Stonewall says it will continue to campaign for the right of trans people to change their birth certificates without a medical diagnosis after reports that ministers plan to drop the proposal.
A spokesperson for the LGBT rights charity said: “We continue to campaign for a de-medicalised, streamlined system of legal gender recognition based on self-determination.”
Liz Truss, the equalities minister, is expected to confirm the government’s position on the proposed change the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in the coming days.
The Sunday Times reported that the government would not follow through with the proposals developed under Theresa May’s administration to simplify the process, which many trans people describe as intrusive, demeaning and overly bureaucratic.
Earlier on Sunday Stonewall said on Twitter: “If today’s report is true and the government doesn’t move forward with real GRA reform it will be a bitter blow for trans people.” It said the proposal had received support in the past week both from the Trades Union Congress and the British Medical Association.
Anyone wishing to change the sex on their birth certificate must currently apply to a panel for a gender recognition certificate. They also have to produce two reports confirming that they suffer from gender dysphoria. The original plans – to remove the requirement to provide medical evidence – would not have had any direct effect on whether trans women can use single-sex facilities.
The removal of the medical element would result in a simplified process known as “self-identification”, whereby individuals sign a binding statutory declaration in order to change their birth certificates. The government was also considering changes to the requirement to provide evidence to the panel that someone had lived in their chosen gender for two years.
Critics of the proposals, including a number of feminist groups, have raised concerns that getting rid of the panel format would remove an important scrutiny function, and that the changes would add to the ongoing corruption of sex-aggregated data, which is used for health service provision and pay gap research.
Trans rights campaigners argue that there is no evidence from countries such as the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Norway, where there is no judicial process, that self-declaration has been abused by fraudulent applications.
In June, the Sunday Times carried a similar leaked report that plans to change the GRA would be shelved. At that time, the Scottish government – which is further ahead on legal reform than its UK counterparts, having carried out two consultations on the issue – reaffirmed its commitment to transgender rights, but work on the bill was halted by the coronavirus pandemic and it will not be brought forward before next May’s Holyrood elections.
On Wednesday the Women’s Equality party (WEP) began what has been described as Britain’s largest direct consultation of women on self-identification for transgender people, borrowed from the citizens’ assembly model used in Ireland to reach consensus on abortion law.
Sixty party members, selected at random, are to hear testimony from witnesses chosen by an advisory group to offer a range of views on WEP policy areas that might be affected by changes to the GRA.
The WEP process, which is facilitated by the independent social research institute NatCen, will last four weeks and the assembly’s recommendations will then be put to the party’s 30,000-strong membership for consultation.
The evidence session on Wednesday covered three contentious areas: legislation, data and the media’s treatment of the debate. Witnesses commended the WEP for a “progressive” and “important” exercise.
A WEP spokesperson said: “The aim of the consultation is to shift the dial on a discussion that can at times feel intractable and even toxic. We want to show that it is possible to forge a space for people with different views, and no views, to come together – to listen, learn and ultimately move towards consensus.”