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Trans rights are human rights

Why the government must let trans people self-define their gender

The British Medical Association has passed a historic motion in favour of trans rights – here’s why the government needs to act now

The British Medical Association (BMA) is calling on the government to ensure the rights of trans and non-binary people in accessing healthcare, after a historic motion ruling in favour of trans rights.

The motion, which passed on September 16 at the trade union’s Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM), states that trans and non-binary people should be able to self-declare their legal gender without the need for a medical diagnosis. It also demands continued access to gender-related healthcare for under-18s, trans people accessing healthcare in settings “appropriate to their gender identity”, ensuring trans healthcare workers can access facilities of the gender they identify as, and ensuring all trans people can access gendered spaces in line with their gender identity.

The announcement follows a recent campaign launched by Trans in The City, in collaboration with LGBTQ+ charities Intermedia, InterTech, Stonewall, Mermaids, BP Pride, Mind Out, and Gendered Intelligence, where 136 major UK companies, including Microsoft, Disney, and Sky, came together in support of the trans community. It also coincided with London’s second-ever Trans+ Pride on September 11, where thousands of protesters marched to demand legal recognition for non-binary people, an end to non-consensual surgeries on intersex people, and a progressive reform of the UK’s Gender Recognition Act – the law that governs the way adult trans men and women gain legal recognition of their gender.

“We as doctors are in a unique position, because we’re asked to take an active role in people’s transitions,” said Dr Grace Allport, who spoke in favour of the motion at the BMA’s virtual ARM yesterday.

“I hope the BMA ruling gets doctors to reflect on what we’re trying to do here,” she added. “And I hope GPs who are concerned about providing treatment like hormones will see that they have the backing of the medical community at large.”

Currently, the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) states that adult trans men and women who want to have their gender legally recognised (this is important for administrative purposes such as taxes, pensions, and marriages) must have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – a process that can be intrusive and humiliating (and, at £140, costly). Also, under-18s cannot legally apply to change their gender.

Reforming the GRA and removing the need for trans people to have a medical diagnosis to get their gender legally recognised was suggested by former prime minister Theresa May in 2017. Still, the Conservative government has yet to announce plans to reform the GRA, despite leaked reports earlier this year that suggested 70 per cent of the more than 100,000 people who responded to the public consultation back demedicalising the gender recognition process in the UK.

Back in July, a poll conducted by YouGov also pointed to a majority of women (57 per cent) in favour of transgender people self-identifying as a gender different from that which they were assigned at birth.

“It is already very difficult to access doctors who are willing to acknowledge that their patients are trans, and (if needed) to refer them quickly onto services that can deliver medical transition. The scrapping of (the ability to self-identify) sends a message to the public that transgender people should not be believed, and that they should not have a say in their own health care rights,” Voices4 London organiser and trans artist, Wednesday Holmes, told Dazed in July.

“The government has scrapped the plans despite 70 per cent of the responses being in favour because they’re afraid,” added Voices4 London organiser Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin. “They’re not ready to accept that the world is moving forward and leaving them and their bigoted views behind. Now, more than ever, we, as cis allies, need to be speaking out in solidary with our trans+ siblings. Trans rights are human rights.”

Find out more at Stonewall here