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UK faces renewed calls to end ‘humiliating’ gender recognition process

UK faces renewed calls to end ‘humiliating’ gender recognition process

Penny Mordaunt

A coalition of trans activists, LGBTI organizations and human rights groups have penned an open letter to the new minister for Women and Equalities.

The letter calls on Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt, who has been in the role for just over week, to prioritize a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

The consultation would potentially give adults the right to change gender without a doctor’s approval. It’s been put back by successive ministers for Women and Equalities since autumn last year.

Susie Green who runs the trans youth charity Mermaids tells Gay Star News recent negative media about the GRA has been ‘a springboard for misleading information and fearmongering’ about trans people:

‘We see the very real toll this has on young people and their families, constantly having to justify their existence in an increasingly hostile environment. The GRA reform needs to be prioritized as a matter of urgency, and human dignity protected.’

The current process requires trans people to have a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to move forward in what is often a long and arduous process.

A Gay Star News investigation at the end of last year shows only one of the UK’s Gender Identity Clinics (GIC) average waiting times was meeting the required NHS wide 18-week referral time from GP to an appointment.

After getting a consultation, trans people then have to live in their ‘acquired gender’ for at least two years. There are further complications for non-binary people who are not currently recognized by the law.

The consultation would be an opportunity to dramatically change this and even allow people to change their gender without any doctor’s approval.

The open letter calls for the consultation to be prioritized by the new minister Penny Mordaunt. It is signed by 34 organizations and activists including Mermaids, Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence, GIRES and many others.

#brightontranspride | Photo: jessicadecamp Instagram

Struck by over a year of delays

The consultation has been facing delays for over a year now following a number of changeovers in the Women and Equalities role.

It was deprioritized by Justine Greening in December last year, after she promised it would happen in the Autumn of 2017.

However, Home Secretary Amber Rudd took over the portfolio from Greening after a government reshuffle. But her resignation last week following the Windrush immigration scandal was the latest blow to the consultation.

It now falls into Penny Mordaunt’s remit, who had her portfolio expanded from International Development following Rudd’s resignation.

Mourdant has consistently voted for gay rights during her time in parliament. She was a campaigner for the Leave campaign during the EU referendum.

Gay Star News has reached out to the Minister for Women and Equalities’ office for comment.

Trans Pride 2017 in Brighton, southern England
Trans Pride 2017 in Brighton, southern England. | Photo: MyGenderation YouTube

Read the open letter in full:

‘Dear Penny,

‘Firstly, let us wish you a very warm welcome in your new role as Minister for Women and Equalities. You have shown time and time again that your commitment to inclusion and equality is central to your values. Your moving speeches on gender equality and being a Stonewall ally stand to showcase this, and we thank you for your transparent dedication to the cause of equality.

‘We’re writing to you today as an alliance of organizations who are deeply concerned by the delay in starting the Gender Recognition Act reform process. Your predecessor Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, working with Baroness Williams of Trafford, had shown great enthusiasm in using her tenure as Minister of Women and Equalities to help reduce stigma and discrimination against transgender people. We’re hoping you will have the same enthusiasm in moving forward with us, helping remove the systemic barriers currently holding equality out of reach for trans people.

‘As the consultation falls in your new ministerial portfolio, we’re reaching out to you to show the impact the continued delay is having on trans people. This consultation being delayed is having a massively detrimental effect on one of the UK’s most marginalized groups. With the current system of gender recognition, people: must be diagnosed as having gender dysphoria; may be legally forced to delay or annul their application if their spouse vetoes their application; and are subject to the demands and whims of a panel they will never meet, who will have final say over that person’s gender identity. There is no right to appeal.

‘The gap between the Government announcing the consultation and the subsequent delays have allowed fear and misinformation to fester, particularly amongst those who seek to denigrate and devalue the very existence of trans people. The longer this delay goes on, the longer abusive invective is allowed to continue unchallenged by a government who rightly pride themselves on robustly speaking up for its minority citizens. Several of the organizations writing to you today have built strong relationships with the Government Equalities Office over many years, and are excited to work closely together going forward.

‘As you may know, the Gender Recognition Act is in urgent need of reform if Her Majesty’s Government is to bring about full legal dignity for its transgender and non-binary citizens. When the Women and Equalities Committee set out its recommendations for trans equality in 2016, it called for the government to “update the Gender Recognition Act in line with principles of gender self-declaration [through statutory declaration] that have been developed in other jurisdictions”, in turn removing the medicalized, quasi-judicial process currently in place for instances of gender recognition. Their recommendations call on Her Majesty’s Government to consult and improve on a process which the Committee has called “bureaucratic”, “expensive” and “humiliating “. We ask that this Government follows through on the Committee’s reasoned and important recommendations as soon as possible, enshrining the principles of statutory declaration within a robust and accepted legal framework.

‘Your role as Minister for Women and Equalities is centered on ensuring equality for all people regardless of gender identity. Can we call on you to help secure a simplified and de-medicalized process for gender recognition for all transgender and non-binary people as soon as possible? We are under no illusions that the consultation process will be marred by people conflating separate issues and legislation, and/or using it as a springboard to further incite hatred.

‘We remain, however, quietly confident in dignity winning out and would urge you to carefully weigh this small risk against the immense gains. This Conservative government has made clear and valiant commitments to the LGBTQ+ citizens of the UK, a legacy you should be proud to build on. The sooner these reforms can be consulted on, and respectfully responded to, the sooner trans people in the United Kingdom will have their right to a quiet and private life enshrined in law. We, therefore, ask that you provide us with a clear timeline for when this might be.

‘We look forward to hearing from and working with you in the near future.’

Read more from Gay Star News:

Nearly all NHS gender identity clinics are missing maximum waiting times

Trans parents: ‘Don’t allow being transgender to scare you from creating a family’