, which can be used for travel in the EU.

But they will also be able to apply for a card – with corresponding picture – in the name and sex they are undergoing treatment to become.

In other words, they will dress and appear as they will once the sex change is complete.

For anyone falling into that category, a more offensive and frankly ludicrous proposal would have been hard to concoct. I hope that it will now be consigned to the history books.

But-there’s-a-but: “the cards will still be compulsory for foreign workers”, according to Mr Johnson. That’s bad enough in terms of the inherent racism, but there’s another reason to object to it, which is that it can only mean that the centralised database remains intact. The whole concept of the ‘database state’ has been described in detail, and campaigned against solidly, by NO2ID, and I’d once again recommend any interested party spends some time browsing their excellent website – here’s the link.

I don’t believe we’ve heard the last of this foolishness, not by a long way, but I’ll reserve further comment until I’ve tracked down the full details of Mr Jackson’s announcement.


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7 Responses to “ID cards trial scheme to be voluntary”

  1. aesmael Says:

    I think I’ve seen that last quoted text before. It struck me then as it strikes me now this bizarre assumption of trans people as perpetually ‘in transition’ – there seems no allowance for the idea of someone being satisfied, to say “I am happy with what I have done. My body and expression suit what I wish them to be and so my transition is complete”. Instead it seems like, here and in other places, any trans person, particularly any person who has not completed some arbitrary surgical requirment, is always trying (and presumably always failing) to meet some unspecified ideal of sex and gender.

  2. curly Says:

    One needs to be very wary about this announcement.

  3. Helen G Says:


    Well, my take on it – and I must stress that it is only my take; I speak only for myself, not for all trans people, and there are other viewpoints (and mine is subject to change over time) – but my take, at the moment, is:

    ‘Transition’ is a difficult word, as it implies moving from one ‘place’ to another. I don’t consider myself to be a “MtF” (“Male to Female”) trans person because, as far as I’m concerned, I always was female. Just that, through an accident of birth (for want of a better term) I happened to be born male-bodied. So I’ve spent pretty much my whole life with what Julia Serano calls gender dissonance:

    A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes.

    From there on out, for me, transitioning is more about managing this dissonance, nothing more and nothing less. But – for me – that dissonance is always there, to some degree. The idea that surgery would somehow “cure” it is problematic in a couple of ways:

    First, it’s placing surgery as some sort of goal, or achievement and that’s not my experience. I see it as being more like a milestone on my particular personal journey, not a destination in itself. Certainly, I didn’t wake up in the recovery room two years ago thinking, “Okay, that’s done, put a tick in the checkbox on the list”. It’s more the sense that my body was now much more in line with what my brain was expecting.

    Second, not all trans people want or need surgical procedures as part of their transitions. We all come to terms with the dissonance in our own way and as a result we all have our own needs, and priorities.

    Third, not all trans people who do want to go through to surgery are able to, for a variety of reasons, eg. their own health anyway may preclude it as an option, or they may not be able to afford it if it’s not available to them via the NHS (UK healthcare system, theoretically available to all).

    Fourth, even though I’ve undergone surgery, I’m still in thrall to the medical profession: it’s likely that I will be on HRT until the day I die. The estrogen patches that I use are prescribed medication – so I need to make regular visits to the doctor for repeat prescriptions. I also now need regular monitoring blood tests to make sure that I’m not receiving levels of estrogen that are either too high or too low, and to make sure that my liver is working within accepatable limits, and so on.

    Last but not least, it’s worth remembering that, the focus on surgical and medical transitioning plays directly into the hands of the healthcare profession – according to the DSM, where these things are categorised, I am tagged as having ‘gender identity disorder’ – and gender dysphoria is classed as a mental illness. This needlessly pathologises and stigmatises me as my distress is fundamentally due to social prejudice, heterosexism, trans-misogyny, etc, and is not a characteristic of my identity.

    Having said all that :) I should add that there are trans people who, having undergone surgery and living “in stealth”, etc, do very much consider themselves to be no longer trans. It’s not a viewpoint I subscribe to, but there y’go. It takes all sorts…

    Anyway, I hope this brief, incomplete and very personal summary gives you some idea why, for me, transitioning is an ongoing process, a matter of management, and not a means to an end by, and of, itself.

    And here endeth today’s self-derailing trans 101 sermon…

  4. Helen G Says:


    Oh I absolutely agree. As I said in my post, I don’t believe we’ve heard the last of this foolishness, not by a long way.

    I think (having only skimmed your own, seemingly very thorough, piece) that you and I – and many others – are well aware that this doesn’t signal the end of the centralised database; and that the whole ID cards issue will simply return in a more insidious form in the probably not-too-distant future.

  5. aesmael Says:

    I think I must have phrased myself poorly. Do not disagree with what you have said, and was intending to express criticism of both the cis focus on surgery as necessary and required for trans people, and of the tendency to regard simultaneously any steps a trans person might take to be illegitimate, insufficient and superficial, without regard to how the person in question feels.

  6. Helen G Says:


    Ah okay, sorry, maybe I just misunderstood.

    It seems we’re arguing the same point, then :)

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