Come Out for Trans: Stonewall’s easy guide to the GRA consultation

Adam Lowe

Stonewall has published a vitally important tool to help you fill in the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform consultation. As anyone who has glimpsed at the consultation at the Government website knows, it’s almost impenetrable for the layperson to complete.

Thankfully, Stonewall’s guide to the consultation breaks down what the consultation is asking, what trans people feel about the issues raised, and how we should best answer if we want to support our trans kindred.

The good news is that Stonewall will also let you fill in the consultation from its website and submit these directly to the Government for you. Alternatively, you can use the Stonewall notes to fill in the survey at the Government website. Responses must be made by 11pm on Friday 19 October.

The explanations given by Stonewall are in clear English and help us make sense of the language used, as well as the debates currently going on in regards to reform of the GRA.

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What is the GRA all about?

It’s worth noting that many of the protections some anti-trans activists are claiming they don’t want (such as the ability for trans people to use the bathroom or changing rooms of their gender) are already in place, due to the Equalities Act 2010. The GRA reform will not roll these changes back, but will rather consider whether the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) should be made easier.

The GRC is a legal document which allows you to change your gender on official documents, such as your birth certificate or passport. This is often essential for trans people, because documents that contradict a person’s gender identity can effectively ‘out’ trans people and expose them to harm or humiliation.

Currently, the process takes years to complete for many trans people, because it involves a) getting two letters from medical professionals to confirm your trans status (including one from a psychiatrist who must diagnose you with ‘gender dysphoria’); b) living for at least two years in your ‘new’ gender; and c) submitting a detailed and highly invasive report to a panel, who you will never meet, which decides whether you are ‘trans enough’ to receive the GRC.

The process is lengthy and costs a lot both for trans people and for the taxpayer. Although patients are supposed to be seen in a matter of weeks, most clinics have waiting lists of 18-24 months. The process and delays can be traumatic for trans people, and may increase already high rates of suicide and self-harm in the community.

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What is the current proposal?

The Government consultation is asking whether we should simplify this process.

Stonewall recommends that the lengthy process be replaced by one like the Irish model. This means a person has to make a legal oath (witnessed by a lawyer or appointed legal professional) that they intend to live their lives in their new gender. It’s like any other legally binding oath, which should not be undertaken lightly, but is less intrusive than the current system.

Breaking this oath would be considered perjury, with a sentence of up to two years and/or an unlimited fine, but the trans person would no longer need to submit to psychiatric assessment to obtain proof, could live as their chosen gender immediately, and would avoid the lengthy waits involved for referral to a clinic.

This would not impact any medical assessments carried out to judge whether a person was able to have gender confirmation surgery – which would continue to require input from relevant medical specialists – but it would make the process fairer and more accessible.

The penalty for falsely claiming to be trans would be a suitable and proportionate deterrent to prevent fraud and abuse of the system.

Stonewall is also suggesting that we ask to remove the ‘spousal veto’ clause, which means that a spouse can deny a trans person’s wish to legally change their gender. Stonewall and many LGBT groups believe this is unfair, and could lead to domestic abuse.

Stonewall also suggests offering GRCs to 16- and 17-year olds, provided they receive parental permission.

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Finally, Stonewall thinks that provisions should be made for non-binary people to have an option to record their gender officially as neither male nor female.

How you can help

Check out Come Out for Trans in order to respond to the consultation.

You can also share this article (or the link above) to help raise awareness. Every vote will count.

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.