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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Transsexual loses birth certificate battle
High Court, The Strand, London
The judgement was made at London's High Court
A former married man now living as a woman has failed in a High Court bid to amend her birth certificate.

Paula Wilhemina Ryder, 53, from County Durham, was seeking a judicial review after being refused permission by the Registrar General to make the change.

She wanted to either be described as a woman, having undergone gender reassignment surgery, or to have a footnote on the certificate saying that she is living as a woman.

In rejecting her application, Mr Justice Lightman said: "The register of births is a historical register of fact."

I live fully as female and have the appearance of a woman - I wish to have a complete identity as a female

Paula Ryder

But he added: "It is perhaps possible that the law might one day develop so far as to recognise as a human right the entitlement on the part of transsexuals to the issue of an identity card which records the current - as opposed to historic - sex of the holder."

During a recent hearing, Sally Bradley QC, representing Ms Ryder, argued the Registrar's approach was outdated and a breach of human rights.

Ms Bradley said: "Whilst her birth certificate records her identity as being male she regards that as an aberration.

"Putting it very simply, it is a document which doesn't speak the truth today."

'Distress'

Medical tests had revealed Ms Ryder suffered from Klinefelter's syndrome - an over-production of chromosomes.

Ms Ryder said in a written statement to the judge: "I was brought up as a male, but I and my family became aware of my feminine characteristics, which I began to display at an early age.

"Throughout my childhood the characteristics became more pronounced.

"As I matured through adolescence and puberty I suffered badly."

Sex is determined at birth and cannot subsequently be altered by any such operation

House of Lords, 2001

Despite some ambiguity at her birth, the midwife considered her to be male and she was subsequently registered as such and named Paul.

After living as both a man and a woman, she decided as a 19-year-old to live exclusively as a male and she married in 1981.

But she began noticing physical changes to her which created a more feminine body.

Her wife died in 1994 and she changed her name by deed poll and began treatment which led to gender reassignment surgery in October 1998.

She stated: "I live fully as female and have the appearance of a woman - I wish to have a complete identity as a female."

The judge said it was in the hands of Parliament to change the law "so as to permit the [birth] register to be amended to record a subsequent change of sex".

And he cited a House of Lords ruling last year which said "sex is determined at birth and cannot subsequently be altered by any such operation as was undergone by the claimant".

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Scotland
20 Mar 02 | UK Politics
14 Oct 01 | Wales
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