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Mermaids wants a process of gender recognition that is available, and accessible, to all. For this to happen, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) needs to be reformed. The GRA is the piece of legislation that governs how and who can change their legal gender. 

Currently, legal gender recognition isn’t available at all for non-binary people or anyone under 18. Those who can apply (over 18 years old who identify within the binary) need to wait two years and pay £140 for the gender on their birth certificate to be decided by a panel of judges who they never meet. Furthermore, a trans person’s spouse can veto their application. The current system is degrading and inaccessible and needs reform.

The consultation for the GRA for Scotland ended in March 2018 and the consultation for England and Wales concluded in October 2018.  Neither Westminster nor the Scottish Government are yet to reform the law and this comes at a time when hate crimes against the community continues to rise with recent Home Office statistics revealing that there had been a 37% increase in recorded hate crimes in 2018-2019 when comparing it to 2017-2018.

Mermaids calls upon all political parties in the United Kingdom to pledge to reform the GRA.

What is needed from reforming the Gender Recognition Act:

  • A system of recognition for Children and Young People
    A self-determination model should be available to anyone 16 years and over. A system should also be in place so that children and young people have access to legal gender recognition. Mermaids sees this as a system of consent from those with parental responsibility, as well as a process in place for children and young people without supportive households.
  • Self-Determination
    There should be no medical requirements, nor an evidential requirement of lived experience, for gender recognition. The current GRA depends on a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria and the provision of evidence that the person has been living “in role” for at least two years. These requirements are degrading and unnecessary barriers. 
  • Recognition of Non-Binary People
    For the GRA to be available to all, it must recognise gender diversity. There is currently no legal recognition in the UK of non-binary people despite them making up a sizeable portion of the trans community. Out of the 14,000 transgender respondents to the National LGBT Survey, 51% identified themselves as non-binary. GRA reform needs to result in non-binary people being able to obtain legal recognition also.
  • Lowering Fees
    Access to funds should not be a barrier to legal gender recognition. The current fee of £140 can make the process unaffordable to some and it is higher than the costs of other similar applications. Fees for gender recognition should not exceed the fee for applying for a new birth certificate.
  • Removal of spousal veto
    No trans or non-binary person should have to rely on anyone’s consent, including a spouse, to allow them to self-determine their identity; such a requirement violates their right to that identity.

What is in the party manifestos about the Gender Recognition Act?

For our service users, reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is a key issue. Mermaids does not support or endorse any specific political party or candidate. We support those who need our services and we will make their voices heard.

What have we been doing?

We have asked every major party in the 2019 General Election to include reform of the Gender Recognition Act in their manifestos, and we have also published our own manifesto which outlines what we believe needs to be changed and how. Post-election, we would welcome an opportunity to discuss GRA reform with the parties as well as other issues impacting young trans and non-binary people today including healthcare, education and criminal justice.

What are the parties saying in their manifestos?

Manifestos outline the major commitments of the political parties should they be elected to government. Below (in alphabetical order) is what every major party is saying about the Gender Recognition Act in their manifestos. Some parties have not mentioned the GRA in theirs but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will ignore it during their term. We will update this list as the manifestos are published. This is not intended to influence voters but rather to provide factual information on what each party is promising.

Brexit Party No mention of the Gender Recognition Act
Conservative Party No mention of the Gender Recognition Act
Green Party Remove the spousal veto so that married trans people can acquire their gender recognition certificate without having to obtain permission from their spouse. We will also change the law so an X gender marker can be added to passports for non-binary and intersex people who wish to use it, and update the Gender Recognition Act to allow trans youth and non-binary people to get legal recognition through self-declaration.
Labour Party Labour is committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to introduce self-declaration for transgender people, but we are not complacent about the culture shift required to make LGBT+ inclusivity a reality.
Liberal Democrats Complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrap the fee and recognise non-binary gender identities.Introduce an ‘X’ gender option on passports and extend equality law to cover gender identity and expression.
Plaid Cymru Plaid Cymru will support the reform of the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a streamlined, de-medicalised process.
Scottish National Party No mention of the Gender Recognition Act