The Women and Equalities Committee is seeking evidence on gender recognition reform. This is torture. The WEC in 2016 took evidence and decided that trans legal rights should be improved. Then the Tory government said no. Then Theresa May, then Prime Minister, in 2017 said trans legal rights should be improved in this small, merely symbolic way. Then they delayed and delayed and delayed. Then Liz Truss said no. This phrase Truss used, “kinder and more straightforward”, while retaining all the unkind and Byzantine bits, was particularly cruel. It’s not gaslighting, as gaslighting is about making you doubt your own perceptions, but the feeling is as painful, hope given then slowly withdrawn.
The deadline is 27 November.
Trans and LGBT+ groups can give evidence on the effects on trans people as a whole. Lawyers can debate the meaning of the various provisions. For individuals, the main evidence is personal experience. No, the system now does not work, and this is why. Any number of trans people, all saying why the system is unworkable and humiliating, might help. Why should the Gender Recognition Panel be entitled to know what is between my legs? “Have you had the operation?” It’s the question the tolerant, curious members of the public ask trans women, to find whether we are “real transsexuals” or not. It is humiliating.
How does it make you feel?
How has it affected you? With Theresa May tantalising us in July 2017, and the hate campaign waged ever since by anti-trans campaigners in The Times and elsewhere, what experience have you of anti-trans hate? Some certainty, with the law reformed and not going to be reformed again, might help. When have you been excluded? When have you been unwelcome? When have you felt unwelcome?
If I give evidence about the humiliation, it may be published on line under my name. I can ask for my name to be withheld, or for the evidence to be considered but not published, and I have no idea whether they would do that. I hope the committee would not put my name, which could be found by google, next to an account of my experiences. However, putting my name might make my evidence stronger. I am prepared to put my name to this.
There are eleven MPs on the committee: six Tory, four Labour, one SNP. None are out as trans or nonbinary, and two appear to be men, the rest women. I have not heard of them. Caroline Nokes, the chair, appears to be an ally. I assume they have researchers to assist.
The questions are lengthy and detailed. They give scope for trans people to give our personal experience, to show why the system is not working.
Some can be given a clear answer. “Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?” Of course. When the ICD changes in January 2022, gender dysphoria will not be classified as an illness, and it is not an illness now. Some people are trans. We know we are trans. There should be no requirement for psychiatrists to be involved, any more than you need a psychiatrist to certify you are gay before you have a same-sex marriage. That this is so clear says something about Truss’s refusal to reform the system. Doctor’s letters are expensive and unnecessary, yet she retains the requirement.
I am not ill. ICD 11 confirms I am not ill. To require me to get a letter from a specialist psychiatrist saying I am not ill in a particular way is ridiculous.
Some of the questions are very wide. “What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?” Design your own system.
Unfortunately, there is the question “Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?” It gives transphobes an excuse to vomit their hate.
These are my answers to the questions. I have not decided whether to give evidence. Evidence should not be published elsewhere. If it is longer than 3000 words you should give a summary.
Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?
Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?
The fee should be no greater than for a duplicate birth certificate. Doctor’s letters cost money. If you have a GRC, tell of the worry and expense. If not, say what has deterred you. If you can’t yet, say what difference it might make.
Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?
Yes (see above).
Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?
It should be possible to get a GRC before living in the acquired gender. Though the NatWest bank had a policy allowing change of gender, the ignorant man who served me did not know it, and demanded that I produce a passport in my new name before he would change my name on my account. I had to complain about him. The time I need a GRC is when I change all my details. So, giving evidence:
What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?
It should record only that I am trans, and what my gender is, in the words I choose.
Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?
If the spouse or civil partner objects to gender change, the marriage is over. Either the objection or the change could be construed to be “unreasonable behaviour” so there is grounds for divorce for either party. The other party should not be able to block gender recognition. Again, the call is for “evidence”- I might leave that question for those who have had a spousal refusal of consent. If you have had that experience, give evidence.
Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?
Yes. Again, if you have had the experience of transition before age 18, or knowing you wanted to, tell the committee about it.
What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?
Virtually none. Here is the Ministerial statement. The changes are to “place the whole procedure online”, which makes no sense- you swear or affirm a statutory declaration before a solicitor or magistrate, and cannot do that online. And to reduce the fee of £140, which is not the main expense.
What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?
Remove the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender. My word should be sufficient. Giving evidence to the committee, explain what difficulty you had getting the necessary documents. I sent off wage slips. Not everyone has them.
Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004?
Yes. I wrote about the draft bill. It is better in that it removes the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender, and the need for a diagnosis, but the waiting time is unnecessary.
Wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation:
Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?
Expense, delay, and the ability to get passport and driving licence without a GRC. I have not shown my GRC to anybody. It did not change my rights, my self-perception or others’ understanding of me in any way. If you do not have a GRC, say why not.
Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.
Getting a GRC does not affect trans women’s rights to be in women’s spaces. The relevant provisions are in schedule 3 of the Equality Act. Paragraphs 26-27 allow services to be for one sex, and paragraph 28 allows trans women to be excluded from women’s services. Lawyers can interpret the provisions. For evidence, write of any time you have been excluded, or felt uncomfortable or unwelcome. For example, I have been stared at in the changing room of swimming pools, and felt uncomfortable, though I have a right to be there. Quakers have been divided.
Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?
The thought of complaining or raising court action about exclusion terrifies me. Evidence would be useful if you have been excluded, or have complained.
Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed
No. Remove the ability to exclude one or all trans women from women’s spaces. We can be excluded, just like any other women, if we behave in an unmanageable or objectionable way. Write of your experience of being excluded, or of being unwilling to access a service.
The Equality Act should ban discrimination on the ground of gender, not only of sex and “gender reassignment”. If there were a protected characteristic of gender, no-one could enforce gender stereotypes. That would please the TERFs, as well as trans people. For example, you could be required to dress to a certain standard at work, but not required to wear skirts.
What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?
Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?
Give evidence of your experience.
Can you affect the committee report? The Women and Equalities Committee reported on trans rights, and recommended worthwhile reforms. I fear those six Tories want to roll back the recommendations. Trans groups will reply. I will too, for what it’s worth. But again, I will be required to tell my deepest anguish, and possibly have it published under my name, with little chance of any good coming of it. The government batted away the last WEC report. I have, nevertheless, sent in evidence.