Government must ‘move closer’ to gender self-identification for trans people, say MPs

Current process ‘unfair and overly-medicalised’, says cross-party committee

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 21 December 2021 00:01 GMT
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<p>People protesting for Trans rights take part in the Pride parade in Glasgow</p>

People protesting for Trans rights take part in the Pride parade in Glasgow

Boris Johnson’s government should “move closer” to a system of self-declaration of gender for transgender people, according to cross-party group of MPs.

A new report from the Women and Equalities Committee said trans people should be allowed to declare their own gender without “unfair and overly-medicalised” scrutiny.

Transgender people should no longer be required to have a gender dysphoria diagnosis from doctors in order to have their gender legally recognised by a Gender Recognition Certificate, the report said.

And the committee also said trans people should not have to live in their acquired gender for two years before they can obtain legal recognition because this “entrenches outdated gender stereotypes”.

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, the committee chair, claimed the government “has spectacularly missed its opportunity” to modernise the process of gender recognition.

The committee said trans people should still be required to make a formal statutory declaration – a safeguard which ensures “genuine intent” – and called for “robust guidance” on how this would work in practice.

MPs urged the Government Equalities Office and Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to urgently produce guidance – including practical examples – on how to apply single-sex exceptions under the Equality Act.

The committee’s report noted that some service providers, such as women’s refuges, are “unclear as to whether the exclusion of trans people from certain spaces is in violation of the law”.

In July 2018, the Government Equalities Office launched a consultation into reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, and set out last September 2020 what steps it would take.

These included making the process available online, reducing the certificate fee from £140 to £5, and opening three new gender clinics that year to cut waiting lists.

The following month, the Women and Equalities Committee launched its inquiry into whether the proposals were enough. Its report, Reform of The Gender Recognition Act, notes that debate in this area has “become extremely toxic at times”, with many stakeholders disagreeing.

But it states that there are areas of greater agreement, such as removing the requirement to live in the acquired gender for two years, which the government should enact “immediately”.

Ms Nokes, the committee chair, said the government’s response to the 2018 consultation “amounted to little more than administrative changes” and suggested “a lack of willingness to engage”.

The Tory MP said: “This is an area of reform which has attracted strong opinions and debate, but there are areas – such as the removal of a time period for living in an acquired gender – which many can agree on.

“Being trans is not an illness. It is imperative that the government de-medicalise the process of gender recognition by removing the outdated requirement for a gender dysphoria diagnosis.”

Conservative MP and Women and Equalities Committee chair Caroline Nokes

The MPs also criticised the GEO and EHRC over their “negligible” engagement with the committee’s inquiry and the “inexcusable” refusal of GEO ministers to attend.

In addition, the report calls for the removal of the requirement for spousal consent. MPs also urged the GEO and Department for Health and Social Care to develop a healthcare strategy for transgender and non-binary people within the next year.

MPs recommended support for young people seeking to transition, especially mental health support, and asked the government to update language in all official documents and Acts that conflate the terms “sex” and “gender”.

A government equality hub spokesman said: “The government believes the current provisions in the Gender Recognition Act are effective and allow for those who wish to legally change their gender to do so.

“We listened to those who responded to the GRA consultation and are taking steps to modernise the way that individuals can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate as a result, including reducing the cost and moving the process online.”

An EHRC spokeswoman said: "Our guidance for service providers on single-sex spaces will be published in January and we will respond to the committee on its other points in due course.”

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