The Government has today announced that it will not be changing the process by which an individual can legally change their gender, with existing requirements to stay in place. LGBT Humanists, which supports reform of the Gender Recognition Act to ease the lives of trans people, has expressed disappointment at the decision.
In 2018 the Government consulted on changing the Act to remove the necessity of a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before someone can legally change their gender in England and Wales, amongst other things. LGBT Humanists responded in support of this, submitting that gender dysphoria should not be considered a medical disorder and that its classification as such has negative consequences for trans people, both in terms of the legal process of transitioning and in encountering social stigma and prejudice. At the same time, LGBT Humanists noted that it was not proposed that there would be – and there should not be – any reduction in legal protections on grounds of sex.
But today the Government has announced that it will not be making any changes after all, other than to digitise the existing application process and reduce the associated fees. Three new gender clinics are also being established, and the Government is looking to reduce waiting times to access gender identity services.
LGBT Humanists Chair Stuart McCaighy commented:
‘We support the freedom of all people to make choices about their own lives to the extent that they do not harm others. In line with this, we have a longstanding commitment to supporting the human rights and dignity of trans people and their equal treatment. This led us to support the Government’s proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, which would have eased the lives of those who wish to have their gender legally reassigned so that they can live their life recognised as that gender by public authorities and service providers.
‘We welcome the progress the Government has announced today to digitise and cheapen the gender recognition process, as well as to improve access to healthcare. But we are disappointed that the Government is no longer planning to make the changes to the Gender Recognition Act that it proposed. We will keep working to see such changes be made in the future.’
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The proposals, if they had been implemented, would have left in place safeguards to ensure the genuine intent of applicants for legal reassignment, and existing Equality Act protections on the grounds of sex would have been maintained. These protections guarantee, for example, that single-sex services can continue to be restricted to people of one biological sex only, if such a restriction is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. They also provide a lower age limit of 18 before someone can be legally recognised as a different gender from the one they were born with, 18 before physical surgery can occur, and 16 before being able to access cross-sex hormones.
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