The Government Equalities Office provides clarity on their intentions - and we provide our analysis.
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
The government and equalities office has released a FAQ about the changes which are about to affect the most personal aspects of trans people's lives. Apparently, another consultation is promised, after the full details are released on 21st July 2020.
We have acquired a copy of this FAQ and make our own comments and analysis of its contents we report their correspondence and number them, below:
Gender Recognition Act
1) When will the Government publish its response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation?
We intend to publish our response to the consultation before the Summer Recess, which begins on 21 July 2020.
2) What changes will the Government be making to the Gender Recognition Act 2004?
Changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 are intended to make the process of applying for a gender recognition certificate less bureaucratic. The exact details of what this entails will be published in our response.
3) The Minister has said that it is important to maintain “proper checks and balances” when considering reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. What does this mean?
We believe that the process of legally changing one’s gender is a serious and legally meaningful undertaking that requires appropriate checks and a level of formality. We are carefully planning any changes to the Gender Recognition Act so that they can have a positive impact on transgender people who live in the UK, whilst remaining a serious and meaningful undertaking.
4) Equality Act 2010 exemptions for single-sex service provision
How do the Equality Act 2010 exemptions for single-sex service provision work?
The Equality Act requires people to provide services to the public to do so without discriminating against people because of their sex or because of their 'gender reassignment'. Exceptions in the Act allow provision of services to one sex only (for example men’s or women’s toilets or changing rooms).
Exceptions in the Act also allow for the exclusion of transgender people from single-sex facilities where this is necessary and proportionate.
5) The Minister for Women and Equalities recently gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee in which she referred to single-sex spaces. What did those comments mean?
During the consultation on the GRA which we ran in 2018, we asked how many changes to the act might affect women, providers of single-sex services, transgender people themselves, and other groups. Some people raised concerns that some men might misuse a gender recognition certificate to access women’s spaces to harm women.
In this context, the Secretary of State’s comments at the Women and Equalities Select Committee were intended to reiterate the importance of maintaining single-sex spaces, as provided for in the Equality Act. If any changes were to be made to the Act – as with all legislation – they would go through the appropriate processes of engagement.
6) Will the Government be amending the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act?
We know that some stakeholders have highlighted a desire for greater clarity from the Government about the law and guidance on single-sex spaces. We are looking into how we might provide greater clarity in this area as part of the Government’s response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation.
Healthcare for transgender people
7) What steps is the Government taking to improve healthcare for transgender people?
This Government is committed to improving services for those undergoing gender reassignment and to challenging transphobia in the NHS.
NHS England has funded the development of specialised training through the Royal College of Physicians’ accredited credential on trans health, aimed at encouraging medical and non-medical professionals (including nurses) to work in gender identity services.
The Government Equalities Office have appointed Dr Michael Brady, of Kings College Hospital, to be the first National LGBT Health Adviser. Dr Brady is focusing on improving the health outcomes for the LGBT population and is advising on ways to improve the care LGBT people receive when accessing the NHS and public health.
8) Is anything being done to address the long waiting times for gender identity services?
We are aware that the current waiting times for gender identity services are unacceptable. NHS England are working to improve this by establishing a more modern and flexible care model, and by moving routine gender identity services away from specialist centres, to more local provision.
9) Will the Government be restricting healthcare for transgender young people when it responds to the Gender Recognition Act consultation?
Healthcare for young transgender people does not fall within the scope of reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The Minister for Women and Equalities has stated, as a separate matter, that we also wish to ensure under-18s continue to be protected from taking life-changing decisions before they are capable.
We are clear that protecting young people is about ensuring the appropriate processes are in place, rather than withholding support, and we will be exploring what this means with the Department for Health and Social care who lead in this area. We are absolutely committed to making sure all young people have access to appropriate and timely psychological and medical support. The wellbeing of all young people is our priority.
The current minimum age limit for legally changing gender is 18 years, which is set out in the GRA itself, and will not be changed.
10) I am concerned that any potential restrictions to healthcare and access to single-sex spaces will have a detrimental effect on the mental health of transgender people, and may lead to an increase in suicide attempts. What is being done to protect mental health?
We know that transgender young people are more likely to experience poor mental health than people who are not transgender. The wellbeing of all young people is our primary concern. We are taking action to improve mental healthcare for LGBT people and we are working with DHSC to develop plans for reducing suicides amongst the LGBT population.
11) Will the Minister for Women and Equalities speak to both transgender health experts and children’s rights experts before making any decisions around access to healthcare?
Yes. We are clear that protecting young people is about ensuring the appropriate processes are in place, rather than withholding support, and we will be exploring what this means with the Department for Health and Social care who lead in this area.
Detailed discussions will take place with DHSC, NHS England, DfE and other relevant experts, and more information will be available in due course.
Clinicians should continue to provide support to people accessing Gender Identity Clinics and the Gender Identity Development Service in the same way as they have done till now - based on clinical need.
12) Is the Government conducting research into the rise in the number of young people referred to the Gender Identity Development Service in recent years?
We are aware that the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation has seen an increasing number of individuals, particularly natal born females, referred to its Gender Identity Development Service in recent years.
We are exploring this, along with a number of other healthcare issues, as part of a wider piece of work rather than as one issue in isolation.
The GIDS is the responsibility of the NHS. Like all trusts, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust (running the GIDS) is subject to CQC inspections, monitoring and regulation. The Department of Health and Social Care is committed to ensuring thorough accountability and oversight.
Government Equalities Office
Our thoughts on the points raised:
1) It was wholly inappropriate for Liz Truss to frighten trans people using anti-trans language and tropes in her initial announcement. It not only incited fear but stoked prejudice against trans people who have reported an increase in hateful incidents. We are thankful for an actual date, as we can help people form frameworks of support for this date.
2) We welcome any changes which reduce both the expense and the beaurocratic process. Scrapping fees is important to maintain equality between people who have the ability to pay, and those who don't.
3) This is very patronising. 97% of our members physically transition, and it's a very demanding process to get access to care.
4) The Equality Act single-sex service provision was never meant as a tool to police toilets and changing rooms. It was meant as a provision, in exceptional circumstances for services such as rape crisis centers. Most crisis centers are not reporting any problems with trans people and are inclusive of transitioned women.
We take this statement to mean that the government does indeed intend to form an apartheid system between cisgender and TS, trans and non-binary people's access to public spaces. It is very disappointing to read, as this means that transitioned women and people who live in secret, may now be outed as they are legally forced to be separated from cisgender people. There are considerable safeguarding risks for young ts, trans, intersex, and non-binary people in doing so, as outing trans people leaves them vulnerable to abuse and victimisation. Further, such a separation could lead to predation and violence in using such separate facilities. The UK would no longer be a safe place to have a public life.
5) The government's equality office makes it clear that the lives and safety of cisgender women have more value than the lives and safety of trans people, women and young people.
6) Again, this points to an apartheid system where the government will decide how to cast out ts trans and non-binary people with no reassurances or protections for trans people themselves.
7) Health for trans people should not have a primary focus on transition services, it should be eclectic, and cover healthcare needs from birth to death. The increases in violence against trans people is significant, especially considering an apartheid system which outs trans people, and enables targetting of this vulnerable demographic. Transphobia has been allowed to propagate in the UK and more must be done to tackle hate crime against us.
8) We welcome more local service provision, and would further recommend the ability for trans people to choose their specialist center.
9) This statement seems to be backtracking on what the government minister said, especially using the word "continuing", which implies no change to the current service provision. However, the government makes clear that the lives of the 0.02% of trans people who regret transition continue to be more important than the 99.98% of trans children and young people who benefit, throughout their lives, of having timely access to medical treatment.
By delaying treatment, considerable harm can result from forcing trans children to undergo a puberty which does not match their gender identity, and there are considerable social, medical, financial and psychological costs involved in correcting an enforced puberty on trans young people.
10) How the government is going to achieve better mental health is by reducing stigma and not putting young trans children's lives at risk, however, nothing in the FAQ is by any means reassuring for trans children and families will continue to be disadvantaged by oppressive lawmaking.
11) We hope that the rights and protections discussed will value trans children as equal to that of their cisgender counterparts, but we are not reassured that this will be the case.,
12) We welcome further research into the health outcomes for trans children and adults, especially regarding the numbers who benefit from trans affirmative care. However, research into the "rise" in numbers of people is not a question focussed on the wellbeing of trans people at all, it is a frequent talking point for anti-trans campaigners who seek to take our healthcare away. This is indeed worrying.
Overall, these FAQ tell us that the government is failing to treat trans people as equals, deserving equal protection and access to healthcare and safeguarding. It views trans people as "abnormal" and cis people more worthy of protection than trans people themselves. We continue to be very worried about which direction the government is choosing to take and urge trans people to both participate in any discourse, and steer the government into understanding the real issues that trans, non-binary and transsexual people face every day.
We are particularly worried about the effects that an apartheid system in the United Kingdom, and what form this will take.