On December 11th, trans representatives from Galop, CliniQ and FTM London got together with staff from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) to discuss needed changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) and current problems in the process of getting a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), the document that makes officiant a change in registered gender.
Below is a selection of the key discussions held between the attending parties.
CliniQ observed that Gender identity is vulnerable to misuse in law. If an trans individual has consensual sexual relations, and the other partner discovers that they are not – as was supposed – a cisgender male (for example), the other partner may try to claim that, in hindsight, this sexual activity no longer counts as consensual.
This leaves trans people at risk of transphobic discrimination, as opposed to simply being held to account for abusive sexual behaviour, as the law intends.
In family law disputes, spouses can refuse to sign divorce papers for various reasons, which interferes with the process of getting a GRC, because of a quirk of British marriage law. It was highlighted that this gives spouses of trans people too much power over the trans partner, making choices which are not theirs to make.
Galop pointed out that in non-trans relationships, people do not have to ask their spouse to sign off on decisions they make in regards to their own bodies: “In any other marriage, you are not owned. You don’t have to ask permission for a boob reduction, for example.”
CliniQ added that there are also problems in the courts, where transgenderism is used against a witness to paint them as having bad character. They asserted that the culture of the courts can portray trans women as mentally unstable, addicts or sex workers – and therefore unreliable or untrustworthy witnesses.
Segregation, hate incidents and transphobia in the media
In the current media climate, certain groups have expressed concern about the integration of trans people and cis people in traditionally gender segregated spaces. The group discussed the implications of this for trans people.
CliniQ said there isn’t enough evidence suggesting that letting trans women into women’s shelters leads to abuse. They asked that the government “be rigorous in demanding evidence,” of abuse before acting on spurious claims. “The government will need to pin down the reasonableness and non-radical nature of these proposals.”
They added that there is a distinct rhetoric of “out of control freaks and weirdos” around trans people, who are regarded as a problem to be solved – imposters who infiltrate single-sex spaces for nefarious reasons. CliniQ highlighted that anonymous, anecdotal evidence is too often used to justify an anti-trans bias.
They cited an example of an MEP who told the story of a student that had installed cameras in the gender neutral bathrooms. This MEP neglected to mention that the student had also done the same thing in the women’s only bathroom – rendering the point moot.
“Anybody can find someone to support some crank position,” CliniQ said. “But of perpetrators are determined to abuse someone, they will find a way.”
Galop noted that the media often avoid being branded as transphobic by targetting one or two key individuals in the community, rather than lambasting the whole group.
The group highlighted the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident, using the Met definition; “incident” is broader and protects more people. Many trans people experience more in the way of hate incidents than hate crimes.
At the current time, landlords are allowed to evict someone for being trans, because the Equality Act 2010 does not always protect against gender discrimination.
Under Section 22 of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, it is an offence for someone who has acquired knowledge of someone’s GRC application in a professional capacity to disclose this information to any other person.
However, this is not usually acted on by law enforcement The group discussed tweaking the Section to motivate law enforcement to investigate further when such an offence is committed.
The group highlighted that some medical professionals are allowed to ask invasive questions about gender realignment surgery that is years in the past, and are sometimes even asked to show their genitals for the medical evidence process in order to acquire a gender recognition certificate.
This can happen when surgery has been undertaken abroad and there are no records of the surgery in UK documents.
Social services do not currently accept that outright hostility from parents towards young trans people – such as burning a trans person’s clothes – counts as a form of abuse.
As a result of this, trans people are left vulnerable; Galop recounted an incident where a young person ran away from home to avoid parental hostility and was consequently violently assaulted while sleeping on the streets.
FTM London put forward that underage trans people should only need the consent of one guardian, not both, to seek treatment, reducing the risk that one transphobic parent can impede a young trans person’s transition.
It was pointed out that it makes no sense to ask for the consent of both parents if one of them has not been involved in the child’s life for a number of years.
Bureaucracy and cost of documents
As it currently stands, there is a large range in price for medical letters from doctors confirming someone’s right to change their legally recognised gender. It can cost anything from £50 to £200 to obtain such a letter from a GP.
These letters are considered to be outside of a doctor’s NHS duties and is thus up to their discretion how much they will charge.
CliniQ said that the language of “choice” in pursuit of a GRC is misleading. Trans people, after all, do not choose to be trans and are merely misidentified at birth. “A mistake has been made. It seems profoundly unjust that the individual citizen bears the cost of fixing it.”
The need for paper certificates was questioned, as it is out of step with digital advances in record keeping. FTM London also proposed a “Tell Us Once” system, as with the procedure for bereavement. This could save trans people a lot of unnecessary stress.
Despite demand for Gender Recognition Certificates, many trans people do not pursue them because of the bureaucracy. “The knock on effect is a drain on our mental health services,” said FTM London. In other words, it does not save the public money to charge individuals for their GRC: “It costs us all, one way or another.”
To read more about the investigations of the GEO and discussions relating to them, click here to read the Parliamentary document.