In a front page article from The Sunday Times on the 14th of June, leaked information from the Government suggested that their long-delayed response to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultation was incoming, and that that response would be far worse than we had anticipated. Rather than rush to comment and risk over-reacting and further worrying our community, we had chosen to wait to see if this was an accurate report. We are now hearing that the reports are accurate.
Liz Truss, in her role as Minister for Women and Equalities, is due to speak before Parliament on Wednesday morning – where she is expected to propose ‘new protections to safeguard female-only spaces…’ and ‘abandon’ a self-determined procedure around GRA reform. These proposals would be nothing short of an attack on trans people in the UK, and represent a rolling back of rights and equality already achieved.
Introducing new forms of inequality is an extraordinary approach for any Government to take.
The consultation into the Gender Recognition Act was launched in the July of 2018 and closed in October of that year. The consultation wording states:
“This consultation simply asks how best government might make the existing process under the Gender Recognition Act a better service for those trans and non-binary people who wish to use it.”https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004
These reforms were first suggested and supported by Theresa May’s Government just 2 years ago for a simple reason – the Gender Recognition process is overly bureaucratic, needlessly expensive and time consuming. The Government has since chosen to hold back the results of this consultation and remain silent on the process, allowing the discussion around reform to become increasingly toxic and hostile as misinformation and fear are spread continually.
If the Times report is accurate, around 70% of responses were in favour of making self-certification of gender possible. The Government is reportedly now choosing to side with the minority of respondents as they believe that results were “skewed by an avalanche of responses generated by trans rights groups”. During the consultation campaigns in supporting and opposing reform of the GRA both encouraged their supporters to respond. It is unreasonable to dismiss the majority opinion because it does not fit the Government’s desired response.
Not only are the Government looking to ignore the large majority of respondents on GRA reform, they are in fact going beyond the realms of the consultation as “safeguards will be put in place to protect ‘safe spaces’ for women” with “new national guidelines on lavatory provision”. Neither of which were even hinted at previously. This sounds tantamount to the ‘bathroom bills’ we have seen elsewhere in the world, which have time and again proven to be unworkable an ineffective at protecting anyone.
Wherever such restrictions have been in place they’ve created a two-tier system for women, appointing the public as ‘gender police’ and resulting in the harassment of women – whether they are trans or not. People have been intimidated for being too tall, having a deep voice or generally not presenting in a feminine manner. This is a retrograde step which demeans all women while having no impact on crime levels. This is the reason that the most famous of these laws (HB2 in North Carolina, USA) was reversed last year.
Although we are entirely focused on the task of supporting trans people, we appreciate the need to protect vulnerable women from risk. We are aware of high profile cases such as that of Karen White, and call for proper risk assessments and safeguards to be carried out, as is currently provided for in the Equality Act 2010, where necessary. Where there have been failings, as in this case, lessons must be learned to avoid repeat incidents. However, this is not a reason for blanket bans which must fall outside of any ‘proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim’. An excellent example of trans policy in womens’ safe spaces can be found from Womens’ Aid Scotland.
Trans people using the facilities appropriate to their gender is part of everyday life in the UK and has been for decades. There is no compelling evidence that this has suddenly become a serious threat to the safety of women and girls, and there is no credible evidence that predatory men will make use of any gender recognition process to ‘allow’ them access to women’s spaces. Legislating for this imagined risk places all women in the firing line and must be opposed.
If you agree with us, please help
We need urgent action to prevent the proposed rollback to trans rights. If you would like to help support us you can do the following:
Tweet your support using the hashtag #NotInMyName and including @BorisJohnson and @10DowningStreet- Thousands of people are currently letting the Government know that they stand in solidarity with us.
Write to your MP – a sample letter can be found here