22 September 2020 saw the publication of the Government response to its consultation on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The response was as short as it was long-awaited: 421 words, 23 months after consultation closed. Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, reported that the requirements for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) would not change though the process would be modernised and the fee (currently £140) be reduced. Applicants will be continue to be required to provide “medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria from an approved medical practitioner; A medical report from an approved medical professional providing details of any treatment they have had; Evidence they have lived in their new gender for at least two years [and a]greement from their spouse/civil partner to the marriage/civil partnership”, and to “Make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in the acquired gender until death (making a false statement is a criminal offence)”. Applications will continue to be determined on the papers by a Gender Recognition Panel which comprises, in each individual case, a judge and a medical professional.
Liz Truss’ statement went on to say that action would be taken by Government “to ensure transgender people can access the appropriate healthcare they need”, funding for gender identity services having “increased by 50% over the last three years, with at least three new gender clinics established over 2020/21. The UK’s first National LGBT Health Advisor is also supporting Government to improve transgender people’s patient experience, and take meaningful action to address historical problems that have resulted in long waiting times to access specialised gender identity services”.
Stonewall was prompt to respond to the announcement, chief executive Nancy Kelley condemning the Government “shocking failure in leadership” and Stonewall’s website referring to the fact that the Government’s analysis of the consultation responses had indicated that “over 100,000 individuals and organisations responded back in 2018 … Nearly two thirds (64.1 per cent) called for the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to be removed. Four in five (80.3 per cent) supported the removal of the requirement for a medical report detailing all treatment. Nearly four in five (78.6 per cent) called for the removal of the requirement for individuals to provide evidence of having lived in their ‘acquired gender’ for a period of time. Five in six (84.9 per cent) called for the removal of the requirement that a married trans person must obtain consent from their spouse before successfully getting legal gender recognition”. Stonewall’s chief executive condemned the Government’s “It’s a shocking failure in leadership that after three years and a robust public consultation, the UK government has put forward only minimal administrative changes to improve the process for legal gender recognition of trans people in England and Wales. While these moves will make the current process less costly and bureaucratic, they don’t go anywhere near far enough toward meaningfully reforming the act to make it easier for all trans people to go about their daily life.”
The Government’s analysis reported that “Stonewall, Level Up and Fair Play for Women — set up their own online forms, which could be completed by respondents and automatically submitted by email” and which together accounted for 64% of all submissions, with Stonewall’s online form alone accounting for 39% of submissions (p.21), Fair Play for Women 18% and Level Up 7% (p.22). The Government’s analysis further reported that “it was also evident that the guidance and suggested responses produced by [the three] organisations, and by a number of other organisations and groups, was reflected in many responses that had been submitted through the official government channels” (p.22). Text recognition software enabled the identification of “17 separate campaigns directed by external organisations or groups” which resulted in:
● Campaign-derived responses, where respondents copied text in whole or in large part from a campaign, with no or limited editing.
● Campaign-informed responses, where respondents used sections of text from campaigns, but re-wrote parts in their own words or elaborated on some points in more detail.
● Campaign-inspired responses, where respondents took key points from campaigns or referred to the campaigns themselves, but had extensively re-written the response in their own words.
The analysis included a table of the 17 campaigns with their suggested answers to the Consultations questions, a number of which are set out immediately below.
3/4: Should a gender dysphoria diagnosis / medical report detailing treatment be required for a GRC?
5: Should evidence of having lived in acquired gender be required for a GRC?
6: Should a statutory declaration be required for a GRC?
7; Should spousal consent be required for a GRC?
12: Will participation of trans people in sport be affected by changing the GRA?
13: Will single sex spaces be affected by changing the GRA?
20: Should changes be made to accommodate non-binary people?
Of the campaigning organisations, Amnesty International UK, Trans Allies Network and UNISON advocated identical answers to these questions (No, No, No, No, No, No, Yes). Christian Concern, The Christian Institute and Fair Play for Women advocated diametrically opposed answers with Woman’s Place advocated answering ‘No’ to questions 3/4, 5, 6, 7, 12 and 13 and did not suggest a response to question 20. Stonewall/ Trans Allies Network/ UNISON advocated No, No, Yes (to 6), No, No, No and Yes with Gendered Intelligence and NUS advocating ‘No’ answers to questions 3/4, 5 and 7 and ‘Yes’ to 20, NUS additionally advocating ‘yes’ to question 6 (not addrtessed by GI). Level Up advocated ‘no’ to 3/4 and 5, not suggesting answers to any other questions.
The latest announcement is unlikely to be the end of the story.