The Gender Recognition Act has gained significant visibility since the Government’s public consultation in 2018, which means that trans and non binary people have received their fair share of attention in the media. Unfortunately, this means that there has also been an increase in the spread of misinformation. In order to combat this, we’ve put together a short guide that deals with some frequently asked questions and myths about both the GRA and about trans identities in general.
“Will GRA Reform affect me?”
Well, this depends on whether or not you’re trans or non binary. If you’re not, then the short answer is no, this legislation won’t affect you. Trans people go about their daily lives in the same way anyone else does, and we deserve legal recognition that is simple, effective, and streamlined.
“This reform will allow men posing as women access to spaces.”
Trans women are not men – this is the most important part of this statement. The protection of vulnerable trans people needs to be of equal importance as the protection of vulnerable cis people, and neither should be jeopardized with a robust reform of the GRA. Trans people already have access to single sex spaces as outlined in the Equality Act 2010, and the reforming the GRA won’t change this. If there is concern about dangerous men accessing women’s spaces, then the attention needs to be put on those men. We can absolutely address the actions of these men without attacking trans women in the process, and we are happy to support organisations that wish to discuss their safeguarding policies. We do not support stigmatising and blaming vulnerable women for the actions of predatory men.
“A person’s sex is a biological fact, and it isn’t possible to change sex.”
When we talk about sex, we’re not just talking about genitals. Your sex is made up of a number of different aspects, your chromosomes, your hormones, your reproductive system, and your external genitalia. A number of these can in fact be changed, and the rest do not exist in a comfortable binary, so plenty of people lie outside of being simply “male” or “female”. It’s also important to distinguish between sex and gender identity, which is your own understanding of how you identify in relation to gender, and how you might describe that.
“There are only two genders, why does non-binary need recognition?”
There are a number of genders, with each one meaning something different from one person to the next. Just as there are as many ways of being a woman as there are women in the world and as many way of being a man as there are men in the world, there as many ways of being non-binary as there are non-binary people in the world. Non-binary identities are valid, and should be given as much respect as any other identity. Non-binary people are not new – genders beyond male and female have existed in a number of different cultures throughout history and all over the world, from Hijras to Two Spirit. Genders outside of “man” and “woman” are legally recognised in many countries, including Austria, Canada, Iceland, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and some states in the US.
“A 16 year old is still a child, and can’t make decisions for themselves. What if they change their minds later?”
16 year olds make decisions for themselves all the time. Someone who is 16 years old can already get married, join the armed forces, change their name by deed poll, work full time, and leave their parents or guardian’s home if they so choose. Obtaining a gender recognition certificate is simply an administrative activity that 16 year olds are more than capable of. We support young people exploring their identity and finding themselves in their own time, and we are aware of barriers that exist for young people who cannot legally be recognised as their gender.
“Young children are being given ‘sex change’ drugs that change their bodies in irreversible ways.”
No young children are being given any form of medical treatment related to their gender identity whatsoever. Adolescents over the age of 11 are sometimes offered medication commonly known as puberty blockers, which delays the onset of puberty until they are ready to make an informed decision about their gender. This buys them time to think critically, experiment, and decide for themselves whether or not medical transition is right for them. They are able to stop taking puberty blockers at any time, which simply causes puberty to resume as before, with no long lasting effects. This same medication is frequently used to treat precocious puberty in children, and is not just prescribed to young people accessing gender clinics.
“Promoting trans ideology erases lesbians and many girls who are unsure about their sexuality may be persuaded to think they’re men.”
There is no such thing as “trans ideology”, in the same way that there’s no such thing as “gay ideology”. When trans people live their authentic lives, they are not pushing an agenda, they are simply being. A common argument we hear is that trans men are in fact “confused lesbians” who have been pushed into transitioning. There is no evidence to support this claim, and we believe that every person is capable of making their own decisions in life, including lesbians and trans people. It is not for us to project a gender or sexual orientation onto anyone else, and denying people the opportunity to experiment with and explore their own sexual orientation and gender is restrictive and harmful. Much of this narrative relies on misogynistic ideas that suggest that women and girls need to be protected from trans ideas because they are not capable of making their own decisions. We refute the idea that women and girls are not capable of knowing who they are and of forming their own ideas. We welcome space for people to explore their identity, and we think the most beneficial approach is to give people time to explore and come to their own decisions.
“Trans people already have legal rights – all they want now is special privileges.”
Trans people face a number of legal and social inequalities, and just because they are not immediately visible, that does not mean that they do not exist. Reforming the GRA is simply one step in a much longer battle in ensuring that trans people have as much right to a high quality of life as anyone else. You can read more about the inequalities that trans people face in our report, Transforming Outcomes.
“If people can identify as anything they want, why can’t I identify as a goat/attack helicopter/25 year old etc?”
Firstly, if you really want to, you can! No-one is stopping you from doing any of these things provided that you keep yourself and others safe.
However, identifying as a helicopter is not the same as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. Evidence shows that LGBT people have existed throughout all of history, and the way that different cultures have described sexual orientation and gender has changed over time.
Some of these concepts, such as being lesbian or trans, may be new to you and that’s okay! We all learn new things all the time - we didn’t used to have a word for internet, for example, because we didn’t need one at the time. However, a lot has changed since then and understanding the word and concept of the internet is very useful now. Similarly, words like trans and non-binary are becoming more common as more and more people learn words that describe their experiences and identities.
Much of what we understand about gender relies on social constructs. This does not mean that it isn’t real, or that it doesn’t affect the way we live, but it isn’t as rooted in biology as we might like to believe. Identifying as a gender different from the one you were given at birth or as a sexual orientation other than straight is very different from identifying as a different species, an inanimate object, or as a different age. These last three are observable, measurable entities, whereas gender is formed in a much less tangible manner. We can’t see gender in the same way we can see a goat. We can run tests to figure out that a goat is a goat, and what makes it different from a sheep. We can’t test gender, because there’s nothing to test.