LJ
Lex Jay
Newcastle upon Tyne
Social Justice
We are seeking your views on how best to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

an open consultation — uk

The UK Government has launched an open consultation seeking views and opinions on how best to reform the Gender Recognition Act, and specifically what amendments may be needed to the current process of acquiring a Gender Recognition Certificate.

You DO NOT have to be transgender, transsexual, gender non-confirming, nonbinary or any other specific gender identity to answer. Everyone is invited to give their thoughts. The consultation is open until 19th October 2018.

Although we’re able to change our passports and driving licenses without a GRC, the certificate recognises that a trans person is acknowledged as the correct gender by the state, including issuing a new birth certificate. The process is bureaucratic, expensive and arguably unfair  — a group of experts decide whether or not an applicant is ‘trans enough’ without ever meeting the individual, and if the application is denied the only ‘appeal’ as such is to try again (and pay the standard fee of £140 again, too).

There’s no recognition at all of nonbinary people (we have to be M or F on legal documentation — no X or Ns here), and perhaps worst of all, an unsupportive spouse can veto a trans person’s application for a GRC. Of course, if the spouse isn’t content with their marriage changing from ‘heterosexual’ to ‘same-sex’ or vice versa, they’ve every right to excuse themself from the marriage, and in my opinion that should be on a no-fault annulment basis. But to say a spouse effectively has to give permission to the trans person for the trans person to be legally recognised as the correct gender… that seems a tad off somewhere.

The proposed new process would allow full self-identification, although the details don’t seem totally clear yet. One leading suggestion is to have a legal declaration, similar to a deed poll, which an individual could have witnessed and filed somewhere, then a GRC and new birth certificate would be issued. Having done a couple of deed polls myself, I remember the guidance being very clear that you couldn’t just do it and then change your mind and continue using the old name (especially and specifically not for fraudulent purposes) — I feel something like that would work well.

Opposition

Unfortunately, some individuals have taken to scaremongering about the whole thing. The two main battle-cries I’ve seen personally are ‘think of the children’ — covering such topics as whether young trans girls (that is, those assigned male at birth) should be allowed into traditionally single-sex groups like the Brownies or Girl Guides; what if a young child is confused (nobody’s going to start doing any sort of surgery on a young person whatsoever, giving them time and freedom to explore their gender identity and work out who they are) — and ‘self-ID is open to abuse’, including such gems as ‘men will self-ID to get into womens’ toilets’ (if a man really wants to be in a woman’s toilet, he’ll just open the door and walk in — not to mention the ridiculous point that if trans people are forced to use the bathroom of their birth-assigned sex, you’re going to end up with a lot of passing trans men — that is, those who are indistinguishable at first glance from a cis (non-trans) man — in the womens’ loos, which will surely be at least as awkward, to say nothing of potential danger to the trans man in question) or ‘male sex offenders will self-ID as women to access targets in the prison system’ (I’m not terribly au fait with the inner workings of our prison system, but I would imagine that a trans person imprisoned on sex offence charges would be treated both with respect for their identity if legitimate, and caution to protect other prisoners. I think many sex offenders are in segregation accommodation anyhow, because the risk of in-prison retribution is reportedly high. Besides, even if a whole new book of prison guidelines has to be written, is it fair or right to make every law-abiding trans person suffer for the sake of the small number in prisons?).

The Government responded to a 10,000–strong petition launched by a trans-exclusionary campaigner, which claimed reform would “impact on women-only services and spaces” and challenge “the principle of single-sex spaces”. The Government’s response “The Government does not intend to change the safeguarding processes that are currently used in refuges and healthcare services” and that “Providers of women-only services can continue to provide services in a different way, or even not provide services to trans individuals, provided it is objectively justified on a case-by-case basis.” It further noted that it’s the Equality Act (2010) which allows for single-sex spaces, not the Gender Recognition Act!

The Government’s introduction to the consultation

From the Government’s consultation website:

Trans people are able to receive legal recognition of their acquired gender through a process set out in the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004. Since the GRA came into force, only 4,910 people have legally changed their gender. This is fewer than the number of trans respondents to the government’s LGBT survey, who were clear that they wanted legal recognition but had not applied because they found the current process too bureaucratic, expensive and intrusive. The government therefore seeks your views on how to reform the legal recognition process.

The consultation focuses on the Gender Recognition Act 2004. We are not proposing any amendments to the Equality Act 2010.

This consultation does not consider the question of whether trans people exist, whether they have the right to legally change their gender, or whether it is right for a person of any age to identify with another gender, or with no gender. Trans and non-binary people are members of our society and should be treated with respect. Trans people already have the right to legally change their gender, and there is no suggestion of this right being removed. This consultation simply asks how best government might make the existing process under the Gender Recognition Act a better service for those trans and non-binary people who wish to use it.

Resources

Several leading trans advocacy groups have published resources which are food for thought on how someone might answer the consultation. I’ve also linked to a few news articles which have covered the consultation.

  1. Stonewall

  2. Gendered Intelligence

  3. The LGBT Foundation

  4. Amnesty International

  5. Report of the Government’s inquiry into transgender equality (this is a long read, but the contents allows you to jump to what you’re interested in if you so wish)

  6. Huffpost - What the Gender Recognition Act Consultation Means for Trans People

  7. BBC - Gender Identity: What do legal changes have to do with womens’ rights?

Support?

If you feel able and are willing, lend your voice to the consultation. You don’t have to be trans yourself to take part, and although it is quite long and involved, you don’t have to do it all at once. Don’t feel you need to have all the answers, either. Common-sense and heartfelt responses are just as welcome, perhaps even more so (okay, that’s my personal opinion), than academic essays.

The consultation is open until 19th October 2018.

PS. I can’t find any information which says international responses are prohibited, although I’m not sure they’ll carry as much weight as a response from a UK resident or citizen. The consultation does ask for your address and postcode, so I would imagine if they really don’t want non-UK responses they’ll use that information to cut them out. If you’re inclined to respond, I leave it wholly up to your discretion and judgement whether you think it’d be a waste of your valuable time if you’re not a UK resident or citizen.