Trans people should be able to self-declare their legal gender, MPs recommend

Trans people should be able to self-declare their legal gender, MPs have recommended despite warnings of impact it will have on single sex spaces.

A new report from the Women and Equalities Committee has found that the process by which people can legally transition is “unfair and overly medicalised”.

The MPs have called for the removal of a number of the current requirements, including living in the required gender for two years before a person can legally transition.

The Government has also been urged to also remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before a person can acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), saying that the “focus must be shifted to a system of self-declaration”.

The recommendation comes despite the committee hearing warnings from women’s rights campaigners and legal experts that this could jeopardise single-sex spaces, which are also protected under the law.

Dr Nicola Williams, director of Fair Play for Women, had told the committee that the “issue” with self-identification on the GRC is that it would allow a male “for whatever reason” to obtain a birth certificate saying that they were born female and to hide the fact that they have done so.

‘There is an incompatibility’

She said that under the Equalities Act, single sex spaces are based on birth sex, and added: “If there is then also a separate law that allows people to hide the fact of their birth sex, there is an incompatibility. We cannot have both laws without a conflict.”

Dr Williams said it would mean that there it would not be possible to implement single sex spaces.

Her comments were echoed by Professor Rosa Freedman, Professor of Law, Conflict and Global Development at the University of Reading, who said that it would “allow people to self-ID and access women’s spaces”.

Despite the warnings, the committee found that that process should move “closer to a system of self-declaration” by removing “medical scrutiny” but adding “strong legal safeguards”.

People should still be required to make a formal statutory declaration – a safeguard which ensures “genuine intent” – and “robust guidance” is needed on how this would work in practice, the MPs said.

They added it should be possible “to bring prosecutions for fraudulent declarations if it becomes apparent that the person had no real intention of living in the acquired gender”.

‘Extremely toxic’

The committee is also calling for the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to urgently produce guidance, including practical examples, on how to apply single-sex exceptions under the Equality Act

In July 2018, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) launched a consultation into the reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, and in September 2020, set out what steps it would take.

These included making the process available online, reducing the certificate fee from £140 to £5, and opening three new gender clinics that year to cut waiting lists.

The following month, the Women and Equalities Committee launched its inquiry into whether the Government’s proposals were enough, receiving more than 800 pieces of written evidence as well as oral witness evidence.

Its report, Reform of The Gender Recognition Act, notes that debate in this area has “become extremely toxic at times”.

But it says there are areas of agreement among some, such as removing the requirement to live in the acquired gender for two years because this “entrenches outdated gender stereotypes”.

‘Being trans is not an illness’

The Government should enact the change “immediately”, the report says.

It also calls on the GEO and Department for Health and Social Care to develop a healthcare strategy for transgender and non-binary people within the next year.

The committee’s chairwoman, Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, said the Government’s response to the 2018 consultation “amounted to little more than administrative changes”.

She said: “The GRA is crying out for modernisation and the Government has spectacularly missed its opportunity.

“Being trans is not an illness. It is imperative that the Government de-medicalise the process of gender recognition by removing the outdated requirement for a gender dysphoria diagnosis.”

A Government Equality Hub spokesman said: “The Government believes the current provisions in the Gender Recognition Act are effective and allow for those who wish to legally change their gender to do so.”

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