Tories accused of ‘shocking failure of leadership’ as Gender Recognition Act reforms are officially ditched
Liz Truss’ announcement on Gender Recognition Act reform has been largely met with disappointment by leading LGBT+ rights groups.
The minister for women and equalities confirmed Tuesday (September 22) that she has scrapped plans first announced by Theresa May in 2017 to “streamline and de-medicalise” the process by which trans people have their gender legally recognised.
Despite a public consultation showing overwhelming support for the right of trans people to self-ID, for medical requirements to be dropped and for non-binary people to be recognised, the government is pressing ahead only with what Stonewall has described as “minor administrative changes”.
Rather than rethinking the Gender Recognition Act wholesale, applications are to be taken online, while the £140 fee will be reduced to a “nominal amount”. Truss, in her statement, said “it is the government’s view that the balance struck in this legislation is correct” – prompting criticism from Stonewall, Mermaids and the Trades Union Congress among others.
Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelly condemned the government for its “shocking failure in leadership” in failing to bring about more meaningful reforms for trans people.
“Today, the UK government has fallen far short on its promise to reform the Gender Recognition Act, and has missed a key opportunity to progress LGBT equality,” Kelly said in a statement.
“While these moves will make the current process less costly and bureaucratic, they don’t go anywhere near far enough.”
Gender Recognition Act reform plans subjected trans people to ‘relentless debate’ on their lives, Stonewall says.
Noting the British Medical Association’s recent declaration in support of self-ID, Kelly said Truss has missed an opportunity to “make it easier for all trans people to go about their daily life” and to bring the UK in line with Ireland, which she points out has “had a de-medicalised, self-determination system for gender recognition since 2015 without any problematic repercussions”.
Noting that the Government’s response to the consultation shows an overwhelming majority of people supported self-ID and other reforms, Kelly added: “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.
“Stonewall stands with, and sends our solidarity to, trans communities across the UK, whose lives and identities have been made the subject of a relentless ‘debate’ ever since the Government announced its plans to reform the Act through a public consultation.”
Mermaids, the charity supporting trans youth, was similarly disappointed in the lack of improvements for trans people and the complete absence of non-binary recognition.
It did however express relief that trans rights have not been rolled back, after suggestions over summer that trans people could be excluded from single-sex spaces, something Truss made clear will not happen.
We are pleased that the extraordinary effort of combined LGBTQ+ organisations and allies has prevented such harm.
“Many of our supporters feared that trans and non-binary lives would be negatively impacted by new barriers, so we are pleased that the extraordinary effort of combined LGBTQ+ organisations and allies has prevented such harm,” a statement read.
“It is particularly welcome news that the Equality Act 2010 remains resolutely unchanged amidst a barrage of misinformed demands to weaken equality law in the UK.”
Transgender youth will not be helped by Liz Truss’ GRA announcement.
Mermaids pointed out that none of the changes announced – though welcome – will help young trans people under the age of 18, who remain without access to legal recognition.
The charity singled out the three new clinics announced by Truss as a measure for reducing wait times for trans healthcare services – which, the Government Equalities Office confirmed to PinkNews, are actually previously announced services.
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Regardless, Mermaids noted that these provisions will not cater to under-18s, who it notes currently face waits of up to two years. The NHS calls for an 18-week wait time.
“This is nothing short of a national scandal, and we urge the government and NHS England to help clinicians support those seeking their expertise by investing in the support and care of trans and non-binary young people including the Gender Identity Development Service,” Mermaids added.
The Trades Union Congress – which represents 5.5. million workers – called the government’s response “too little too late”. Last week, the TUC passed a motion condemning “anti-trans campaigners” and standing in solidarity with trans and non-binary people.
“Since launching a consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act over two years ago, the government has failed to deliver on trans rights or to address rising hate crime,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
“Anti-trans bullying and harassment have increased, and access to healthcare and wider services has worsened. … More must be done to review and simplify the lengthy and humiliating process of acquiring a gender recognition certificate.”