GRA reforms face delays

Submitted by AWL on 16 October, 2019 - 11:02 Author: Misha Zubrowski

Crucial reforms to facilitate basic trans rights have been kicked into the long grass by the Conservatives.

Amendments to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) would have simplified the process for trans people to legally change gender. The current process is long, difficult, expensive, degrading, and excessively medicalised.

Transphobic attacks — almost half of which were physically violent — have trebled in the last half-a-decade. The amendments would not stop these, but are a necessary part of unambiguously standing up for trans rights. Trans people also face horrifically high rates of mental health problems, due to pervasive transphobia coupled with insufficient support.

The amendments would significantly help trans people, and — as similar processes elsewhere have shown — have no harmful wider effects. These reforms are supported by a clear majority of the UK public.

A senior Government source reported that reform is “low down the list of priorities”, would be “kicked into the long grass” until at least after the next election, “and probably much later than that.”

The government has repeatedly delayed the publication of the results of the public consultation on the reforms.

The results of the consultation are almost certainly very favourable towards trans rights. The passing of the amendments into law would not be a difficult or long process.

The Queen’s speech on Monday 14 October set out the government’s priorities for the coming parliamentary year. However, they failed to mention reform to the GRA.

It comes as no surprise that the wellbeing of trans people and the advancement of trans rights are a “low priority” for the Tories. But an unnecessary delay to a simple and much needed change is unacceptable, and must be fought.

The religious right and the socially conservative are generally hostile to trans people, and their ideas have much currency in the Tory party.

At the beginning of September, sources suggested the Tories were exploring whether anti-trans politics could be one plank of a “culture war”, aiming to win votes in the north in a coming general election.

Shamefully, ideas and tropes in parts of the labour movement and amongst some self-described feminists and leftists are a reflection of many of the religious right’s ideas.

One such trope is that trans people are deceptive or have malicious intentions, and that socially recognising their identified gender is fundamentally about facilitating this.

One idea which — whatever its origins — dovetails into anti-trans politics, is that basic attempts to make things easier for trans people are “really” about an attack on family values, social morality or religious purity.

Pseudo-left iterations, which instead see it as “really” and fundamentally an attack on (cisgender) women’s rights, or even “just a distraction” from wider political issues, are not much better. They all trivialise trans people and their rights.

These amendments are themselves insufficient. They do not, for example, permit identifying as non-binary: they only allow “male” or “female”. Such reforms do not address high levels of anti-trans violence, difficulties accessing healthcare or mental health support, or the destitution which often comes with social exclusion.

But they are a necessary small step, and should not be delayed.

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