In 2004 the UK passed the Gender Recognition Act, which provided an avenue for trans people living in the UK to receive a certificate that recognizes and affirms their gender. As with most things that happened in 2004, the Gender Recognition Act is due for a review and an upgrade. As it is written, in order for a trans person in the UK to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate, they must first be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and then leave their fate in the hands of a panel who reviews the submitted documents without ever meeting the person who’s submitted them. Oh, and it also costs £140.
This system is archaic, to say the least, and fucking stupid, to be perhaps a bit more direct. Thankfully, in 2018 the government took it upon themselves to review the GRA and is expected to release their response this summer.
In advance of the release of this review, the UK’s equalities minister, Liz Truss, made some comments regarding the forthcoming decision which are, quite frankly, just dangerous.
I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.
She started off strong, as it is true that adults should have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit, but from there she pretty much just took a nosedive into the kind of harmful speculation regarding the bodily autonomy of trans youth that reeks of transphobia.
“With trans people having one of the highest suicide rates it’s important to note that recent studies have shown that access to puberty blockers is life-saving for trans teenagers,” said Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin, Voices4 London organizer, “In light of this, it’s extremely concerning that access to this crucial healthcare is being discussed alongside the Gender Recognition Act. The GRA has no bearing on medical care, and this conflation of the two suggests the priority here isn’t a concern for young people’s wellbeing at all.”
While activists who participated in a public consultation in 2018 regarding updates to the GRA have advocated for striking the need for a medical diagnosis, along with recognition of non-binary identities and a few other needed changes, Truss’s statement has lead many to believe that the review will do more harm than good, particularly for trans youth.
Stonewalls director of campaigns, Laura Russell, had this to say:
While it’s good to hear that the government will set out its proposals for next steps on reform of the Gender Recognition Act, we’re concerned about comments that relate to protecting trans people who are under 18 from making ‘irreversible decisions’. We’d welcome an opportunity to discuss this with the minister, as it’s crucial that all young people who are questioning their gender identity are able to access high-quality, timely support. Every trans young person should be given the care they need, in an informed and supportive manner, so they’re able to lead a happy, healthy life.
Politicians everywhere seem hellbent on policing the bodies and lives of people who are just trying to exist in the world, especially when it comes to trans youth. I’m not a politician, and I’m also not a resident of the UK, but I do have a suggested act that I think might be helpful should Truss still be looking for additional comments on the review. It’s the Mind Your Own Business and Let Trans People Determine What’s Best for Themselves Act, and the name of the act also outlines the plan. Trans youth don’t need protection from the services they seek out to help affirm their identity, they need protection from politicians who don’t actually have their best interests in mind.