Gender Recognition for Non-Binary People in the UK

by Ryan Castellucci

Gender Recognition for Non-Binary People in the UK

by Ryan Castellucci
Ryan Castellucci
Case Owner
I'm a non-binary cybersecurity expert from California. I want a Gender Recognition Certificate to match my birth certificate, but the UK has refused to issue one. I'm taking them to court for it.
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Ryan Castellucci
Case Owner
I'm a non-binary cybersecurity expert from California. I want a Gender Recognition Certificate to match my birth certificate, but the UK has refused to issue one. I'm taking them to court for it.
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Latest: March 6, 2024

We’ve filed with the Court of Appeal

“Permission to appeal” was filed with the Court of Appeal on Monday.

The High Court disregarded some well established legal precedents in the ruling, and failed to provide justification fo…

Read more

Last April (2022), I filed the first ever application for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) as ‟nonbinary” in the UK. The Gender Recognition Panel (GRP) agrees that I have been recognized by an approved territory as ‟nonbinary”, and has ‟granted” my application. Unfortunately, they have refused to issue my “nonbinary” GRC. For that, I need your help.

Background

The UK government claims that, by law, a person's legal sex must be either male or female. This is not supported by biology nor the lived experiences of non-binary people, and it is increasingly becoming in conflict with laws elsewhere in the world. I do not believe that even the current legislation here explicitly supports this claim, and I would like to prove it — for all non-binary people living in the UK.

About Me

I'm Ryan Castellucci, a cybersecurity professional from California, and I moved to London three years ago. Data processed by computers is binary, but gender is not. Even as a child, I mixed and matched aspects of both femininity and masculinity. As I got older, I did the bare minimum to masquerade as the gender that was expected of me. Today, after an extensive customized transition, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Not a woman's body or a man's body, just my body.

The story so far

As a cybersecurity expert, part of my job is to understand how systems actually work in practice. This frequently differs from how people think they work. The common understanding of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) is that it only offers two options — male” or female”. Where, and how, does it say that? While I have no legal background, curiosity got the better of me, so I read the law myself. It seemed that a California birth certificate literally listing my sex as ‟Nonbinary” should entitle me to a corresponding GRC.

I found myself a legal team. They agreed with my interpretation, and have been supporting me in this case for over a year now. While we have already made great progress, the real work is about to begin. Rather than simply issue my GRC as nonbinary”, the GRP has asked me to choose — ‟female”, ‟male”, or "not specified”. What does "not specified" mean? When I asked this of the panel, they said they could not give a definitive answer and that I needed to make a decision without asking further questions.

I could not accept this, as it would leave my legal gender within the UK ambiguous, so I have filed a claim contesting their response. If I win, it is my hope that it will pave the way for all non-binary people in the UK to have the option of getting a GRC listing them as such.

I have instructed leading civil liberties and human rights firm Leigh Day. Kate Egerton, who is a leading senior associate in discrimination law, is acting for me on my case, along with Chris Buttler KC (Matrix Chambers) and Marlena Valles (Blackstone Chambers).

Challenges

This is a complicated case, full of uncertainty. Only two appeals for GRC rejections have ever been brought, and neither of them were for an overseas route application. It is unclear as a matter of law exactly what type of challenge my claim is, so we have had to file our claim in three different courts. This case is important, and my legal team and I are doing everything we can to succeed — including asking for your help.

Our next steps

A directions hearing is scheduled for the 31st of March. This will decide several aspects of how to proceed to a final hearing, and we hope the Court will also agree that my claim is arguable. Regardless of who wins, we expect appeals.

What we need

I've already incurred tens of thousands of pounds in costs to bring this case to trial, and we expect tens of thousands more. We've set the funding goal to £100,000 to ensure the actual expenses can be fully covered. The money will go to Leigh Day to cover their fees for this case, including costs incurred to date, and also potentially to protect me from adverse costs if costs are awarded against me. Unused funds will be reserved for any appeals, or, should we win without the government appealing, handled in accordance with CrowdJustice's terms.

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Update 16

Ryan Castellucci

March 6, 2024

We’ve filed with the Court of Appeal

“Permission to appeal” was filed with the Court of Appeal on Monday.

The High Court disregarded some well established legal precedents in the ruling, and failed to provide justification for several key points.

We’re now waiting for the Court of Appeal to agree to hear the case.

Update 15

Ryan Castellucci

Feb. 26, 2024

“We can discriminate because it’s convenient”

We’re appealing. The ruling said that I’m being discriminated against, but it’s okay because it would be too hard for the government to treat nonbinary people with dignity and respect.

My lawyers are filing to appeal. Meanwhile, the bills are piling up.

My most recent bill was for a little over £60k. The government’s seeking nearly £100k, except they filed the paperwork late so a judge ruled we can argue about their itemized bill.

What really infuriates me is that nobody I sued even presented a defense. The defendants were the Gender Recognition Panel, which declined to participate, and the Secretary of State for Justice.

Instead, the openly anti-LGBTQ+ Minister of Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, had herself substituted as defendant. At no point was any argument made that giving me legal gender recognition would in any way harm women or equality.

Update 14

Ryan Castellucci

Jan. 29, 2024

This is far from over.

To quote Star Trek's Captain Picard, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.”.

Despite our fantastically presented case and the court rejecting many of the government’s arguments, they still ruled against us. We are pursuing an appeal.

In the end, it came down to essentially two points:

  • Despite the text of the law having no such limitation, the court interpreted the “foreign route” of the Gender Recognition Act to be restricted to binary gender only.
  • The court ruled that, while the government’s failure to grant legal recognition to nonbinary people is discriminatory, this discrimination is justified as a matter of “administrative convenience”.

On both of this points we feel that there is a realistic prospect of the Court of Appeal reaching a different view.

Update 13

Ryan Castellucci

Dec. 12, 2023

Well, now they're really mad...

Last week, a draft order removing California, 24 other US states (+DC), 25 countries, and 4 Australian states and territories from the GRA’s “approved countries and territories” list was published by the UK government.

It includes the following wording: “If the country or territory includes options for recognition of non-binary genders, but otherwise meets the criteria it may be retained or added to the list, but noting nonbinary people could only apply for a binary identity on their UK GRC.”

Hmm, I wonder why that’s there? It seems to me that if the GRA really were binary as they claim, there’d be no need to specify this. Very interesting, though all this really means is that they think there’s a chance they could lose.

My lawyers have contacted the government to delay finalizing the draft order until the judgement in my case is made.

Update 12

Ryan Castellucci

Oct. 27, 2023

Court went very well!

The case was heard at the High Court of Justice in London on Wednesday, 1st November. It was deemed important and/or complex enough that we had two judges sitting the case. I attended in person with my team, in part so that the judges could see an actual person this is affecting.

My barrister, Chris Buttler KC, did an absolutely fantastic job arguing my case. His arguments were all very well researched. Sir James Eadie KC represented the government. Thanks to extensive (and expensive) preparation, we were able to have anticipated all of his arguments, and had responses ready to go.

It’s amazing that I’ve raised over £70,000 from over 370 generous people, but I still need almost £80,000 more. On top of this, I’ve already directly paid about £50,000 of my own money.

Nonbinary people have asked the government for legal recognition several times, but they keep kicking the can down the road. It’s my hope that when the ruling comes, they’ll find that the can has been filled with cement.

Please share and donate if you can.

Update 11

Ryan Castellucci

Oct. 10, 2023

Three weeks to go!

I just reviewed the draft skeleton argument from my team, which is due to be filed tomorrow. It seems very strong, and I'm feeling great about the case.

A skeleton argument is essentially a summary of the case the barrister intends to present in court, and needs to be filed in advance.

I have been learning far more than I ever wanted to know about legal procedures in the UK, but with your help it can all be worth it.

Update 10

Ryan Castellucci

Oct. 3, 2023

Funding Update

The funding goal has been updated to £164,000. That breaks down to £99,000 to cover work already billed, and £65,000 in estimated costs for taking the case to trial on 1st November.

I've already paid approximately £20,000 out of my own pocket towards this case, and I'm responsible for covering anything this campaign doesn't. As it stands, the gap is nearly £100,000. That figure is terrifying, and I really need your help.

Every share on social media helps.

If you have an LGBTQ+ group at your company, please share there.

If you know any journalists who might be interested in writing about me and my case, I'd be happy to do interviews.

-Ryan

Update 9

Ryan Castellucci

Aug. 16, 2023

Evidence filed!

I got a call from my team today, they've filed evidence to rebut the stuff the government said. Not sure how much detail I can share.

The court date is 1 November.

Update 8

Ryan Castellucci

July 15, 2023

We have a court date!

I spoke with my legal team on Friday, we have a court date scheduled! It will be 1 November 2023.

Update 7

Ryan Castellucci

June 9, 2023

NHS: “Unable to be classified as either male or female”

I have been fighting to have my “phenotypic sex” corrected on my UK medical records since last August, as several of my non-binary friends have already done.

PCSE (operated by Capita, a private contractor) manages these records, officially refused to do this for me in February. I promptly complained to NHS England, which is part of the UK government.

NHS England sided with me, insisting that PCSE act on my request immediately, and clarify their policies so that nobody else will be denied.

This means that, technically, part of the UK government now officially recognizes my gender. I don’t know whether this will matter for my legal case, but it is extremely satisfying.

Update 6

Ryan Castellucci

May 30, 2023

New press release out!

Leigh Day has posted a press release about my case being granted permission for judicial review.

https://www.leighday.co.uk/news/news/2023-news/nonbinary-us-citizen-granted-permission-for-judicial-review-of-uk-legal-recognition-policy/

Update 5

Ryan Castellucci

May 25, 2023

We have permission!

I've just gotten off a call with my team. My lead barrister says we're clearly in the right under the letter of the law. We have permission to take the case forward on two grounds, and will be able to present our arguments on two other grounds. They've walked me through their arguments.

There is still a difficult fight ahead of us, but we can win this!

Update 4

Ryan Castellucci

May 4, 2023

The government's defence is due Friday.

Meanwhile, we need another £45k to cover costs already incurred in my case.

I'm very grateful for the nearly £15k that's already been raised, but this is a complicated, expensive case.

The Minister for Women and Equalities herself, Kemi Badenoch has intervened in my case to take over as defendant. She has a history of anti-LGBT bigotry, and has admitted to hacking onto the website of a political opponent. All I'm asking for is a piece of paper that will give me legal clarity, but she's tasked Sir James Eadie KC, the governments best barrister, with opposing me.

Your contributions, and especially your supportive comments, mean the world to me. Please pitch in or share my case.

Update 3

Ryan Castellucci

April 21, 2023

My Lawyers Know Best...

Things are progressing, but we still need your help to fund this case.

I got an interesting update from my lawyers last Friday, but apparently Civil Procedure Rule 31.22 says I'm not allowed to post or quote from documents provided by the government until they're referenced in court.

There is some collaboration between me and my team on strategy for this case. That's a bit of a given, since the core claim is essentially my argument. Beyond that, we go over the details, I ask questions, including some "what if"s, and then... we do what they think is best. Even when I don't like it.

Unfortunately, this means I have some things I have to sit on.

Update 2

Ryan Castellucci

April 4, 2023

We still need support!

The case is moving forward, but that doesn't mean money isn't still needed. If anything, your contributions now mean more than ever.

Next steps from here:

  1.  7 April 2023: my pleadings will be amended to deal with the government's "a person of either gender may apply" argument;
  2. 14 April 2023: the GRP shall disclose any GRC it has granted me;
  3. 5 May 2023: the Minister will file her defence to my claim and proposed directions;
  4. 12 May 2023: we will file our proposed directions;
  5. Mostyn will thereafter consider whether to grant my judicial review and GRA appeal permission to proceed (the Part 8 claim has been stayed pending determination of my JR and appeal).

-Ryan

Update 1

Ryan Castellucci

March 31, 2023

The case is proceeding!

Firstly, I want to thank you all so much for your contributions! This case is very important to me, and it means a lot that you're pitching in!

I know the fundraising goal looks astronomical, but from the beginning I expected strong opposition, and chose representation accordingly. It's a good thing too, because the government has put their top barrister, James Eadie KC, on the case.

My team isn't concerned - if anything this shows just how strong my case is - and more importantly the directions hearing today went well! My case is being allowed to move forward to the next stage!

I'm still waiting on a detailed report from my lawyers, but I will be sure to share another update when I get it.

Please, share about my case and encourage your friends to contribute!

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