UK

Tory government wants police to ‘misgender’ most trans crime victims: ‘More culture war cruelty’

Lily Wakefield April 13, 2022
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Prime minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel.

Prime minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel. (Getty)

The government has asked police across England and Wales to record trans victims of crime by the sex recorded on their birth certificate.

The concept of “legal sex” is foggy in the UK, although it is often thought of as the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, which can be changed with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Because of the intrusive and difficult process to obtain a GRC, less than one per cent of trans people in the UK have one. The system does not offer legal recognition for non-binary people.

Fresh guidance from the Home Office has requested that police use this definition of sex when recording trans and non-binary crime victims in official statistics – it means that the overwhelming majority would effectively be misgendered. The guidance also applies to suspects.

The guidance, which is currently voluntary, was revealed by a Freedom of Information request submitted by the anti-trans group Keep Prisons Single Sex.

The group claimed the guidance as a victory, insisting that “male rapists will no longer be recorded as female in police crime stats”.

According to The Independent, a Home Office spokesperson said that the guidance could become mandatory by April 2023.

A spokesperson for the trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence told PinkNews: “The guidance issued by the Home Office is the latest in a series of moves by the government to harm and erase trans and non-binary people.

“It is ludicrous to expect anyone – regardless of identity – to carry their birth certificate for identification purposes. And it is clear that it is only people who are suspected of having a trans history – presumably based on visual identification – who will be asked to provide this form of identification.

“What the Home Office is proposing is essentially a system in which police officers are at liberty to decide whether victims of crime look trans or not and demand additional identification based on their judgement.

“We have already seen in the US how gender non-conforming cis women suffer as a result of bathroom bills when they are misidentified as trans. Are we to see a similar situation in the UK, where those who do not conform to gender norms must carry their birth certificates or risk being misgendered by police?”

Home Office guidance on trans victims raises serious questions

The Home Office added that police forces could decide for themselves how to ascertain the sex recorded on a person’s birth certificate, and that they should also ask about their gender identity if it does not align with their documents.

But human rights lawyer and trans rights activist Professor Stephen Whittle OBE told PinkNews that there is no legal reason for anyone to have to provide their birth certificate or GRC to the police, whether they are a victim or a suspect.

Although an arrest can be made if some fails to identify themselves, “if you identify where you live and the name you’re using, they can’t arrest you for that”, Whittle said.

Even if police did ask for a victim or suspect’s legal sex, it is unclear how officers would decide who to ask. This is likely to only happen if officers are doubtful about a person’s gender, meaning it would disproportionately affect trans folk who do not “pass” as cisgender.

Whittle added: “For many of us, they would have no idea unless they actually did strip searches of us. That would be clearly contrary to the law.”

The recommendation means that statistics on anti-trans crime could be severely warped. For example, if a trans woman without a GRC and new birth certificate were assaulted, she would be recorded as a male victim. This is also likely to make trans folk even more reluctant to report hate crimes to the police.

The spokesperson for Gendered Intelligence continued: “Trans people are disproportionately likely to be victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Anti-trans hate crime has risen by 332 per cent in the past five years.

“These guidelines risk destroying our ability to monitor these crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, interfere with the police’s ability to investigate them, and, worst of all, threaten to silence the voices of survivors.”

Many trans social media users agreed that it would have a huge impact on their reluctance in reporting crimes.

“This would absolutely prevent me from reporting a crime against me, given that I am prevented by the UK government’s policies from receiving a GRC,” tweeted one person.

Another Twitter user wrote: “This is an attempt to deter trans people from reporting crimes committed against them. This is a daily onslaught now. Britain is a rogue state.”

jane fae, director of TransActual, told PinkNews: “This is just more culture war cruelty, playing to the cheap seats. It is pure spite.

“It will make next to no practical difference [to how people are treated by most police officers], but it will dissuade some trans people from reporting crimes. Maybe that is the government’s actual game plan here.

“Worse, sooner or later we will see a trans woman going to the police station to report a rape, and ending up in a cell herself, because she failed to fill out a form to the satisfaction of some over-zealous desk officer.”

Whittle recalled that “in the 80s in the 90s, one of the primary groups of people who needed legal advice were trans people who were arrested after reporting being victimised”.

At the time there were “atrocious” attacks on trans people, but victims would be charged with “petty crimes”. He asked: “Do we want to go back to those days?

Whittle linked the Home Office guidance to a recent move by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which earlier this month issued guidance on how to block trans people from single-sex spaces.

Under the Equality Act, trans people can only be excluded from single-sex spaces if their  exclusion is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, but the EHRC guidance gives examples of blanket bans on trans people, including one concerning a theoretical women’s toilet at a community centre.

The Trans Legal Project slammed the guidance as “appalling and harmful”, and said it “encourages bigotry and discrimination”.

Whittle said: “When we created the Equality Act, the whole nature of it was to stop the beauty parade, whereby people were given jobs, or allowed to enter shops or purchase services, based on what they looked like.

“So whether you were old, you were disabled, you had the ‘wrong’ skin colour, you wore a hijab, or whatever else. It was about stopping that beauty parade.”

But the same kind of discrimination is now cropping up in the Home Office guidance.

“The police, as a public authority, are obliged under the Equality Act, section 149, to promote equality for people with protected characteristics,” Whittle added.

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