Written evidence submitted by Christian Concern (GRA1325)
Christian Concern submission to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on the Gender Recognition Act reforms
26 November 2020
This response is sent on behalf of Christian Concern, which campaigns for the recognition of human dignity within today’s legal framework. We are submitting evidence because we have long experience of campaigning on this issue and of helping those adversely affected by transgender policies.
Below we respond to the inquiry’s questions (which are italicised) in sequence. Within the body of these responses we make six original policy recommendations for the government to act upon. Here we list in summary form those recommendations:
The Government’s response to the GRA consultation
Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?
Changing gender is not a kind process to the human body or mind. This is exacerbated by the fact that at present there is very little official recognition of the serious health problems that can arise as a result. Lowering the cost of changing gender is a symbolic gesture by the government that suggests it has insufficient regard for the erosion of vulnerable people’s sex-based dignity, needs and rights, as well as their need for competent psychiatric care and psychotherapy.
Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?
The fee should be retained as a symbol of the cost and risk involved in changing gender.
Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?
No. We say this because gender dysphoria is a serious psychiatric and psychological problem for many of those affected, which can be connected to other such problems. Patients need to be able to see psychiatrists in order to discover whether the gender dysphoria is their main problem or whether it is secondary to other mental or occasionally physiological problems. Failure on the part of medics to do this would constitute a failure in doctors’ duty of care to these people. It would also amount to the complete capitulation of the psychiatric profession to transsexual rights lobbying. The profession would have abdicated all responsibility for understanding the minds of patients, which is its very raison d’etre, and thus lose its integrity as a medical speciality.
Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?
The requirement to live in the acquired gender for at least two years is there as a check against people rushing into the process only to regret it.
Recommendation 1: Strengthen the requirement to live in the acquired gender for two years
In light of this we recommend that this requirement be strengthened and put under more rigorous scrutiny. For example the NHS should commission independent research on the effect that the two year requirement has on patients’ sense of identity, and treatment of their own bodies. Comparisons could be made between NHS patients and patients attending private gender identity clinics in the UK. Annual official statistics of the number of patients being prescribed cross-sex hormones, and the quarter when they come off those hormones, should be recorded and published according to patients’ biological sex.
What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?
It isn’t adequate and needs to be made far more robust to indicate the gravity of what is being done.
Recommendation 2: Reword the statutory declaration on changing gender
The statutory declaration should be reworded so as to acknowledge the impossibility of anyone changing their biological sex. It should also be reworded to acknowledge that some people may regret the decision to change gender in the future, and that they change gender at their own risk. We say this because at present there is no official NHS pathway to help those who later regret gender reassignment and gender recognition.
Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?
Spousal consent should stay in the law. Consent is essential for a marriage to be valid. When they got married, the non-transgendered spouses in heterosexual marriages did not envision later entering into putative same-sex marriages due to the other parties’ gender reassignment.
Removing the spousal veto makes meaningless the non-transgendered spouse’s consent to being married in the first place. This would be a violation of their right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights Act. Also as sexual orientation is a protected characteristic, and as sexual behaviour is basic to marriage, it is possible that the rights of the heterosexual non-transgendered spouse under Sections 11 and 12 of the Equality Act 2010 would be breached.
The proposal to get rid of the spousal veto violates marriage completely and voids marriage law of any notion of consent, commitment, stability and trustworthiness. In addition it would create serious havoc in divorce cases as the non-transgendered spouse could be deemed ‘transphobic’ and ‘homophobic’ for not indicating consent to their spouse’s gender recognition.
Removing the spousal veto this would undermine religious freedom as found in the Gender Recognition (Disclosure of Information) Order 2005, section 4.
It would be impossible for churches and other bodies to call such marriages invalid or null. They would be automatically turned into same-sex marriages, even in denominations which had expressly refused to conduct same-sex weddings. This would violate religious freedom provisions in the law on same-sex marriage. Congregations and members of particular religions would have been deceived and manipulated into accepting same-sex marriages.
Part 6, Section 24 of the Equality Act 2010 permits a person whose consent is required for the solemnisation of a marriage of a person to refuse to marry a person who has changed gender under the terms of the GRA. Clergy in denominations which have not decided to solemnise same-sex marriages should not be put in a position where they are deceived into or forced into solemnising what would in reality be a same-sex marriage.
Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?
No it should not be. The Committee must state why this question was asked. The reason for saying this is that its own call for evidence prevents submissions from discussing ongoing court cases. Yet there is a current court case on the subject of puberty blockers for minors which necessarily links to debates on gender recognition for minors, the judgment for which has yet to be delivered.
Puberty is not a disease or a disorder; it is a perfectly normal, healthy and necessary part of human development for both sexes. Removal of the legal requirement for a diagnosis for adults will inevitably lead to calls for it to be removed for those under 18. This will only deepen the existing problem of treating puberty as an alien imposition upon the body rather than natural, and therefore something that must be suppressed. In addition teenagers’ brains are still developing. Even older teenagers are still vulnerable to suggestion and questionable influences. Risk assessment at the level of adults has not yet been attained.
Michelle A. Cretella, Gender Dysphoria in Children and Suppression of Debate, 21 J. of Am. Physicians & Surgeons 50, 53. (2016)
Threat to parental rights
We feel the need to remind the committee of the grave threat to parental rights brought by claims to transgender rights. Conflicts have arisen between some elements of social services and some parents. The risk of children being removed from their parents due to parents not agreeing with treating their child as a member of the desired gender has increased in the last ten years. This is probably partly the influence of gender reassignment in schools being codified as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. In practice this has gone with increased activism by transgender groups visiting schools as well as writing policies for schools and some local authorities.
What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?
The government’s proposed changes by and large amount to keeping the status quo. This means that the existing (inadequate) protections against rushing into gender reassignment and changing gender legally will remain. They send out a messages that the government appreciates the serious reservations that many different sectors of society have expressed about changing gender. These centre around health and wellbeing as well as safety and security.
What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?
It is regrettable that the government did not make proposals for official healthcare pathways and treatment protocols for treating detransitioners on the NHS. At present there are no official statistics recording anything about them. This situation must change. It is a huge scandal that no such help has been arranged on the NHS ever since Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic was first opened in the 1960s.
Recommendation 3: Draw up official healthcare pathways for detransitioners
We recommend that the government works with NHS bodies and devolved administrations to draw up proposals for official healthcare pathways and treatment protocols for detransitioners and those who regret gender reassignment and/or taking cross-sex hormones. If necessary a new commissioning body should be set up for this purpose.
Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004?
No. The Scottish Government bill suffers from the same shortcomings as we have noted here, in particular total disregard for the needs of detransitioners.
Wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation
Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?
It is difficult to understand why this question is being asked. To answer it properly would require designing proper social scientific and medical research. Nevertheless we can suggest some avenues for further inquiry. Government policies since the Gender Recognition Act have encouraged rather than discouraged people to identify as transsexual or transgender. The codification of gender reassignment as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, is a case in point. The definition of gender reassignment was stretched in the Equality Act as well. Its inclusion as a protected characteristic in schools further served to promote knowledge of it in schools and permit the creation of local support groups for minors newly identifying as transgender. This has also allowed activist groups to enter schools to provide support material.
Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 states plainly that gender reassignment is only permissible for those aged 18 and over. The Equality Act 2010 also states that gender reassignment is to be considered a protected characteristic in schools. This has left the door open for informal gender recognition of under-18s in the school system, with negative effects on public health, school morale and parental rights. All UK legislation needs to be re-aligned to be in line with the Gender Recognition Act.
Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?
The law in this area needs further reform in order to be aligned with biological reality. There needs to be a statutory definition of sex as based on chromosomes. Everyone born with a Y chromosome belongs to the male sex, whilst everybody who only has X chromosomes belongs to the female sex.
Recommendation 4: Consult on the possibility of drafting a statutory definition of sex as based on chromosomes.
Self-declaration of gender poses a serious problem for women’s right to single-sex facilities, services and premises. Any situation where it is easy for gender recognition and self-declaration to take place results in increasing numbers of men using female names, regardless of whether or not these men have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, for sexually predatory purposes. The case of Christopher Hambrook in Canada sparked off concerns about this. Hambrook claimed to be a transgendered woman and attacked women at two different women’s shelters in Toronto. In 2014 he was jailed indefinetely as he posed such a serious danger as a sexual criminal.
gender self-declaration by prohibiting discrimination on grounds of gender identity and gender expression.
We note the massive public concerns arising from successive editions of the Ministry of Justice’ policy on housing transgender prisoners. Where sex was previously paramount in the prison estate this principle has now been eroded. The casualty has been the safety of female prisoners. For example the Times reported that official figures for 2010-2018 show transgender prisoners are five times more likely to perpetrate sex attacks on inmates in women’s prisons than other prisoners are.
Former Prisons Minister Rory Stewart revealed there had been instances of male prisoners self-identifying as female and raping female staff in prisons.
This situation is morally unacceptable and unconscionable. It must be changed without delay.
Recommendation 5: Draft new prison policy requiring all prisoners to be housed by sex
We recommend that the Committee asks the government to draw up a new prison policy requiring all prisoners to be housed in the prison corresponding to their biological sex.
Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed?
Detransitioners are people who are or have been trans people who now wish to return to live as members of their sexes. We assume that in practice, as gender reassignment is a process then so is detransition. The current situation is unsatisfactory in that neither the Gender Recognition Act nor the Equality Act 2010 provide explicit protection for detransitioners. This exacerbates the current problem of lack of official recognition of their unique problems, in healthcare and other fields.
What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?
Following on from the previous question, the absence of official pathways of assistance for detransitioners necessarily means there are no health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services that are explicitly geared to understanding and meeeting their needs. Whilst this situation has existed ever since the first gender identity clinic opened at Charing Cross in the 1960s, it has been made worse by the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK. This prohibits psychotherapy and counselling which is deemed to assume that one gender identity is preferable to others.
Recommendation 6: Rescind the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy
The government and the mental health professional bodies should rescind the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy.
Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?
No. Such reforms would not benefit anybody. Rather they would continue the current problems of serious psychological confusion. Unless the current lack of statutory definition of sex as chromosomally based is corrected, introduction of gender-fluid and non-binary rights would increase opportunities for people to hide their sex when it is relevant. This is anti-social behaviour and should not be encouraged.
The need to accept the government’s decision
Finally we wish to register our concern that the Women and Equalities Committee is conducting an inquiry that appears to challenge the government’s recent decision not to make changing gender easier in England and Wales. The questions are so clearly favourable to those who wanted that to happen that this impression is unavoidable. The public has made its opposition to these proposals very clear over time and many government ministers have taken this seriously. The Committee needs to explain publicly why it has opened this inquiry, especially given women’s opposition to the proposals.