A couple of days ago I had to give a speech, to around 60 people. This is what I said:
I am sure everyone knows that last Tuesday, the UK government announced their intention to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which was recently passed overwhelmingly in the Scottish Parliament. This is the first time in history that Westminster has used the Scotland Act to block a devolved issue and, consequently, causing a potential constitutional crisis.
Many human rights, LGBT organisations and allies have been left stunned at what has been described as the “Tory nuclear option”.
I want to clarify what the Scottish Government was trying to do.
The Gender Recognition Act (often referred to as the GRA), came into UK legislation in 2004 in response to a directive from the European Court of Human Rights. The sole purpose of the GRA was to allow trans people to change their gender identity legally. If an application is successful, a trans person is issued a Gender Recognition Certificate, known as a GRC.
The GRA has failed the trans community because, in essence, it is full of caveats and unreasonable conditions which the media fail to report.
For example, the process is decided by a panel. The applicant will not be informed who sits on the panel; applicants can’t attend the hearing nor present witnesses and, in case of rejection, nor can they appeal. This procedure flies in the face of natural justice. Trans people also have to get a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria even though it’s NOT a recognised mental illness and undertake a two year waiting time, living in their new gender, which they subsequently have to prove.
Having gone through the whole GRA process myself, I can only describe it as abhorrent and considerably behind best international practice.
Oh, once you have a GRC if you fail to live in your new gender, or use the GRC fraudulently expect to go to prison for two years and pay an unlimited fine.
In my home city of Portsmouth, the recent census showed that just 93.08% of residents had a gender identity the same as their sex registered at birth. What does that mean? Well either people didn’t want to say or there are many people who have doubts about their gender identity. Statistics also show that over the last 18 years, just 22 trans people in Portsmouth are likely to have been awarded a GRC – yes the whole process is abhorrent!
The Tories use trans people as a weapon, further increasing the risk of hate crime. Last year alone, trans hate crimes rose 56%… and this is because the right-wing media does nothing but create a moral panic about my community. It is estimated that newspapers write up to 1000 negative stories about trans people every month, creating division and diversion from issues that really matter, such as the cost-of-living crisis, healthcare and workers’ rights.
I want to be clear about what a GRC does. It allows a trans person to marry and die in their gender and may affect tax and benefits. It does NOT give automatic rights of entry to single-sex spaces, which is covered by the Equality Act – however, media reports invariably suggest the contrary. I must stress this is entirely wrong.
Scotland acted to reform the GRA because this Tory government wouldn’t, even after the biggest public consultation in UK history. It showed that around 70% of respondents wanted the GRA reformed nationwide, but the Tories then refused to act – flying in the face of democracy.
What has particularly upset the LGBT+ community is that the Labour Party failed to challenge the Tory government on this issue, with Keir Starmer sitting on the fence and appearing to side AGAINST the Scottish Parliaments Bill.
As I said – the Tories use trans people as a weapon. The sooner they are gone the better.