Hide me!

Our response to the UK Government’s announcement on the Gender Recognition Act

Today’s announcement by the UK Government that they intend to make only tiny improvements to the Gender Recognition Act in England and Wales is disappointing but not surprising. Reducing the fees is a welcome change. Moving the process online without any change to the underlying requirements will leave the majority of problems with the process still in place: it pathologises trans people by relying on a psychiatric diagnosis, it requires us to submit intrusive medical evidence about our bodies and transition choices, it excludes trans children and young people, and it excludes non-binary people.

It is barely a reform at all. And that’s extremely frustrating given the number of people who got involved in the consultation back in 2018, and the overwhelming majority of support for positive change that was demonstrated then. And that so many other countries around the world have already made the changes we’re calling for. By announcing such minimal improvements, the UK Government has failed to live up to its own ambition to be a world leader on LGBT rights, and has done nothing to reassure us that they are committed to reversing the growing international perception that the UK is now openly hostile towards trans people.

However, it’s important to remember where we were in June: concerned that not only would the GRA not be reformed, but that the UK Government planned to rollback our existing rights.

It was through our collective efforts that we made sure a roll-back of existing trans rights didn’t happen – by mobilising and getting in touch with the Prime Minister and our own MPs. A particular shout out to Gendered Intelligence for their #TrusstMe campaign, and to each and every trans person and ally who used it to have your voice heard.

Of course, the announcement also has the potential to deliver some real positives for our siblings in England and Wales. We hope that plans to open three new Gender Identity Clinics will help reduce the waiting times there, which have been at crisis levels for years (as they also are here).

In Scotland, GRA reform is still in the balance. The current Scottish Government consulted on a draft bill that goes much further than what the UK Government has announced, without being perfect. Work on analysing that consultation and progressing that bill was paused due to coronavirus – we sincerely hope that it will begin again as soon as reasonably possible.

We also know that the pandemic has increased the severe inequalities and hardships already faced by trans people in our daily lives. We wait too long for healthcare we desperately need. We experience employment discrimination. We face hate crime and online abuse. Our day-to-day lives are disrupted by gendered systems that are, by design, hard for us to navigate. Many of these negative experiences are magnified for those of us who are marginalised in multiple ways: who are people of colour, who are disabled, who are poor.

We want to change things. And no matter what society throws at us, we will persist in working hard to create change together.

Read the UK Government’s announcement at: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2020-09-22/hcws462