Have your say on the Gender Recognition Act – and change hundreds of thousands of people's lives for the better
Liberty's Digital and Communications Assistant PJ Macleod explains why taking the time to respond to the Government's new Gender Recognition Act consultation could change hundreds of thousands of people's lives – and make our country a fairer, safer place.
If you’ve stumbled onto this page with a genuine interest in trans issues, but have just realised your lunch break is over / you’re late for an appointment / Love Island is about to start – do this one thing: put 19 October 2018 in your diary.
That date is your last opportunity to have a say on the Gender Recognition Act. The long-awaited consultation on transgender legal recognition launched yesterday – and it’s a biggie.
Voices in the mix will range from the usual people declaring what-if-isms and spreading fear and confusion, to those who genuinely understand the importance of reform. Your voice will count – make sure it’s heard.
What is the Gender Recognition Act?
The Gender Recognition Act came about in 2004, letting trans people apply to legally change the gender on their birth certificate. Whilst it was a progressive move at the time, it’s now way out of date.
The Act requires trans people to be diagnosed with a mental illness (gender dysphoria) before they can have their gender legally changed. It also denies non-binary people (those who don’t solely identify as male or female) any legal recognition at all.
It is unacceptable that recognition of your gender depends on a panel of relative strangers deeming it worthy enough for their stamp of approval. For those who are married, you’ll even need to get written permission from your spouse. Non-binary folk? Forget about it!
Meanwhile in places like Malta, Ireland and Norway, trans people are happily able to self-declare their gender.
Not only does the current Gender Recognition Act fail to comply with the United Nations Human Rights Commission guidance, it goes hand in hand with an expensive, complicated and drawn-out process.
What needs to change?
1. Let trans (including non-binary) people get their gender legally recognised more quickly (and at all).
Having the wrong gender on your ID causes problems in all sorts of areas from travel to job seeking, not to mention the emotional distress of being misgendered on a daily basis.
Currently, non-binary people don’t have any way at all to make their legal gender match their lived gender. Meanwhile, even those who are eligible have to prove they’ve been living in their true gender for two years before their application for legal recognition will even be considered.
Two years is too long.
2. Introduce an affordable process allowing trans people to make a statutory declaration of gender.
Making trans people jump through costly bureaucratic hoops, and subjecting them to demeaning medical scrutiny is unwarranted and unethical.
An affordable process enabling trans people to sign a legally binding document affirming their gender would be life-changing for so many in the UK.
3. Extend legal gender recognition to trans 16 and 17 year olds.
Young trans people are some of our most vulnerable. This is not necessarily because of anything inherent to them being trans, but because they are being forced to grow up in a society that discriminates against them, treats their identity as an illness, and fails to recognise their true selves.
This has to stop.
What can I do?
If you aren’t trans, updating this Act will barely affect you at all. But for hundreds of thousands of trans people, you’ll have helped to completely change their lives, and made our country a safer and fairer place to be in the process.
So please join me – as well as Liberty, Amnesty, BIHR, Stonewall and countless others across the country – and call for reform, now.
(Or, you know, before 19 October – put it in your diary, go on!)