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The STA comments on the UK Government Response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality

Today, the UK Government published their response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality. Whilst the STA welcomes some of the content, overall we think that the response is very disappointing. The UK Government makes reference throughout to the need to collect more evidence or do increased monitoring around certain recommendations, despite the fact that the Committee’s Inquiry already collected substantial evidence, and the Committee based their recommendations on that evidence. We think that a significant part of the UK Government’s response is weak, as it does not set out concrete proposals for making the necessary changes to improve trans people’s rights and lived experiences.

Of course, many issues covered by the Inquiry concern matters which are devolved to Scotland, including the Gender Recognition Act, the spousal veto (which Scotland does not have), NHS services, hate crime, education and prisons. As a Scottish organisation, therefore, our view of the UK Government’s response is of less relevance than that of trans organisations and people in England and Wales! The Scottish Government has already made stronger commitments on a number of issues covered in the UK Government’s response – most notably to reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

Below are our comments on the UK Government’s responses to each of the recommendations made by the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality. We have tried to make it clear where certain areas are devolved to Scotland, and there may already be better practice, or commitment to better practice, from the Scottish Government.

Recommendations 1 & 2 (Cross Government Strategy): Good response – UK Government will report on previous trans equality action plan and publish a new plan

Recommendation 3 (Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe): Disappointing response. The UK Government refuses to commit to Yogyakarta principles, saying current international and domestic legislation is sufficient. UK Government claims to be at forefront of Europe on trans equality, but this is no longer the case. Many countries around Europe (Malta, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium) now have better gender recognition law than the UK.

Recommendations 4, 5, 7 & 8 (Gender Recognition Act 2004): Very weak response. The UK Government says they will review the Gender Recognition Act, but makes no commitment to reform it. The Scottish Government’s position is much stronger and more progressive, and commits to reforming the Gender Recognition Act and bringing it in line with international best practice. This would include implementing all of the changes discussed in this response – moving to a process of self-determination, lowering the age at which you can access legal gender recognition, and legally recognising non-binary people.

Recommendation 6 (Spousal consent): Very weak response – no commitment to remove spousal veto, which was never included in the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, and therefore does not exist in Scotland.

Recommendation 9 (Data protection): Good response on investigating why there have been no prosecutions under Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act (which makes it a criminal offense to reveal someone’s trans history if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate and you have found out in an “official capacity”). Weak response on protecting trans people from outing in court proceedings. The response simply reiterates the existing training and guidance for the judiciary, despite the inquiry having heard that this wasn’t currently protecting trans people from being outed.

Recommendation 10 (Gender reassignment as a protected characteristic): Very poor response – no commitment to amend the Equality Act. The UK Government seem to have fundamentally missed the point that not all trans people will be perceived as having the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ and that is exactly why the revision was recommended.  For example a non-binary person who decided to continue to live in their assigned gender, but shared their non-binary gender identity with colleagues and experienced discrimination as a result of this, is not adequately covered by the ‘perception’ aspect of the legislation.

Recommendation 11 (EHRC Complaints): May be correct that no restriction exists in law

Recommendation 12 (Exemptions in respect of trans people): Weak – agree with the principle of the recommendation, but there is no commitment to amend the law to remove the exemptions as they apply to single-sex services. Whilst increasing numbers of single-sex services in Scotland are basing their policy on best practice and being trans inclusive, this still leaves uncertainty around the extent to which trans people have the right access to services which reflect their gender identity.

Recommendation 13 (Separate gender sport): We don’t have detailed knowledge on the way that this is dealt with in England and Wales to comment at any length. However, the UK Government response mentions improving participation within a wider LGB&T framework, and we hope that this allows for enough attention to be paid to the very specific barriers that trans people face in accessing sport, which can be rather different from cisgender LGB people.

(NHS Services): The UK Government highlights that it is not a lack of financial resources, but a lack of medical professionals with the expertise to work with trans people that is the biggest cause of long waiting lists for trans-specific healthcare. It does not suggest any practical solutions for how to address this problem. NHS Services are devolved to Scotland, and the STA will continue working with NHS Scotland to try to improve access to trans-specific healthcare.

Recommendation 14 (Professional regulation of doctors): Weak response to the clear recommendation for immediate action.

Recommendation 15 (Professional regulation of doctors): Fair response from GMC

Recommendation 16 (Treatment protocols): Fair response, particularly that the UK Government states “Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness”, but disappointing that there appear to be significant barriers to change, and no definite plan for how to move Gender Identity Clinics out of mental health trusts.

Recommendations 17-19 (Treatment protocols): Usefulness of response depends on NHS England action. These recommendations were specific to NHS England – would not have an impact on Scottish healthcare.

Recommendation 20 (The Tavistock Clinic): Usefulness of response depends on NHS England action – and once again this recommendation was specific to NHS England, and would not have an impact on Scottish healthcare.

Recommendations 21 & 22 (Hate crime legislation): Disappointing response on review of English hate crime legislation. Disappointing response on training for police – there is a much better commitment to this from the Scottish Government.

Recommendations 23, 24 & 25 (Recording names and gender identities): OK on review of gender markers; very disappointing response on gender X on passports. New Zealand and Denmark are two countries who don’t legally recognise non-binary genders, but do have gender X passports. It is also unclear why the UK Government think that an introduction of X markers on passports would have to be a legislative change or tied to non-binary legal gender recognition. The UK Passport Office could start issuing gender X passports simply by making an administrative change. It is also unclear why they would approach the International Civil Aviation Organisation about removing gender from passports, but are unwilling to accept the current option of an X.

Recommendation 26 (Prison and Probation services):  Very weak response. The proposed timeline for the working group is 3 years – considering the two deaths in custody in English prisons of trans women within the last year this is not urgent enough. Also unclear how a policy can be “treating someone as the gender they identify with” if it is continuing to house them in a different estate. The Scottish Prison Service has a much better policy on housing trans people in custody, placing them in the estate which corresponds to their gender identity.

Recommendation 27 (Media): Unclear whether Independent Press Standards Organisation and Ofcom are addressing this recommendation

Recommendation 28 (Online services): Unclear whether government action here will be effective

Recommendation 29 (Schools): Remains unclear what happens on Initial Teacher Training, and focuses on past work rather than changes for the future. Education is a devolved matter, so this recommendation does not apply to Scotland.

Recommendation 30 (Schools): Weak response – the use of “age-appropriate and sensitive manner” seems to leave too much room for interpretation – particularly when we know these are the exact types of arguments people will use for not providing trans-inclusive education. Education is a devolved matter, so this recommendation does not apply to Scotland.

Recommendations 31, 32 & 33 (Post school education): OK response – which further highlights weakness of recommendation 30 re: schools

Recommendation 34 (Social care for young people): The promised study is welcome – action is then needed

Recommendation 35 (Lack of sufficient understanding of transgender issues by professionals in the public sector): OK response – however we imagine that all of these services have equalities training that covers trans issues to an extent, and the letter may just get the response of “our staff are aware of their obligations under the Equality Act”. Monitoring of the effectiveness of the training provided is welcome, but it would seem that the inquiry and subsequent recommendation have already indicated that it is inadequate.

The STA welcomes the publication of the Women and Equalities Committee’s Transgender Equality Inquiry Report

The UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee has published its report of its Inquiry into Transgender Equality. The report recommendations are wide-ranging and we are delighted at the strength with which the report calls for many key improvements.

In particular, we are delighted the report states categorically that the Gender Recognition Act must be reformed to a self-declaration administrative process. Such reform would enable trans people to change their birth certificates without the current red-tape nightmare of submitting intrusive medical and psychiatric reports and years of personal documents to a judicial tribunal panel. We are proud that our Equal Recognition campaign work and the evidence we submitted to the inquiry (both in writing and in person) have been central in helping to secure this recommendation. We call on the Scottish Parliament to lead the way in legislating on the devolved matter of gender recognition.

We are also very pleased the report recommends reforming the Equality Act protected characteristic from the narrow term of ‘gender reassignment’ to the more inclusive term ‘gender identity’. It is vital that all transgender people receive full protection from discrimination in employment and service provision. The Equality Act is reserved legislation so this change needs to be achieved at Westminster.

The report also recommends that once a trans person has changed the gender on their birth certificate, then single sex service providers and employers should not be allowed to exclude them or discriminate. This would bring the letter of the law closer to the good practice standard developed through partnership between ourselves, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and the Scottish LGBT Domestic Abuse project.

The report is the first time any Westminster Committee has acknowledged the importance of addressing the needs of non-binary trans people (who do not identify simply as men or as women). The recommendation that people must be allowed the option to record their gender as ‘X’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’ on their passport is a positive first step forward. We look forward to continuing to engage in detail with both the Scottish and UK Parliaments to increase their understanding of the need to fully legally recognise the identities of non-binary trans people

While the areas of healthcare and hate crime are fully devolved and therefore the Committee could only look at the English systems, we will none-the-less be utilising the Committee’s recommendations to aid our ongoing work improving trans healthcare and hate crime services in Scotland.

We sincerely and warmly thank the members of the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee for all their hard work on understanding so many of the diverse problems faced by trans people and carefully developing achievable recommendations to begin addressing them. We also very greatly appreciate the dozens of trans individuals living in Scotland who helped shape the details of the STA evidence we submitted and the many trans, LGBT, trade union and women’s equality organisations who coordinated with us during evidence submission.

You can read the report at: http://www.parliament.uk/…/transgender-inquiry-report-publ…/

– See more at: http://www.scottishtrans.org/the-sta-welcomes-the-publication-of-the-women-and-equalities-committees-transgender-equality-inquiry-report/#sthash.QqstYqIB.dpuf

The STA give evidence at the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into Trans Equality

TransInquiry

On Tuesday 13th October at 10.30AM, STA manager James Morton gave oral evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry into trans equality. The session covered = a wide range of issues to do with how trans people’s equality is affected by the law, and also trans equality within employment.

You can watch a video of the evidence given on parliament tv

There was a particular focus on:

You can read a summary of the written evidence we submitted to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into trans equality, to give you a background to some of the things James was talking about, as well as our views on other issues of trans equality not covered in this evidence session.

The next session of the inquiry will be on Wednesday, October 28th, when the Committee will be asking Ministers about the evidence they have heard. That will be the final session, and afterwards they will begin writing a report about their findings.

 

Launch of a UK wide non-binary survey

The Scottish Transgender Alliance is today launching a UK wide survey for all non-binary people, defined as those:

“identifying as either having a gender which is in-between or beyond the two categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’, as fluctuating between ‘man’ and ‘woman’, or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time”.

It asks questions on three main subjects: experiences of using services, views on legal gender recognition, and experiences in employment.

The survey will be used to give us a clearer picture of some of the issues being faced by non-binary people in the UK today, and to provide us with real evidence to use in our campaigning and lobbying around improving the rights of all trans people. At the moment, there is little existing literature on some of the specific issues faced by non-binary people beyond what we hear anecdotally from the community – and this is a great opportunity to change that.

If you would like to take the survey, you can do so at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/nonbinarysurvey

The survey should take around 30 minutes to complete. It will be open for 8 weeks, closing on Tuesday 15th September.

If you have any questions about the survey or would like to request it in a different format, please do get in touch with Vic Valentine by emailing vic@equality-network.org or calling the office on 0131 467 6039

Ask your MSPs to support gender X passports for people who do not identify as men or women

We’re delighted that Alison Johnstone MSP has submitted the following motion in the Scottish Parliament supporting non-gendered passports for non-binary people:

Motion S4M-12970: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 21/04/2015
Passports for People who do not Associate with a Particular Gender
That the Parliament recognises that the UK Parliament’s early day motion number 47 relating to the provision of passports to people who do not associate with a particular gender, accumulated 80 signatures; understands the importance to transgender people who are non-binary, and therefore do not identify as male or female, of having passports that reflect their true identity; notes that non-binary people have called on the Labour and Conservative parties to comment on this issue in their manifestos; recognises that a number of other jurisdictions, including Australia and New Zealand, provide their citizens with passports bearing a gender marker other than M or F; believes that, like other trans people, non-binary people have the right to have their gender identity recognised and should therefore be able to obtain passports that reflect the fact that they do not identify as male or female, and urges the next UK Government to consider whether an additional gender marker should be made available on British passports.

Several MSPs have already signed as supporting the motion. It’s really important to raise visibility of non-binary issues so please send a quick email to your local MSPs asking them to sign in support (you can find their contact details at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps.aspx).

Success – Scotland removes spousal veto from equal marriage bill

In a major step forward for trans equality in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee today passed an amendment to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill removing the spousal veto on gender recognition.

The amendment, which was proposed by the Equality Network and Scottish Transgender Alliance, and submitted by Linda Fabiani MSP, means trans people who married in Scotland will be able to have their gender legally recognized without having to get the consent of their spouse.

Without the amendment Scotland’s equal marriage bill would not have delivered genuine marriage equality for trans people. The spousal veto would have enabled the husband or wife of a trans person to deny their partner the right to have the gender they live as recognized in law.

This aspect of the Bill rightly attracted a great deal of criticism from trans people who felt it undermined their personal autonomy.

It is our strong view that legal gender recognition is a human right that should not be able to be vetoed by another person.

Many spouses of trans people were also greatly opposed to the spousal veto and objected to the suggestion they should have control over a fundamental aspect of their partner’s identity.

We have worked hard to ensure our amendment to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill achieves a fair balance of rights between the trans and non-trans spouse.

Previously as well as having the right to an non-contestable divorce, the non-trans spouse was also able to block their partner’s gender recognition. The Bill now redresses this balance by ensuring the trans spouse can obtain gender recognition while continuing to provide their partner with the right to get a divorce if they are not happy staying in the marriage.

As transgender equality is developing across Europe an increasing number of countries are removing divorce requirements from their laws and treating gender recognition as a purely individualized process.

Of the 10 European Countries who have introduced same sex marriage none, apart from England and Wales, have a spousal veto on gender recognition.

We are delighted the Scottish Parliament has taken this opportunity to develop our laws in line with best practice and maintain Scotland’s reputation as a leader on trans equality. Because gender recognition is provided by the UK-wide Gender Recognition Panel (GRP) the Scottish Parliament cannot enact legislation which would change their procedures. If the Bill passes, trans people married in Scotland will therefore continue to apply to the GRP and, if they don’t have the consent of their spouse, will be given an interim gender recognition certificate. Our amendment will then enable them to apply to the Sheriff Court, using a straightforward administrative procedure, and receive full gender recognition.

Since we launched the Equal Marriage campaign in 2008, the Equality Network and Scottish Transgender Alliance have always been determined for trans equality to be an integral part of Scotland’s equal marriage legislation – not an afterthought. We have been eager for the Bill to be well considered and meet the needs of all LGBT people. The success of this amendment means the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was worth waiting for – Scotland can now proudly say that it is set to introduce equal marriage.

No Spousal Veto in Scotland

New Fee Structure for Gender Recognition Panel

The Ministry of Justice is bringing in a new fee system for all tribunals including the Gender Recognition Panel. Despite our own consultation response, and that of other organisations, stating that a single system for all tribunals would have a disproportionately adverse effect on certain applicants, including trans people, the UK Government has decided to go ahead with the proposals.

If you are planning to apply for gender recognition you may wish to consider doing so before the new system comes into place on Monday 7th October.

The new system will work as follows:

Disposable Capital Test

  • This first test assesses the applicant’s disposable capital e.g. savings, investments, second homes etc
  • If an applicant has £3000 or more of disposable capital they will be required to pay the full fee – currently £140 (although this may change when this system comes into force)
  • If an applicant has under £3000 of disposable capital they will move onto the Gross Monthly Income Test

Gross Monthly Income Test

  • This second test assesses the applicant’s gross monthly income i.e. their monthly income before tax from all sources except excluded benefits
  • If an applicant’s income is below the threshold set out in the table below they will not have to pay a fee

Table

  • If an applicant’s income is over the relevant threshold set out in the table above they will be required to make a contribution towards their fee of £5 for each additional £10 income above the threshold, up to the value of the fee e.g. if an applicant has an income of £1185, an additional £100 over the relevant threshold, they will be required to pay £50 towards the fee

 

National Transgender Memorial Vandalised

What is believed to be the only memorial to victims of transphobic violence in the world has been vandalised in Manchester less than a month after it was dedicated.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/07/uk-national-transgender-memorial-vandalised/

PCC to Publish New Guidance for Reporting Trans Issues

The Press Complaints Commission is to publish new guidance for editors on how to report on trans issues and comply with both the letter and the spirit of the Code of Practice.

Here is the link to the PCC announcement.   http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=ODQyMg

Comment: A Law Made by Men for Men

Good article by Jane Fae about on the recent gender non-disclosure Appeal Court ruling:http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2013/07/04/comment-a-law-made-by-men-for-men