On July 12th, the Senate of France voted unanimously to protect trans* people from discrimination and sexual harassment. With the vote, “sexual identity” becomes a protected status under Article 225-1 of the penal code. How can the use of the term “sexual identity” versus gender identity affect the effectiveness of this law?
In most European legislation, gender identity is the preferred term and has with it established a precedent which does work to protect trans* people. The term “sexual identity” creates leeway in how the code is enforced, allowing judges to interpret the law in a way which may not align with the intent of the Senate’s vote. Beyond this possibility of the law being misinterpreted, gender and sex are two separate terms themselves and are not interchangeable. Sex is biology; it is the side of the binary which you are assigned at birth. Gender is your identity; it is that which resides in your mind, how you feel comfortable and most yourself. Using the incorrect term in legislation not only opens the law up for interpretation but also creates a problem with misinformation.
Language is tricky. It is difficult sometimes to get across exactly what you are trying to say because words have so many varying and fluid meanings. But education in terms and definitions is a key to understanding. Although the choice of language is troubling, the intent to protect trans* people in France is a great step forward and will hopefully reduce the rate of job loss and homelessness within the community. You can learn more here, and if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future articles, you can ask me here or on tumblr.