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Photography Asafe Ghalib

Activists respond to the reduced fee for Gender Recognition Certificates

The £140 cost has been cut to £5 – but LGBTQ+ charities say the move isn’t a substitute for meaningful reform to the Gender Recognition Act

Today (May 4), the UK government has announced that the fee to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) – which legally recognises someone’s chosen gender – will be cut from £140 to £5.

Equalities minister Liz Truss said in a statement that the move removes a “barrier” for trans people, who the government wants “to be free to live and to prosper in modern Britain”.

The decision has been implemented after first being announced in September (though the government hadn’t previously confirmed the new cost) when the government scrapped proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, despite the 2018 consultation receiving over 108,000 responses.

Although the cost will be lower, this means that trans people will still need a mental health diagnosis of gender dysphoria – something that hasn’t been considered a mental illness in the UK since 2002 – in order to self-identify their gender or change their birth certificates.

The price drop and scrapping of reforms ignores the fact that 80 per cent of respondents to the 2018 review were in favour of demedicalising the process of obtaining a GRC, as well as a 2020 poll which showed that 57 per cent of women agreed that trans people should be able to self-identify. It also does nothing to address the prolonged, exhaustive, and excessively bureaucratic process of acquiring a certificate.

Speaking to Dazed via email, Eloise Stonborough, the associate director of policy and research at Stonewall, says: “While the reduced fee is a small step in the right direction, it still falls far short of the meaningful reform to the Gender Recognition Act that was promised by the UK government in 2018. Any application fee for a Gender Recognition Certificate creates a barrier for some trans people. It’s also important that the UK government sets out a clear timeline of the further changes to streamline the application process and move it online.”

According to the government, as of December 2020, there have been just 5,871 GRCs granted since 2005, despite there being between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people living in the UK.

“Following the considerable wait, we welcome the lowering of fees for Gender Recognition Certificates,” a spokesperson for Mermaids, a charity that supports trans youth, tells Dazed. “However, we must keep questioning this lengthy and often invasive process, and we must ask why non-binary people and those under 18 are not being afforded the same opportunity.” 

“A GRC offers certain protections and privacy for trans people that can ensure safety at work, in education, and other environments – not extending this to those under 18 is putting young trans and non-binary people at unneccessary risk,” the spokesperson continues. At the time of writing, a petition to make non-binary a legally recognised gender in the UK has amassed over 120,000 signatures.

“All trans people deserve to be respected for who they are,” adds Stonborough. “Westminster’s failure to introduce a streamlined and demedicalised gender recognition system based on self-determination, which includes non-binary people, continues to be a hurdle in progressing LGBTQ+ equality across the UK.”