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Welsh Pride
Welsh PrideVia Wikimedia Commons

Wales joins Scotland in defying Westminster on trans rights

As Westminster is attempting to slap down similar proposals from Scotland, the Welsh government is now seeking to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender

The Welsh government has unveiled a new LGBTQ+ action plan, which includes proposals to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender.

This comes just weeks after Westminster announced that it would attempt to block similar legislation put forward by the Scottish government, on the basis that it risks conflicting with the UK’s existing equalities law (a claim that trans advocates dispute.)

In order to legally change their gender, people across the UK currently have to apply to a gender recognition panel (an intrusive and often humiliating process) and usually have to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria first. The Welsh government is proposing to swap this process out in favour of a system based on self-identification, which is similar to the law recently passed in Scotland and increasingly in line with international norms. The plan would also allow non-binary people to be officially recognised on their driving licences and passports. 

Beyond trans rights specifically, the plan aims to improve the rights of all LGBTQ+ people in Wales. One aspect is a proposed ban on all forms of “conversion therapy”, a term which refers to any form of treatment aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy is widely condemned by LGBTQ+ organisations. A coalition of charities, including Stonewall, recently released a short film titled ‘It’s Not Therapy, It’s Abuse’, which raised awareness about the immense physical and psychological harm being inflicted while these practices are still legal. 

The plan would also provide trans guidance for the Welsh education system, as well as ensure that maternity and fertility treatments are fairly accessible for LGBTQ+ people.  Wales’s minister for social partnership, Hannah Blythyn said: “The plan is ambitious but with hope at its heart. We are absolutely committed to meaningful change for LGBTQ+ communities, creating a society and country where LGBTQ+ people are safe to live and love authentically, openly and freely as ourselves.”

Not everyone in Wales has welcomed these proposals, however. According to Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Equalities, Altaf Hussain, Labour ministers are using LGBTQ+ people “as a political tool […] in their bid to secure more powers.” While it’s heartening to see that the Welsh government has not been intimidated by the British government’s efforts to overturn similar reforms in Scotland, it faces a major barrier: as it stands, Wales does not have the power to introduce its own gender recognition, and would effectively need to seek permission from Westminster. Considering the Tory party’s ongoing hostility towards trans rights, this doesn’t seem likely to happen.

A spokesperson for Stonewall Cymru welcomed the proposals, but said that “we should not be complacent.”

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