11pm October 19th is the deadline for submitting your consultation response to Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) reform proposals. Here is a brief run-down of what the proposals are, and what the impact will be for women.
THE CURRENT LEGAL SITUATION
The GRA was passed in order to allow men and women to apply to legally change their sex, after meeting certain requirements. The requirements to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate – which would confirm their legal status as a member of the opposite sex – are as follows:
- Applicant must be over 18
- They must intend to live as their ‘acquired gender’ permanently
- They must have two medical reports confirming a diagnosis of gender dysphoria
- They must have evidence of having lived full time as their ‘acquired gender’ for at least two years
- If married, their spouse must issue a statutory declaration of consent
- There is an application fee of up to £140.
The Act was intended to address the situation of a small number of transsexuals who had – or would have – ‘reassignment surgery’ in an effort to alleviate the serious discomfort they felt about their sexed bodies (gender dysphoria). Only 4,910 individuals have legally changed their sex since 2004.
What does it mean to have a Gender Recognition Certificate?
After being granted the Certificate, the applicant will be regarded in law as a member of the opposite sex, with certain exceptions. They will receive a new birth certificate with the opposite sex recorded. Crucially, the Certificate also protects them from ‘privacy infringements’ by making it a criminal offence for an official to reveal that the applicant has undergone reassignment.
THE PROPOSED REFORMS
The reforms proposed by the Government are aimed at de-‘medicalising’ the process of changing legal sex. Trans activists now criticise the suggestion that ‘gender dysphoria’ should be considered necessary to obtain a certificate – indeed, 80-95% of “male-to-female” transgender people happily keep their penises. No involvement from a doctor – or anybody else at all except for the applicant – should be required. Rather, the proposed test is one of self-identification. All that would be needed for a man to be considered a woman by the law is for that man to ‘identify’ as one.
This reflects the modern politics of transgenderism, which treats sex (and thus the desire to change sex) as a purely mental rather than physical phenomenon; an individual rather than a societal phenomenon. No doctor, no spouse, no parole officer, indeed, nobody at all, should stand in the way of a man or woman’s desire to ‘identify’ as a member of the opposite sex to the one he or she is as a matter of fact.
These new reforms would serve a very different population to the few thousand transsexuals living in Britain today. Stretching the definition to include anybody with an ‘identity’ at odds with their biological sex, the estimated transgender population is between 400,000 – 500,000 people. Many men in particular have no ‘dysphoria’ at all, and developed from what was originally a sexual interest in cross-dressing.
WHY THE REFORMS ARE BAD FOR WOMEN
The legal rights we have today – to protect us from discrimination, both direct and indirect – were passed in light of the discrete experiences and challenges that women face, flowing from their existence in a sex-based hierarchy. They reflect the fact that women have faced and continue to face those discrete challenges because they are women, and the feelings of individual women (or men) are utterly irrelevant to that structural reality. The law, in tackling inequality, routinely addresses the problem of differential impact of supposedly “equal rights” by making specific provision for those in certain economic circumstances, and allows for detailed exceptions in discrimination law to address the circumstances of those who face particular challenges as members of ethnic minority and disability groups.
Similarly, the Equality Act 2010 contains exceptions which allow for specific provision of services for women (despite otherwise amounting to ‘direct discrimination’ under the law). These exceptions are vital to ensure that women can be afforded equal dignity to men in an unequal society; are able to heal in the care of other women when they have been victimised by men; and are able to be kept safe from the real risk of male violence that would be presented if prisons were unsegregated.
Unfortunately, it is already the case that the powerful trans lobby has persuaded numerous organisations and public bodies to introduce ‘self-ID’ policies for accessing what would otherwise be single-sex facilities. The result has been the erosion of women’s spaces, the endangerment of women and in numerous recorded instances women being physically assaulted by men in precisely those facilities where they should feel most safe. [“Karen White”]. Without the involvement of doctors or the insistence that men evidence a commitment to permanent sex reassignment, there are even fewer safeguards against the thousands of men who are motivated by sexual thrill – the masochistic thrill of inhabiting the ‘subservient’ sex role, or the sadistic thrill of invading the private spaces of women without their consent. All these men would be able to avail themselves of the powerful privacy protections that come with the Certificate, making it an offence for any official to disclose their true sex.
With the explosion of numbers that we can expect (due to the massively increased pool of people who will be able to apply for a certificate), the impact upon women’s ability to simply exist with each other in the absence of men (for example, participating in women-only recreational activities) will be substantially greater. This poses a particular risk to the integrity of women’s sport, the entire rationale for which is the indisputable physical differences between men and women which can make fair competition between them impossible. The proposed reforms would normalise a self-ID test for local sporting groups, undermining women’s already disproportionately low opportunities for participation and advancement to national and international levels.
Finally, allowing thousands of new men to supposedly join the ranks of the female sex class would destroy any chance of keeping accurate track of divergent data relating to economic inequality and employment, and – significantly – criminal offending. The evidence that we have suggests that “male-to-female” transgender men retain male patterns of criminal offending at the very least, with more recent data obtained by Fair Play for Women and the BBC suggesting a drastically heightened propensity for sexual offending. Allowing Certificates to be issued on a self-ID basis would make it near impossible for researchers in the UK to learn more about these facts (on which there is insufficient data already), and so to persuade policy-makers to act accordingly. This lack of data would also only further smooth the path for the trans lobby that supports re-allocation of political and economic opportunities away from women towards men, as women are robbed of the information they need to demonstrate their continued disadvantage in those and other areas and so justify use of the Equality Act exemptions in their favour.
Fill in the consultation here. Deadline Friday 19th of October: