I received a reply to a letter I had written to my then MP last July about the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. I had thought it had disappeared into a black hole never to be seen again.
So when i received his reply this week it came as quite a pleasant surprise. Looking at his voting record in the House of Commons I did not expect a great deal of support. As it is his response appears positive.
Thank you for contacting me about the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA).
I am determined that everyone in the UK should be free to live their lives and fulfil their potential regardless of their sex, gender identity, race or disability. I am also clear that transgender people should be free to proposer in modern Britain.
I am encouraged that my colleagues in the Government Equalities Office have, over recent years, looked carefully and thoroughly into the gender recognition process, including considering potential changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. After careful consideration, it is their view that this existing legislation strikes the right balance between ensuring there are proper checks and balances in the system and ensuring there is support in place for people who want to change their legal sex.
However, I understand it was clear from the consultation that changes are needed to improve the process and experience transgender people have when applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate. When responding to the National LGBT survey, transgender people highlighted two key obstacles in the process: bureaucracy and cost. I am especially glad that these are being addressed, with the entire procedure moving online and the existing £140 fee being reduced to a nominal amount. I am confident this will make a noticeable difference to the transgender people who use the system.
I would like to assure you that I am deeply committed to transgender equality and this continues to be something that I will champion in Parliament.
Together with my colleagues in Government, I want every individual, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity to have the confidence and the freedom to be themselves.
Having watched Yes Minister, I accept this was probably drafted by a civil servant who has drafted a response intended to please. It may be wishful thinking but there was no need to add in ‘I would like to assure you that I am deeply committed to transgender equality and this continues to be something that I will champion in Parliament”.
The response recognises that changes are needed in relation to applying for a GRC. What it does not address is the lack of support in relation to the provision of care for transgender people. In particular the appalling wait for a first appointment to attend a Gender Identity Clinic (GIC). The announcement by the Equalities Minister said there would be three more GICs to be opened this year. I am afraid this will barely scratch the surface of what is needed.
However the fact that the Equalities Minister took the view that no further action was required in relation to safe spaces for women was a major step in standing firm against the current social media war being waged by TERFS. What is necessary is for trans-people to resist the hysteria and go about their daily lives in the knowledge that they are protected by the law.
I have been, and still am, anxious about using female changing rooms and toilets. I have been fortunate enough to receive my new passport in my new gender this week and with this in my handbag I will feel able to stand up for myself better because I have an official document that recognises me as female. This has always seemed to me the main reason for obtaining a GRC so that there is a validation that can be produced when challenged.
Anything that make obtaining a GRC easier should be welcomed. I opted for the passport route as it was cheaper and easier than trying to get a GRC. This raises the question of self-identity, already being successfully used in the Republic of Ireland. This would of course make it much simpler. I remain ambivalent as to whether it is the correct approach. I am sure at a basic level it is correct and a basic right for someone to be able to self-identify as to their gender. The more fluid gender becomes the more difficult I feel this becomes. For me transition was a clear binary decision and to enable me to live in my identity I have no difficulty in passing through some hoops to satisfy appropriate professionals I am serious about my identity. It also has the advantage of being able to say to transphobes (who will not listen anyway) that I have successfully established my identity and that it is not some fickle choice. This position is specific to my circumstances and I have an open mind on the question of self-identity at present.
However, if applying for a GRC was made simpler and cheaper, so that applicants did not have to wait months if not years to see an appropriate professional then the need to be able to self-identify might be less pressing.