Government must understand hurt caused to transgender community, say MPs

A Tory former minister has criticised the Government’s decision to rule out changes to make it easier for transgender people in England and Wales to have their gender legally recognised.

Earlier this week, Women and Equalities minister Liz Truss announced that the Government had rejected calls for people to be able to self-identify their gender and change their birth certificates without a medical diagnosis.

The Gender Recognition Act currently requires transgender people to go through a lengthy process to change their birth certificates.

Following the announcement, the UK’s equalities watchdog described the move as a “missed opportunity”.

Asking an urgent question in the Commons on the issue, Conservative former minister Crispin Blunt said: “Does (Liz Truss) understand the crushing disappointment of trans people with the content of her statement on Tuesday when set against the consultation on which it was based?

“Does she appreciate that trans people cannot discern any strong or coherent reason for this screeching change of direction?”

He added: “Does she understand the anger at the prospect of them receiving their fundamental rights being snatched away?

“The longer this uncertainty has been allowed to continue, the worse the fear and anger have become.

“Does she understand the delay in the statement has helped contribute to that?

“Does she appreciate that her statement does not command a majority in this House and will she confirm that is one of the reasons she is unable to propose any legislation?

“She has presented the House with an inherently unstable settlement that will have to be addressed hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Ms Truss said it is the Government’s view that there is enough support for people in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 for people who want to change their legal sex.

She told MPs: “We want transgender people to be free to live and prosper in modern Britain.

“We’ve looked carefully at the issues raised in the consultation, including potential changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

“It is the Government’s view that the balance struck in this legislation is correct in that there are proper checks and balances in the system and also support for people who want to change their legal sex.

“We will make the Gender Recognition Certificate process kinder and more straightforward.

“We will cut bureaucracy by enabling applications via Gov.UK and we will also reduce the fee from £140 to a nominal amount.

“We know from out research that improving healthcare support is the priority for transgender people.

“That is why we are opening at least three new gender clinics this year which should see waiting lists cut by 1600 patients by 2022.”

Liz Truss
Liz Truss

Ms Truss added: “We are moving through our international LGBT conference to improve the rights of LGBT people across the world and I’m very proud of the leadership we’ve shown as a country in areas like equal marriage and other issues of LGBT rights.

“It’s important to note though that whilst we do want to improve healthcare services, and I’m committed to working with the Department of Health on this, we don’t believe in moving to a model of self-ID.

“We do believe that the system does need proper checks and balances.”

Shadow women and equalities minister Marsha de Cordova said: “After three years of toxic debate it is deeply disappointing that this Government has let trans people down and dropped its plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.”

Labour MP Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) asked Ms Truss if she understands the hurt caused to the transgender community and to the non-binary community.

He said: “The problem is that (Ms Truss) has not shown leadership on this issue.

“The decision is wrong, the delay has been wrong and the hurt caused to the trans community, to the non-binary community as well is wrong.

“That’s what my constituents are telling me.

“She’s heard the concern across the House.

“Does she understand the hurt, these are our fellow human beings at the heart of this, who are feeling deeply distressed, deeply let down and deeply concerned at the direction in which this Government is going.

“And will she stop the off-the-record briefing of newspapers whipping up hatred against the trans and non-binary community?”

Ms Truss responded: “I can assure (Mr Doughty) there has been not been a single off-the-record briefing coming from me.

“I don’t appreciate (Mr Doughty’s) tone, I’m being genuine and honest and I am seeking to make this process kinder and more straightforward and I don’t think levelling accusations like that at me is helpful.”