What’s sex please? We’re Bri­tish

The govern­ment is mak­ing an aw­ful mess of its trans law change, be­cause – as with Brexit – it hasn’t both­ered to do the ba­sic prepa­ra­tion. CARO­LINE CRIADO PEREZ re­ports

The New European - - Agenda -

So you’re think­ing about chang­ing your sex. The good news is the govern­ment is think­ing of mak­ing the process eas­ier. The bad news is, it doesn’t look like they know what they’re do­ing.

Cur­rently, if some­one wants to change their birth cer­tifi­cate from male to fe­male or vice versa, they must have lived for two years as their de­sired new gen­der (the govern­ment is all over the place when it comes to what they mean by sex and what they mean by gen­der), and they must have a med­i­cal di­ag­no­sis of gen­der dys­pho­ria.

They also have to “de­clare that they in­tend to live in their ac­quired gen­der un­til death”. Their ap­pli­ca­tion is sub­mit­ted to a panel who will then de­cide whether or not this per­son is el­i­gi­ble for a Gen­der Recog­ni­tion Cer­tifi­cate (GRC) which will mean that they are now legally a mem­ber of the op­po­site sex. It’s rather like be­com­ing a cit­i­zen of a new coun­try.

Most trans peo­ple don’t go through this process. You don’t need a GRC to change your name or pro­nouns for bills, with your bank, on your pass­port, on your driv­ing li­cense. You don’t need a GRC to de­clare your­self a mem­ber of the op­po­site sex for the pur­poses of em­ploy­ment or data col­lec­tion. And you don’t need a GRC to re­ceive med­i­cal treat­ment, such as hor­mones or surgery. So many trans peo­ple choose not to go through with the bu­reau­cracy. Ac­cord­ing to govern­ment es­ti­mates as few as 1% of trans peo­ple liv­ing in Bri­tain to­day have a GRC, which is why they in­tend to change it, to make it eas­ier. The pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the change is open un­til 11pm this Fri­day.

Many trans peo­ple feel very strongly that this change is ur­gently needed and are ask­ing for the govern­ment to de-med­i­calise the process for legally chang­ing sex. They want the process in­stead to rely on ‘self­i­den­ti­fi­ca­tion’, the idea be­ing that what sex you are is a mat­ter of in­ter­nal, per­sonal iden­tity, and a doc­tor has no place in de­ter­min­ing some­one’s iden­tity.

They also want to re­move the re­quire­ment that a per­son wish­ing to legally change sex should live in their ‘ac­quired gen­der’ for two years be­fore ap­ply­ing for a GRC. It’s im­por­tant to note that liv­ing in your ac­quired gen­der doesn’t mean hav­ing sex re­as­sign­ment surgery – this is not nec­es­sary to legally change your sex. In fact, the ma­jor­ity of trans peo­ple in Bri­tain don’t have sex re­as­sign­ment surgery.

But other peo­ple are not so sure. The ten­sion arises over whether women’s rights and sin­gle-sex pro­vi­sion – fe­male refuges, fe­male sport, fe­male pris­ons – will be un­der threat if th­ese changes go ahead. Al­ready, po­ten­tial prob­lems have been high­lighted by the case of Karen White, a trans­gen­der pris­oner who sex­u­ally as­saulted two in­mates at a women’s jail, hav­ing pre­vi­ously raped two other women. The govern­ment claims that such threats can be avoided, in­sist­ing that un­der the Equal­ity Act 2010, there al­ready is pro­vi­sion for sin­gle-sex pro­vi­sion.

The govern­ment claims that they won’t, in­sist­ing that un­der the Equal­ity Act 2010, there al­ready is pro­vi­sion for sin­gle-sex pro­vi­sion “where the ac­tion taken is a pro­por­tion­ate means of achiev­ing a le­git­i­mate aim”. So, for ex­am­ple, a women’s refuge could de­cide not to house a trans woman “if it can be shown” that other women al­ready in the refuge would be neg­a­tively im­pacted. The govern­ment also states that when it comes to chil­dren, “ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments of sep­a­rate sex fa­cil­i­ties, like toi­lets, chang­ing rooms, and com­mu­nal ac­com­mo­da­tion on school trips will not change”.

There’s just one prob­lem: the govern­ment has, to date, pro­vided no ev­i­dence what­so­ever that it knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween sex and gen­der. The pro­posed changes are to what is called the Gen­der Recog­ni­tion Act. But the Act does not pro­vide for chang­ing your gen­der. It pro­vides for legally chang­ing your sex. Your gen­der recog­ni­tion cer­tifi­cate as a trans woman does not state that you are a woman. It states that you are fe­male.

If this is the case how can you be de­nied ac­cess to sex-based ser­vices? Does sex mean one thing if you are trans and an­other thing if you aren’t? What does chang­ing your sex mean for crime data? For med­i­cal data? For em­ploy­ment data? Does chang­ing your sex mean you ac­tu­ally change your sex or not?

On this surely cru­cial is­sue, the govern­ment seems un­able or un­will­ing to pro­vide an­swers. In­stead, rather like they did with an­other rather im­por­tant leg­isla­tive change I re­mem­ber be­ing asked about re­cently, they are go­ing to the pub­lic with­out first defin­ing terms. This dis­hon­est shirk­ing and fudg­ing is not good enough.

I am sick of the govern­ment ex­pect­ing us to make stabs at blurred lines. Theresa May, Penny Mor­daunt, go back to pri­mary school, fig­ure out what it is you’re ask­ing us, and only

*then* ask us what we think.

Un­til then, why don’t you get on with the busi­ness of fig­ur­ing out how ex­actly you’re go­ing to bring this coun­try back from the brink of self-im­mo­la­tion un­der the guise of “tak­ing back


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