Debbie Hayton reports on the endless moves in Parliament to amend the Gender Recognition Act and asks whether MPs are focussed on the wrong target.
The government’s decision to reject ‘self-ID’ is a victory for this transgender woman. When I transitioned eight years ago, I had two ambitions: to keep my job and to stay out of the press. I achieved the first, but failed the second. However, this week’s announcement vindicates my decision to speak out.
The British Medical Association is the latest organisation to fall victim to gender identity ideology. At the BMA’s annual representative meeting, medics called on the government to let anyone change their legal sex on the basis of a ‘witnessed, sworn statement’. But in the midst of a pandemic, is this really a matter worthy of being listed as a prioritised motion on the agenda?
Gender recognition is the ultimate political hot potato. Three years after Justine Greening — the then Equalities Minister — announced a public consultation on changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, and two years after the public were finally asked for their views, we are still far from resolution. As the months passed, many assumed that the Government had kicked it into the long grass, if not the primeval forest.
The consultation itself came and went a year later in 2018 amid fervent campaigns by transgender activists eager to allow legal gender changes on demand, and women’s groups concerned that their boundaries would be rendered meaningless as a result. If men can identify as women — for whatever reason they might choose — how can they be kept out? It is naïve to rely on the argument that “men wouldn’t do that, would they?” Spaces such as changing rooms are most often cited, but also at risk are prisons, hospital wards, reserved places on committees and boards, scholarships and, indeed, every sex-based protection.
For the past two years, the hot potato never went cold — on the contrary, it ignited a social media inferno. The furore surrounding JK Rowling — condemned as a transphobe for reclaiming the word woman to describe her sex — is remarkable only because she is a public figure.
As Covid-19 spread across every continent, the world changed in ways that we could not have anticipated as recently as Christmas. “Self-isolation” and “social distancing” have entered the lexicon and taken root in my mind to such an extent that video clips of people breaking the two-metre rule seem to belong to another age, like old silent movies. These are – to use an overworked expression – unprecedented times.
But trans people have been living in unprecedented times that go back further than Christmas. While previously we were largely ignored by politicians and the media – apart from occasional salacious and often unwelcome feature articles – trans issues have been high in the news agenda for the past three years. That has not always been a blessing.
The Government has finally responded to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality that was published in January 2016. This wide ranging report recognised that, despite welcome progress in recent years, our society is still failing to support the rights and interests of trans people. The Committee noted that the earlier 2011 Advancing Transgender Equality action plan remained largely unimplemented, and they required the Government to agree a new strategy, which it can deliver with full cross-departmental support, within six months.