I am very grateful to my very gifted friend and Bronte lover, Emily Ross, who gave me much-needed help and advice on this piece of writing . Links below.
I like to assume that I am an educated person. I read the news every day and I listen to Radio 4 a great deal. I read a lot about pretty much everything, except sport. I discuss issues with my children and we often have political debates around the dinner table, as I feel that it is vital that my children understand The World that they are living in. I like to believe that I am a tolerant person. I’ve tried to bring my children up not to judge anyone and not to treat anyone differently because of their sex or sexual orientation or the colour of their skin or their age, ability, religion or culture etc.
Yesterday I was shocked to discover that I really do not know about one of the greatest injustices that still exists in this country.
Over the past few days, I have become increasingly aware that the Government has asked for consultation over the 2004 Gender Recognition Act on whether they should make it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised. Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour discussed this issue today and I was sent a link to the Stonewall website on Twitter. Stonewall are a charity that campaign and lobby for the right of the LGBT+ community to be treated equally and without discrimination. The charity was founded in 1989 in response to the appalling Section 28 clause in the Local Government Act, which prevented the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. Stonewall has helped to achieve the equalisation of the age of consent, lifted the ban on LGB people serving in the military, secured legislation allowing same-sex couples to adopt and repealed Section 28. Stonewall has also helped to secure civil partnerships and same-sex marriage and ensured that the recent Equality Act protected lesbian, gay and bi people in terms of goods and services.
It was only when I researched the current Gender Recognition Act further, that I realised just how little I do know about the current legislation regarding trans people. I cannot speak on behalf of the trans community, as I am very much aware that there are many very sensitive and complex issues that I can only try to understand. I can, however, speak on behalf of equality. In our current legal system, trans people still do not have the right legal framework to enable them to be themselves. Current legislation is failing the trans community, particularly regarding legal gender recognition.
In the UK at present, legally you must choose between being male or female. There is nothing in between. If you wish to change your gender status legally in the UK and gain what is known as, legal gender recognition, then you must provide evidence in the form of a birth certificate, a medical report, and proof that you have lived in this gender for two years. This process is incredibly expensive and fraught with numerous administrative difficulties. Furthermore, if you are married, then your spouse must give consent before a full certificate can be issued.
Many countries, most recently Portugal; following Malta, Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Belgium, have already voted in favour of what is known as a self-declaration system. This is the model most popular, because the choice over how someone’s gender is registered legally comes down to the individual. This is far simpler than our current system. The current system in the UK does not even recognise self-declaration from other countries. For example: if someone was to come from Ireland to the UK then this would result in a legal nightmare.
The current NHS waiting times of gender reassignment are ridiculously long. The BBC News website reported in January that some must wait at least eighteen months or even two years before their first assessment appointment. The clinic with the shortest waiting time is Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust Gender Identity Service at 51 weeks. This creates immense difficulties and possibly explains why there are such high incidences of mental health difficulties, including suicide attempts.
The current law, as it stands, makes no allowance for people who do not fit the male-female binary. Gender-variant identities, for example being genderqueer, non-binary or agender, are very much forgotten about and this can lead to significant problems. One of the many examples is that people are not allowed to get married without an assigned gender.
One thing is for certain: as a piece of legislation, the Gender Recognition act does not work as it currently exists. We must remove the barriers currently holding equality out of reach for trans and gender-variant people. It is paramount that we urgently update the Gender Recognition Act in line with the gender self-declaration system that is in place in other countries and put an end to the cruel judicial process currently used, for instances of gender recognition.
This week is also National Hate Crime Awareness week and it is horrifying that, according to the charity Stonewall, two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last year and 40% of trans people avoid certain streets because they do not feel safe. The sooner these reforms come in then the sooner trans people in the UK will have their right to a quiet and private life protected in law.
Please give the government your valuable input on this issue and #ComeOutForTransEquality as soon as you can (closes Friday 19th October 2018)
I am very grateful to my very gifted friend and Bronte lover, Emily Ross, who gave me much-needed help and advice on this piece of writing.