We have received a letter from the Government Equalities Office and would like to thank the Minister for Women and Equalities, Rt Hon Liz Truss for her communication. You can read the Minister’s letter and our original letter below.
The past few months have been fraught with hazardous speculation around the impact of potential GRA reforms, and we have raised our service users’ concerns with parliamentarians, allies and the wider public in the hope that any changes brought forward are to the benefit of trans lives. We refrain from pre-empting the Government’s response to the GRA consultation, though we are hopeful that the Prime Minister will remain true to his past commitments to LGBTQ+ acceptance and equality.
Unfortunately, GRA reform was never intended to address challenges faced by under 18s. Still, we remained hopeful that young people’s rights would be addressed. The Minister’s latest letter, sent to our policy team last week, puts it beyond doubt that GRA reform will not affect under 18s, either positively or negatively. Given the Minister’s statement in April , we ought not to be surprised, though the letter marks the first time we have seen official confirmation of the fact.
In that statement, the Minister said: ‘Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.’
To be clear, someone does not need a gender recognition certificate to access healthcare support and we would repeat our request to meet with the Minister so we can discuss the distinction between the two. Young people rightly already have access to healthcare support without currently having access to the gender recognition process. With regards future GRA reform, we are pleased to see the Minister’s commitment to the continuation of this and future work in making it a timely service, stating, ‘ Everyone, including transgender people, must receive the healthcare and support they need. I am also committed to ensuring children and young people are able to access appropriate and timely psychological and medical support.’
While we are relieved to hear now that the GEO has no plans to introduce new barriers of access to trans young people, we had hoped for some positive change. We again call for under 18s to be given the opportunity to update their birth certificates in line with other forms of identification such as passports. The GEO letter would imply that the Minister has made up her mind on the matter, stating: ‘there are no plans for this to change’.
We regret that the conversation around trans children and young people is increasingly beset by polarised debate and harmful misinformation. We reaffirm our offer to help Rt Hon Liz Truss meet with our families to help address some of her concerns away from the clamour of public argument.
As we await substantive news on GRA reform, we call for a new, more accessible gender recognition system which does not pathologise trans people, a de-medicalised system which includes non-binary people, and the removal of the spousal veto which allows husbands, wives and partners to govern another individual’s rights.
We call for a system, which allows people to be recognised for who they are without being subjected to an oppressive form of gender-policing which continues to impact so many lives, transgender, non-binary and cisgender.
Everyone, including transgender and non-binary people, must receive the healthcare and support they need without discrimination. As this latest chapter in the ongoing campaign for trans rights draws to a conclusion, we renew our call for Government and society to hear the voices of young trans and non-binary people.
– Lui Asquith, Head of Legal and Policy.
Transcription below for accessibility.
Thank you for your letter of 10 July about medical care for transgender young people.
I am committed to supporting LGBT people and improving the lives of all citizens. I was clear in the most recent Women & Equalities Questions that we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people in the UK.
Everyone, including transgender people, must receive the healthcare and support they need. I am also committed to ensuring children and young people are able to access appropriate and timely psychological and medical support.
I do believe that under 18s must be protected from taking decisions which could have an irreversible impact on their development. As you will know, the Gender Recognition Act does not currently enable those under 18 to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate and there are no plans for this to change.
Thank you for your invitation to meet. As I am sure you can appreciate, the pressures on Ministerial time are heightened at the moment, however my officials would be pleased to meet with you in my stead.
Thank you for your letter.
THE RT HON ELIZABETH TRUSS MP
Minister for Women and Equalities
Further to your colleague’s letter of 22 May 2020, we write to offer you as Minister for Women and Equalities, and Kemi Badenoch MP as Minister for Equalities, the opportunity to meet and listen to transgender and gender-diverse young people themselves, and to hear some of the issues they face and discuss ways in which the Government could help support and improve the lives young people who are transgender and gender-diverse, and their families.
Mermaids currently has just under 1000 members under the age of 20. Many of these young people we represent have, especially in the last month, reached out to us after experiencing deep hurt and pain due to the discourse (particularly on social media) around transgender healthcare and access to such healthcare by young people.
The uncertainty around young transgender and gender-diverse youth to gender-affirmative care, which has arisen in the past few months, has meant that many of the young people we support on a daily basis have been left extremely anxious and frightened about what will happen going forward. We are led to believe that you will in due course clarify your comment ‘that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in future’. Before you do so, we think it crucial that you speak with the young people that will be impacted by any decision you make.
We concur with your approach to the complex and nuanced issue of medical care for transgender and gender-diverse youth, to be ‘led by the facts in this area’, as you previously stated in your response letter to us. We believe that by speaking directly to the young people whose wellbeing you have referred to as your ‘absolute priority’, you will be able to truly determine how best to ensure transgender and gender-diverse young people—an already very vulnerable demographic in society—are protected from further inequality.
We feel it important to inform that as a result of recent media discourse, we have received the devastating news that a young transgender person has taken their own life this past week, and another transgender young person is in hospital recovering after attempting to take their own life. We feel it necessary to mention these heart-breaking incidents to press upon you the importance of talking to these young people. Not only have questions around medical care for transgender youth been a point of anxiety, but as I’m sure you are aware, instances of transphobic comments and opinions on social media platforms have escalated greatly following certain comments by high-profile figures against the trans and gender-diverse community. As social media is a huge presence in many young people’s lives, the impact on them has been considerable.
We urge you to take us up on our offer. As a charity organisation that is directly involved in supporting transgender and gender-diverse young people under the age of 19, we have connections all over the country with young people who have been the most deeply impacted by recent events. Their voices are important and we want to ensure they are heard in any decisions that affect them. We look forward to receiving your availability in due course. Our Lui Asquith, Legal and Policy Manager, is the best person to contact in order to organise diaries on [CONTACT].