In a time of Brexit madness, a Tory government considered whether making recognition of trans people’s true genders easier would advance equality of opportunity, and decided it would. Today, Liz Truss answered questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities in the House of Commons after “a government source” was given the platform of the front page of The Sunday Times to threaten, obscurely, “big moves on safe spaces”, but state, clearly, plans for gender recognition reform had been “scrapped”. So, while waiting for Liz Truss’s slot to come on the BBC Parliament channel, which I was obsessing about all morning, I went back to the Pre-Consultation Equality Impact Assessment for the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
By law, Ministers should seek to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations, in this case between trans and non-trans people. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) thought their consultation would achieve these aims.
They said 4910 GRCs had been issued by 31 March 2018, but the “trans population” is estimated at 200,000-500,000. They made no estimate of the number of people who had actually transitioned. As 12% of trans people had applied for a GRC, most of that “trans population” would never seriously consider transitioning, or needing another gender recognised.
Trans people in the government’s LGBT survey said the GRC process was bureaucratic, too expensive, and intrusive. If the government made it simpler, the GEO said that would reduce discrimination, reduce the barriers we face, help improve our mental health and wellbeing, “reduce the stigma attached to being trans” and publicise that we are not mentally ill.
The GEO said that there would be a positive impact on relations between trans and non-trans people, increasing knowledge and understanding of the issues we face, and reduce misunderstanding and misconceptions. They said that in the 2017 National LGBT Survey in which 108,000 people participated, 39 had claimed that self-declaration of trans people would “threaten women-only spaces”. But then, the transphobic campaign to foment anger, fear and “concern” had hardly got started. The GEO pointed out,
that the Equality Act would not be amended.
The GEO promised, “We will use any insight gained from the consultation exercise to help foster good relations [between trans and women’s groups].” As I write, it seems likely that promise is being broken.
In the LGBT survey, 53% of trans men respondents and 15% of trans women respondents had begun transition before the age of 18. In Norway, children aged 6 can change gender, with parental consent. In the Netherlands, 126 people aged 16-18 applied for gender recognition in 2016. The government thought it would not reduce the age limit of 18, but welcomed responses.
“The Government does consider being trans to be a disability”- I am not sure if that is a misprint. They don’t consider gender dysphoria to be a mental illness. Some consider it a mental health problem. The GEO referred to another report saying isolation, discrimination and transphobia contributed to “88 per cent of [trans] respondents had suffered from depression, 80 per cent from stress and 75 per cent from anxiety at some time,” but that does not mean that being trans is an illness in itself. The GEO said “40% of trans men, 30% of trans women, and 37% of non-binary people had tried to access mental health services in the last 12 months.” Streamlining gender recognition “may have a positive impact on their wellbeing and mental health”.
In a time of Brexit and Covid madness, after that anonymous source spoke to the Sunday Times, I awaited Liz Truss answering Parliamentary questions hardly able to think about anything else. Kemi Badenoch and Liz Truss answered questions. There were questions on payments for self-employed people during covid, BAME people suffering disproportionately from covid, hospitality and leisure workers, the closure of child care facilities, and other matters relating to equality and women’s issues. Many of the questions were from Tories, to give the impression that the government were doing something useful. They have suspended face to face assessments for disability benefits, which they usually use to take away benefit. There were warm words about addressing unconscious bias.
Liz Truss said that conversion therapy is a vile and abhorrent practice which the Government want to stop. The Government has commissioned research on conversion therapy in the UK- they don’t even know if it is a problem, really. Specifically, they have a concern for under 18 being coerced into conversion therapy. Why the announcement on conversion therapy now? Is it to split LGB people from T people? Does it even relate to some idea that gay people are forced to transition because of homophobia? These concerns are not paranoid. All I can say is we can’t be definite this is action against trans people, yet. Probably, the announcement on conversion therapy is to pretend to advance LGB rights, even if there’s no serious risk of conversion therapy here. All the professional bodies say conversion therapy is unethical.
Truss said the government would work towards global LGBT equality. At least the T remains in LGBT for now. She said it is essential to deliver on 2018 LGBT action plan. Happy Pride, said Liz.
So, there was nothing on trans self-declaration. I will continue badgering my MP.
23 July: In similar questions today, Liz Truss was asked about trans rights. Nadia Whittome, MP, said, “Does the Secretary of State agree that her quibbling on this issue is fanning the flames of populist hate towards an already marginalised group?” Gotcha! Truss did a partial climbdown, though I see no more reason to believe her on this than Government assurances that the NHS will not be sold off. Truss said, “Let me be absolutely clear: we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people. It is important that transgender people are able to live their lives as they wish, without fear, and we will make sure that that is the case.”
Truss and Johnson want to make us a hate group, but the British people are too canny to fall for that one, and the Labour Party is doing well in damping down any possible culture war.