The Government has finally released its response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation. Long-awaited by the trans community and those advocating on their behalf, it has no doubt caused widespread disappointment, even though one of the key points – that plans for self-identification have been dropped – was expected following a leak earlier this summer. Whilst the change to a purely online application system will no doubt be welcomed, the changes to be applied are administrative and won’t result in the fundamental shift that has become a central focus point in a very toxic debate in recent years. Many trans people feel that not allowing such a system of self-recognition perpetuates stigma and restricts their right to autonomy.
Insisting on a two year period of living in an acquired gender, and medical evidence, before a panel considers whether to recognise a person’s acquired gender is arguably an onerous process and undermines one’s rights to family and private life and identity, rights protected by the Convention. Many people believe it sends the wrong impression about the way the Government sees trans people and how it protects their Convention rights.
Of course, in many cases, it is not just the individual trying to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate who is affected by the lengthy period of uncertainty: their families are too. Importantly, children of trans parents could be left confused about why their own perception of their parents does not accord with the legal recognition and status of that parent to the outside world, and could impact on the child’s own rights to identity under the UNCRC – a point that we raised when intervening on behalf of the Aire Centre in the ‘TT’ (Freddy McConnell) case in the Court of Appeal earlier this year. It will be interesting to see if the rights of the children of trans parents will feature in any future cases seeking to highlight the practical consequences of the current system.
You can read the full statement that Liz Truss, the equalities minister, delivered to parliament here.