Government Insult – Trans Activists Respond

In my last post I wrote a response to the governments insult of a response to the allow trans people to self define petition started by Ashley Reed. Trans activists have now responded to the response in a much less angry way than I did, with some thought and reason and are sending an open letter to the Ministry of Justice and Maria Miller, the chair of the Trans Inquiry being heard right now. (There’s a lot of responses here, seems like it’s the governments standard way to delay or dismiss things)

It’s really easy say “what’s the point” to all this official government bullshit, and partly, I agree. But this time is different, this time there is an opportunity to shame the government into action which will really help trans people. This #TransInquiry is the chance we have to make sure the government can’t deny the massive inequalities facing people like us today. This is our time, these are our streets and these are our fucking human rights they are dismissing like we’re dog shit on their shoe. Don’t let them get away with this.

 

Jane Fae has written the letter, with input from a number of others, I’ll paste it here, please feel free to share it wherever you feel is relevant. Tell your friends, tell the government, this trans inquiry will be the last for a long time, we have to act now.

An open letter to Rt Hon Maria Miller, MP

Chair of House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee

 

 

Dear Mrs Miller,

Like many in the transgender community we were delighted to learn of the decision by the Women and Equalities Select Committee to look in some detail at issues affecting trans people in the UK.

Different departments, different Ministers have, over the years, looked at specific aspects of the challenges affecting trans people attempting to cope with a society whose ideas on gender are generally fixed and hostile to the idea that an individual may wish to “change” gender, or alternatively consider themselves to be without gender. None, however, have carried out the comprehensive and far-reaching review that your committee has proposed, and for that alone your initiative is to be praised.

We were therefore greatly disappointed to learn that, in the week that your committee began to take evidence from experts in the trans communities and beyond on the nature of issues that affect us, the Ministry of Justice has decided to respond to a petition in respect of the Gender Recognition Act in a manner that appears both to limit the scope for your inquiry and to deny the existence of any real problems for trans people.

Their intervention is a response to a petition to parliament launched in July of this year (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104639). This asks that Government allow a greater degree of self-determination to trans persons when it comes to gender: that Government abstain from charging trans people for the right to obtain official documentation in respect of their gender; and that Government recognise the existence of non-binary individuals.

The MoJ response is both complacent and dismissive. Processes, it claims, are in place for a reason, including the fact that “a person’s gender has important legal and social consequences”. It seemingly asserts that people must prove they are acceptable in order to gain gender recognition. Later, though, in respect of non-binary persons, they assert, in apparent contradiction, that they are not aware of this group of people having suffered any “detriment” as a consequence of being non-binary.

It is unclear on what the MoJ base their opinions about non-binary people as (a) census data was deliberately obscured to make it impossible to identify how many non-binary people there are in the UK (plus there was no option to identify as such); and (b) there is no evidence that they have contacted any researcher in the field to acquire evidence to support their claim that no detriment is incurred by being non-binary.

They are highly cavalier about the reasons why many trans people refuse, as a matter of principle, to obtain a gender recognition certificate, and justify the fee for doing so on the grounds that government charges for other services, such as a passport or driving license. In this respect, they fail to acknowledge that such charges are to allow an individual to perform a certain act (travel, drive, etc.), as opposed to permitting them to live as themselves.

They are uninformed about the state of transgender treatment under the NHS, ignoring the evidence that people in senior positions in the NHS presented before your Committee on Tuesday.

We are particularly concerned about both the nature and timing of this intervention. In respect of other initiatives of which we are aware, the Government Equalities Office has argued that these must be delayed, pending the result of your Committee’s Inquiry.

A Minister of State appears to have decided, deliberately, to “jump the gun” on the inquiry process, deciding that they are aware of the state of play on key issues affecting the trans community without benefit of any evidence, and seeking to lay down the law when, clearly, one output from your inquiry might include recommendations that it be reviewed in certain key areas.

As such, it looks like a deliberate attempt to sabotage your inquiry.

We look forward to a response from you.

 

 

Jane Fae (Writer and gender activist)

Helen Belcher (Secretary, Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity)

Jennie Kermode (Chair, Trans Media Watch)

Dr. Meg John Barker (Senior lecturer in psychology, the Open University)

Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon (Psychologist)

Bethany Black  (Actor and Comedian)

Jess Bradley (Action for Trans Health)

Sarah Brown (Former Councillor and Trustee, Encompass Network)

Jessica Coal (Founder, UK Trans Info)

Dominic Davies (Chief Executive Pink Therapy, Consultant Psychotherapist)

Dr Zowie Davy (University of Lincoln)

Alex Drummond (Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist)

Martha Dunkley   (Co-founder TransLondon and Trans liaison, Kaleidoscope Trust)

J Fernandez (Editor, Beyond the Binary)

Roz Kaveney (Former Deputy Chair Liberty)

Natacha Kennedy (Goldsmiths College and University College London)

Sarah Lennox (Childrens’ author)

CN Lester (Founder, Transpose)

Keira McCormack (Project Manager, Gender Essence Support Services)

Professor Surya Monro (Academic)

Anwen Muston (Trans officer, LGBT Labour)

Cllr Zoe O’Connell (Campaigner & Parliamentary Candidate, May 2015)

Claire Parker (Gender Activist & Broadcaster)

Ruth Pearce (Researcher, University of Warwick)

Sarah Savage (Author and Trustee, Trans* Pride Brighton)

Dr Jay Stewart (Founder, Gendered Intelligence)

Reubs Walsh (NUS LGBT Campaign Trans Representative)

 

 

 

 

David Cameron, stop insulting trans people!

I’ve always been conflicted about online petitions as it is often difficult to see the actual, real world effect they have. Grass roots community organising is a good thing in my mind though, so I inevitably end up taking part in the clicktivism so often derided by the more cynical part of my psyche. I was therefore surprised to see a mail in my inbox earlier, a few weeks ago I had signed and promptly forgotten a petition asking that the government allowed trans people to self define their legal gender, and there has been a response from David Cameron and Her Majesties Government!

Here is my response to their response:

Government responded:

The gender recognition process in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 was developed as a result of the Government’s commitment to allowing trans people to gain legal recognition in their acquired gender.

The GRA is widely accepted as very flawed, even back in 2004. I know you’re running a Parliamentary Inquiry into trans* equality right now and that’s good but until you show something more concrete, I will continue to judge you based on how shockingly badly you have treated gender variant people in the past. Please do more to show your commitment.

The Gender Recognition Process

The general procedural requirements for gaining gender recognition were developed as a result of the Government’s commitment to allowing trans people who have taken decisive steps to live fully and permanently in the acquired gender to gain legal recognition in that gender, by establishing a robust and credible process to determine applications for recognition. The provisions are contained the in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA).

A person’s gender has important legal and social consequences. The state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that people who take on a new legal status can establish that they meet certain criteria. The required statements and evidence are limited to what is necessary to establish that an applicant meets the criteria for recognition.

I can understand this, you need to be sure that a person’s intent is not for nefarious means, but these “general procedural requirements” have real and serious consequences, one example is what is known as spousal veto. The process to determine these requirements is fundamentally flawed, a panel of cisgender overlords get to decide if a trans person is allowed to be recognised as an actual person.

There are no requirements for a trans person to apply for legal recognition; it is entirely a personal decision. Many trans people live and work in their acquired gender without feeling it necessary to apply for legal recognition. However, an application for gender recognition should only be made where a person has made a permanent decision to change their gender.

But if you don’t have this magical piece of paper you are not fully protected under the GRA. (2004) Somebody could have lived and worked for 50 years in their true gender, yet because they don’t wish to jump through whatever hoops the government deigns necessary, they will be less equal than everybody else.

The Gender Recognition Panel, a judicial body, determines all applications for gender recognition and an applicant must prove to the satisfaction of the Panel that they meet all the requirements set out in the GRA. The requirements for applicants going via the standard route are that the applicant:

– has or has had gender dysphoria;
– has lived in the acquired gender throughout the two years immediately preceding the date on which the application is made;
– intends to continue to live in the acquired gender until death.

Applicants must also provide medical reports, from:
– a qualified medical professional who works in the field of gender dysphoria giving details of their diagnosis of gender dysphoria; and
– a GP or surgeon, detailing any surgery or treatment that the applicant has undergone to change their sexual characteristics.

In addition, applicants must provide documentary evidence in the form of:
– an original or certified copy of the birth certificate;
– an official change of name document or documents;
– documentary proof the applicant has lived in their acquired gender throughout the preceding two years.

If the Panel is satisfied that the applicant meets all the conditions in the GRA they must issue the applicant with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Erm, about this “panel” … Have you ever seen The Shawshank Redemption? That scene where Morgan Freeman stands in front of the parole board is the closest thing I can imagine when I think of a Gender Recognition Panel. A bunch of cisgender people get together and decide if a trans person is broken/cool enough to be allowed to join their club. Perhaps it would be beneficial that you directly include some people who have some actual, real lived experience in this process, no?

Fees

It is quite normal for people to pay for a whole range of services, for example, passports, birth and marriage certificates, drivers’ licences, applications to the civil courts for a variety of issues. Given the cost involved in administering the gender recognition process, applications for gender recognition also carry a fee.

At present, the application fee stands at £140. So as to ensure that nobody is excluded from gaining legal recognition in their acquired gender, remissions and part remissions are available to those who are unable to pay the full fee. Traditionally a large percentage of applicants have been exempt from paying a fee.

PAY US MONEY AND YOU TOO CAN BE PROTECTED UNDER LAW! Just call 0845-ITSA-SCAM. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor, at least give us some money. We’ll even make the financial remission forms so complicated that some trans people (especially ones with disabilities) don’t understand them! It is beyond me why I have to keep repeating this, WE DO NOT CHOOSE TO BE TRANS. If cancer patients had to pay £140 to be protected from losing their job because they have to go for hospital appointments, there would be protests at Downing Street, Stop treating trans people like second class citizens.

Gender Identity Clinics

Current service provision in England is network-based, shaped around seven adult gender identity clinics, three providers of adult genital reconstruction surgery and one designated provider of gender identity development services for children, adolescents and young people.

Each gender identity clinic delivers services in compliance with contemporary, generic service standards for their discipline that respect the specific needs, values and dignity of transgender people.

The most up to date statistics for trans people point to 1% of the population who are gender variant, and you think that this is acceptable? There has been a 50% year on year increase in referrals for adult gender identity services and an 80% year on year increase for under-18’s yet you are cutting funding to the NHS, refusing to allow travelling satellite gender clinics and you have failed to employ enough medical and clerical professionals to cope with the increase. People are killing themselves because of your failure to act.

In England, people accessing gender identity services have a legal right under the NHS Constitution to be seen within 18 weeks of referral.

Ok, let’s talk about our so-called legal rights. I waited 18 months, 78.2 weeks. These days my friends tell me the wait is similar. Right now it takes roughly 5 years from referral to surgery, if you are lucky. You know this because we have been telling you for years. Stop fobbing us off, stop deliberately misleading people, we are not stupid. The current attempted suicide rate is 48%. David Cameron, how much higher does this have to climb before you do something?

Non-binary Gender

Non-binary gender is not recognised in UK law. Under the law of the United Kingdom, individuals are considered by the state to be of the gender that is registered on their birth certificate, either male or female.

Under the Gender Recognition Act, the Gender Recognitions Panel is only able to grant a certificate to enable the applicant to become either male or female. The Panel has no power to issue a certificate indicating a non-binary gender.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination if it arises from their being perceived as either male or female. We recognise that a very small number of people consider themselves to be of neither gender. We are not aware that that results in any specific detriment, and it is not Government policy to identify such people for the purpose of issuing non-gender-specific official documents.

Ministry of Justice

A very small number? Well here is another example of how out of touch the UK government is with reality. It is scientifically proven that gender is a spectrum, you need to educate yourself about the people over whom you rule. Some people are different to the black and white spectrum you have been exposed to your whole life, there is a wonderful grey area where some people don’t identify with any gender, or may describe themselves as fluid. Under the governments rules, these people are not as equal as you are. Please do something to show you actually care about people who are different.