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London’s inaugural Trans Pride 17
Photography Netti Hurley

The UK government won’t legally recognise non-binary as a gender identity

Responding to a petition with over 130,000 signatures, the government has said it has ‘no plans’ to provide recognition

The UK government has said it has “no plans” to legally recognise non-binary as a gender identity, despite a recent petition calling for recognition amassing over 130,000 signatures.

In its response, the government said: “The 2018 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultation did not bring forward any proposals to extend the GRA to provide legal recognition to a third, or non-binary, gender.” The statement added that non-binary recognition would raise “complex practical consequences for other areas of the law, service provision, and public life”.

The petition, created on October 26, read: “By recognising non-binary as a valid gender identity, it would aid in the protection of non-binary individuals against transphobic hate crimes, and would ease gender dysphoria experienced by non-binary people.”

Speaking to Dazed, Joe Nellist, the communications coordinator at the LGBT Foundation, says the news is “extremely disappointing, but regrettably does not come as a surprise”. He continues: “The government has continued to refuse to grant non-binary people the same recognition and protections in law that many cisgender people take for granted. Over half of the trans respondents to the government’s own National LGBT Survey in 2018 identified as non-binary and this figure continues to grow.”

Nellist adds: “The law must be reformed so that non-binary people can have the option to have their identity recognised and protected by law – including on official documentation such as passports – to improve the accuracy of those documents and bring us in line with international standards set by countries such as Iceland, Australia, and Canada.”

“Everyone has the right to live freely as themselves, and that includes having legal documents which represent who they are,” says Eloise Stonborough, the associate director of policy and research at Stonewall. “It’s deeply disappointing that the government has reiterated that it doesn’t plan to introduce legal recognition for non-binary people.” 

“The UK, which was first place in 2015 on the IGLA Rainbow Europe Index, now lies at 10th place,” she tells Dazed. “If this government wants to be taken seriously as a global leader in LGBTQ+ rights, it needs to take real action to protect and support our communities, from introducing legal recognition for non-binary people to bringing in a full legal ban on conversion therapy.”

In an interview with Dazed Beauty last year, writer and model Radam Ridwan reflected on the importance of legitimising a person’s chosen identity. “The binary and rules around the binary are hurting everyone, not just non-binary people,” they said. “We can evolve by legitimising non-binary identities and legitimising the idea that there’s no way of being any gender. It’s helping everyone get out of this trap that we’ve built for ourselves, which is such a binary way of seeing people of different sexes, gender, and everything in our lives.”

The latest announcement comes eight months after the government published its long-awaited response to the 2018 consultation on the GRA, which effectively scrapped any proposed reforms. Instead of making meaningful changes, earlier this month, the government cut the fee for Gender Recognition Certificates from £140 to £5. Speaking to Dazed at the time, a spokesperson for trans youth charity Mermaids said the lower fees were welcomed but that “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”.