Gender recognition consultation: questions and answers

The consultation on Gender recognition closed on Monday 22 October at noon, extended from Friday 19 October at 11pm because the servers could not cope with demand. This is what I wrote, and I would love to hear what you think. How can an individual give evidence strengthening the case for gender recognition?

The first questions are about the process. What should you have to do to prove you are serious, or to prove you are trans, before you can get a GRC? They go step-by-step through the process.

1. If you are a trans person, have you previously applied, or are you currently applying, for a Gender Recognition Certificate? If yes, please tell us about your experience of the process. If you have applied, were you successful in obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate?

I got my GRC in January 2006, more than three years after transitioning. I found it extremely expensive and intrusive. I had to pay for further medical reports. Proof of living as a woman was easy for me, as my employer had been supportive and I kept my job from before, so I had monthly wage slips. If I had not had a job, or my job had been more precarious, I would not have got the evidence so easily. Someone might change their name and presentation but have difficulty getting their bank or the passport office to recognise that: the passport office demanded a letter from my GP.

I had no difficulty understanding the requirements, but I had a degree and a professional job. I had a friend who was a solicitor who could hear me affirm the statutory declaration.

I received a GRC without further correspondence, but I had to wait for a response. I knew I was trans. I should not have to have someone judging that.

2. If you are a trans person, please tell us what having Gender Recognition Certificate means, or would mean, to you.

I have not shown it to anyone. I have not felt the need to tell anyone that I have one, except when discussing gender recognition and what it means. It has not affected my right to marry or get a pension earlier. But it means that my womanhood is affirmed by the law, and when my womanhood- my right to be me, my right to express myself as I truly am- is challenged thoughtlessly in the press, in the street and throughout the culture, that means a lot to me. The law is on my side.

3. Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?

No. There are different terms, including “Gender identity disorder”, and other terms may be coined in the future. The draft ICD says that gender incongruence is not a mental illness, and says The individual experiences a strong desire to be treated (to live and be accepted) as a person of the experienced gender. That is, the diagnostician is judging on the basis of what the patient wants. But I know what I want. I should not need a psychiatrist to validate that.

Gender dysphoria should not be medicalised. Some people will want to see a doctor, to discuss how they feel and what they want to do, and to have medical treatment. Others don’t, and should not need to.

4. Do you also think there should be a requirement for a report detailing treatment received?

Ew! No! You’re asking what’s between my legs. Gross! How dare you!

That is a dehumanising question. People would be sitting in judgment on me, as if transition was an inherently suspicious activity and I had to prove I was genuine. But trans is part of ordinary human diversity. Some people are trans- “Get over it!” as Stonewall says. I should be believed I am trans unless there is evidence otherwise.

The New Zealand parliament is considering its Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. The NZ Human Rights Commission provided useful evidence to the select committee, recommending that no diagnosis or evidence of medical treatment should be necessary.

5. Under the current gender recognition system, an applicant has to provide evidence to show that they have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years.
(A) Do you agree that an applicant should have to provide evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for a period of time before applying?

No. Transition is not something anyone undertakes lightly. We have wanted to for a long time before we do it. We might spend a long time planning and preparing: I spent eighteen months after deciding I would do it. It is a risk and a challenge. We learn who our friends are.

Now, some people who have transitioned are validated by the law, and some are not. We are all committed to transition. The time I needed that validation was shortly after transition. I was being insulted in the street, and losing friends. The moment I changed my expression at work, or changing my name, was proof of my commitment.

(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think the current evidential options are appropriate, or could they be amended?
(C) If you answered yes to (A), what length of time should an applicant have to provide evidence for?
(D) If you answered no to (A), should there be a period of reflection between making the application and being awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate?

No. For all the uses a GRC could have, either as evidence or as psychological reassurance, its greatest need is just after transition.

6. Currently applicants for a gender recognition certificate must make a statutory declaration as part of the process.
(A) Do you think this requirement should be retained, regardless of what other changes are made to the gender recognition system?

Yes. Anyone can make a statutory declaration in front of a magistrate. If the required terms are freely available on line, so that a draft could be downloaded and changed to fit the applicant, it should be simple enough. The statutory declaration gives solemnity to the occasion. It protects by criminal sanctions against frivolous or fraudulent applications.

(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think that the statutory declaration should state that the applicant intends to ‘live permanently in the acquired gender until death’?

No. I am clearly trans. I have the diagnosis, and I have been transitioned for sixteen years. When I transitioned, I had heard of people reverting, and thought I might find myself reverting- but even if in five years’ time I was trying to live male again, I knew that I had to transition, to try it, before I could be reconciled to that. Seeking a GRC, with a statutory declaration, is sufficient proof of serious intent.

(C) If you answered no to (A), do you think there should be any other type of safeguard to show seriousness of intent?

I can’t think what that would be. If you have a suggestion, please comment below. Possibly, just wanting to apply is sufficient proof of seriousness of intent. What cis person wants to declare themselves trans?

8. Currently, applicants must pay £140 to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate.
(A) Do you think the fee should be removed from the process of applying for legal gender recognition?
(B) If you answered no to (A), do you think the fee should be reduced?

Possibly, the Stat dec should just go to the registry where your birth certificate is, then they could issue the GRC and the revised birth certificate. Why should there be a central body dealing with gender recognition, or a register of GRCs? This should not be complex. People are trans. So there should be no fee beyond that for the additional birth certificate.

The Government is keen to understand more about the financial cost of achieving legal gender recognition, beyond the £140 application fee.
(C) What other financial costs do trans individuals face when applying for a gender recognition certificate and what is the impact of these costs?

Costs of getting medical evidence might double the fee. Solicitors may charge for drafting and swearing the Stat dec. Clearly, something is putting people off. I have been unemployed, and when unemployed would not have been able to afford a GRC.

 ♥♥♥

The consultation asks about the effects of gender recognition on other people. Of course there aren’t any, not that should prevent gender recognition; but the consultation gives a space for gender critical feminists to claim the end of women’s rights or autonomy. I hope the government does not use their ravings as an excuse to ignore our international human rights.

7. The Government is keen to understand more about the spousal consent provisions for married persons in the Gender Recognition Act. Do you agree with the current provisions?

No. Now, a married person can apply for a GRC with a statutory declaration from the spouse consenting to recognition. If the spouse does not consent, the person applies for an “interim” GRC which either party can use to apply for the marriage to be annulled. After annulment, the person can get a full GRC. There have been 196 interim GRCs, and 130 of them have been converted to full GRCs.

Marriage should not give rights of control over the spouse. Anyone should be able to get their gender recognised. Either party might want a divorce after the gender was recognised, and existing law would allow either to claim it.

9. Do you think the privacy and disclosure of information provisions in section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act are adequate?

It’s a criminal offence to out someone in particular circumstances, but no-one has ever been prosecuted for it. It should be a crime to out someone with the intention of causing them harm, and a crime recklessly to out someone where harm has resulted. More here.

10. If you are someone who either has, or would want to undergo legal gender transition, and you have one or more of the protected characteristics [grounds for protection against discrimination], which protected characteristics apply to you? You may tick more than one box. Please give us more information about how your protected characteristic has affected your views on the GRC application process.

Well. White people are protected against race discrimination, and men against most sex discrimination. Cis people are not protected: anyone can lawfully discriminate in favour of trans people. Anyone is protected against discrimination on grounds of age. Sexual orientation means orientation towards the same sex, the opposite sex, or either sex: so if you change gender, you change orientation too unless you are Bi. But perception matters too: if I am perceived as gay, and discriminated against because of that, even though I am not perceived as trans, I would have a claim even if I am straight. Proof of motivation can be difficult.

If I were to claim equal pay for work of equal value, the person I compared myself to would have to be male. Men are likely to be paid more, but these claims are difficult.

11. Is there anything you want to tell us about how the current process of applying for a GRC affects those who have a protected characteristic?

There is nothing in the consultation about young people. At the moment, you cannot apply for a GRC before the age of 18, and might not have the evidence then. The Scottish consultation proposed allowing 16 year olds to apply, and various ways parents could affirm for younger children. Mermaids, the charity for trans youth, has a statement on this.

This is also the space for the gender critical feminists to do their stuff. All accusations that gender recognition means the death of feminism, the end of women’s rights and an irruption of men in women’s spaces, perving and assaulting, go here.

Yes, I am mocking. No, I am not taking those accusations seriously, because they are completely groundless and increasing gender recognition elsewhere has furnished no evidence to support them.

Then there are a series of questions on how gender recognition might affect people with rights under the Equality Act exemptions. Initially, I thought them stupid questions. They depend on the interpretation of the Equality Act, so are issues of law rather than fact. After gender recognition, we remain “transsexual persons” according to that Act. They give an opportunity for anyone to claim they are affected, and explain why. I don’t think there is any reason anyone would be affected.

12. Do you think that the participation of trans people in sport, as governed by the Equality Act 2010, will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Women remain subject to gender tests. Sports bodies can make rules about safety and fairness, and clearly could ban a trans woman who had not had hormone therapy on those grounds.

13. (A) Do you think that the operation of the single-sex and separate-sex service exceptions in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. They can still exclude trans people in rare, particular cases.

(B) If you provide a single or separate sex service, do you feel confident in interpreting the Equality Act 2010 with regard to these exemptions?

I can see that some people might not feel confident. Excluding someone leaves you open to a claim of discrimination, and even if you are likely to win you still face worry and expense. But if there is a good reason (a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim) they may exclude.

(C) If you are a trans person who has experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, were you able to access support?

I have not, thank God, but I understand some services include trans folk. Why should they not?

14. Do you think that the operation of the occupational requirement exception in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Single sex services will still be able to employ cis people of that sex. The consultation document explains that the Equality Act exemptions will still apply. But, again, there is room for the “Help help the sky is falling” interjections. I hope they only want junior civil servants to get a good laugh. I fear such meretricious objections will be taken seriously.

Similarly, single sex communal accommodation (q15) and armed forces combat effectiveness (q16) will not be affected. The government don’t think insurance (q18) will be affected, and nor do I. Q19 refers to other public services, including hospitals and prisons. There are provisions for dangerous cis women to be placed in the male estate, so these will continue to apply to dangerous trans women. Prisons are underfunded death traps, unfit for human habitation, and a disgrace, but that is not going to be affected by gender recognition.

17. Do you think that the operation of the marriage exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Religious people are officially allowed to be bigotted against us, because of their “beliefs”. Then again, it should be. A baptised member of, say, the Assemblies of God or the Jehovah’s Witnesses should be able to force them to recognise her/his gender. But there is no proposal to change this law.

Q20 asks about non-binary gender, and that’s tomorrow’s post.

5 thoughts on “Gender recognition consultation: questions and answers

  1. I’ll hold off on commenting until after reading your response to Q20 as I believe having a strictly binary definition of gender is, in itself, harmful.

    But what I am trying to understand is why a GRC should be necessary at all. I see that there is nothing in the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration bill making its way through the NZ parliament, nor in proposed changes to it to allow self-declaration of gender identity, that deems such a certificate as necessary.

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    • It’s not something you show to anyone so- yeah. Why have a GRC? To keep, as a memento of a stage in transition? As a symbol of difference- some people have normal gender, but other people need special procedures? There could just be a record where your birth is registered, that you have changed your gender record.

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      • From my perspective the main reason for a trans person in the UK to get a GRC is so that their birth certificate can be corrected.

        There are circumstances where (e.g.) potential employers might ask to see your birth certificate (particularly if you don’t have a passport), and having a GRC ensures that that doesn’t become a cause for concern.

        I’ve had my GRC since (IIRC) late 2005. In practice I’ve not had to produce my birth certificate either, but I know it’s something that could potentially come up in future so I’m glad I had it corrected when I did, and before the GRP started getting arsy with applicants.

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        • Welcome. Thank you for commenting.

          Barry is not opposing gender recognition, just the procedure for it.

          The question is why should a specific piece of paper exist? It makes us stand out. Why not just send a stat dec to the Registrar, who keeps a note of it and sends out an amended birth certificate? So you have a birth certificate like everyone else, with your acquired gender on it but not anything obvious showing that’s different from the original record, but no special piece of paper only for trans people.

          If absolutely necessary, I would produce my birth certificate rather than my GRC, and use my passport for ID, so why have a GRC?

          Liked by 1 person

        • But why the need for GRC to enable the change on the birth certificate? Why isn’t the steps you must go through to obtain a GRC sufficient to directly grant a change on a birth certificate? It seems to me that apart from showing you have changed gender in the past it serves little purpose. In the NZ context, it would be much like having your passport and driver’s licence marked with your currently assigned gender, while leaving your birth certificate marked with the gender you were assigned at birth. The difference in gender markers is evidence that you have chosen to live as a gender that is different from the one you were assigned at birth. Changing the birth certificate to match your currently assigned gender doesn’t change who you are. It simply expunges the fact that the gender you were assigned at birth is different from the gender you now identify as. To top it off, a birth certificate is not a legal form of identity in NZ. It carries the disclaimer “This certificate is not evidence of the identity of the person presenting it” to reinforce that fact.

          Personally, I can see no reason at all why there is any need to record sex or gender on a birth certificate, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another time.

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