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UK launches unprecedented attack on trans rights, will ban transition before 18

UK launches unprecedented attack on trans rights, will ban transition before 18

  • Statement appears to threaten trans bathroom access.
UK Equalities Minister Liz Truss.

Britain’s new Equality Minister Liz Truss has announced a major government policy change on trans rights, banning transition before the age of 18.

Her statement may also be the start of an attack on trans people being able to use the right bathrooms and changing rooms.

Truss made the statement to the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee. Her comments came as the UK Parliament got back to work yesterday with MPs speaking online from their homes.

In it, she said the government would finally be updating the Gender Recognition Act this summer.

The current law dates from 2004. And the Conservative government has been promising to update it for several years. They ran an extensive public consultation in 2018. But further progress stalled in 2019 as the UK parliament imploded over Brexit.

Trans people initially believed the act would make it easier to change gender. But since it went up for debate, new anti-trans voices have emerged in UK media and social media.

Truss’ statement on trans rights

Truss told the Women and Equalities Select Committee yesterday that they would be putting forward their plans for the Gender Recognition Act by the summer. She said:

‘There are three very important principles that I will be putting place.

‘First of all, the protection of single-sex spaces, which is extremely important.

‘Secondly making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, whilst maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.

‘Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future.

‘I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.’

The questions the UK government must answer now

GSN asked the Government Equalities Office to expand on all three points. However, they declined to expand on any of them.

Here are the questions we believe the government must answer now:

1 What protections are they planning for ‘single-sex spaces’? Will trans, intersex and non-binary people be able to use bathrooms, changing rooms and other facilities freely?

2 What ‘checks and balances’ are they considering on trans adults’ lives? Will these represent additional restrictions on transgender people’s freedoms?

3 What restrictions will they apply to trans access to transition healthcare before the age of 18? Do they realise these medical interventions are often lifesaving for vulnerable teenagers?

Will they stop trans teens accessing hormone blockers? Will trans teens be able to access transition healthcare provided they do not take so-called ‘irreversible steps’?

4 Has the government considered the mental health impact of this policy change? And if so, who managed and advised on that assessment? Did they consider the dangers of self-harm, suicide and long term mental health trauma this may cause?

5 Is this policy a sign the government agrees with TERFs and the anti-trans LGB Alliance who represent fringe, transphobic views? Why has the government pursued this policy rather than one the vast majority of LGBT+ people would support?

6 The UN Human Rights Commissioner has instructed that states do not use the coronavirus period to roll back LGBT+ rights. She singled out Hungary which has attacked trans people’s rights to legal transition during the pandemic for criticism.

Therefore is now the right time to proceed with this policy?

Trans people are terrified

Trans charity Mermaids supports young trans people and their families. A spokesperson said:

‘It would be an extraordinary move for the Minister for Women and Equalities to support the introduction of a new form of inequality into British medical practice.’

But others went far further. One dad of a trans child on Twitter – @dadtrans – said his family would take legal action against the new policy. He added:

‘Access to healthcare for trans adolescents saves lives. Denial of healthcare directly contributes to harm. Attempting to prevent access to treatment is an act of violence against trans youth. 

Meanwhile trans writer Jane Fae: ‘I am very concerned by the way in which certain fringe ministers and politicians are playing with anti-trans rhetoric because I suspect it wins them some brownie points on the wilder reaches of the Christian right.

‘Worried, not because I fear – yet – that anything will come of this but because I am now daily dealing with the fallout from this in the shape of trans people frightened, terrified and scared to live their lives as a consequence. 

‘If the government actually cared, ministers really should engage heart and brain before they spout.’