The UK’s highest court has rejected an appeal to allow gender neutral passports

Christie Elan-Cane argued that the application process requiring individuals to indicate their gender is unlawful.

The Manc The Manc - 15th December 2021

A prominent campaigner and activist has today lost a 25-year battle against the UK government over not allowing gender neutral passports.

After having spent over two decades campaigning to achieve legal and social recognition for non-gendered identity, Christie Elan-Cane – who personally identifies as non-gendered – has said that requiring people to say if they are male or female on application forms breaches human rights laws, and so, brought a case to the UK’s highest court in the latest round of a legal battle for ‘X’ passports.

Challenging the policy administered by Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO), Elan-Cane argued that the application process requiring individuals to indicate their gender is unlawful.

However in a judgment this morning, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal.

The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed, found that Elan-Cane’s interest in being issued with an ‘X’ passport was “outweighed” by other considerations – including “maintaining a coherent approach across government” as to what genders are recognised.


Lord Reed said in the ruling: “The form is concerned with the applicants’ gender as a biographical detail which can be used to confirm their identity by checking it against the birth, adoption or gender recognition certificates provided and other official records [and] it is therefore the gender recognised for legal purposes and recorded in those documents which is relevant.”

He continued: “There is no legislation in the United Kingdom which recognises a non-gendered category of individuals.


“On the contrary, legislation across the statute book assumes that all individuals can be categorised as belonging to one of two sexes or genders, terms which have been used interchangeably.”

Back in March 2020, appeal court judges ruled the right for a gender neutral passport was “beyond argument” – but said government did not breach the law.

Read more: Court rules you cannot be gender neutral on passports


Following today’s ruling, Elan-Cane tweeted: “The UK government and judicial system are on the wrong side of history.

“This is not the end – we are going to Strasbourg.”

The French city of Strasbourg, as referred to by Elan-Cane, is home to the European Court of Human Rights – which Britain is still a member of – and if this action goes ahead, it is said that it would allow “more scope” on how to interpret rulings and legislation.

Featured Image – Unsplash (Ethan Wilkinson)