Dear Thangam Debbonaire,
I am writing about the reports in today’s newspaper that suggest that Boris Johnson’s government is preparing to scrap a review of the Gender Recognition Act; a review which was commissioned by Theresa May because the current system for trans people is costly, lengthy, humiliating and unnecessary. The newspaper report suggests that the government is preparing to set out new ‘safeguards’ to protect female-only spaces including refuges and public lavatories.
I am writing for your action on three main points regarding this:
Firstly, the newspaper article suggests that 70% of respondents to the government’s consultation support improving the lives of trans people, despite a drive from anti-trans lobbyists to skew the consultation. I am therefore concerned about the government’s choice to ignore this overwhelming mandate for change and that it is instead siding with a relatively small but vocal group of activists and their followers, who appear determined to tell trans and cisgender women who they are and what they think. They seek to characterise transgender women as a sexual threat and cast transgender men as duped victims of a patriarchal conspiracy. This represents the government not acting in good faith with regard to this consultation, a point I feel that they should be challenged on, regardless of the subject at hand.
Secondly, the GRA review was intended to look only at the current process for trans individuals to change their birth certificate. A process that requires them to pay £140, gain accreditation from two separate medical experts, provide proof of living in their true gender for a solid two years and offer ultimate judgement of their identity to a panel they never personally meet. The government appears to be extending their remit and instead are suggesting revoking protections granted by the Equality Act 2010 to allow access to gendered spaces with reference to an individual’s gender rather than their sex. This roll-back of rights has the potential to cause harm to cisgender women, transgender women, transgender men and non-binary individuals. In North Carolina in 2016 a gender-policing law regarding access to public bathrooms was enacted that led to a rise in transphobia, as well as opening up the possibility of increased harassment of women in public restrooms who weren’t transgender but who didn’t dress or present in a ‘feminine’ way. It also meant that transgender men were being forced to use women’s toilets. This poses a far greater risk to spaces intended to be safe for those who identify as female (either permanently or on that day) as requiring transgender men to use such spaces makes it much easier for cisgender men to claim to be transgender and access them.
Thirdly, the government appears to once again be ignoring the evidence of experts in not allowing self-identification for the purposes of changing a birth certificate. Iceland, Portugal, Malta, Norway, Denmark or Belgium have all empowered trans individuals to self-ID. None of these countries have reported a rise in attacks on women in single-sex spaces.
In summary, trans people and all women are already self-identifying in single-sex spaces. There is no known evidence that male abusers are using this freedom to attack women. Self-ID in a number of countries has not affected women’s safety and has improved the lives of trans people. Policing gender in toilets and changing rooms has a negative impact on the freedoms of all women. Instead it appears that the ‘concern’ being expressed by lobbyists, without basis or evidence, is nothing more than anti-trans bigotry dressed in outdated quasi-feminist clothing. Nobody who believes in equality would seek to enforce the segregation of trans people and the introduction of further obstacles to all women.
I therefore ask you to support the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly during pride month, and hold the government to account for ignoring the response to their consultation; to require them to act on the recommendations laid out by experts regarding allowing self-ID; and to vote against the rolling back of existing rights granted to allow people to use gendered spaces based on their gender, providing safer spaces for all cisgender women, transgender men, transgender women and non-binary individuals who have been using toilets, trying on clothes in changing rooms, accessing domestic violence facilities, and generally getting on with their lives for as long as single-sex spaces have existed.