We welcome Tuesday’s announcement that the Government is launching a full public consultation of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA).
When the act was originally introduced it was a ground-breaking piece of legislation. For the first time, some trans people could have their gender legally recognised.
But that was 14 years ago. Now, the act is outdated and in urgent need of reform.
Under the current system trans people have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and non-binary people aren’t recognised at all. The Government’s national LGBT survey found that 38% of trans people have not applied for a GRC because they find the process too bureaucratic, while 34% say it’s too expensive.
Being able to get a GRC matters. It means you can have a birth certificate with the right gender on it. It helps make life admin easier, but mainly it means that a trans person has a piece of paper showing the state believes they are legitimate. Just like everyone else, trans people deserve to be respected for who they are.
Replacing the dehumanising process in place today with a system of self-determination would be life-changing for so many trans and non-binary people in Britain. Experience from Ireland, who have already made that move, shows that it has a hugely positive for trans people, and has little to no impact on anyone who isn’t trans.
However, since the Government announced their plans to launch a public consultation to reform the GRA last summer, there has been a spike in hateful media and opposition towards trans and non-binary people. Trans people have had their identities attacked, debated and dismissed in the media and online. Discussions about the GRA are being driven by misinformation and hate being pushed out by a few loud voices to make reform feel ‘controversial’. But no one has the right to debate another person’s identity. Which is why the law needs to change.
The surge in transphobic media coverage is also one of the reasons the UK dropped to fourth in the European LGBT rights ranking. We’re falling behind countries like Malta and Norway, who have already moved to a process of self-determination.
Today’s hostile climate has been terribly damaging to trans and non-binary people who already face tremendous barriers and discrimination in everyday life. Two in five trans people (41%) have had a hate crime committed against them in the last year, and one in eight trans employees (12%) have been physically attacked at work.
The Government consultation is an opportunity to separate fact from fiction. Trans and non-binary people will be the ones who benefit from GRA reform. Which means it’s crucial their voices and stories are at the centre of this conversation. To better understand the positive impact this reform would have, it’s best to hear it directly from those people who will be affected.
We need to ensure trans and non-binary people are respected for who they are, and have the same fair chance in life as everyone else. History has shown us time and time again that extending equality to others doesn’t take away from anyone else.
If you believe in equality, whatever your background, we’re asking you to respond to the Government’s consultation and come out in support of trans equality.
Bex Stinson is head of trans inclusion at Stonewall. For more information on the Gender Recognition Act consultation, visit the gov.uk site here