Two years on from the GRA: how far have we come?

Although reforms have been made, some say government haven’t gone far enough. 

On 23rd November, the University of Bath’s LGBT+ Group held a virtual talk about the government’s plans to reform the UK’s Gender Recognition Act (GRA). The talk was led by Co-chair of the LGBT+ society, Kate Heinrich-Jones, and featured Bath politics lecturer Dr Fran Amery and Daminee, from Mermaids UK. 

This legislation allows transgender adults to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), which updates the gender marker on their birth certificate. For many trans people, legal recognition of their transition is a crucial stage in the process of feeling accepted for their identity. Dr Amery explained that the requirements for a GRC have come under scrutiny for being highly intrusive, as applicants need a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria or similar, two years of living in their ‘acquired gender’ and, if married, need their spouse’s consent. 

In 2018, Theresa May created a consultation on reforming the process to make it easier for trans people to gain legal recognition of their gender. The government have since announced plans to make the GRA application process more accessible by moving it online and reducing the applicant fee. However, the Women and Equalities Select Committee has argued that these changes are too limited, and is pushing for further reform. 

There has been opposition to reforming the GRA, primarily from those who fear that by lowering the barriers to legal recognition, some might choose to abuse access to ‘women only’ spaces such as toilets and women’s refuges. Dr Amery noted that this is not a new issue; trans women have had access to women-only spaces for decades without controversy, and need access to refuges due to their relatively high likelihood of being exposed to domestic violence.  

In response to the barriers posed by the GRA and the opposition from anti-trans activists, one panelist said that the “GRA has created tension…it has been a horrible time to be trans.” Another said that they felt that there is “gatekeeping the entire way because people just question whether you are trans ‘enough’ to change your birth certificate.” 

Daminee from Mermaids UK gave examples of what the charity believes should be changed about the GRA to remove some of the barriers to recognition:  

  • Applicants should be able to self-determine rather than having to provide medical diagnosis or any evidence of living in the ‘acquired gender’. This would eliminate the stigma that a medical diagnosis creates, and it would also reduce the costs can be involved in obtaining a diagnosis.  
  • Those above the age of 16 to be able to self-determine and to create a different process for under 16s to be recognised with parental consent, or through another means.  
  • The charity is also in favour of lowering any fees to pay for the GRA, removal of the spousal veto and lastly, recognition of non-binary people within the GRA as there is currently no legal recognition for those living outside of the gender binary. 

To learn more about the government’s response, click hereTo weigh in on the second consultation by the Women and Equalities Committee, click here – the deadline is 27th  November 

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