Written evidence submitted by Miss Pauline Fleck (GRA0114)

 

 

Submission to Women and Equalities Committee GRA Inquiry

I make this submission as a trans woman who holds a gender recognition certificate so am very well aware of what a complex, bureaucratic and impersonal process is involved.

I applauded the government’s intention to reform the GRA. Simplifying and de-medicalising the process would send a powerful message of support to a trans community that often feels beleaguered, attacked, marginalised and pathologized. The results of the consultation undertaken by the government were overwhelmingly in favour of reform and in particular to remove the requirement to have two doctors to tell us what our gender is. I was deeply disappointed that the government apparently decided to appease a minority of people who deny the validity of trans identities and seem to believe that trans women are a danger to ciswomen despite the almost total lack of evidence to support this. They may have calculated that helping a small and stigmatised community would lose more votes than it would gain, irrespective of it clearly being the honourable, decent and proper thing to do. It was shameful.

I am glad that the select committee is continuing to pursue the issue but I see little hope of any good it will do, at least while the current government is in power. Many trans people will just feel a sense of weariness and will see this exercise as meaningless. I was particularly appalled that the government seemingly allowed disturbing rumours to circulate that they were actually going to repeal some of our existing rights set out in the 2010 Equality Act so that when the response to the consultation was at long last announced, the fact that we were not going to be made worse off was seen by some as a kind of success. These are the shameful tactics of the demagogue.

For what it is worth, I’ve given my responses to the call for evidence below.

No absolutely not. Transferring the process to an online basis will actually make it harder for many people who lack IT skills – there are a very large number of forms and pieces of evidence to submit requiring access to and skill in using not just a computer but a scanner.

I support the fee being reduced to a nominal sum. Other costs will vary according to circumstances and means.

Yes. You shouldn’t need doctors to tell you what your gender is. This requirement supports the misunderstanding that being trans is a form of mental illness. Self-identification has worked well in countries where it has been implemented.

I favour reducing this to one year. That should provide enough time for individuals to be sure whether transitioning is right for them.

I support the retention of the statutory declaration. Transitioning is a very serious step which requires whole-hearted commitment to living in one’s true gender for the rest of one’s life. I think the penalties for breach of the commitment should be clearly spelled out.

I have no particular views on this. Most married trans people do all they can to support their partner through the transition process. It is a difficult time for both parties and the needs of both should be recognised.

No.

What changes do you mean? If you mean the negligible tinkering to the process that the Government has set out, then in practical terms there will be very little impact. Probably as many people will be deterred by the complicated on-line process as are helped by the reduction of the fee. Symbolically, the impact is enormous. Trans people will feel even more stigmatised, with our identities only grudgingly accepted and subject to demeaning conditions. The bigots and transphobes will feel empowered and legitimised.

I was happy with the proposals if they had been implemented.

I am not well sighted on the SG’s Bill but I understand that it goes some way to meeting the need of trans people for simplification and de-medicalisation.

There are no doubt many reasons, one of which must be the off-putting nature of the process. However, not all trans people see the need for a GRC and transition happily without one. Just as they do not require a doctor to tell them their gender, so they do not need a piece of paper to legitimise it. It was important to me to have a birth certificate with “girl” on it and I do believe many more trans people would seek a GRC if the procedure was less bureaucratic and humiliating.

Yes, this is not well understood even by some trans people. It is one of the reasons why the GRA needs reforming to make it consistent with the EQA. Many trans people do not appreciate that the EQA is far more important in terms of the legal protection it gives.

It seems to me that the EQA strikes a reasonable balance in providing for justifiable and proportionate exceptions but I’m not aware of much case law in this area to test how well the Act is working in practice.

I do not really have the knowledge to comment on this. As a post-op trans woman who has a GRC I feel sufficiently protected and unlikely to be challenged in my use of single-sex spaces. Other trans women might feel more vulnerable. In general I don’t feel that access to e.g. public loos is (or should be) a major issue. It would be dreadful to be in a situation where people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes (including masculine-looking cis women) could be challenged in their use of a single-sex loo.

I have no knowledge of this other than the well-known issue of interminable waiting lists at the GICs and the obstacle course you are then made to go through to be allowed treatment.

I really do not know if e.g. a GRC would be important to a non-binary person. I cannot respond on their behalf. However, I suspect many more people will identify as non-binary or gender-fluid than currently now do as trans so this is an important issue that our society needs to respond to. It probably needs a consultation exercise of its own. Certainly such people need the same protection against discrimination that trans people (in theory) have.

November 2020