Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 24 October 2013
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection
General Scheme of Gender Recognition Bill 2013: Discussion (Resumed)
I thank all the witnesses for attending. I cannot believe it is almost 12 months since they were here last; I thought it was only a few months ago. I will not ask a lot of questions but rather will make some comments. Mr. Broden Giambrone from TENI was in my office a few days ago and the poor man probably left with his ears burning because I went through the issues in detail with him and he gave me detailed answers on all I wanted to know. I believe he is in the Gallery so I thank him for that. We spoke in my office about everything the witnesses have spoken about, therefore, I have had questions answered.
I told Mr. Giambrone that I had reservations about the age limit. It is one of the biggest decisions anyone will ever make in their life. I had reservations about those under 18 but the witnesses put up compelling arguments and I can see they are all singing from the same hymn sheet and are passionate about reducing the age limit.
I was very concerned about the court case mentioned. That poor man was left in limbo in that he is neither here nor there. I find it strange, with medical technology, that the sex of a child cannot be determined at birth with ultrasound, MRI scans or whatever. It is difficult to believe that a DNA sample can be taken from remains of someone who died hundreds of years ago but the sex of a child at birth cannot be determined.
This issue is a subject for a range of committees from health, sport, social protection and education. An issue we must examine is the impact of being a transgender student in a school environment. I spoke to Mr. Broden Giambrone at length about that and what we can do as an education committee to put facilities in place because that situation can be awkward in a school environment. Does the student use the boys' or the girls' toilet? Is someone on the boys' or the girls' team? It is the teachers who are faced with the decision and what do they have to do? Guidelines should be put in place for schools that happen to have a transgender student. I do not know the figures, but I am sure not every school will have a transgender student and therefore there is no need for panic about where we will get the funding, but if a child is transgender and they tell the principal, the principal should get onto the Department of Education and Skills. There must be guidelines in place and funding allocated if needs be to provide even a private room for that child until the situation is sorted out.
We heard from Ms Catherine Cross at yesterday's meeting. As a parent I was very interested to hear a parent's point of view. We hear the transgender person's view all the time but we never hear the parents' point of view on the issue.
I apologise for being obliged to leave. Some members were called to arms in the Seanad yesterday and could not remain. However, they have available all of the submissions and transcripts and will go through them in detail. I again thank the witnesses for their attendance.