As Trans Representative for Queen Mary Students’ Union, I am appalled to hear of the latest setback in the decades-long struggle for self-identification. The scrapping of recent plans for reform, which have involved years of surveying, one of which revealed a 70% majority in favour of self-identification, has stalled trans rights in the UK, back to where they have been since 2004.
The bureaucratic process to obtain a change of gender marker, as outlined in the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, is by today's standards prehistoric. Should a trans individual be married and wish to change their legal gender, for instance, spousal approval is required.
The process of obtaining a new gender marker is far too heavily medicalized too - societal notions of transgender bodies and identities have changed drastically since 2004, and the trans population of the UK has grown. Waiting lists for gender clinics can at times exceed four years, with the time between appointments being as much as 6 months. Considering at least three appointments are necessary for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the process to obtain a gender recognition certificate is one which can take up to half a decade of waiting for.
This is without even considering the extortionate wait times for therapy, hormone treatment, and surgeries, all of which are described by the WHO as “necessary to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity”. The extreme slowness in the system has resulted in many trans people, myself included, putting themselves at medical risk and financial strain by self-medicating.
The repealing of the GRA reform is undemocratic, it is explicitly harmful, and it has stunted the progress made on trans rights in the UK for nearly 15 years. It seems little coincidence as well that the repeal has been announced amidst Donald Trump’s rollback of transgender protections in healthcare, effectively allowing physicians in the US to decline treatment to transgender individuals.
As well as this, the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests have posed questions that we as allies cannot ignore regarding the wellbeing and safety of Black transgender people, particularly Black transgender women. The government's refusal to reform will hurt Black trans communities the most, for these are communities systematically deprived of healthcare access and discriminated against systematically on account of both race and gender identity. Studies in both the US and the UK have shown that as a population, Black transgender women are the group presented with the most barriers to an already obtuse and harmful system of gatekeeping, and this lack of access to medical care coupled with an extremely high rate of discrimination on the basis of gender and race cannot further be worsened.
Queen Mary Students’ Union condemns the government for this refusal to listen to a democratic mandate demanding progression of the archaic gender recognition act in this country. We, however, are also appalled with the conduct of the opposition, with Keir Starmer’s Labour Party ‘standing back’ from the ‘gender debate’. Such inaction essentially hands the government a blank cheque to act on further repealing what few explicit legal and medical protections trans people have. As well as this, it posits that our lives, our lived experience and our need for a system which treats us with dignity and fairness is merely a ‘debate’.
Please click here to find an email template created by QM and BL LGBT+ Societies, so that you can email your local MPs to ask them to stand against these changes.
Trans Representative, Queen Mary Students' Union
Find Your MP
Send an email to Boris Johnson
Understanding the Transgender community
Summary of the GRA - Stonewall
Supporting the Transgender People in Your Life: A Guide to Being a Good Ally
Open Letter to J K Rowling from Mermaids - a charity that works with Trans Youth
Twitter Thread explaining each of the incorrect statements J K Rowling has made
How to be a Trans Ally
Make no mistake, the government is mandating state-sponsored violence against trans people
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