The Government is consulting on proposals to change the way in which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. There have been calls for this to become a simple self-identification process and to remove many of the current steps that are legally required.
Because of the campaigning of several groups, as well as thousands of women (and men) in the UK, the government has now said it does not plan to amend the existing protections in the Equality Act.
They have specifically stated that the single sex exemptions (which are in place to protect from discrimination, violence and abuse and to enable women to challenge the disadvantage they face in an unequal society) will be unaffected.
However, we believe that the conflation of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ has already undermined the Equality Act and these exemptions. We want to see clear action to reverse this slide and to ensure they are not undermined any further.
We want to see clear definitions of sex and gender that do not rely on sexist and limiting stereotypes.
We believe that a change to self-identification is likely to threaten the rights of women and girls, as well as those with other protected characteristics, and that the government must consider carefully the impact of these changes before attempting to bring them into law.
We are unconvinced by the reassurances from government that these changes will not impact the lives of others. We think this reflects a failure to understand how changes could potentially affect the lives of millions of people and to consider how their rights will be impacted.
Some questions are aimed solely at trans people. We know from our campaigning that there are many trans people who have concerns about a move to self-ID. We would urge trans dissenters to make their voices heard in the consultation.
We are glad to see the government acknowledge the different status of intersex people:
- Point 146. “Intersex is neither a gender identity or a sexual orientation.”
We hope that intersex people will also complete this consultation so that their rights and needs are addressed and are not inappropriately confused or conflated with those of trans people.
Questions 11-19 are the best places for people to raise their specific, concrete concerns. Give examples of where you think conflicts may arise. You should use your own relevant knowledge and experience.
We have kept our guidance brief with suggestions and pointers for you to consider as you complete your own response. Our submission to the consultation will be based on these same suggestions.
You are the expert in your life so please respond with reflections and questions that reflect your experiences and your concerns. Also, refer to any research or evidence that you are aware of to back your position.
You do not have to complete the survey in one go. You can save it and go back to it. The Consultation Deadline is 19th October.
Quick Links to the Questions
You might also like to read the guidance from Fair Play for Women.
Question 1: If you are a trans person, have you previously applied, or are you currently applying, for a Gender Recognition Certificate?
This question is aimed solely at trans people.
Given the known statistics for the trans population, we would expect the number of respondents to this question to be small. However:
- You could express concern at the lack of a clear definition for the term ‘trans’
- Given that, numbers responding to this question may well be disproportionate
- Suggest that the number of responses to this question be cross-checked with other data available to ensure the responses are proportionate to the population
Question 2: If you are a trans person, please tell us what having Gender Recognition Certificate means, or would mean, to you.
This question is aimed solely at trans people.
Question 3: Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?
Things you might cover
- It is not possible to literally change sex
- The law must uphold the continuing single sex exemptions for those who are biologically female
- If a change is made in the law, it should be limited on the basis of absolute need and according to some kind of medical definition
- What would be the legal basis for a legal change of sex if the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is removed?
- A replacement of an objective diagnosis with self-identification or self-declaration is open to misunderstanding, misuse and potential abuse.
Question 4: Do you also think there should be a requirement for a report detailing treatment received?
A report is evidence of sincerity and commitment to a permanent change.
- It ensures any decision made is done so after profound reflection and with consideration of others and their rights
- Potential applicants should be made aware that treatment is:
- not a prerequisite
- that the report is confidential
- they should not have to appear in front of a panel
- The report also allows for necessary data to be collected on a disaggregated basis to help form policy
- Clear guidance should be issued on the basis for any decision by the Gender Recognition Panel.
Question 5: Under the current gender recognition system, an applicant has to provide evidence to show that they have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years.
(A) Do you agree that an applicant should have to provide evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for a period of time before applying? 󠄍 Yes 󠄍 No Please explain the reasons for your answer.
(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think the current evidential options are appropriate, or could they be amended?
(C) If you answered yes to (A), what length of time should an applicant have to provide evidence for? 󠄍 Two years or more; 󠄍 Between one year and two years; 󠄍 Between six months and one year; 󠄍 Six months or less.
(D) If you answered no to (A), should there be a period of reflection between making the application and being awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate?
5 (A) No.
WPUK is opposed to this. We believe it actively:
- inscribes sexism and sexist stereotypes into law
- works against the rights of both the applicant and other individuals and groups with protected characteristics.
5 (D) Yes.
A period of reflection of around 1-2 years is essential. It would:
- protect and support the applicant in making the right decision for themselves and for society in general
- demonstrate sincerity and commitment to the change
- enable the applicant to be confident in their final decision
Question 6: Currently applicants for a gender recognition certificate must make a statutory declaration as part of the process.
(A) Do you think this requirement should be retained, regardless of what other changes are made to the gender recognition system? 󠄍
Please explain the reasons for your answer.
(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think that the statutory declaration should state that the applicant intends to ‘live permanently in the acquired gender until death’? 󠄍
(C) If you answered no to (A), do you think there should be any other type of safeguard to show seriousness of intent?
6 (A) Yes.
This rightly asserts the seriousness of the proposed legal change. It may also be a deterrent to opportunist claims by sex offenders in prison.
However, we don’t think a statutory declaration has a particularly strong legal standing, and is therefore insufficient.
6 (B) Yes.
However, a growing number of people have detransitioned and the law must make provision for them to rescind this legal status if they choose.
The GRA should include within it a mechanism for those who wish to detransition. This should allow for the rescinding of a Gender Recognition Certificate and the reinstatement of an original birth certificate.The process by which this could take place would need to be made clear and easily accessible.
6 (C) Yes.
Further safeguarding measures need to be in place that would allow exclusion:
- on grounds of improper purposes
- for those convicted of violent or sexual offences
This would be in addition to the current provision to rescind a GRC on the grounds of fraud.
Question 7: The Government is keen to understand more about the spousal consent provisions for married persons in the Gender Recognition Act. Do you agree with the current provisions?
The current provisions are very important and provide a degree of protection to the spouse:
- This situation largely affects the female spouse of late transitioning males
- If spousal consent is removed they will be trapped in marriages utterly changed from that which they entered
- This must always therefore be an option for the non-transitioning spouse
Question 8: Currently applicants must pay £140 to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. (A) Do you think the fee should be removed from the process of applying for legal gender recognition?
(B) If you answered no to (A), do you think the fee should be reduced? 󠄍
It is reasonable to charge a fee to cover the reasonable cost of administration of the process
- Reasonable comparators would be the cost of a driving licence, passport, citizenship.
- A fee waiver already exists, and the process to apply for this has recently been simplified. This should be better publicised.
The Government is keen to understand more about the financial cost of achieving legal gender recognition, beyond the £140 application fee.
(C) What other financial costs do trans individuals face when applying for a gender recognition certificate and what is the impact of these costs?
Consideration of such costs should be compared objectively to those encountered by other individuals applying for government funds or recognition such as those required of disabled people or those applying for refugee status or citizenship.
Question 9: Do you think the privacy and disclosure of information provisions in section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act are adequate?
The provisions are inadequate:
- They currently don’t include parties that wish to apply exceptions, exemptions or data monitoring/gathering for equalities purposes
- Religion has privacy exemptions and so should women’s organisations and other bodies operating single sex spaces
Question 10: If you are someone who either has, or would want to undergo legal gender transition, and you have or more of the protected characteristics, which protected characteristics apply to you?
This question is aimed solely at trans people.
Question 11: Is there anything you want to tell us about how the current process of applying for a GRC affects those who have a protected characteristic?
Examples of how changes in the GRA might affect those with other protected characteristics include:
- Children and the elderly have particular needs around intimate care, due to dependency
- Disabled people may require same-sex intimate care again due to dependency
- People with learning disabilities may struggle to cope with social conventions such as ‘misgendering’
- People with PTSD including women survivors in relation to male violence and their right to a single sex recovery space or counsellor
- How will the rights of cultural groups, for whom single-sex spaces are particularly important, be upheld?
Religion and belief
- The implementation of a process of self-declaration of legal sex will disproportionately affect people from religious backgrounds for whom single-sex spaces are particularly important
- There are people who believe that gender is a social construct and that gender identity is not innate or real. How will their rights to assert this be upheld?
- Sexism and sexist discrimination is a huge problem in the UK.
- A recent report into the status of women’s equality in the UK by the EHRC found:
- a growing pay gap
- underrepresentation in political and economic positions
- high levels of violence and sexual abuse.
- Sex based rights exist to try and ameliorate this but how will changes to the GRA affect them?
Another concern is the failure to seek the views of women survivors of sexual violence or assault.
There is no place in the consultation document to ask natal women are survivors of domestic or sexual violence whether:
- single sex spaces were/are important to them
- whether they were/are able to access such spaces
- whether the present of biological males in such spaces would have an impact on the likelihood that they would/did access support
If this concerns you, you should raise it here.
- What will the impact of changes be on one’s right to express one’s sexuality as same-sex attraction?
Question 12: Do you think that the participation of trans people in sport, as governed by the Equality Act 2010, will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?
We want, a robust and independent review of how exemptions in the Equality Act relating to sport are currently being applied in practice:
- Fairness to women and girls must be upheld and not compromised
- 1.5 million more men than women play sport each week so women are already at a disadvantage
- The government must have due regard to promoting opportunity as part of its Public Sector Equality Duty
- This review must cover all levels and domains of sport – from amateur to professional, and include university and schools
- Particular consideration should be given to amateur sport where testing regimes required in professional sports are not available and decisions are more likely to be made subjectively
- This will inevitably impact on the take-up of sport by women and girls with far-reaching implications for their health and well-being
- Robust enforcement of Equality Impact assessments must be implemented with quality research & data published to ensure that women’s rights and needs are being met
- Attention must be given to the effect on girls of role models being lost in professional sports, if males are given unfair advantage
- Sporting bodies (professional and amateur) must be able to demand disclosure of trans status as part of the legitimate pursuit of their remit to ensure fairness
Question 13 (A): Do you think that the operation of the single-sex and separate-sex service exceptions in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?
We note that several leading organisations made submissions to the Women & Equalities Select Committee Transgender Inquiry calling for amendments to the Equality Act and the removal of single sex exemptions. We are absolutely opposed to these calls.
We are glad that despite these calls, and the recommendation of the Select Committee, that ministers have clearly stated that the intention is not to alter the Equality Act or to undermine single sex exemptions.
The law needs to be absolutely clear on this.
There is confusion on the status of sex as a protected characteristic and that conflation with gender already blurs and undermines the rights of women as a sex. Changes to the GRA are likely to exacerbate this confusion.
We also think that the current trend to only fund generalised services (which has already seen a reduction in single sex provision) will grow if the distinctions between sex and gender are further blurred. This will be of detriment to everyone and will result in specialist services not being provided nor those needs being met – for women or for trans people.
The importance of sex-based data collection must be emphasised. It will be impossible to provide for the needs of women and girls or to challenge discrimination and oppression unless sex based data is collected, analysed and the findings acted upon.
- a robust and independent review of how exemptions in the Equality Act relating to single-sex and separate-sex services are currently being applied in practice
- Acknowledgement that there are considerable obstacles in applying the exemptions that currently exist
- The ‘case by case’ approach is predicated on a small trans population.
- A larger trans population seeking to access single-sex services will place a much greater administrative burden and legal risk on organisation seeking to invoke exemptions
- If transition is to be normalised then the use of exemptions must be normalised correspondingly
- The Government to include an explicit reference to the Equality Act exemptions in a reformed GRA so that the clause which says that someone’s legal sex becomes that of a woman or man should make it clear that there are exceptions to this, what they are and where they apply
- Confirmation that sex based data will still be collected and used to plan, develop and provide services specifically for women and girls
Ignorance of the Equality Act means that service providers are not invoking single sex exemptions when they are required for fear of attack or loss of funding.
Service providers must be better informed about
- the provisions of the Equality Act
- how they can be usefully and properly applied to meet the needs of their service users
The fluid definition of ‘trans’ as referred to in our response to Q1 poses challenges for the concept of exemptions and women’s ability to police exemptions and women only spaces.
Potential areas of impact
- Single sex prisons, schools and high-security hospitals
- Sex-specific awards and bursaries
- women’s services
- Faith buildings or organisations
- Single sex gym, sports and swimming sessions
- The commissioning of domestic violence support services
- Sex specific medical screening services
- Toilets and changing rooms
- Different benefit, pension and leave (maternity/paternity) entitlements for men and women in law.
- Child protection and safeguarding
- Data collection
There are huge potential impacts for all society for the sex that is the majority group.
There may be unforeseen and unintended consequences.
Question 13 (B): If you provide a single or separate sex service, do you feel confident in interpreting the Equality Act 2010 with regard to these exemptions?
Use this question to share your own experience or knowledge of businesses or services trying to apply the EA. Also, refer to any research or evidence you have. Below are some ideas:
- Women’s refuges
- Medical services
- Beauty parlours
- Leisure centres
- Data collection and monitoring
- Single sex clubs/groups
Question 13 (C): If you are a trans person who has experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, were you able to access support?
This question is aimed solely at trans people.
However, we are concerned that there is no place in the consultation document to ask natal women who are survivors of domestic or sexual violence whether single sex spaces were/are important to them; whether they were/are able to access such spaces; and whether the presence of biological males in such spaces would/did have an impact on the likelihood that they would access support.
Question 14: Do you think that the operation of the occupational requirement exception in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?
We want a robust and independent review of how the exemptions in the Equality Act relating to occupational requirements are currently being applied in practice.
- Women must be asked about the circumstances in which they feel occupational requirements based on sex are needed
- They must also be informed about when they have a right to expect a role to be filled by someone of the same sex
- Employers must have legitimate access to disclosure of trans status in order to utilise occupational requirements as needed
Whilst recognising the rights of individuals with a GRC to privacy:
- protections for such individuals in vetting and barring mean that a person’s sex can be withheld
- This has serious implications for an organisation looking to employ somebody using the GOR
- It could put women and girls at risk of psychological and/or physical harm
Question 15: Do you think that the operation of the communal accommodation exception in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?
We want a robust and independent review of how this exemption is currently used.
We want survey data on women’s views about the application of exemptions as we are aware that they are already underutilised (e.g. YHA, Caledonian Sleeper, NHS, Prisons, Bail Hostels, Homeless Hostels).
We are concerned at the current approach of the transfer of trans identifying male prisoners to the female estate:
- This is leaving women vulnerable
- Prisons are making decisions based on individual risk assessment instead of invoking single sex exemptions
- In Ireland, transwomen are not considered to be female by the prison service and serve their sentences in the prison relating to their sex
Should self-ID become law we would expect
- Single sex exemptions to be invoked as a policy by the prison service
- Necessary adjustments to be made within the male estate to properly support and care for trans prisoners.
Question 16: Do you think that the operation of the armed forces exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?
We are still considering our response to this.
You may feel able to comment if you have your own experience or insights
Question 17: Do you think that the operation of the marriage exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act.
This question relates to an exception in the Act which permits those who authorise or solemnise marriages according to religious rites to refuse to marry a person they reasonably believe to have obtained legal recognition of their gender under the Gender Recognition Act.
A change to the law is likely to see an increase in numbers with a Gender Recognition Certificate and therefore a corresponding increase in the use of this exception.
The concept of this exception of ‘reasonable belief’ should be extended to service providers too to enable them to make the necessary policy decisions to meet the needs of their users.
There is a strong justification to extend this auto-exemption for women’s organisations who are providing services to meet the needs of women as a result of the discrimination they face.
Question 18: Do you think that the operation of the insurance exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?
This is because insurers are not allowed by EU directive to differentiate insurance policies to customers by sex.
- Insurers make policy decisions based on individual applications and adjust policies according
- This could change after Brexit
- There could be implications for liability insurance for potential consequences of self-ID
- Impact on sex-based data-collection may skew statistics
Question 19: Do you think that changes to the Gender Recognition Act will impact on areas of law and public services other than the Equality Act 2010?
We would need to see the full proposals to be able to assess likely impact on other areas. Any such proposals would need to have a full impact assessment to make sure the rights of others weren’t undermined by change.
We are concerned that there may be unintended consequences, for example,
- Health & Safety Executive regulations on sanitary facilities
- NHS policies for the elimination of mixed sex accommodation
- Risk associated with lack of safeguards resulting from self-declaration of legal sex
Question 20: Currently UK law does not recognise any gender other than male and female. Do you think that there need to be changes to the Gender Recognition Act to accommodate individuals who identify as non-binary?
The primary marker should be sex.
Sex data must continue to be collected to:
- enable the proper provision of adequately funded services to meet the material needs of the population
- to monitor sex discrimination
- to enable the development of policy to address inequality
Any question on identifying as non-binary must exist as an additional question to the one about sex. To do otherwise would seriously inhibit the government in its executive obligations and duties.
Question 21: (A) Do you have a variation in your sex characteristics? 󠄍
As outlined in question 3, the Government wants to understand whether there should be any requirement in the future for a report detailing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and any requirement for a report detailing treatment received.
(B) Would removing these requirements be beneficial to you? (C) What other changes do you think are necessary to the GRA in order to benefit intersex people?
This question is aimed solely at people with variation of sexual characteristics (intersex).
Question 22: Do you have any further comments about the Gender Recognition Act 2004? 󠄍
Use this question to raise any other concerns you have that you were unable to address in the other questions.
Let us know you have completed the consultation so we can keep a tally of likely responses
Thank you for doing this. Can you ask someone else to do it too?
Thank you for your support
We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.