Transsexual still married to wife claims human rights breach after being denied pension at 60
05th March 2010
A transsexual claims his human rights have been breached because the law will not recognise him as a woman unless he divorces his wife.
Christopher Timbrell, who has changed his name to Christine, has launched a High Court fight because his marital status bars him from claiming a pension from the age of 60 like other women.
Instead Mr Timbrell, now 68, has only been entitled to claim a pension from the age of 65, like men.
The father of two wants to be formally acknowledged as a woman, without needing to get divorced, and is asking for five years' worth of backdated pension payments from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The retired chartered accountant had a sex change aged 59 but chose to remain married to his wife, Joy.
Churchgoing Mr Timbrell, from Sutton Coldfield, has gone to London's Civil Appeal Court claiming he has fallen foul of the Gender Recognition Act, which came into force in 2005.
This states that a man who has undergone gender reassignment cannot legally become female while still married to a woman - as one woman cannot be married to another.
The couple could end their marriage of 43 years and undergo a civil partnership but, as devoted Christians, they say divorce is against their religion.
If Mr Timbrell wins it could pave the way for scores of other transsexuals who remain married to their wives to get legal recognition as women.
Yesterday, Lords Justice Thorpe, Moore-Bick and Aikens heard that Mr Timbrell had known since childhood that he was 'different'.
When he retired, he said the discomfort of being a woman in a man's body grew 'unbearable' and he broke the news to his wife before having surgery in 2000.
Mr Timbrell, who has two grown-up children and two grandchildren with his wife, told the court of his 'extreme distress' at his current dilemma.
He said: 'The Government's response to my claim for a retirement pension is that I am a man; I am not. It is humiliating that the Government will not recognise this.
'Joy and I feel strongly that we do not want a divorce. We love each other and are committed to each other.'
He added: 'Divorce runs counter to both my and Joy's religious convictions. We both discussed the matter with our vicar, and he agreed with us that it would be hypocritical and probably invalid in the eyes of the Church were we to end a marriage that neither of us wished to end.'
He said he felt a civil partnership would not be 'appropriate', explaining: 'They provide a means for homosexual couples to formalise their relationship. But we are not homosexual.'
Jeremy Johnson, for the DWP, said he recognised the 'harsh choice' Mr Timbrell faced, but said it would be 'preferential treatment' for the couple both to draw pensions aged 60, compared with a mixed-gender married couple.
The three Appeal Court judges reserved their decision until a later date after yesterday's half-day hearing.