The importance of reforming the Gender Recognition Act and trans rights

The need to improve and protect trans rights is clear. The Government’s LGBT+ Survey found trans people in the UK face unacceptable levels of abuse and discrimination - two in five trans people have had a hate crime committed against them in the last year alone; two in five trans young people saying they have attempted suicide; and shockingly, one in eight trans people have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers at work. This is unacceptable and must end.

It is with immense pride therefore for LGBT+ Conservatives that it is the Conservative Party which is leading the way on trans rights, first through the Transgender Equality strategy in 2011, and the LGBT+ Survey and Action Plan this year. One of the most important of the 75 commitments in the Action Plan was to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

While the Equality Act (2010) already requires equal treatment regardless of gender reassignment or sex, the GRA governs how people have their identity legally recognised. It’s seriously out of date however and in need reform. LGBT+ Conservatives therefore fully supports reform of the Gender Recognition Act, echoing the view of Stonewall that a reformed GRA should follow three principles:

  1. the gender recognition process for birth certificates should be de-medicalised and made a less bureaucratic process
  2. recognise non-binary identities;
  3. give all trans people, including 16–17-year-olds, the right to self-determination, through a much simpler and more streamlined administrative process

The consultation covers many complex, personal, and sometimes difficult issues or questions. LGBT+ Conservatives therefore recommends as many people as possible fill out the consultation which can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004

The consultation closes at 11pm on Friday 19th October.

Building on the three principles above, the National Executive and Council of LGBT+ Conservatives’ wishes to express support for:

An end to requiring a ‘gender dysphoria’ diagnosis

As the Prime Minister said in her speech at last year’s PinkNews awards, a medicalised transition process is wrong – because being trans is not an illness. Requiring a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to proceed with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) application is invasive and demeaning. A simple process of legal self-determination is international best practice, as used in Denmark, Ireland, Malta and Norway. A system of self-determination would mean that trans people who do not experience gender dysphoria will, quite rightly, not need to receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to obtain a GRC.

This is covered by Question 3 in the consultation.

An end to needing a report detailing ‘treatment’

Requiring a report detailing treatment received gives the impression that transition is a medicalised process. It can pressure trans people to undergo surgery and other procedures, even though they are not legally obligated to do so.  A simple process of legal self-determination is international best practice, as used in Denmark, Ireland, Malta and Norway.

This is covered by Question 4 in the consultation.

Privacy for statutory declarations

GRC applicants should be able to make a statutory declaration that they intend to live permanently in the acquired gender, as occurs in Ireland. It is important for access to these records be strictly limited to ensure trans people are not involuntarily outed.

This is covered by Question 6 in the consultation.

An end to the idea of a ‘spousal veto’

It does not feel right for trans people to have their freedom to self-determine vetoed by their spouse. That self-determination is theirs and theirs alone. It is our view that provisions for divorce or annulment already exist.

This is covered by Question 7 in the consultation.

The privacy provisions of the GRA must be robust

The privacy of those applying for or who have been awarded a GRC should be safeguarded. The ability of trans people, who have had their privacy breached, to bring a prosecution through the police to a magistrates’ court should be strengthened. Guidance for police about the need to bring such cases to court swiftly should be easy to access. Additionally, steps should be taken to make sure employers understand that they cannot ask for a GRC, nor out a trans person against their will.

This is covered by Question 9 in the consultation.

Considerations for single-sex and separate-sex services and activities

There seems no reason that moving from the current GRC application process to a simple, demedicalised process of self-determination would affect the aspects of the Equality Act 2010 that cover sport, single-sex and separate-sex services, occupational requirement, communal accommodation, armed forces, marriage, insurance and law, and public services. LGBT+ Conservatives therefore backs the position of the equalities minister, Penny Mordaunt MP, that trans women are women.

This is covered by Question 12 - 19 in the consultation.

Protecting non-binary and intersex identities

LGBT+ Conservatives welcomes recognition by the government, select committees, and other institutions, of non-binary and intersex gender identities. Forcing identification as ‘male’ or ‘female’ can cause considerable distress to some non-binary people. Consideration should therefore be given of the approach taken by other countries and regions such as Malta, Argentina, New South Wales, Oregon, California, Denmark, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, which allow a person who does not identity as a man or as a woman to have their non-binary identity legally recognised, including in many instances on their identity documents. 

This is covered by Question 20 in the consultation.