Guidance for Responding to the Women and Equalities Select Committee Inquiry 2020

Thank you for taking an interest in submitting evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the results of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultation, and wider trans equality issues. Here you will find some guidance on submitting the evidence.

Our response to the inquiry can be downloaded here.

In this guide, you will find...
  • Important information about the inquiry
  • Background on the Gender Recognition Act consultation
  • Guidance on each question

We hope that this guide will help you to answer the call for evidence in a way which is both informed and which helps further the rights of trans and non-binary people in the UK.

Important Information

- The inquiry consists of 16 questions, divided into two sections, one on the government's response to the GRA consultation, and one on wider transgender equality and current legislation.

- You do not have to answer all the questions.

- The deadline for submissions is the 27th of November.

- You must submit your evidence to wom[email protected] as an email attachment of no more than 25mb.

- You can choose to anonymise your evidence (where it is published without your name), or you can ask it remains confidential (where it is read, but not published), however there is no guarantee that this will happen, and the committee may take the decision to overrule your request.

- You can find the full inquiry information here.

The Gender Recognition Act, the Consultation, and the Equality Act

This inquiry primarily addresses the government's response to a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, which was published this year.

It is important to note that the 2018 GRA consultation and the 2020 GRA inquiry are not simply the government carrying out the same piece of work twice. The GRAconsultation that began in 2018 was carried out by the Government Equalities Office (GEO). The GEOleads on governmental policy relating to women and LGBT equalities. This 2020 inquiry is being carried out by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC). The WESC is an all-partyparliamentary committee, not a governmental one, and its role is to examine the work of the GEO and hold the government to account on equality law and policy.For more information about how different government departments and parliamentary groups work, click here.

In order to understand the response, we need to look at the Gender Recognition Act itself.

What is the Gender Recognition Act 2004?
  • A piece of legislation (law) that allows some transgender people to legally change their gender, by obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
  • Allows some trans people to update their birth certificates.
  • In order to apply for a GRC, you must be over 18, identify as male or female, and submit evidence stating that you intend to live in your "acquired gender" for the rest of your life. This evidence may include a deed poll, medical evidence, and any updated ID. You must also have lived in your acquired gender for over two years and have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
What was the consultation?
  • In 2018 the government conducted a public consultation on how the GRA might be reformed. They posed a set of questions, which anyone could respond to, that looked at specific areas of interest.
  • Some of the areas looked at included:
  • Whether or not the £140 fee should be kept.
  • Whether non-binary people should be included.
  • Whether requirements for evidence should be changed to a self-declaration process.
  • Whether the "spousal veto" should be removed.
  • Whether under 18s should be able to apply for a GRC
  • Whether changing the GRA would impact on the Equality Act, and specifically whether it would impact on single "sex spaces".
  • In 2020, the government published the results of the consultation, and decided on making a handful of changes. These changes included:
  • Removing the £140 fee and replacing it with a nominal fee.
  • Moving the application online.
What is the Equality Act 2010?
  • Before 2010, there were lots of different laws that protected certain groups of people from discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 took all those laws and combined them together to make one more simplified law, which sets out groups of people who have a "protected characteristic". These protected characteristics are race, age, sexual orientation, disability, sex, gender reassignment, religion, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy.
  • Trans people are covered under the "gender reassignment" protected characteristic in the Equality Act. This protected characteristic includes anyone who is "proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex."
  • This means that a trans person is covered by the Equality Act regardless of what their transition might look like.
  • There are exceptions to this protection however - if a service is delivering a "single sex space", they may choose to exclude trans people if it is done in "proportional means to achieving a legitimate aim." Essentially, if there's a good reason that trans people shouldn't use a service, they can be excluded if the service can demonstrate that it is done in a way that is supported by the Equality Act. The Equality Act gives single sex domestic violence shelters as an example.

Responding to the Inquiry

In this next section, we'll look specifically at the questions that the government are asking in their inquiry, and provide you with prompts on how you may wish to answer. It's important to remember that you can answer in any way you like, and we would encourage you to use your own language, stories, and thoughts when answering.

The Government's Response to the GRA consultation

1. Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?

    • Consider the changes above that Government have made to the GRA. Do you think they make the process kinder and more straight forward?
    • You may wish to talk about issues that still exist and how they have affected you, or you may want to talk about how whether you think progress made already is sufficient.

2. Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?

    • The £140 fee has now been replaced with a nominal fee, which is likely to be much smaller.
    • You may wish to talk about the costs associated with transitioning, and the costs required to obtain the evidence needed for applications.
    • If you have a GRC, you could talk about how much it cost you, both in money and time.
    • If the cost has prevented you from getting a GRC, you might want to talk about that.

3. Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?

    • Currently, to get a GRC, you must have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. This is usually done at a "Gender Dysphoria Clinic" (previously called Gender Identity Clinics).
    • You might like to talk about whether you have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and how easy and quick or difficult and slow you found the process of getting a diagnosis.
    • You may wish to talk about the experiences and identities of trans and non-binary people who do not experience gender dysphoria, and their right to have their gender identity recognised.

4. Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?

    • An applicant currently must prove that they have lived in their acquired gender for two years. This does not include any time spent thinking or experimenting with their gender, and is marked from the first piece of evidence they can provide, such as a deed poll.
    • You may wish to talk about how trans people can live in their gender before being able to provide evidence
    • You might talk about whether you think two years is the right amount of time to wait before being able to apply for a GRC.

5. What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?

    • A statutory declaration is a legally binding agreement, and in this case, people are legally binding themselves to a gender for life.
    • You may wish to discuss how not all trans people live in a single gender forever.
    • You might like to discuss whether other groups of people need to make a legally binding agreement to be who they are or not.

6. Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?

    • The spousal consent gives an applicant's spouse the right to veto someone’s legal gender change if they do not like it. As there is no appeal process, if this occurs then the applicant must get a divorce before being able to reapply for a GRC.
    • You may wish to consider the fairness of allowing another person to dictate someone's transition and identity.
    • You might talk about how many trans people experience domestic abuse and intimate partner violence, and how the spousal consent provision affects this.

7. Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?

    • Currently, an applicant must be 18 years or older to obtain a GRC.
    • You might like to talk about the evidence that shows trans people can know from a very young age what their gender identity is.
    • You might talk about other life-changing decisions that under 18s make, such as getting married, joining a trade union, joining the armed forces, and changing their name.

8. What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?

    • The current proposed changes are to replace the £140 fee with a nominal fee, and to move the application process online.
    • You may wish to discuss how you think these changes will or will not help trans people who want a GRC.
    • You might wish to share your thoughts about other changes you think should be made to the GRA.

9. What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?

    • You may wish to consult the background information, and discuss some of the elements that trans communities were asking for.

10. Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004? 

    • The Scottish Government's Bill has proposed different solution to the GRA, which will apply to those living in Scotland.
    • They have proposed reducing the required time lived in one's acquired gender from two years to three months, lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16, removing the requirement to submit medical evidence, and will move to using a statutory declaration instead.
    • In this question, you may wish to talk about whether these proposals are better than the ones proposed for England and Wales, which you can find in the background information section of this guide.

Wider Issues Concerning Transgender Equality and Current Legislation

11. Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?

    • You may wish to address the barriers that trans people face in relation to the way in which the application process currently works.

12. Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.

    • There has been some discussion on how the GRA and the Equality Act work together. Trans people are covered under the "gender reassignment" protected characteristic within the Act, and this offers trans people legal protection from discrimination. Trans people do not have to have a GRC to be protected under the Equality Act.
    • There are some exceptions to this legal protection from discrimination, which you can read in the background information section.
    • You may wish to discuss whether you think that trans people and non-binary people are protected by the Equality Act.

13. Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?

    • You can read more about the exemptions for single sex spaces in the background information section of this guide.
    • You may wish to discuss the barriers faced by trans and non-binary people who wish to access services that are single sex.

14. Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed?

    • You can read more about how the Equality Act protects trans people in the background information section of this guide.
    • You may wish to talk about the lack of explicit protections for non-binary people within the Equality Act.
    • You might talk about the exemptions that single sex spaces give, and how these affect trans people.
    • You might talk about the hate crime, abuse and discrimination experienced by trans people, and how easy or difficult it is for trans people to get support.

15. What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?

    • You may wish to talk about how single sex exemptionsin the Equality Act, and misunderstanding of these exemptions, bar some trans people from accessing vital services.
    • You might talk about trans people who have been harmed by not being able to access vital services

16. Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?

    • Currently, the UK does not legally recognize any non-binary genders.
    • You may wish to discuss how having to use binary genders on legal documentation affects non-binary people, and how it affects you personally.
    • You may want to discuss whether you feel that non-binary people have legal protection from discrimination.
    • You may also wish to highlight examples of countries that better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people.

You can read more about the inquiry here (link), and submit your evidence to the committee. You have until the 27th of November to do so. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, you can email [email protected] for more information.

Other Guides: