Gender Recognition Certificate cost slashed to £5 – but process remains intrusive and undignified
The government has reduced the application fee for a Gender Recognition Certificate from £140 to a “nominal fee” of £5.
A Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is needed for trans men and women in the UK to amend their birth certificate and change their legal sex. Non-binary people are still unable to do so.
The change was announced by equalities minister Liz Truss on Tuesday (4 May), who added that the process will soon be moved online to make it “fairer and simpler”.
“As we build back better, we want transgender people to be free to live and to prosper in modern Britain,” she claimed.
“In the National LGBT Survey, 34 per cent of transgender people told us that the cost of applying for a certificate was holding them back from doing so.
“Today we have removed that barrier, and I am proud that we have made the process of getting a certificate fairer, simpler and much more affordable.”
The government said this would “modernise” the application and remedy “one of the key issues” identified by trans people in the gender recognition process.
While removing the fee is a positive step, it comes as little comfort after Truss scrapped any plans for meaningful reform to a process widely condemned as intrusive, intimidating and undignified.
Only a minority of trans respondents said cost was the main barrier to gender recognition, compared to the majority who cited the bureaucratic process.
To obtain a GRC trans people must first get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which can take years due to the painfully-long waiting times at NHS gender clinics.
They must also have medical reports submitted to a panel of cisgender people, whom the applicant will never meet, to judge whether they meet the criteria for legal recognition.
Back in 2017 Theresa May announced plans to “streamline and de-medicalise” the process in favour of self-identification, for which a public consultation found overwhelming support.
But these reforms were devastatingly abandoned by the Tory government last year in favour of what Stonewall has described as “minor administrative changes”.
Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said in response to the application changes: “It’s also important that the government commit to a clear timeline of further changes to streamline the application process, and move it online.
“However, none of these changes are a substitute for meaningful reform to the Gender Recognition Act.”
The leading trans advocacy organisation TransActual was similarly unimpressed by the news.
“Of course we welcome the reduced fee. However, this is the absolute minimum the government could do on behalf of the trans community,” said Chay Brown, a representative for the group.
“What we know, and what we hear from our supporters is that the system is still fundamentally broken.
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“Most of the barriers to applying remain: not least the cost of amassing evidence. Moving the application process online will do nothing, on its own, to reduce the uncertainties surrounding that process. Indeed, if it is moved wholly online, then the net effect of this change could make it even harder for some trans people to apply for a GRC.
“Not least is the problem that medical experts attempting to support trans applicants find themselves faced with guidance that would have left Kafka reeling.
“There is no clarity as to what evidence counts, what terminology may be used – and an ongoing problem that those who transitioned some years ago are frequently unable to supply documentation, either because it is no longer valid or because it has simply vanished over the years.”
They also highlighted the growing demand for the recognition of non-binary-people, which the government has ignored despite a petition which has amassed over 100,000 signatures.
“To pick and choose which bits of a consultation you will support, while simultaneously patting yourself on the back for doing so, is disingenuous in the extreme,” they said.