The government has launched the consultation on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) which is open for responses until October 19th. This is a chance for everyone to let the government know their views on changing the current diagnostic system of gaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to one of allowing anyone to self-identify their sex without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
We are pleased to see the government’s confirmation that they have no intention of lowering the age at which a GRC can be obtained from 18 to 16 so that ‘children are not put at risk.’ This is a significant admission by the government that there is risk involved in extending the proposed legislation for adults to young people under the age of eighteen. The government also specifies the provision of separate sex facilities such as toilets, changing-rooms and communal accommodation on school trips under the same heading, an implicit acknowledgment that withdrawal of single sex facilities would put children at risk.
We consider that if the decision to change the recorded sex on their birth certificate before the age of 18 constitutes “risk”, the decision to embark on a course of hormone treatment with serious physical effects at age 16, or the decision to take blockers at the start of puberty (which we know in most cases will lead to cross-sex hormones) constitutes a far greater risk for children and young people. Some effects of hormones on the physical body are not reversible, unlike identity documents.
In this one paragraph the government summarily dismisses children as subjects of this consultation with a brisk minimisation of the medical treatment provided to minors and an optimistic reassurance of “ongoing psychological support”.
The proposals for reform of the GRA, however, will of course have a huge impact on children and young people, in ways that will put them at risk. Although the government states that medical treatment is a separate issue, what they are proposing will have a significant impact on how the NHS – which operates within an Equality and Human Rights framework – can treat all people who declare themselves to be transgender, including children who are protected under the same protected characteristic as adults: ‘gender reassignment’. If the government legally ratifies the idea that ‘gender’ is inherent and biological sex is a socially-constructed idea, this must have an impact on how clinicians assess children who declare themselves to be the opposite sex.
Legal status of ‘gender identity’ for adults is likely to consolidate the ‘affirmation’ approach in the treatment of children. Any exploration of environmental, family or psychological factors commonly related to cross-sex identity in children may be seen as a violation of the human rights of the child, whether or not the child is able to legally gain a GRC.
Government legislation influences people’s beliefs. Self-ID legislation would be a denial of biological sex and a validation of the concept of ‘innate gender identity’ which will inevitably influence more parents to believe that their boys are really girls and vice versa. Social transition rates would be likely to increase as this idea becomes accepted wisdom. Although trans activist groups lobby for demedicalisation for adults, they campaign aggressively for EARLIER medicalisation of children. Full social transition is likely to lead to a medical pathway, increasing the number of children on blockers. As most children on blockers progress to cross-sex hormones, the number of trans adults on a lifetime of medical treatment will increase as these children grow up.
Legislation based on ‘demedicalisation’ would be likely to increase rates of medicalisation of children.
According to the government’s own definitions, ‘gender identity’ is a person’s internal sense of their own gender and yet gender is at the same time a social construction:
Gender: Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender refers to socially constructed characteristics, and is often assumed from the sex people are registered as at birth.
Gender identity: A person’s internal sense of their own gender. This does not have to be man or woman. It could be, for example, non-binary.
According to this definition societal gender stereotypes of masculinity or femininity, internalised as ‘gender identity’, manifest literally as “man or woman”. To make this jump from the abstract to the material would be giving legal status to feelings over reality.
If any man can be a ‘woman’ by declaring it and this is written into law it would have a huge impact on children’s privacy and safety, particularly for girls. Girls would be coerced into accepting any man at his word if he says he’s a woman and lose the right to their own boundaries, their right to privacy from the opposite sex and their right to safety in places where they are vulnerable. We don’t know the impact on girls who are groomed into allowing violation of their boundaries from an early age but we put all girls at risk when we do not allow them to recognise or name members of the male sex. Society has a duty to protect children and this is a clear safeguarding risk. Children will also lose their right to free speech and to name biological reality.
We are already seeing the worrying and unfair impact on women as cultural norms change in anticipation of new legislation. None of the effects on women are positive. We are seeing males gain positions previously reserved for females. We are seeing the word ‘woman’ being used in reference to rapists and sex offenders and at the same time erased in relation to female biology. We are seeing women’s hard fought-for rights to single-sex facilities being eroded and women and girls’ safety compromised.
If the government passes legislation which essentially says ‘a woman is a person of either sex’ then ‘identity’ logically becomes the only acceptable definition of ‘woman’ because the actual definition – ‘adult human female’ – excludes a whole group of ‘women’ who are male. Girls will have to ‘identify’ as women to gain access to their own sex class, as we are seeing by use of the terms ‘cisgender women’ and ‘self-identified women’ which are gaining greater currency throughout society. Through this language girls are forced to accept a definition of themselves as a ‘gender identity’.
If legal sex can be changed by self-declaration of ‘gender identity’, the protected characteristic ‘gender reassignment’ would become ‘gender identity’ in all but name. The government’s reassurances that they would not be making changes to the Equality Act or changing the protected characteristic were hollow promises: if this proposed change to the GRA goes ahead they don’t have to; the legal, social and cultural impacts will be exactly the same. The sex-based exemptions in the Equality Act are already unworkable as service providers treat sex as an ‘identity’ and the protected characteristic ‘sex’ is rendered totally meaningless.
Government legislation will impact on parents not only through the influence that government-mandated ideology will have on parents’ understanding of their own children but also on parents’ right to reject this ideology. What of the parents who don’t believe that their daughter is now their son, or their son is now their daughter? Will parents even have the right to disagree with people who believe that a boy or a girl is a feeling with no basis in biological reality? Parents are already terrified of the threat of social services becoming involved if they don’t ‘affirm’ their child’s gender identity.
The granting of a GRC gives a person the right to change their birth certificate. Essentially, someone who was born male has the right to change identity documents on public record to say that he was born female. This was a right originally granted to a tiny number of transsexuals, based on a medical diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ with the assumption that most will have had some form of gender reassignment surgery (although this is not a legal requirement).
The government is now moving the goalposts so that the original intention of the GRA is extended to a much larger group of people loosely gathered under the umbrella term ‘transgender’. The government defines transgender/trans as:
Umbrella terms used to describe individuals who have a gender identity that is different to the sex recorded at birth. Non-binary people may or may not consider themselves to be trans. This consultation document primarily uses ‘trans’.
‘Non-binary’ is defined as:
An umbrella term for a person who identifies as in some way outside of the man-woman gender binary. They may regard themselves as neither exclusively a man nor a woman, or as both, or take another approach to gender entirely. Different people may use different words to describe their individual gender identity, such as genderfluid, agender or genderqueer.
None of these identities actually changes a person’s biological sex. While people have the right to believe what they want to believe and self-identify in any way they choose, no other government legislation enforces an ideology on all of us, including children. The obfuscating, illogical and contradictory language used throughout this government consultation document indicates that they have been listening to only transgender lobby groups for a very long time. If the government bases law on this ideology, how can parents challenge this teaching in schools?
For full legal ramifications and a really useful guide to responding to the GRA consultation please see this page on Fair Play for Women. Have a look at our updated Impact Assessment documents for information on the ways that Self-ID legislation will impact on children on this page. We urge everyone to oppose the proposal for Self-ID for the protection of all children and the sex-based rights and protection of women and girls and to voice opposition to any future considerations to lower the age at which children can gain a GRC.
The government has not listened to those who oppose the gender identity policies creeping into all areas of life already, so this is our chance to make our voices heard. Children would be put at risk if Self-ID legislation goes ahead so it’s especially important that the government hears parents’ views on this ideology which is already being taught to our children and impacting on their rights to sex-segregated spaces in schools.