The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee launched yet another inquiry into Gender Recognition Act reform last week. Either they are gluttons for punishment, or this really matters to someone. This is the third time since 2015 that Westminster has asked the public what they think about gender recognition. When you add this to the two separate Scottish consultations, it becomes apparent that transgender inquiries are now an annual event.
For those new to all this, the Women and Equalities Committee opened the recognition debate in 2015. Their subsequent report – informed by only 208 responses – called for the checks and balances to be removed from the gender recognition process, effectively making legal sex a tick-box exercise. But that was not all. They recommended the process be opened up to under-18s and that women should lose any vestigial right to protect the boundaries of their spaces and associations from trans women who had filled in a form and ticked a box.
By the time Theresa May’s government launched its own consultation in 2018, word had gotten round and over 100,000 responses flooded in. Liz Truss, the current minister for Women and Equalities, finally presented the findings in September. Wisely, in my view, the government decided that applicants should continue to provide medical evidence to support their wish to change their legal sex. They government also understood the implications on the safeguarding of children and the importance of women’s boundaries. So, the age limit to change gender was not lowered, and service providers were reminded they could restrict access on the basis of biological sex.
Little more than a month later, the Committee are consulting again, and this time they want evidence. It is reasonable for them to do so, in their role of holding government to account. Most members are new to the committee – in fact only Angela Crawley remains from 2015 – and the new chair, Caroline Nokes, has her own view on the subject. In the Times last week, she expressed her hope that ‘the coming recommendations will improve equalities and rights for trans people everywhere, and that the government will act on them.’
That is my hope as well – I am trans – but I also care about the rights of women. I’m a science teacher and know that I am not a woman: I’m the opposite sex. If the committee is to be properly informed, though, they need evidence and not just the sort of evidence that the transgender lobby would like them to see.
And this is where readers come in. Organisations like Stonewall UK and Woman’s Place UK can report on the big picture as they set out their respective cases, but as individuals we have our own unique perspectives on life. If we don’t tell the Committee how changes to gender recognition might affect us, who will? This is not a call for reasoned arguments – they have all been made repeatedly – it is a call for evidence, for testimony on the potential impact this could have on ourselves, our work and our families.
Business women may wish to point out that when a part-time crossdresser is included on a list of ‘Top 100 women in Business’, a woman loses out. Female athletes could explain the unfairness of allowing male-bodied trans women to compete in women’s sport. Parents worried about the impact of transgender ideology on children still developing their own identities could tell their own stories. Maybe trans people like me could explain that the reason we don’t apply for legal gender recognition is not because it is expensive, intrusive or bureaucratic (it isn’t), it’s because it is irrelevant to the way we live our lives.
The terms of reference for the new inquiry are broad, covering both the Government’s response to their own consultation and wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation. While they may appear to be overwhelming, not everyone needs to respond to everything. In fact it gives individuals the opportunity to tell the Committee what is important to them and why it is important.
The goal surely is to build a society in which everyone is comfortable: where trans people like me can live our best lives free from discrimination and harassment, but without compromising women’s right to single sex provision or the safeguarding of children.
The timescale is short, so don’t put it off. Submissions must be returned by Friday 27 November. Click here and start it today.
Debbie Hayton is a transgender teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 8 November 2020: How to respond to the latest gender recognition inquiry.