Damning report ranks UK’s legal recognition of trans people among the very worst in Europe
Legal gender recognition in the UK is on par with the process in Poland and worse than that in Hungary, according to a comprehensive and damning new report by the European Commission.
The report, Legal gender recognition in the EU: the journeys of trans people towards full equality, delves into the experiences of transgender people in society and thoroughly investigates the process of legal gender recognition in different European countries.
As well as the process, and trans people’s experiences of accessing it, the European Commission also examined the links between this and the socioeconomic position of trans people in society.
In the UK, the gender-recognition process is governed by the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA).
Considered pioneering when it was introduced 16 years ago, plans to update the GRA were first posited in 2016 but, despite a huge public consultation on potential reforms in 2018, have been repeatedly delayed by the Conservative government – against a backdrop of increasingly hostile rhetoric about trans lives.
The European Commission investigated the situation for transgender people in different countries and, using detailed criteria, ranked countries into five “clusters”.
At the top were Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal. These countries all give trans people the right to self-determine their legal gender – which is what campaigners in the UK have been calling for when the GRA is reformed.
These six countries have “the most accessible legal gender recognition procedures” and follow “the highest human rights standards”, the EC said.
Greece and France were in the second-best cluster, demoted from the top because although they have no medical requirements – trans people in those countries don’t have to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria or commit to undergoing gender confirmation surgery to gain legal recognition of their gender – they do require the trans person, if married, to get divorced (Greece) or appear before a court (France).
In the third cluster are Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. These countries require trans people to provide a mental-health diagnosis or the opinion of their doctor before they can gain legal recognition of their gender.
In Hungary – where, since the European Commission conducted its research, prime minister Viktor Orbán has passed a law legally erasing trans people – married trans people used to also need a divorce.
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Finally, in the fourth cluster – rated the second-worst – is the UK. Sitting alongside Slovakia, Czechia, Poland, Finland, Austria, Estonia, Spain, and Italy, these are all countries that “impose intrusive medical requirements” on trans people before they can access legal gender recognition.
This group have “preconditions” to legal gender recognition that include forcing trans people to undergo sterilisation, hormone therapy or surgery before their existence is legally recognised. Most – including the UK – require trans people to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before the government will accept that they’re trans.
Not the best company for the UK to be in. The only countries in Europe with worse gender-recognition processes for their trans citizens than the UK were Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania. And none of these countries have a process for legal gender recognition at all.