Blog Post – So what is wrong with the Gender Recognition system?

By Annie – 20th June 2016

Sally gets into some trouble this week on Hollyoaks, as a confrontation with Myra McQueen leads to Myra falling down the stairs at the school. As has been revealed in Inside Soap and Digitalspy, this could have drastic consequences for the headmistress as she is arrested for the incident.

Despite the fact that Sally transitioned 26 years previously, she has not, for her own reasons, obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to grant her full legal rights in her reassigned gender. As a single woman, on a day-to-day level, this has no effect on her life, in terms of travel, employment or tax.

The Gender Recognition Act of 2004 was a solution devised by the Labour Government at the time and various consultation groups. Its primary goal was to allow trans people to be granted full legal rights in their acquired gender. For the first time since 1970, trans people were lifted out of legal limbo and allowed to live full, legally appropriate lives. It was flawed, but a massive step forward. It was also framed to protect already married partners of trans people, and to prevent ‘gay marriage’ by the back door, in a concession to a hostile religious lobby.

For many this was a suitable compromise, even if the aforementioned married trans people had to obtain permission from their husbands or wives for the certificate. The so-called ‘spousal veto’.

There have been some well-publicised reports recently of trans women being sent to male prisons (and of course the reverse has happened too), as the official line is that people should be sent to prisons appropriate for their legal gender. This has led to some high-profile reports of trans people taking their own lives whilst in custody, and other vulnerable individuals placed into segregation units along with sex offenders, when they themselves have been abused as youngsters. They have also been subjected to hideous sexual assaults. Although these terrible examples do not account for ALL the cases of trans people being sent to prison, the chances of error amount to something akin to a lottery, where the prison chosen is down to the flexibility and empathy of the local prison service or judiciary. This inhumane process MUST STOP, and it needs legal reform to achieve that.

Many trans people do not have GRCs, and for many reasons: Their age, incomplete treatment or time served in the new gender, spousal veto, or just the sheer cost and bureaucracy of the application process.

Obtaining a GRC requires two medical reports (from a GP’s physical examination and from the original treatment clinic), extensive documentary proof of living in the new gender, an original birth certificate and a statutory declaration. Only then will an anonymous panel decide whether to grant the GRC or not. It is a long, intrusive and expensive process.

Since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013, the Gender Recognition Act is, in my personal view, no longer fit for purpose, as many of the built-in caveats to prevent ‘gay marriage’ no longer apply. The rest is a mish-mash of judgemental and medicalised bureaucracy which has no place in 2016. Trans people should be granted their requested legal status based on self-determination. Not only will this be a fairer, more streamlined system, it will drastically cut costs to the state and the individual.

On July 15th 2015, the Republic of Ireland enacted their own Gender Recognition Act, providing a process enabling trans people to achieve full legal recognition of their preferred gender by self-declaration, joining Denmark and Malta.

On the 14th of January 2016, following a consultation process, the UK government’s Women and Equalities Committee published a inquiry report about the current state of legal and social issues currently facing trans people. A very different landscape to 12 years ago.

Six months later, and the Government’s current stance is: “The Government welcomed your report and is studying the recommendations in detail. However, this process is taking time. Your report called for very significant changes to the legislative framework around gender recognition, as well as significant reforms of NHS and other public service processes, covering around a dozen different public bodies in total. We are looking through these carefully, but we are not yet in a position to issue a substantive response on all of them.”

In other words: No change.

In April 2016, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland stated that she intends to introduce a new system of Gender Recognition for Scotland in the next term, based on self-declaration, bringing it into line with Ireland, Denmark and Malta.

In summary, the time has come for the UK to lead, not lag behind, on this issue, and to quickly and efficiently reform the gender recognition process in England and Wales into a system fit for purpose in 2016 and beyond.


All opinions are my own.