GRA Reform

Self-identification will not help transgender people

Men wouldn’t claim to be women purely to violate women’s rights, would they? Actually some might, and the ones that would are those who women are worried about.

When the government announced a public consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in July last year, Justine Greening, then equalities minister, explained that her government was “committed to building an inclusive society that works for everyone, no matter what their gender or sexuality”.

It turned out to be rather more complicated than Ms Greening anticipated. Proposals to allow self-identification of gender sparked a bitter feud between transgender activists and feminists concerned about the impact on women’s rights. Angry exchanges on social media spilled on to the streets and, as the government dithered, women meeting to discuss the proposals have been met with intimidation and violence.

Ms Greening and her successor Amber Rudd have come and gone but the consultation has finally been launched. For transsexual people like me the stakes are enormous. Superficially, self-identification of gender is progress. We are the experts when it comes to our own gender, after all. However, the Gender Recognition Act goes further than gender. It allows us to change our legal sex for almost all purposes and then obscures that change from the public record so we can get on with our lives without forever being defined by transition.

Such a massive change in our relationship with society has required evidence of need: a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and medical reports. Self-identification sweeps away those safeguards. Any male person could declare they are female and inherit the rights and protections afforded to women.

It’s no wonder that women have become alarmed and have been meeting even amid intimidation and threats. They have not been reassured by platitudes. Men wouldn’t claim to be women purely to violate women’s rights, would they? Actually some might, and the ones that would are those who women are worried about.

Meanwhile, I am left in a vulnerable position. I identify with women and I have thrown in my lot with them but if women believe that there is no distinction between a transsexual and a man taking advantage, they are likely to become suspicious of everyone seeking to cross the sex divide. The law may be able to compel grudging toleration but it can never guarantee acceptance.

There is scope for the GRA to be improved. It is fussy and cumbersome, but self-identification is not a progressive step and does nothing to ensure our acceptance in society. That relies on the way we live our lives. No piece of legislation can be a substitute for that.

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and transgender activist

* This article was first published by The Times on 5 July 2018: Self-identification will not help transgender people.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

7 replies on “Self-identification will not help transgender people”

The only thing… The biggest single thing that got me through my horrendous journey and my transition was my inner voice. My self belief, (self identification) that I should have been born a woman.

Now I am living as a woman and fully accepted as one by my friends, family and society.

My only question is this:

If self identification is to be discounted; then how did you self identify as trans?


Thanks for commening. I agree that self-identification must be part of the process, but I argue that it is insufficient in order for us to change our legal sex. Some external gatekeeping is needed to protect us from being taken advantage of by those with malicious intent.


It really doesn’t matter how many therapists and counselors and psychologists are involved. None of them can truly tell you who you are. Ultimately self-identification is what it comes down to.
One doesn’t self identify as trans. Trans isn’t a gender. If you’re a woman, then you are a woman, trans or otherwise.

Liked by 1 person


Men with malicious intent do not have to go to the great, and ridiculous lengths of feigning transition etc to harm women. Men are already harming women.

Misogyny is the problem and society is not talking about it. We are not allowed to ask the important question about why some men hate women so very much and how these men got to that stage. It’s a gigantic, messy and toxic problem in our culture – so it’s easier to blame transsexuals.

Debbie Hayton mentions men with bad intent entering women’s places, but the reality is, transwomen are the biggest victims of violence. Transwomen are murdered at a steady rate in the United States. There is a memorial page set up to remember them.


Thank you. That is deplorable. But we need to ask *why* those transwomen are being murdered. Is it because they are trans, or is it that they are otherwise disadvantaged? There are complex and overlapping issues.


They are being murdered because of transphobia, misogyny and in some cases racism – as well as the obvious defining aspect of class. Class can protect against all these things.

Transwomen suffer doubly. They transition into the patriarchy and a misogynistic culture.

There seems to be less hatred directed towards transmen.


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