The UK government is currently consulting on important new rights for trans, non-binary and intersex people
Back in 2004, the Gender Recognition Act was implemented in the UK – it was an important step for trans rights, giving trans people the opportunity to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate that legally recognised their gender identity. It affects how people access public services, apply for jobs, and a myriad of practical things a lot of cis people take for granted.
The Gender Recognition Act, less than 15 years later, is in need of serious reform. Trans people have voiced its failings, and a Women and Equalities Committee study back in 2016 formally detailed its shortcomings.
For those wishing to get a Gender Recognition certificate, it can be an intrusive and humiliating process. Trans people are required to receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria as a mental health diagnosis, despite the fact it hasn’t been considered a mental illness in the UK since 2002. A panel decides upon each case in what can be a prolonged, exhaustive, excessively bureaucratic process – the Gender Recognition Panel takes these lives in their hands, but never meets applicants. The Scottish government described the process in 2017 as “intrusive and onerous”. It’s also pretty costly, at £140 just to apply with no guarantee.
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Only 4,910 people (around 1 per cent of the UK’s trans population, according to RightsInfo) have legally changed their gender since the GRA came about in 2004. Ultimately, trans people aren’t using the process as it is right now – it’s inaccessible, financially straining, complex, and intrusive.
When the process doesn’t turn out how an applicant needs to have their gender legally recognised, it can mean trans women are placed in male prisons – in some instances these women have been driven to suicide.
Campaigners and organisations like Stonewall – who are currently running the ‘Come Out for Trans Equality’ campaign – are calling for a new look for the GRA which would require no medical diagnosis or presentation of evidence, which recognises non-binary identities (who currently have no right to legal recognition at all), and gives trans people the right to ‘self-determination’ or self-ID, including 16 and 17-year-olds, in a simpler process.
Right now, the Government is engaging in a public consultation on reforming the GRA. It’s an opportunity for lawmakers to hear feedback, suggestions and personal experiences on whether they can fix the current law or introduce a new one. This has already happened in Scotland, where it’s a devolved matter.
“It’s important for other people to come out in support of trans / non-binary equality because allies matter hugely,” campaigner and author Juno Roche told Stonewall. “The trans community is a vital, vibrant part of society and we deserve a secure, happy space.”
Every day, trans people are forced to debate their identity, fight for their right to exist, and field abuse and criticism from people with huge public platforms. 45 per cent of trans people have attempted suicide, and abuse of trans people online and off is relentless. Just look at Lily Madigan, the young Labour women’s officer who was subjected to abuse by anti-trans activists when she spoke at parliament, or the full-page advertisement taken out by transphobic groups in a London newspaper to spread fear-mongering, hate and intolerance. This is the chance to bring LGBTQ+ rights into the modern world and make it a safer, more welcoming and tolerant place. Stand by your trans loved ones, friends, colleagues, people online and off this week.
The GRA consultation is open until Friday October 19. You can fill it out here, where Stonewall has condensed the longer consultation into something more simple and straightforward, with all the important info you need.