Government consultation on new gender change rules
A government consultation ending on 19th October is asking for views on changes to the process people who identify as “transgender” have to go through in order to achieve legal recognition of their change of “gender”.
At the moment there is a relatively stricter process than exists in some other countries.
A man seeking to be recognised in law as a woman, or vice versa, has to
- Have lived as their preferred gender for two years and provide documentation to prove this;
- Provide two reports, one evidencing a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria (the feeling that one’s gender identity is different to the one he/she was born with), the other detailing any treatment received;
- Commit to a statutory declaration that they intend to live as their preferred gender until they die;
- Obtain the consent of their spouse if they are married;
- Pay a fee to cover the cost of the application.
This is submitted to a gender recognition panel which decides whether or not to issue a Gender Recognition Certificate.
This consultation seeks to look at making “the legal recognition process less intrusive and bureaucratic for trans people.”
The current legal safeguards accept that there are certain instances where people who have obtained legal recognition of their preferred gender can be discriminated against, such as where single-sex services are provided, as long as the discrimination is “a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim”, such as a rape support centre, domestic violence services, single-sex changing rooms, single-gender prayer spaces, public toilets, prisons and hospital wards.
The government is seeking views through this consultation on whether some of the processes to change gender should be relaxed, but in doing so there will undoubtedly be knock on effects, both unintended and foreseeable such as situations where services cannot be restricted to those that have acquired a new “gender”.
Eventual effects of a new relaxed process could include:
- An imām approached by someone identifying as a man that was once a woman may be asked to conduct the nikāh ceremony with a woman. Although there is currently no legal compulsion to marry ‘same-sex couples’, by law, they would not be considered of the same sex. The man who was once a woman is now, in fact, legally a man. Although there are assurances of safeguards, this is a conundrum that will require either a change in the law or a ruling from a court. This opens the door to the restriction of our fundamental beliefs.
- A woman who is now legally a man could demand to stand with men in salāh. As she is now legally a man, she (he) should be legally permitted in the male section of a masjid. Likewise for a man who wishes to be legally recognised as a woman.
- There are other areas where men and women access separate facilities that will now legally be put under pressure, such as men or women only swimming sessions, gyms or Islamic events.
Indeed any facet of life where Muslim men or women access male or female separate services could be challenged as discriminatory.
Here we are not talking about a man or woman that has had medical operations and hormone treatment to change their preferred gender, which is problematic in itself Islamically, but people who wake up and decide to be a man or a woman on the spur of the moment. If the system is eased like in the Republic of Ireland, it would only require someone to make an application declaring they intend to live as their preferred gender, understand the consequences of this and are doing so of their own free will. Imagine if all that was required was to complete this application online with a declaration consisting of three tick boxes, it would be easier to change your gender than buy car insurance.
We have included some background and notes to make it easier to respond. Please do not copy the information included below verbatim as this will undermine your response, and will most likely cause it to be discarded.
You do not have to answer all of the questions, do not feel shy about including your views based on your background. The government is specifically asking for views of people from a religious background, but in particular women and organisations working with women. So please do encourage Muslim women’s organisations to respond and speak to the impact these proposals are likely to have on them and their service users or the women they work with or are part of their organisation.
Further guidance can be found at:
Please complete the consultation online by the deadline (Friday 19th October 2018).
The first two questions are specifically aimed at transgender people.
Question 1: If you are a trans person, have you previously applied, or are you currently applying, for a Gender Recognition Certificate?
Question 2: If you are a trans person, please tell us what having Gender Recognition Certificate means, or would mean, to you.
Question 3: Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?
Question 4: Do you also think there should be a requirement for a report detailing treatment received?
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.
Yes to all of these requirements. There should be strict criteria in place to convey the point that changing one’s gender is extreme and life changing. Rather than lessening the process, it should be made more robust and difficult to do on the spur of the moment. Medical reports diagnosing gender dysphoria, treatment sought and provided, and counselling services accessed should remain a basic must.
Question 6: Currently, applicants for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) 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?
The current process requires people who want to change their gender to follow a process requiring two medical reports. They have to obtain a medical report from a registered psychologist that specialises in the field of gender dysphoria and a second report detailing any treatment they have undergone. People who identify as “trans” argue that seeking a medical diagnosis is dehumanising as it assumes they have a mental health problem and they should be allowed to choose their own gender as a personal choice without seeking permission from medical professionals.
The requirements for medical reports and proof that the person has lived their preferred gender is far from ideal, but this is better than if individual people were able to change their legal gender at a whim.
Since the GRA (Gender Recognition Act 2004) came into force, 4,910 people have acquired a GRC.
If people are allowed to choose their own gender and the process involves four clicks of a mouse, many more confused and vulnerable people will be affected by a whim to change their gender. This could run into the tens of thousands a year rather than the miniscule numbers currently affected.
We are not talking about something as mundane as having the wrong sized clothes and exchanging them online, the subject under discussion is whether a man or woman created by Allāh as a man or woman, who has lived as a man or a woman for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years can one day decide they do not feel like a man or a woman and that they want to change. This change is enacted either through an irreversible operation and hormone treatment or just by declaring their preferred gender online.
This is no small matter, but this discussion is often approached from the perspective of personal freedom. Whatever we want to identify as does not only change in law but also restricts the rights of others to hold beliefs and go about their daily lives.
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?
Currently a man or woman who wishes to change their gender has to seek consent from their spouse as a pre-condition for applying for a GRC. These conditions should stay in place as the greatest impact of this desire is on a spouse. It is unfair that someone initiate such a process without the consent of their spouse, upon whom the greatest impact will be felt.
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?
Taking away the small cost for application makes a far reaching and arguably extreme decision seem mundane and inconsequential. In every facet of life there are application costs for various services, from renewing a driver’s licence, applying for a passport or even changing your name by deed poll; all incur costs and as compared to changing gender carry far less significance for the individual as well as others who are impacted by that change. The cost is a small way of conveying how serious this step is and, if anything, the cost should be higher. The lower the cost the higher the take up of this provision, which is bad for the individuals concerned and society as a whole.
Question 9: Do you think the privacy and disclosure of information provisions in section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act are adequate?
It is an offence for someone in an official capacity to reveal that someone has applied for a GRC or has obtained one.
One such exception is:
“The disclosure is in relation to certain purposes of organised religion, such as determining whether or not to officiate at a marriage or to appoint an individual as a minister of religion.”
These should be maintained so that someone is not unwittingly marrying someone of an unintended gender and thereby contravening their deeply held religious views.
Question 10: If you are someone who either has, or would want to undergo legal gender transition, and you have one or more of the protected characteristics, which protected characteristics apply to you? You may tick more than one box.
This applies to people undergoing gender transition only.
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?
This applies to people undergoing gender transition only.
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?
If a man wants to excel at a sport where his physical strength provides him with a distinct advantage, what would stop him from identifying as a woman in order to excel at that sport, and would that not disadvantage women? There are countless examples of how the proposals to make it easier for people to change their gender would disrupt many aspects of public life, least of all sport.
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?
Although there are allowances to exclude male to female people who identify as “trans” from services exclusive to women, the exclusion has to be ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. The government claims it does not intend to change the provisions just to make it easier to be recognised as the gender you wish to identify as. The problem with this is that once a greater number of people are able to access gender recognition, because it’s too easy, the thirst for legal challenges to the exclusion from services will likely increase, which will force a change in the law. If a legally recognised man or women is denied access to single-sex services, they will challenge whether this exclusion is necessary, legitimate or proportionate. Anyone opposing their ‘rights’ will be framed as bigots.
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?
Despite government assurances, employers who advertise vacancies for specific gender, based on a Genuine Occupational Requirement (GOR), will be challenged by the growing numbers of people who want what they describe as “equality” in all aspects of life including employment options. Head teachers of all girls’ schools that advertise for female staff, especially those of a religious character, will find it difficult to justify excluding trans people who are legally male or female. The pressure will not just be legal, but the pressure against employers who employ the GOR for legitimate reasons will also be from pressure groups, deploying the media to name and shame those who exclude trans people from employment as bigots.
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?
Similarly, accommodation facilities which are just for men or women on privacy grounds may also be impacted by these changes, in a way not currently experienced, due to sheer numbers of those likely to self-identify as the opposite gender as a result of how easy it is to do. It is highly likely that legally recognised men and women will challenge their exclusion from accommodation, as they are legally viewed as men or women.
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?
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?
It is wholly correct for those who solemnise marriages according to their religious beliefs to refuse to marry people that they believe may have changed their legal gender. This should be maintained but, as with the other knock-on effects, making it easier to change gender will encourage people to challenge whether these provisions afford ‘equality’ for all, something the government claims as a reason for attempting to make the process of changing gender easier. In other words, by making it easier, it will encourage trans people to justifiably argue that all exceptions amount to discrimination and need to be gotten rid of. The impact on the beliefs of others will be detrimentally affected by this.
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?
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 have understandable concerns about how changes to the GRA will impact the following:
- Single sex prisons, schools and high-security hospitals;
- Faith buildings or organisations;
- Single sex gym, sports and swimming sessions;
- The commissioning of domestic violence support services;
- Toilets and changing rooms.
As previously mentioned, once changes to the process of gaining a GRC, and the numbers of self-identifying people increase, there will be undoubted pressure to be able to access single sex buildings. You should mention why this concerning for you as a Muslim.
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?
No, this is another example of narratives and constructs pushed by campaigners with an ideology that we disagree with. People should not be forced to adopt social and ideological constructs of other people, let alone campaigners. If other genders are introduced then there has to be assurances that others will not be forced to change their own worldviews, let lone those tried and tested over millennia in lieu of transient tastes and popular trends.
Question 21: (A) Do you have a variation in your sex characteristics?
Aimed at those who identify as intersex
Question 22 Do you have any further comments about the Gender Recognition Act 2004?
Feel free to use these spaces to get across any other thoughts you have about these proposals. Remember, these consultations are FOR YOU to have YOUR say, so do not be afraid or cowered into submitting to views forced by people and pressure groups in positions of power and privilege.
Yusuf Patel is the founder of SREIslamic, which provides advice, support and training to parents concerned with how Sex and Relationship Education (SRE/RHE/RSHE) is taught in schools, particularly at the primary level. SREIslamic has conducted hundreds of seminars across the country since it was founded in 2008 in order to inform Muslim parents of their legal rights in the area of SRE (RHE/RSHE) as well as running workshops covering the responsibility of Muslim parents to impart age appropriate sex education in line with their values. Yusuf works for a mental health charity.