The UK’s Government Equality Office is consulting on possible changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA). Anyone can respond. The consultation link is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004.
The consultation ends at 11pm on 19 October 2018.
There has been a large backlash from people hostile to trans rights. It is important that academics who support trans rights respond to the consultation, ideally with reference to relevant evidence from scholarly research. This guide provides advice on doing so.
(Note: post updated 15/10/18 to include additional links and my full consultation response)
At present, the GRA enables adults to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and change the gender on their birth certificate from female to male, or vice-versa.
- This has consequences for the registration of sex/gender upon marriage or civil partnership and affects some insurance and pensions.
- It is of symbolic importance for many trans people.
- Non-binary genders and trans people under the age of 18 are not recognised.
The GRA is not relevant to legal changes of name or sex/gender marker in any other arena.
- Trans people are already able to change their name and sex/gender marker with organisations such as banks, schools, universities, social services, the DVLA and NHS. No medical evidence is required for this process.
- Trans people are already able to change the sex/gender marker on their passport with a letter from a doctor.
Trans people have criticised the GRA for being unnecessarily bureaucratic and intrusive.
- Applicants submit evidence – including medical records, letters from mental health specialists, and proof that they have lived in their ‘acquired’ gender for at least two years – to the Gender Recognition Panel.
- The process costs £140 (plus additional costs) and there is no right to appeal.
- An official list of people who have changed their sex/gender in this way is kept on a ‘gender recognition register’.
Note: I use the term ‘sex/gender’ as current UK law does not distinguish between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’: the two are used interchangeably.
Since the GRA consultation was announced, numerous single-issue anti-trans groups have emerged to oppose amendments to the GRA and argue for a wider push back against the social recognition of trans people’s genders and access to sexed/gendered spaces.
Anti-trans groups have spread misinformation about the GRA.
- e.g. the purpose and function of the GRA has been conflated with the Equality Act 2010, which governs trans people’s access to sexed/gendered public spaces.
These groups have a powerful voice in the mainstream media.
- Factually inaccurate, anti-trans news and opinion pieces are published every week in outlets such as the Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, News Statesman and Spectator.
These groups have access to significant funding that trans groups do not.
- Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent on billboards and newspaper adverts opposing trans rights.
- Anti-abortion American fundamentalist groups such as ‘Hands Across the Aisle’ and far-right publications such as Breitbart and The Federalist have extensively promoted the work of ‘feminist’ anti-trans groups and shared crowdfunding pages.
These groups claim to represent feminism.
- They wrongly argue that gender recognition poses a threat to women’s rights.
- Trans women are often represented as potential or actual sexual predators.
- Trans men and non-binary people often are represented as tragic or deluded.
- By contrast, numerous groups who work with vulnerable women (e.g. Scottish Women’s Aid) have supported trans affirming reforms to gender recognition.
These groups are encouraging their supporters to respond to the GRA consultation.
- This happened in response to a similar consultation by the Scottish government. While in that instance most respondents supported extending trans rights, thousands of anti-trans responses were also submitted.
Responding to the consultation as academics
As academics, it is important that we support good governance grounded in empirical evidence and the principles of equality and equity for all. As feminists and/or LGBTQ+ people, it is important that we recognise that current attacks on trans rights echo and are linked to similar attacks on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.
In responding to the consultation:
Concisely reference scholarly evidence where possible.
- Assert your own expertise where relevant.
- In the linked PDF below, I have used in-text citations for brevity. However, Government bodies tend to prefer links or full-reference footnotes, so please bear this in mind.
Ensure your response to each question makes sense as a stand-alone comment.
- Don’t build an argument across the entirety of your consultation response or cross-reference your previous answers.
- Consultation responses will be analysed on a question-by-question basis.
Responses from organisations are given more weight by the government.
- If it is possible to submit a response on behalf of your department, school, centre, professional organisation or academic special interest group, please do so in addition to your personal response.
If you have limited time and energy just responding to the tick-box questions will make a difference.
Please share this information with your colleagues to ensure a large, evidence-based trans-positive response to the consultation.
Here are two documents I have produced to help you and your colleagues in responding to the consultation.
GRA consultation – suggested starting points for responding to consultation questions
This document includes information on each consultation question, including relevant evidence and citations that you might want to use in your submission.
GRA consultation – a guide for feminist and LGBT+ academics
This document includes the full content of this blog post plus the suggested starting points for responding to consultation questions.
For guides to the consultation from non-academic organisations, see:
National Union of Students
GIRES and TELI (focuses on recognition for trans youth)
You can see my complete personal response to the consultation here: GRA response.