This is what you need to know about the Gender Recognition Act consultation
Photo: Alamy


This is what you need to know about the Gender Recognition Act consultation

And if you want to make life a bit easier for trans people, then fill it out – it only takes 10 minutes

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By Vic Parsons on

Statistically, almost every other transgender person has tried to kill themselves. Some things that make it difficult to be trans: one in three employers won’t hire you; there is a two in five chance that you have experienced a hate crime in the past year; a 25% likelihood that you will be homeless at some point in your life; you know how it feels to be too scared to use a public bathroom, to dress how you feel comfortable, to tell your family and people you work or study with that you are trans.

Another thing that makes it difficult to be trans: to have the correct gender on your birth certificate, you must be medically diagnosed with a mental illness. The panel of people who decide if you are the gender you say you are never meet you. This process costs money – £140 for the Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) application, more for the medical appointments to get the evidence you must supply. You have to live in your “acquired gender” for two years – socially transitioning, without legal back-up.

If you are non-binary, like me, then none of the above matters anyway, because being non-binary is currently not legally recognised. I can’t get a GRC, or get married, or be protected from discrimination, or any of the other technically tedious things that having the government legally recognise my gender would give me. Trans people who are under 18 can’t have their gender legally recognised either, even though we know that simple and uncomplicated support for young trans people’s identities from a younger age means that they tend to have an easier time of it than those who only get that support later on. While they are indeed technically tedious, these things have a real-life impact for many trans people in the UK.

The Gender Recognition Act is the law that determines how legal gender recognition works. It came into effect in 2004 and was progressive for its time, but now it’s out of date. The government estimates that there are half a million trans people in the UK, yet only about 5,000 have used the law to get a GRC. This is because the process of applying is unnecessarily complicated. Trans people and our allies want it to be simplified, so more of us can use it. The government is looking at reforming the GRA, and has launched a public consultation to work out the best way of doing it.

Being non-binary, I can’t get a GRC, or get married, or be protected from discrimination, or any of the other technically tedious things that having the government legally recognise my gender would give me

There is just one week left before the consultation closes on 19 October and only 22 questions to answer. This is a historic moment for trans rights. Please, fill in the consultation. For the time-poor, trans-ally reader, I give you your very own cheat sheet for filling it out. You might save a life.

You can fill the consultation out via the government’s website or via Stonewall.

  • 1 and 2: Skip; for trans people only.
  • 3: NO. Being trans isn’t a mental illness. The World Health Organisation recognises this. We moved past thinking that being gay is a mental illness; now, we need to move past thinking that being trans is, too.
  • 4: NO. We need to de-medicalise being trans – some people want medical intervention; some people don’t. This should not be the basis on which you are considered trans.
  • 5a: NO. It’s unfair to make someone live in their gender without any legal protection or rights. It’s also unfair to “test” people – people who aren’t trans don’t have to pass for their gender for two years and then prove it!
  • 5d: NO. This will add time and complication to a process the government is supposed to be streamlining. It perpetuates the myth that trans people do not know their own minds or what’s best for them. Trans people should be able to self-determine their gender – in Ireland, which introduced self-determination of gender in 2015, 297 people have been issued with a GRC on application. There is no recorded case of any of them changing their minds.
  • 6a: YES. This is a simple process, followed in other countries, including Ireland, and follows international best practice in human rights.
  • 6b: NO. Although it’s important that people intend their legal gender change to be permanent, it’s unnecessary to include this clause. Making a fraudulent application is already illegal and people seeking legal recognition of their gender are already doing so with an understanding of the implications of their decision.
  • 7: NO. A person’s spouse should not have the right to block legal recognition of their gender.
  • 8a: YES. A birth certificate for a new baby is £4; a copy of an existing birth certificate is £9.25. It’s unreasonable that trans people must pay so much.
  • 9: NO. Trans people want section 22 to be reformed so their privacy and dignity is protected.
  • 10: Skip, unless you have/want a GRC.
  • 11: Skip, as 10.
  • 12: NO. The government has been very clear that the proposals are aimed at reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and not the Equality Act 2010.
  • 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18: NO. See above. The government’s introduction to the consultation clearly states: “We are not proposing any amendments to the Equality Act 2010.”
  • 19: YES. Reforming the GRA provides a good opportunity to improve some public services. For example, recognising non-binary people would improve monitoring data, as records could accurately reflect people’s identities.
  • 20: YESSSSSSSSSSS. Stonewall says: “The lack of legal recognition for non-binary people compounds the discrimination and abuse non-binary people face, as it reinforces the idea that non-binary people’s identities aren’t valid, grounded in reality or worth respecting.” Preach.
  • 21: Skip; intersex people only.
  • 22: If you have anything to add, then go for it; if not, then you’re done!


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Photo: Alamy
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Transgender Equality

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