A 'Shocking Failure': Campaigners Slam Gender Recognition Act Reform Decision

The UK government confirms that it will reject changes to the GRA that would have made it easier for trans people to self-identify.
September 22, 2020, 12:26pm
Campaigners Slam Gender Recognition Act Reform Decision
Photo: Guy Corbishley / Alamy

The government will not reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender despite a public consultation response that largely supported reforms, the Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss has confirmed.

In a statement released this morning, the Equalities Office said that reforms suggested in 2018 under Theresa May’s government – such as removing the need for a gender dysphoria diagnosis for those wishing to change their legal gender – will not go ahead as the current legislation “is correct”.

The reforms to the GRA sought to make it quicker and less medically invasive for trans people to self-identify. Under the current system, trans people seeking to change the sex specified on their birth certificate must apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate from a panel of doctors and lawyers, costing £140, and prove that they have lived as their “acquired gender” for two years. They must also provide two gender dysphoria diagnoses from different medical professionals.

According to a report on the outcome of the government’s GRA consultation, which took place in 2018 and received 103,833 submissions, the majority of respondents agreed with the reforms. Nearly two-thirds said that there should not be a requirement for a gender dysphoria diagnosis for those wishing to change their legal gender, while 80 percent were in favour of removing the need for a medical report. The majority of respondents – 78.6 percent – also supported removing the requirement for individuals to prove that they had lived as their gender for a period of time.

“It is the government’s view that the balance struck in this legislation is correct,” Truss’ statement read, “in that there are proper checks and balances in the system and also support for people who want to change their legal sex.”

The government will, however, introduce some changes to the GRA. It will move the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate online, and will reduce the fee from £140 to “a nominal amount”.

“We have also come to understand that gender recognition reform, though supported in the consultation undertaken by the last government, is not the top priority for transgender people,” said Truss. “Perhaps their most important concern is the state of trans healthcare.  Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long.”

The government will also open “at least three” new gender clinics in 2020 in order to increase capacity and reduce waiting lists.

“Britain leads the world as a country where everybody is able to lead their life freely and treated with respect and that, for many years, transgender people have been widely accepted in British society; able to use facilities of their chosen gender; and able to participate fully in modern life,” said Truss. “At the heart of this is the principle of individual liberty. Our philosophy is that a person’s character, your ideas, and your work ethic trumps the colour of your skin or your biological sex. We firmly believe that neither biology nor gender is destiny.”

LGBTQ campaigners who supported the GRA reforms have expressed disappointment. Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said: “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.”

“It’s a shocking failure in leadership that after three years and a robust public consultation, the UK government has put forward only minimal administrative changes to improve the process for legal gender recognition of trans people in England and Wales,” she continued. “While these moves will make the current process less costly and bureaucratic, they don’t go anywhere near far enough toward meaningfully reforming the Act to make it easier for all trans people to go about their daily life.”

A petition, launched this week after rumours that the GRA reforms were set to be scrapped, has almost 100,000 signatures.