Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Anti-trans campaigners are determined to say new gender identity legislation will change everything – it won't

People, we are warned, will decide to be one gender in the morning, another in the evening, ignoring the fact that the most likely outcome still require that they undergo a formal process

Jane Fae
Tuesday 25 July 2017 15:08 BST
Comments
Transgender people have been fighting for the right to use the bathroom of their choice and for gender recognition on their birth certificates
Transgender people have been fighting for the right to use the bathroom of their choice and for gender recognition on their birth certificates (Getty)

“Don't panic! Don't panic!” Thus spake the wise and entirely unflappable Corporal Jones. But now, we must panic and panic again because the sky is about to fall on our heads, and at any moment bearded men will be wagging their penises in the faces of unsuspecting women in changing rooms.

Not to mention loos.

For the Government is minded to look at the process, hated by many in the trans community, by which trans people amend their birth certificate.

It is, of course, storm in a teacup. At present trans people wishing to “change gender officially” must assemble, at some personal cost, a range of evidence, some medical, some not, then pay a fee, send it off to an anonymous panel that they will never get to meet and from whose magisterial pronouncements there is no appeal, and wait for the result to limp home by post. Hopefully gender approved. But you never know!

HSBC offers transgender customers choice of 10 gender neutral titles

It is disliked for much the same reason anyone would dislike it. “I am a woman”, you might assert. Or man. But imagine if that simple assertion did not suffice: imagine if you, cisly privileged as you are, were required, aged 18, to face a similar panel or be henceforth labelled sans gender.

You might well consider it demeaning. You might even refuse to submit to such a process. And there, in a nutshell, is the case for change.

We have not seen the proposals yet. In practice, though, they are likely to entail a replacement of the current panel approach with some sort of self-declaration, possibly before a court. There would, likely, still be a fee but – it is hoped – rather less than now.

It will affect few people: a few thousand at most, and for them, the real impact will be slight. There are very few areas – pensions, some hereditary titles, marriage benefits – where legal gender now makes a difference. In respect of pensions, the largest legacy source of gender differential, this is now dwindling to zero difference as age equalisation works its way to zero difference.

Besides those who really cared about getting their pension early have mostly swallowed hard and subjected themselves to the gender recognition panel already. Meanwhile, those of us who did transition in the hope of early retirement and cheaper motor insurance are left fuming as advances in gender equality negate any putative advantage.

Joke! Honest. I really shouldn't have to say that, but I understand joking, when it comes to gender politics, is now greatly frowned upon.

For the rest: trans people have been managing pretty well in the day to day without amending their birth certificates. In many ways, the effect of gender recognition is pretty trivial. You can amend gender on passport, on bank account, on a thousand different systems with no recourse to the official process.

You may, if you are transitioning, make use of loos and changing rooms appropriate to your identified gender. Ditto prisons. In terms of being placed in the “correct estate” a gender recognition certificate helps: but if I should commit some imprisonable offence in the next few years – and considering the current state of British politics I am sorely tempted – then existing guidelines state that current identity and steps taken to conform to that identity will carry significant weight.

So why the fuss, the froth, the fantastical foaming at the mouth following proposals to bring UK law into line with practice in an ever-lengthening list of countries around the world? The issue seems to lie with use of the term “self-identify”, and a legion of straw men assembled around that misleading banner.

People, we are warned, will decide to be one gender in the morning, another in the evening, ignoring the fact that the most likely outcome still require that they undergo a formal process. People with penises will identify as women, even though the current system does not require that candidates for gender recognition undergo any surgery at all.

It will be an abusers charter, they say! Yet trans has existed for a long time and mostly it is trans people on the receiving end of abuse. At the same time, the law already makes it clear that those who commit fraud for purposes of financial or other misdemeanour are committing a criminal offence. Just check out the law on what name you use, where self-identification has been the case since forever – and the sky has not fallen in.

Panic if you must. But let us recognise such panic for what it is: misunderstanding and muddle; and in a few cases something very else. A determination to deny and block and ultimately abolish trans rights by any means possible: a product of bigotry and hate. No more, no less.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in