‘Unacceptable’: MPs Slam UK Approach to Gender Recognition

A new report from the Conservative-led Women and Equalities Committee says delays to potential reforms had caused “real distress” and “exacerbate[d] tensions.”
‘Unacceptable’: MPs Slam UK Approach to Gender Recognition
A protester at a demonstration calling for an end to discrimination against trans people, outside Downing Street this summer. Photo: Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A cross-party group of UK MPs has recommended the government makes multiple changes to the way trans people are able to self identify, after it found the government’s approach to the issue had “caused real distress.” 

The Conservative-led Women and Equalities Select Committee said the outcome of the 2018 Gender Recognition consultation was “unacceptable.” 

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The UK government launched the consultation three years ago into the admin processes that trans people must go through in order to change the sex on their birth certification. At the time, trans people had to have lived in their chosen gender for two years, apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate from a panel of doctors and lawyers costing £140, and receive two different gender dysmorphia diagnoses from separate medical professionals. For married trans people, the law said their partner must give “spousal consent” for the marriage to continue during this application process. 

Despite overwhelming support to remove these barriers after the consultation, the government concluded in 2020 that the current legislation was “correct,” causing outrage. Instead, the government said it would move the process of getting a Gender Recognition Certificate online, and would reduce the fee from £140 to “a nominal amount”. 

“The length of time taken by the Government Equalities Office to respond to its own consultation is unacceptable,” today’s report said. “Not only did this delay exacerbate tensions between an already polarised group of stakeholders, but it also caused real distress to many within the transgender community.’

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The Women and Equalities Select Committee report also took issue with the response from the government, such as the naming of three new gender identity clinics. These clinics, which the government touted as the result of the consultation, had actually already been announced and were not part of the review. 

“The inclusion of the clinics in the consultation response statement served only as a distraction from the lack of any real change to the gender recognition process,” the report said.

Ultimately, it said: “The Government Equalities Office response to the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act was minimal and ignored areas where there was a majority in support for change.”

The committee has made numerous recommendations to improve the process of self-identifying for trans people. It said that the government should remove the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and should scrap the need for trans people to prove they have lived as a certain gender for two years as “there is no clear, accepted or agreed definition” of what that is. It also recommended removing spousal consent. 

Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at Stonewall, said: “Today’s report from the Women and Equalities Select Committee rightly holds the UK Government to account for falling short in its reform of the Gender Recognition Act. An Act that once made the UK a global leader in trans equality now finds itself behind the times, and the report lays bare the extent to which it is now failing our trans communities.”

“It is clear from the report that trans healthcare is in crisis,” he added. “Severe under-resourcing of Gender Identity Clinics is leaving trans people waiting for an initial appointment for three years or more. This is not good enough."