French Court: Breasts Define Gender

YNOT EUROPE – A court in Nancy, France, has declined to make official a transgendered person’s shift from male to female, stating that without augmentation, her breasts would be too small to identify her as a woman.

A public attorney in May denied Delphine Ravisé-Giard’s petition for legal status as a woman, despite her transition, through surgery and hormone therapy, in 2007. Ravisé-Giard has undergone surgery to modify her face and augment her breasts, but awaits additional gender-reassignment operations.

A member of the French armed services for 15 years and still on active duty, for the past two years she has been recognized by the military as a woman. Her official military records briefly reflected her new gender, but the records were revised following a failed 2009 court appeal for civil status as a woman.

In August 2009, Ravisé-Giard petitioned the French court to change her official civil status, but at that time French legal standards for reclassification required complete gender-reassignment surgery. In March 2010, the Ministry of Justice ruled surgery is not necessary for civil gender reassignment, bringing French law into alignment with the European Commission on Human Rights guidelines regarding gender recognition.

Ravisé-Giard subsequently appealed the 2009 court ruling. The public attorney denied the appeal, ruling Ravisé-Giard’s surgeries could be reversed. Since the surgical effects are not permanent, he said, she does not qualify as a “woman.” In addition, the attorney’s ruling stated breast size is a significant indicator of gender.

The decision outraged transgender advocacy organizations.

“What size breasts are required for a change in civil status?” Trans Aide asked in a prepared statement. “Will that breast size be established nationally by the Minister of Justice, or will it be up to the personal tastes of individual attorneys?

“Our association has said that the groundwork for a change in status for transgender people should be, across Europe and in France, those defined in 2009 by the Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, in his recommendations to member countries of the Council of Europe, which stipulate that the change in status should not be subject to a legal obligation to sterilization or any other medical treatment.”

Backed by Trans-Aide, Ravisé-Giard is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

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