Cross-party LGBT+ groups unite to condemn Boris Johnson's 'plans to scrap trans self-identification'

Delays to reforms 'have meant trans people have had to face abuse and continuous scaremongering and vilification in the media,' says joint statement to Liz Truss

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 19 June 2020 13:47 BST
Boris Johnson speaking during the Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons Chamber, 17 June 2020
Boris Johnson speaking during the Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons Chamber, 17 June 2020

Seven LGBT+ groups from across the political spectrum have published a joint statement condemning reports that Boris Johnson will abandon reforms to make it easier for transgender individuals to legally change their gender.

In an extraordinary move representatives from the LGBT+ groups in Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland said they “stand united” in their firm support for the transgender community.

According to a leak on Sunday, proposals for trans individuals to self-identify their gender – rather than seek doctors’ consent – will be abandoned and safeguards will be put in place by ministers to protect “safe spaces” for women.

In response, the statement to equalities minister Liz Truss, seen by The Independent, said it had now been over 18 months since the consultation on the Gender Recognition closed when there “was an acknowledgement that trans people faced indignities and prejudice”.

They added: “As well as waiting for a year for the government’s consultation to be launched, it has now been over 18 months when there has been no response from the government. These delays have meant trans people have had to face abuse and continuous scaremongering and vilification in the media.

“If recent reports in the media are correct regarding the government’s plans for trans rights in the UK we will condemn their actions, and work cross-party in the interests of making the lives of trans people across the UK better.

"We are deeply alarmed that the government may be looking at restricting access to trans healthcare for young people or excluding people from the changing rooms and bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.”

Colm Howard Lloyd, chair of the LGBT+ Conservatives, said the leak in The Sunday Times of the reforms being dropped was “shabby and cruel”, adding: “In the period since the Gender Recognition Act reform was proposed, the government has allowed misinformation and speculation to flourish with a lack of decisive action.”

“An opportunity for sensible reform has soured and created a toxic atmosphere. Many trans people now fear for their safety and future.”

“The Minister for Equalities has said that all trans adults should be “free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution”. The LGBT+ groups of all major UK parties call on the government to back that with action.”

The apparent decision to drop the reforms was condemned by LGBT+ organisations and human rights campaigners on Sunday, who warned the UK could slip in equality rankings. “The proposed move would no doubt see the UK plummet even further,” Amnesty International said.

One senior Conservative also told The Independent the move to abandon the plans by the government was “crackers”, adding: “There is much upset in the party over this – people seeing it as setting us back decades.”

Theresa May, the former prime minister who launched the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultation, criticised the current process of seeking doctors’ consent as “intrusive” and “bureaucratic”, as she vowed to reform transgender rights in 2018.

Former PM vowed to reform trans rights in UK

Measures drawn up under administration would have streamlined the process of changing a birth certificate by removing the barrier of a medical diagnosis requirement and lengthy evidence procedure. The former Tory leader declined to comment on the proposals being dropped when approached by The Independent.

Despite the consultation on the updated GRA closing in the winter of 2018, the government is yet to formally release its findings and action plan. In response to the leak, a No 10 source said on Sunday the details of the response were yet to be finalised, and Mr Johnson would have a final say on the recommendations.

A spokesperson for the Government Equalities Office added: “We won't comment on speculation and will publish our response to the Gender Recognition Act in July."

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