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Trans community reacts to MPs’ new UK trans inquiry: ‘Leave us alone, you absolute ghouls’

Vic Parsons October 28, 2020
Trans people react to women and equalities committee's new trans inquiry

Caroline Nokes, the Conservative chair of Parliament's women and equalities committee.

One month and five days after Tory equalities chief Liz Truss announced the government would not be reforming the Gender Recognition Act, the women and equalities select committee has launched a new inquiry into trans equality.

The women and equalities committee is a cross-party group of MPs who scrutinise the government on equalities issues, chaired by Caroline Nokes, a Conservative MP, who announced the inquiry in a video posted to Twitter today.

“The government has said that it wants to make the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate kinder and more straightforward. That’s progress, but is it enough?” she asked.

The Gender Recognition Act (GRA) is a 2004 law that governs the process by which adult trans men and women in the UK can get their gender legally recognised by obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Only around 5,000 people have used the GRA to get a GRC since the law was introduced, and this low uptake is one reason that the government announced, in 2017, that it would be looking at potentially reforming the law.

On its website calling for people to submit evidence, the women and equalities committee explains: “The government has published its proposals for changes to the gender recognition process and set out how it plans to move forward.

“The women and equalities committee will examine these proposals, gathering evidence on whether the government’s proposed changes are the right ones and whether they go far enough.

“This inquiry will explore what changes, if any, should be made to the existing legislation, in order for current legislation to improve trans equality.

“The written evidence published as part of this inquiry will be used to inform the work of the committee. Publication of written evidence does not equate to an endorsement of the views it contains by the committee.”

The women and equalities committee last carried out an inquiry into trans equality in 2015, the results of which recommended reforming the GRA. In 2018, there was a huge public consultation on potential reforms that more than 100,000 people responded to.

It took the government two long years to publish the results, which showed that the public overwhelmingly supported removing the requirement that trans people have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before being able to get legal recognition of their gender.

But the Tories ignored these results, scrapping all the proposed reforms and instead saying that they’d reduce the £140 cost of applying to a “nominal fee” and place the whole process online.

While the women and equalities committee inquiry launched today is a separate process, and one that will allow a group of MPs to hold Liz Truss accountable for the government’s handling of the GRA reform process, transgender and non-binary people in the UK are exhausted of having their lives and rights debated in the public sphere where a majority of the voices in the discussion are either not trans, or are anti-trans.

Whilst despair raged across Trans Twitter, some elders steadied the ship. Christine Burns, author of Trans Britain and one of the architects of the Gender Recognition Act, said: “Much as yet another enquiry might sound like Chinese water torture, there is a valid procedural point to the independent select committee scrutinising what’s happened in the last four years and, particularly, holding Liz Truss’s feet to the fire for the car crash.

“I know people are tired and feeling broken by the brutality of what’s gone down but it is important for genuine organisations to step up again and provide the evidence of how much harm has been done to achieve worse than nothing of substance.”

And What The Trans!?, a trans-run news podcast, dispelled misinformation about what a committee enquiry means in a thread.

However, for the most part, the reaction from the community – at least online – has been one of exhaustion, rage and despondency.

The deadline to submit evidence is Friday 27 November.

More: Caroline Nokes, gender recognition act, GRA Reform, legal gender recognition, liz truss, Women and Equalities Committee

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