Following a long period of consultation, the government proposed, a few weeks ago, to only make minor changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Whilst this is a complex and much debated act, the results of the consultation were simple. It found that a significant majority of people agreed with the proposed reform (see details here) And yet, the only changes made were that the process would be available online, and the fee reduced.
What’s the problem with that? You might ask? The problem is that the government said that these changes would make the process “kinder and more straightforward”. This could not be further from the truth. To consider this, the Women and Equalities Committee have announced a new inquiry into the act and proposed changes (You can access this new inquiry and respond here).
This new inquiry could put more pressure on the government re trans equality, and could pave the way to reform that genuinely would make the process kinder, fairer, and more straightforward. Many trans people are, however, tired of repeated requests to explain our identity to the government and related committees. A lack of response could lead to blows to our, already tenuous, rights and safety. It’s not easy, though, to continue to respond to such personal inquiries, while the press, politicians and public continue to attack us.
That is why we need your help. There are lots of questions asked by the committee, and you may feel a little daunted, but it is so important that lots of people respond. I would like to lay out some of the key facts for you. Please don’t just copy and past, though. If you do, responses will be ignored. Rather, consider what I write here, ask questions if you have them, and let the government know, in your own words, why this matters.
Here are some answers to what I think are the three most important questions asked by the inquiry. If you would like to know more, please get in touch.
What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?
- Significant changes to the spousal consent provision. In other words, a spouse should not be allowed to control a person’s ability to transition. The current provision creates the potential for abuse.
- Disentanglement of the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act. A trans person should not have to legally or medically transition in order to be protected from discrimination and hate crimes.
- A shorter ‘living in role’ requirement, with more flexibility regarding evidence. Giving extensive evidence of ‘living in role’ is a significant barrier, making the Gender Recognition Act inaccessible to many.
- Disentanglement of the Gender Recognition Act and medical transition. Not all trans people transition, and no-one should be forced to seek treatment if they do not need or want it. Relying on medical evidence as part of the Gender Recognition process falsely medicalises trans identities.
- No financial burden. No-one else has to pay to legally justify their identity. We shouldn’t have to either.
- A clarification of the fact that a GRC is not required to access so-called ‘single-sex’ spaces. This misunderstanding has over-shadowed sensible discussion around the Act and around trans identities more widely.
What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?
Trans people have significant difficulties in accessing support services.
Health and social care services:
- Lack of adequate training of health and social-care professionals.
- Lack of understanding/research/training re the medical effects of cross-sex hormones, and the changes in embodiment that trans people may experience, as well as the side effects and health complications associated with denying/delaying provision of hormones.
- Common use of incorrect name/pronouns.
- False relation of all physical and mental health symptoms to trans identity.
- Inappropriate questions frequently asked in relation to trans identity/transition.
- Lack of distinction between sex and gender on NHS computer systems means that trans people regularly experience difficulty accessing healthcare tests and treatments related to their sex assigned at birth.
- Lack of gender-neutral medical spaces/facilities (for example sexual health clinics with a female clinic and a male clinic with different equipment for different bodies separated between the two locations, requiring transmen to go into the female clinic and vice versa and potentially outing them).
Domestic violence and sexual violence services:
- Services separated by sex/gender.
- Gendering and/or gender stereotyping of particular crimes.
- Lack of trans specific services.
- Lack of services for trans people by trans people.
- Lack of understanding of differences in embodiment and gender
- Lack of understanding of the relationship between LGBTQ+ identities, homo-/trans-/bi-phobia and sexual assault.
- Lack of understanding of the relationship between so-called ‘conversion therapy’ and sexual assault.
- Lack of gender neutral forensic medical facilities and practices for survivors who wish to report sexual assault or rape.
- Lack of training/understanding re trans identities in police services.
Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?
- Yes. Gender-fluid and non-binary people are currently completely unrepresented and unprotected, as mentioned above. This equates to a denial of their full personhood and forces them to lie for the sake of legal recognition and protection. There are also examples of gender-fluid/non-binary people who have gone through medical processes that they did not want, because they felt that this was the only way to transition/be trans. There are also significant risks for gender-fluid/bi-gender people who have to use male/female documentation which may, at times, differ from their gender presentation. In my opinion, there is no logically sound reason for society to be divided into two genders.
- The Government should also consult people who have intersex characteristics, to assess whether our gendered systems effect understandings and treatment of people who have intersex characteristics and/or identities.