Birmingham LGBT’s Statement on HM Government’s response to the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act Reform

Posted on 25-09-2020 by Maria Hughes

On Tuesday, the Government announced its response to the 2018 consultation regarding the Gender Recognition Act (https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2020-09-22/hcws462); and, whilst not surprising, it is extremely disappointing for transgender people, non-binary people, and the wider LGBT community.

Birmingham LGBT do not accept the Government’s position “that the balance struck in the legislation is ‘correct’ with ‘proper checks and balances in the system’ for those who want to change their legal sex”.

The consultation on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act in 2018 received over 100,000 responses; the vast majority of people who responded to the consultation supported the proposed changes. The announcement fails to take into account the views expressed in the consultation responses, and as a result the experiences of trans and non-binary people, their family and friends,  and everyone else that feels the current system is intrusive, dehumanising and bureaucratic, have been marginalised: that they supported it being replaced by a quicker and de-medicalised process.

The two actions the Government have announced (reduction in fees and online application process), whilst welcomed, are only a small step in the right direction; and are far from the true reform that trans and non-binary people need. Birmingham LGBT does not accept the Government’s reason for not reforming the Gender Recognition Act because it’s not the “top priority” of transgender people and feel that the Government should have gone further to allow trans and non-binary people the freedoms that make it easier for them to go about their everyday lives, and live and prosper in modern Britain.

The reference to the current state of trans healthcare being of higher priority to trans people, whilst not untrue, is a deflection from the issue at hand; its primary purpose: to seek to avoid addressing that even with the upcoming changes we will be left with a gender recognition system that is hostile and inaccessible to transgender and non-binary people.

Despite this, there is some cause for celebration. It appears that the worst has been avoided and we welcome this. Back in June, the Sunday Times leaked government plans to roll back transgender rights significantly, far beyond the scope of the Gender Recognition Act (read our response from June here: https://blgbt.org/call-to-action-protect-trans-rights/); whereby it was suggested that  measures such as barring trans people from using bathrooms that fit their gender identity were due to be introduced. As a result of the hard work and action of LGBT+ individuals, campaigns and organisations and their allies, these measures have not come to pass.

This is despite the relentless “debate” over whether trans and non-binary people should have the right to legally change their gender in a dignified and accessible manner, have access to essential services such as bathrooms or even have the right to exist, which has plagued the consultation period.

Birmingham LGBT have joined the Together campaign (https://www.consortium.lgbt/togethercampaign/), alongside other LGBT + organisations, to organise to support trans and non-binary people’s rights to safety and dignity. We stand in solidarity with the trans and non-binary community.