Government plans to drop gender recognition reforms is detrimental to our progress for equality

Trans rights and move to equality

Trans rights and move to equality

Following recent Government announcements, Boris Johnson is poised to scrap proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The proposals would allow people to change their legal gender by “self-identifying” as male or female. The measures were drawn up under Theresa May’s government with the goal of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificate without a medical diagnosis. The consultation which started 2017/2018, which was seemingly very positive and set to be implemented, has now stalled and feedback and the outcome of the consultation have disappeared.

The announcements mark a significant backwards step on the path toward equality for the trans community and could see the United Kingdom plummet down the LGBTQ+ equality rankings, where once we were rising stars.

The long-awaited reform of the GRA heralded a move to :

  1. Self-identification, rather than seeking a 'diagnosis ' / report from the NHS or if you are lucky a private medical facility (This is already in place in Ireland ) and means you do not have to disclose private medical information ;
  2. It hoped to avoid the £140 fee; and
  3. You didn't need to get your married/civil partners consent.
  4. The process would be faster and slimmed down as you would also no longer be required to gain accreditation from two separate medical experts and provide proof of living in your true gender for two years allowing a panel to offer ultimate judgement of your identity

The present process means a panel of experts you will never personally meet, who will ask you no questions or give you feedback makes this decision based on medical reports. Furthermore, you have no right to appeal.

What is the definition of trans - there can be some misunderstandings, so want to get the basics straight?

The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to us at birth.

The law provides protection for transsexual people at work, in education, as a consumer, when using public services, when buying or renting property, or as a member or guest of a private club or association. Protection against discrimination by association with a transsexual person is also included.

Do you have to of undergone medical treatment hormones or surgery to qualify for a GRA certificate; be classed as trans or be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act?

 Absolutely not, "A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person's sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex." It can be 10 years before you consider any form of hormones or surgery and you will still qualify

Do I need to obtain a GRC certificate to change my name, passport and other documents?

In order to obtain a new birth certificate, you will need a GRC,  but you can at any time change your name and then apply for a new passport, bank account and utility bills in your new name. Most transgender people change their first name to something more gender identity-appropriate for them, this can be done via Deed Poll. They also may want others to address them in a different way (man, woman, non-binary) and to have the sex indicated on personal documents and records changed. The law allows you to change your name at any time and without any special permission or process. This applies to everyone, including people who change their gender.

What are the criteria for a GRC application to succeed

  • you must be 18 or over
  • you’ve been diagnosed with gender dysphoria (discomfort with your birth gender) - this is also called gender identity disorder, gender incongruence or transsexualism
  • you’ve lived in your acquired gender for at least 2 years
  • you intend to live in your acquired gender for the rest of your life

You do not have to:

  • Undergo any surgery
  • Take any hormones
  • Undergo any form of medical treatment

This current process is criticised by many LGBTQ+ people and organisations for being dehumanising, bureaucratic, expensive and leaving non-binary people out altogether. The current system allows you to change your gender marker from male to female, or female to male. “Non-binary people can't have their gender recognised under the current legislation. Sadly, for this reason, many do not go through the application process. They will need instead seek to rely on the protections offered by the Equality Act 2010.

Resistance

Resistance to these proposals was met by anti-trans lobbyists for various reasons, namely, due to concerns that the reforms could be open to abuse by sexual abusers posing as a woman in order to infiltrate women’s toilets and changing rooms. This can be seen as a public debate as JK Rowling bought this to light on twitter and created a public debate on safety issues for women. However, when you follow the arguments through the evidence and facts simply do not support the position put forward in this debate and in fact contradict them strongly.

Safety 

Trans people have been able to legally access single-sex spaces (with some exceptions) since the Equality Act in 2010. The Gender Recognition Act makes no changes to the Equality Act and thus this issue. A risk assessment will be carried out, say for a female refugee camp, if it is deemed unsafe for the trans person or the women in the camp then the trans person can be lawfully excluded and an alternative will be found. However, it must be genuine, propionate and non-discriminatory.

This means that under current laws, trans people have a default right to use single-sex areas as they choose. They can only be excluded if doing so can be justified as proportionate. As such the proposed changes would not make any difference to these current petitions. Women-only services can continue to provide services in a different way, or even not provide services to trans individuals, provided it is objectively justified on a case-by-case basis.

The same can be said about toilets, changing rooms or single-sex activities. Providers may exclude trans people from facilities of the sex they identify with, providing it is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim. However, how this is monitored to be fair, propionate and not discriminatory is a practical reality we need to face.

Facing Discrimination and Abuse: 

The Government need urgently to implement policies to improve confidence in reporting by treating hate crimes based on gender identity, sexual orientation and disability equally to those based on race and faith under the law, by making them aggravated offences.

The Prosecution Service, as well as the Judiciary, must ensure their prosecutors and judges are comprehensively trained on transphobic hate crimes on and offline, to ensure trans people's identities and privacy are respected.

Facing discrimination at work

The lives of many trans people at work remain difficult, that’s if a jo is secured since such a small percentage can obtain employment. As such, there is discrimination on recruitment, entry and during employment that must each be tackled. Many face bullying and discrimination, including an alarming number of trans employees who have been physically attacked at work. Trans employees often deliberately hide their identity because they fear being discriminated against at work and many are so uncomfortable to the extent, they are fearful to go to the bathroom for fear of reprisals.

Employers should develop clear zero-tolerance policies on transphobic bullying, discrimination and harassment policies, supported by all-staff training ‐ they should develop a policy to support trans employees who are transitioning, including information on confidentiality, dress codes and using facilities, with related guidance for line managers. Communication, policies and training will help develop a culture of diversity, equality and respect but it has to be from the managers down and staff upwards.

Conversation and communications underpinned by legal change is the only way to break down stigma. Supporters are required in every walk of life : workplace, school and community to work with the Government to change attitudes and break down the barriers that the community face.

 

ACLF Cases pioneering to change the law

Last year ACLF sought to change legislation to allow a transparent to record their legal gender on their children's birth certificate. Freddie McConnell gave birth to his son whilst in receipt of a GRC and legally a man. He wanted the law to follow threw and allow his legal gender to be considered when registering the birth of his son. Currently, this meant registering him as 'mother' rather than 'father' or even 'parent'.

We represented a case where a parent was denied contact with their children, after the children were told they had died by the other parent because they would not accept the gender change. Sadly, because of religion, considered a detriment to the children and a lack of understanding by the court an application to grant contact was denied.

We won a case previously against a large established business that offered no support and took no action when a trans man was bullied and discriminated at work. The worse was the in-house lawyer was the one sending bullying and intimidating emails and images encouraging a hostile working environment. The company paid a lot in compensation and had its policies scrutinised and stated as discriminatory and hostile.

A child who wished not to be labelled at a young age as trans was not afforded protection due to this, as without a legal label, the Equality Act could not be used. The school, the parents and a charity with this firm showed just how unfair and disingenuous this was and allowed the child ultimately to dress in their new gender at school and live a life that offered them happiness and security

This sadly is a taster of what we do in London despite being perceived as a country of equality.

Following these announcements, it has been reported that instead, the Government will implement a ban on “gay cure” therapies, often described as an attempt to pacify LGBTQ+ people. In conjunction with this, the government plans to introduce new safeguards to protect female-only spaces including refuges and public lavatories.