(Scroll down for a full analysis of the Government’s announcement)
After years of unhelpful speculation, debate and concern around Gender Recognition Act reform for England and Wales, we are relieved an announcement has been made. Many of our supporters feared that trans and non-binary lives would be negatively impacted by new barriers, so we are pleased that the extraordinary effort of combined LGBTQ+ organisations and allies has prevented such harm. It is particularly welcome news that the Equality Act 2010 remains resolutely unchanged amidst a barrage of misinformed demands to weaken equality law in the UK.
For too long, transgender and non-binary people of all ages have suffered ill-informed ‘debate’, whilst trying to pursue their education, jobs and personal lives in safety and dignity.
While we welcome news that the cost of the GRC process is to be lowered to an unspecified ‘nominal’ amount and applications moved online, we know from our young service users that they hoped for more and we must repeat our disappointment that none of these proposals offer help to those aged under 18.
We are pleased to see confirmation that three new gender clinics are being opened for adults in the UK, increasing patient choice and access; however, none of these clinics will help support children and young people aged under 18 who currently face waiting times of up to two years for a first appointment, when they should be waiting no longer than 18 weeks. This is nothing short of a national scandal, and we urge the Government and NHS England to help clinicians support those seeking their expertise by investing in the support and care of trans and non-binary young people including the Gender Identity Development Service.
We are disappointed that the Government reforms make no mention of non-binary identities and fall short of self-declaration, a move which would have brought England and Wales into line with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland, where society has benefited from a de-medicalised system for gender recognition since 2015, without any problematic outcomes. We also thank the British Medical Association for backing the right of transgender and non-binary people to self-identify and acknowledge the milestone achieved only last week when a tribunal ruled that non-binary and gender fluid people are indeed protected under the Equality Act.
We take this opportunity to acknowledge that the Minister for Women and Equalities, the Rt. Honourable Liz Truss MP, has supported a step in the right direction towards offering some transgender adults the freedom and dignity they deserve as valued, respected members of a modern, kind, accepting United Kingdom. Nonetheless, the Government’s own response states that most people who took part in the robust consultation supported meaningful reform and today’s announcement will represent a disappointment for many who took part.
We sincerely hope today’s announcement can herald a new beginning for the important conversation around acknowledging and respecting transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people of all ages, including children and young people.
We hope we can work with the Government Equalities Office to support and strengthen society as a whole, and heal some of the damage done to a vulnerable group seeking understanding and kindness. It is our sincere wish to engage positively with the Minister and all stakeholders in Parliament to facilitate a more productive conversation around one of society’s most marginalised and misrepresented groups.
To that end, and embarking on a new era in our journey towards trans equality, we renew our call for progress on the following key opportunities:
We believe all individuals deserve autonomy when stating their gender identity, including non-binary people who are still awaiting legal recognition by the State.
We call for the age at which a trans person can change their gender on their birth certificates to be lowered to at least 16, bearing in mind that people can already change the gender on their passport and driver’s licence without a GRC.
We believe trans people should be able to change their birth certificates without going through an intrusive and costly medical process to prove who they are.
Too often, the significance of these changes has been exaggerated and misrepresented. People are generally unaware that trans people under 18 can already change their gender on official government documents such as driving licences and passports without having to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate.
In today’s statement, the Government says:
Britain leads the world as a country where everybody is able to lead their life freely and treated with respect and that, for many years, transgender people have been widely accepted in British society; able to use facilities of their chosen gender; and able to participate fully in modern life.
We believe this statement of hope represents a small but positive improvement for some transgender people. We call for action to bring these inspiring words to life, by offering transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children and young people the support and dignity they deserve, rather than a woefully under-resourced process.
Today, we pledge to redouble our efforts to support and defend the next generation of trans doctors, entrepreneurs, politicians, teachers, artists, parents, construction workers, delivery drivers and all those contributing to society in the hope they will one day enjoy their individual right to flourish in a country built for them thrive.
Susie Green, CEO, Mermaids
GRA Consultation – the results revealed:
- 1.1% of all consultation respondents answered they had previously applied, or were currently applying, for a GRC. Of these, 60.5% had been successful in obtaining a GRC, 11.7% had been unsuccessful, and 27.9% were awaiting a decision. Trans respondents overwhelmingly reported that the current GRA process was too bureaucratic, time consuming and expensive, highlighting in particular that the process made them feel dehumanised and stressed. Another major topic raised was the long waiting lists for obtaining medical evidence. Smaller numbers of trans respondents thought that a GRC would be of no benefit to them or stated they were happy with the current process. Some trans respondents noted that they hadn’t applied for a GRC because they were not yet old enough.
- When asked about what having a GRC would mean to them, many trans people talked about the social and legal validation they would gain through an updated birth certificate. Other common themes included being able to get married in their correct legal gender, and getting more security against being outed without their consent.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64.1%) said that there should not be a requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in the future, with just over a third (35.9%) saying that this requirement should be retained.
- Around 4 in 5 (80.3%) respondents were in favour of removing the requirement for a medical report, which details all treatment received
- A majority of respondents (78.6%) were in favour of removing the requirement for individuals to provide evidence of having lived in their acquired gender for a period of time.
Today’s announcement – the detail:
- The Government has decided that the current provisions within the Act for those seeking to legally change their sex are safe and fair.
- The process of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate will be moved online.
- The fee will be reduced from £140 to “a nominal amount”.
- In her written statement to Parliament, Liz Truss acknowledged that gender recognition reform “is not the top priority for transgender people” and that the state of trans healthcare is a greater concern. She stated that she is “deeply concerned” about the stress that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics causes, and said that at least three new gender clinics would be opened this year.
- Liz Truss added that the principle of individual liberty is at the heart of this matter, and stated that “we firmly believe that neither biology nor gender is destiny.”
- Her statement also reads: “The Equality Act 2010 clearly protects transgender people from discrimination. The same act allows service providers to restrict access to single sex spaces on the basis of biological sex if there is a clear justification.” This is simply restated, without additional comment or analysis.
This means that people who want to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate will still require consideration of the following items by a Gender Recognition Panel:
- A medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria from an approved medical practitioner;
- A medical report from an approved medical professional providing details of any treatment they have had;
- Evidence they have lived in their new gender for at least two years;
- Agreement from their spouse/civil partner to the marriage/civil partnership;
- Making a statutory declaration that they intend to live in the acquired gender until death.