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Relief and Disappointment to Gender Recognition Act Reform Announcement

Trans News

The day has FINALLY come!  Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss has just announced the government’s response to the 2017 consultation on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (2004).  Her full statement can be viewed HERE.  After reading the statement I have very mixed feelings of both relief and of disappointment.

Background

In 2017, then-prime minister Theresa May suggested reforming the GRA after a government report found that only around 5,000 people from the UK’s trans population of approximately half a million people had used the law to change their legal gender. Despite gender dysphoria no longer being classed as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria by two psychiatrists is still required as part of the requirements to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate. A 2-year consultation was conducted which turned toxic as it was hijacked by anti-trans campaigners who changed the dialogue onto the issues of trans women using female-only spaces, and of access to treatment for trans children, even though neither of these fall within the scope of the GRA. The findings of the consultation have been witheld by the government for over a year until today. During the last three years since the start of the consultation, transphobic hate crimes have trebled.
 
A leaked report in the Sunday Times in June stated that Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss was due to announce a restriction of access to gender services for trans children and also restrictions to female-only spaces for trans women, even though 70% of those consulted were reported to be supportive of make it easier for trans people to gain a GRC.   This (along with a speech Liz Truss made earlier this year which backed-up the leaked report) sparked a huge amount of anxiety within the trans community as we felt under threat more than we had ever been in recent times.
 
However, following a series of protests by trans people and allies as well as the British medical Association stating their support for self-identification of gender for trans people and a mass show of support for trans people by the corporate sector co-ordinated by Trans in the City, Liz Truss made a statement to say that access to gender services for trans children will be unaffected by any reforms to the GRA, but no other issues were addressed until today.  

Relief

When I read through today’s statement, my first feeling was of relief.  I was so relieved that the government agreed that gender identity trumps biological sex and they have confirmed that trans people can continue to use facilities of the gender to which they identify.  This was such a huge worry for so many people, so I am very pleased that this was included in the statement.

I am also pleased that the government will be providing at least three more gender clinics in attempt to reduce the painfully long waiting times to get a first appointment – typically between 2.5 and 5 years after referral from one’s GP.  No treatment is given until the second appointment, for which there is usually a 6 to 12 months wait.

Disappointment

After the initial relief that the very real threat of “trans toilet policing” has been thwarted, my feelings switched to those of disappointment as the government has missed so many opportunities to improve the lives of trans people.  While a decrease in the application fee to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate is to be welcomed (as well as the process switched to being on-line), the process itself hasn’t changed at all.  GPs and psychiatrists will still be gatekeepers as medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria along with a medical report will still be required (despite it not being an illness).  Evidence of having lived for 2 years in one’s new gender is still required, as is the agreement of one’s spouse or civil partner.  Many trans people’s relationships fail and the witholding of consent by bitter partners is often used as a weapon against trans people.  Also, GRC applications will still be decided by anonymous panels who the applicants will never meet, so in this regard, there has been no reform.

It was disappointing that the age at which trans people can change gender on their birth certificates has not been lowered from 18 to 16, as it is already possible to do so on passports, driving licences and medical records at 16.

It was disappointing that there has been no provision for the recognition of non-binary people by the state and also of the rejection of self-identification of gender identity as no-one can say they know someone’s gender identity better than oneself.

The cynic in me does wonder if the timing of this statement coinciding with a big announcement by Boris Johnson on further Covid restrictions may not be an accident.  A good day to bury bad news perhaps?

What now?

I am glad that this whole sorry period of uncertainty for trans people has now ended.  It was a shame the process took so long as was so damaging to the trans community in the process by stirring up so much hatred.  Hopefully, we can all just go and live our lives in peace now.

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported trans rights by campaigning so passionately by signing petitions, writing to MPs, writing social media posts, commenting, liking and sharing such posts and also by going on demonstrations as well as to all the forward-thinking companies who showed their support of trans rights so publicly.  We couldn’t have done this without you.  THANK YOU!

We now move on to the next phase as I promise to keep lobbying for a better deal for trans people.

 

Here are some other superb responses to today’s response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation:

Mermaids

Gendered Intelligence

Stonewall

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