Ask Your MP About the Gender Recognition Act

A general election has been confirmed for 12th December 2019. The consultation for the Gender Recognition Act for England and Wales concluded in July 2018. Since then, we have had a response for the Scottish Government (which was a separate consultation), but there has still not been a Government response following the England and Wales

The England and Wales response was planned for July this year but was delayed until December this year. This new date is looking very unlikely now that a general election is on the way. With the backdrop of Brexit, we must ensure that the reform of the Gender Recognition Act must does not take a back seat.

Reaching out to your MP

There is currently no legal recognition in the UK for trans children and young people, nor for non- binary people. This needs to change and reform to the law could make this change. It is important that we let Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) hear from their constituents, so they know that reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 matters for the whole of the UK and must be a priority.

We’ve created a quick and easy way to help people who support trans equality to contact their MPs and MSPs to ask them how they, and their party, stand on reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Mermaids encourages and hopes that all political parties will include GRA reform in their manifestos so the country knows this important issue will not be forgotten.

What to say to your MP

Ask your MP/MSP if they already support GRA reform and if not, whether they will. Ask your MP/MSP to confirm their party’s commitment to GRA reform and that this reform will include trans children and young people and that it will be included in their Party’s manifestos. Explain why reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is important to you and your loved ones. Mention what parts matter most to you. For example,

  • Full legal recognition of young people (quicklink)
  • Full legal recognition of non-binary people (quicklink)
  • A system based on the principle of self-declaration (quicklink)
  • Scrapping the medical requirement for gender recognition (quicklink)
  • Removing application fees (quicklink)

Ask your MSP/MP to speak up for all transgender people, including non-binary people. We need strong leadership more than ever.

Ask them to write to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women and Equalities and ask them to fulfil the commitment they’ve made for reform.

Example Template

Dear [Your MP’s name]

I’m writing to you regarding the importance of reforming the Gender Recognition Act. 

Reforming the Gender Recognition Act is important to me because 

[*insert your comments*]

As my [MSP/MP], I hope you are committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 so that it supports all transgender and non-binary people. 

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

Postcode : 

Full legal recognition of young people

Identity documents reflecting a person’s gender identity are important for trans and non-binary people’s dignity, safety and access to human rights – this includes children and young people. Through in-house consultations and statements from service users, we have listened to the life-experiences of our children and young people as well as their parents. 

Trans and non-binary children and young people face problems in being recognised and respected for their gender within society without a birth certificate that reflects their true gender. As a result of not having a birth certificate that documents their affirmed gender, our children and young people are being denied recognition in our schools, jobs and healthcare practises on the basis that their identity documents do not match their true gender.

Full legal recognition of non-binary people

At present non-binary people have no access to legal gender recognition. Non-binary identities are valid as gender identities that fit within the gender binary. Mermaids recommends that people with non-binary identities are recognised within reformed legislation. 

Mermaids believes that identity documents reflecting a non-binary person’s gender identity are important for their dignity, safety and access to human rights – this includes children and young people. Mermaids believes that all people, including children and young people, who identify as a gender other than male or female should be able to obtain documents that reflect their gender identity in the same way as a man or woman does. Having driving licenses, birth certificates, passports and other official documentation, including medical documentation that reflects this would have a significant impact on their sense of acceptance in society. Currently, non-binary people are currently unable to marry as themselves, they would have to die being mis-gendered and have to conduct life often being mis-gendered and having no means to remedy this. The experience of this on non-binary is that it is degrading and unacceptable and Mermaids calls for non-binary identities to be recognised immediately within GRA reform. 

Non-binary identities are not new and future legislation should acknowledge this demographic of our population. To put it in context, not recognising non-binary people in reformed GRA is principally the same as not recognising the identity of a man or woman in future legislation. Not recognising a gender on the basis of it only applying to a marginalised group of trans people cannot be justified. A minority group, however small, deserves the respect and dignity of legal gender recognition (LGR). To not provide this respect acts in contravention to the principles that our equality laws are based upon. 

Until non-binary identities are recognised the government will be refusing a proportion of our population the degradation of not being seen as valid, in law, which is not only humiliating and tolerant of a no acceptance of the identity within wider society generally, but it is incompatible with the increasing social acknowledgment and acceptance of this gender identity. Further, this is an identity that is being recognised internationally already. Options for non-binary people to obtain legal documents exist in Malta, Denmark and are under discussion in Germany, Ireland and Scotland. Outside Europe, several countries, including Canada, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and India, already allow for passports with gender markers other than “F” or “M”; these countries typically use “X”, which is recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organization. (Transgender Europe, 2017: Third Gender Markers in Europe and Beyond). 

Changing the GRA so that the law explicitly recognises non-binary identities, would make it clear that non-binary people have a protected characteristic (‘gender reassignment’) under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA10). Current protection under the EqA10 is not explicit and the continuance of non-recognition would be essentially allowing a demographic of our trans population to not be explicitly protected from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity. Again, this is principally the same as the suggestion that a man or woman should have not have protection under equality law due to their gender not being recognised. The idea would not be tolerated, and rightly so. 

Practically in relation to the LGR application process, people with a non-binary identity currently only have the choice either to apply for a certain gender marker that is perhaps closer to their gender identity and subject themselves to a system that is incompatible with what it means to be non-binary or be excluded from legal gender recognition. A non-binary gender identity is a gender identity of its own and the current system does not acknowledge this. As recognised within previous responses in this survey, being non-binary should not be seen as a phase, confusion or marker of ill-health, just as identifying as a man or woman (whether trans or cis) should not. 

Through consultation with our young service users there is an overwhelming support for non-binary identities to be recognised within future legislation and that not including non-binary identities within reformed legislation would be an outdated outcome and delaying the inevitable.

Replacing the inaccessible system with self-determination and Scrapping the medical requirement for gender recognition

Whatever anyone’s age, one’s access to legal gender recognition should not be dependent on or have anything to do with any form of medical treatment, but instead Mermaids recommends a system “based on self-determination” [PACE 2048(2015) 6.2.1]. The GRA doesn’t require physical medical intervention in order to get a GRC. This must not change in the GRA reform. Mermaids recommends that the reformed Act removes the current medicalised process to receive a GRC because it is incompatible with the (Mermaids supported) principle that no medical intervention should be required, established both in the original Act and within the Equality Act 2010, which (in its description of gender reassignment) explicitly recognises that transition cannot be reduced to a medical process.

Removing application fees

Legal Gender Recognition should be accessible to all who seek it: any fee would pose an economic barrier to gender recognition and no-one should be barred from accessing LGR on the basis of their economic status. Trans and non-binary children and young people are especially vulnerable to an application fee restricting them in being able to apply for a gender recognition certificate as they are often financially dependent. 

The Council of Europe recommends a “quick, transparent and accessible” [Paragraph 21 LGBT Recommendations CM/Rec 2010(5)] and an unreasonable fee (which we deem the current fee to be) would act in contravention to this. Mermaids recommends that any cost should be no more than the current cost of a new birth certificate (see here)