The government has confirmed that it will not allow trans people to change their legal gender via self-identification.
More than 100,000 people, including some 7,000 trans people, responded to a consultation on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 in 2017, and the community has been left waiting for an official response from the government ever since.
It was reported in June that measures drawn up under Theresa May’s government to enable trans people change their birth certificate without a medical diagnosis had officially been dropped, a move that human rights organisation Amnesty International described as “extremely worrying”.
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, Conservative Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities, said that changes would not be made to the GRA legislation, writing: “There are proper checks and balances in the system and also support for people who want to change their legal sex.”
A reform to the Act could have seen self-identification introduced for trans people across the country.
Instead, Truss said the process of accessing a Gender Recognition Certificate would be made “kinder and more straightforward” – namely by moving the process online and reducing the £140 fee to a “nominal” amount.
Truss also said three new gender clinics would be opened in 2020, adding that their introduction “should see waiting lists cut by around 1,600 patients by 2022” in a bid to address distressingly long waiting times for before trans people can access NHS services.
Cara English, head of public engagement at Gendered Intelligence, said: “After years of hand-wringing, the government has today laid out its intention to make surface-level changes to the Gender Recognition Act. This won’t come as a shock to most interested parties, but it is nevertheless disappointing in its scope.
“We welcome the step in the right direction to lower the financial barrier facing people wishing to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. But reforming a piece of legislation which is fundamentally broken does not and cannot mean slapping a discount sticker on it and expecting great results.
“Historically poor take-up of applications through the GRA is unlikely to be improved in any meaningful way, with such fundamentally inhumane vectors of gatekeeping as the Gender Recognition Panel still in place. The indignity of having to explain — in detail — your personal and private life to a group of strangers will remain. The required diagnosis of gender dysphoria (by two doctors) will remain.”
Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said the government had “fallen far short on its promise to reform the Gender Recognition Act”.
She added: “All trans people deserve to be respected for who they are. Reforming the Act could have brought England and Wales in line with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland, who have had a de-medicalised, self-determination system for gender recognition since 2015 without any problematic repercussions. The government’s own response states that a strong majority of people who responded to the consultation supported these reforms.
“And just last week the British Medical Association called on the government to allow trans people to be recognised for who they are without a medical diagnosis. So, we share the frustration and disappointment of trans people and allies who have campaigned and fought hard for GRA reform over the last few years.”
A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission added: “We welcome steps to reduce fees and NHS waiting times. However, this was a missed opportunity to simplify the law on gender recognition whilst maintaining robust safeguards.
“Trans people should be free to live their lives without fear of discrimination and prejudice and there is more to be done to increase understanding in wider society and address the divisive public dialogue in this space.”