The Trans Tax, why I refuse to beg for equality.

I had such optimism for trans equality until recently, I really believed we were getting somewhere. Rebecca Root was awesome in BBC Two’s Boy Meets Girl, there was a positive sounding Government Inquiry into trans rights, over 30,000 people signed a petition asking the government to allow gender variant people to self define their gender. Things were looking peachy.

Today I sat on the beach and wept. I wept for Tara Hudson, currently being subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment by the Ministry of Justice inside a male only prison, partly because she doesn’t own a Gender Recognition Certificate. I wept for the way people like me have been misrepresented by Channel 4 and yet again derided as freaks on national television. I wept because the Government pooh-poohed the petition slap bang in the middle of an inquiry into how to improve protections for trans people.

A lot of this strife has been caused by a magical piece of paper called the Gender Recognition Certificate. An employer can’t ask to see it, the police can’t ask to see it, local councils can’t ask to see it, but without this piece of paper a trans person does not qualify for certain protections under law.

I have huge issues with the GRC. To qualify for it and the protections it gives means I have to prove that I have lived as a woman for three years, I must get letters from doctors and I have to pay £140. Once I have gathered all this evidence, I have to send it off to something called a Gender Recognition Panel which is made up of some “medical and legal members.” The law doesn’t actually state any qualifications for these members but I guarantee you one hundred percent that they aren’t trans.

I refuse to prostrate myself in front of a panel of cisgender overlords and beg for my human rights. People like me are oppressed from every single angle at one point or another and I will not submit the validity of my gender to the judgement of a bunch of strangers. I have had enough.

So many of my friends have spoken about the difficulties of getting their GRC’s, the submitted evidence is often returned with a letter full of legal jargon pointing out where they didn’t meet the standard to be accepted as themselves. Two or three times they repeat the process, their whole being on tenterhooks, waiting to be given the privilege of being told it’s ok to be able to get on with their lives.

I have friends who have been sofa surfing or homeless at one point in the last three years, they have been unemployed due to discrimination against their gender identity. Their evidence to the panel will likely be rejected. And until they get a job and somewhere permanent to live, applying for a GRC is impossible anyway, that’s before we even get into trying to find the £140 it costs and how the complicated forms disadvantage people who find it difficult to communicate.

Being forced to pay money for something which gives you protections under law is a tax. It’s a tax on trans people for being born different.

If you’d have asked me a few weeks ago what I thought of this Trans Inquiry I would have waxed lyrical about a trans tipping point, fairies and unicorns. Now there is nothing but a grey, glooming storm cloud.

The one piece of hope I cling to is seeing the outpouring of support for Tara Hudson, the trans community has found it’s voice and we are united in trying everything to help her. Never give up.

41 thoughts on “The Trans Tax, why I refuse to beg for equality.

  1. I agree, to a point.
    But I for one really want my GRC, mainly to get my birth certificate changed, I am currently gathering my ‘evidence’ and regarding the fee, I hopefully fall into the category of not being eligible to pay, as I don’t earn above the limit.
    So I’ll be selling my soul, I’m afraid to get what I want, even though as you quite rightly say, it should be ours by rights not something that has to be granted, by a panel of faceless people who presumably have no idea first hand of what it is to be trans.

    • Hey, I’m not casting shade on those who choose to go for a GRC, I’m pleased for you and them. 🙂 I’d love the rights and protections of a GRC, I just won’t do it under the current rules.

      You’re not selling your soul, you’re taking the future into your own hands. 🙂

  2. I feel as you do Sarah. Depressed. The Ministry of Justice does not give a flying fuck about trans people, and is showing it now that it's exclusively in the hands of the vile Tories. And you didn't even mention the tirade by that shitbag Greer.

    We must do something to support Tara though. We must do something big.

  3. Impossible to imagine a more precise explanation. How many other minorities are not offered the protection of the law in Britain. The message is clear – to be trans is to be filth. It's long past time that we stood up and said that enough is enough. No one will give us equality it's time to stand up and take it whatever the cost. 88.5% of under 26 year olds attempting or contemplating suicude – our people are paying with their blood. Why the hell are we so passive?

  4. I felt very upset for Tara, but decided my being upset was not enough, so decided to write to my MP. I would imagine that if enough of us do so, a message will be sent that this is unacceptable.
    I did opt to get a certificate as I needed it in my work, but I felt uncomfortable and humiliated by the experience. I know how I feel and what I am, so who are these people to determine if I am right in my knowledge or not? However, it was not a fight I could afford, so I acquiesced with a bitter taste in my mouth. Your point about it being a tax on being trans is very pertinent, and I do admire your stance.

  5. I felt very upset for Tara, but decided my being upset was not enough, so decided to write to my MP. I would imagine that if enough of us do so, a message will be sent that this is unacceptable.
    I did opt to get a certificate as I needed it in my work, but I felt uncomfortable and humiliated by the experience. I know how I feel and what I am, so who are these people to determine if I am right in my knowledge or not? However, it was not a fight I could afford, so I acquiesced with a bitter taste in my mouth. Your point about it being a tax on being trans is very pertinent, and I do admire your stance.

  6. Is it three years now? thought it was two?…. fuckin hell…what do u need to prove u have been living full time…its not like Ive been keeping hold of paychecks n shit like that…..oh well fuck it…Im not going to pay 140 to this clusterfuck of imposters…Im just going to write up my own GRC with a crayon and some papyrus and insist that its a legal document…if they can just make stuff up out of thin air then so can I!

  7. i am a american trans idtwomen i saw the movie carlotta of australia and the trans panels. even our gender clinics dont do that anymore thats illegal. but i have been judged by he medical community for not being transsexual enough as in pretty pretty feminie ultra woman. i was raped a long time ago and recentlly i been trigged to hate my feminity; i was more femine years ago but i am andro today. i prefer yoga pants and a girly top to dresses that dont fit my body type i am a late bloomer. though i almost didnt get the surgery because of my past disorder two years ago; schizoaffective my surgeon being post op trans shouldve known better. i live in wv a psych who was my therapist at the time who was helping my behavior problems over gender sadlly i needed both she was untrained in transsexual therapy but had a few gay couples; she convinced the surgeon it was a matter of understanding and readiness of the surgery and not being medically sound. meaning now that because of this months after my surgery i heard the new standards of care gate keeping got a peg down and most nonconforming trans like myself were eligble for surgery i think i helped the case study on this lol. but i do understand i am sick of doctors even trans doctors not understanding our condition or referring us to expertise who dont take insurance or who are just prejudice to us. i am sick of this they dont need expertise in the disorder just general training by medical universities. a general physican now can treat our hormones and do a letter for gender surgery thanks to new laws . sigh. i am sick of my trans sister being killed for being women who they are. i sick because of this most trans are mentally ill because of this treatment. i stand with you. but here in america their is no trans tax just stupid idiotic fundi politiceans who illegally misrepresent the constitution.

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  8. I was one of the Press For Change Vice-presidents who negotiated the GRA back in 2001-04, so I am well familiar with how these things came about.

    Basically, PFC wanted a demedicalised system of self-declaration. The govt refused to go that far, and sadly that approach (now enacted in Ireland) was vehemently opposed by some vocal segments of the trans community who demanded medical criteria — the most active group, called "post-op women" even insisted on a surgical requirement.

    The determination of the medicalised trans people was ferocious. I personally received sustained abuse, bogus allegatioins of fraud which took a lot of valuable time to disprove, and even credible death threats. I wasn't deterred, but please remember that all the restrictions in place are there partly becuase of the demands of some trans people.

    What we obtained was at the time the *least* medicalised system in Europe. Instead of requiring a fresh medical assessment, it was designed from the outset to allow applications to use as medical evidence the medical letters generated in the course of a medicalised transition. The idea was that in practice, it wouldn't need new documentation.

    Sadly, bureaucratic creep has led to the panels seeking more specific evidence than was intended. That needs challenge, tho I would much prefer that *no* medical evidence be needed — and I wholeheartedly support demands for the UK to adopt the Irish system. My only regret is that it has taken a decade for a new generation of trans people to vocally demand this.

    I note that Sarah Savage's piece omits any mention of the reduced fees available. She is right in principle about the unfairness of the charge, but her failure to even mention the reductions results in a very misleading article. I spent a lot of time documenting the wickedness of the govt principle of full cost recovery, and securing that reduction system. In my own case, being on incapacity benefit at the time, I paid no fee at all. I just checked the rules, and it seems that the fee reduction/waiver system has been made more complex (and possibly less generous) since the Tories took over … but it still exists: http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/…/ex160a-eng.pdf

    I think that Savage is also wrong about the need for a permanent address. I spent a lot of time ensuring that system merely required an address at which people could receive mail — and once it was in operation, the staff ensured that even a poste restante was entirely acceptable. I am not aware of that having changed.

    It's a pity that a passionate article is so badly let down by such factual errors.

    The GRA is outdated, and needs to be replaced with a simpler system which is less costly and omits the medical requirements. But the hurdles are not quite as high as Savage claims.

  9. 140 £ ? I would be glad to pay that. :/
    Here in Germany it would be 1000 – 2000 Euro for recognition + cost for changing all Documents.
    Sure, if you dont have work or dont have familiy you will get help.
    But if you work, are married or have family its up to you or or family to pay that.

    But not only that, there are guidelines, but every place interpretes them in their own way.
    We get 2 different evaluators, and they must be positive of ones “transgenderness”, then we have to convince the judge. The evaluators have thei own guidelines. One wants to see you once, other 2-3 times in some weeks/months, another want to see you monthly almost for 2 years.
    Or better, some say you should have at least 18 months of psychotherapy before you even try something legal and/or medical 🙁

  10. My recollection is that it is a two year period and if you are on certain benefits you don't have to pay. The procedure could certainly be improved and speeded up and it would be wise if the panels included trans people. Regrettably we need such rules because in our binary based society establishing the gender of a person is essential for many legal reasons. Unless society and legislation moves to a genderless structure, it will remain as it is for purely practical reasons whether folk like it or not. So – deal with the law as it is and lobby for change but come up with workable solutions as alternatives as the authorities need help on this.

  11. A great piece Sarah,thank you. All my life I've just wanted to be myself. Just another person without crazy discrimination, but unfortunately I see it so much. The human race is diverse, but so many can't accept that. There is a long way to go I wish you all the best.

  12. I am aghast that you have to go through so much in the UK to change your gender. In British Columbia, it's a 1 page form that can even be completed by a family Dr. at no charge. There is no waiting period, no 12 pages of humiliatingly personal questions, my wife doesn't need to approve though I did check with her first, marriage has no bearing on the determination if I will get this certificate, nor does my medical status. This form will allow me to change my Driver's license, my birth certificate (if I was born in BC) and update my provincial health care information. Once I have my birth certificate updated with my new name and gender, federal ID like my Social Insurance number and passport can be updated.

    It seems to me that the rules to change your gender marker in the UK are more strict that the Standards of Care (SOC) set by WPATH for Gender Affirmation Surgery. There really needs to be an internationally recognised system like the SOC that makes changing your gender marker so much easier.

  13. I wonder, as a trans woman who plans to get French citizenship ASAP but has done all the legal transition hoops in the United States before I came over, if I wanted to live in the UK, would I need to get a GRC? My état-civil, passport, carte de sejour and birth certificate from the US all say "female".

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