Tory MPs twice as likely as public to oppose giving transgender people the right to self-identify

Hand holding a paper sheet with transgender symbol and equal sign inside. Equality between genders concept over a crowded city street background. Sex rights as a metaphor of social issue.
37% of Conservative MPs strongly oppose transgender self-identification and 16% tend to oppose it. (Getty Images)

Only 28% of Tory MPs think all transgender people should be given the right to self-identify, Yahoo News UK can reveal.

An exclusive poll of MPs carried out by YouGov found 37% of Conservative MPs strongly oppose self-identification and 16% tend to oppose it, with the rest saying they are unsure.

The results, published ahead of Pride celebrations this weekend, highlight that the party is significantly out of touch with the British public, with a recent poll showing that 56% of Brits support self-identification.

Currently trans people need a doctor’s diagnosis of gender dysphoria and to live in their chosen gender for two years in order to change their gender by law and be issued with a new birth certificate.

Government plans for trans people to be able choose to change their gender without consulting a medical professional are currently under consideration.

56% of the British public support the right of trans people to self-ID (Getty)
56% of the British public support the right of trans people to self-ID (Getty)

Launching the consultation in 2018, Theresa May said: “I want to see a process that is more streamlined and de-medicalised – because being trans should never be treated as an illness.”

Trans activists say the current system is expensive and bureaucratic, putting people off going through the official process to change their gender.

Critics have also described the process as ‘intrusive, costly, humiliating and administratively burdensome’.

However there has been a fierce backlash from some feminist groups, who fear removing the barriers to changing gender is open to abuse and could put women in danger.

Barrier to transitioning or important step in the process?

Since legislation was introduced in 2004, only 4,910 people have legally changed their gender. The Government estimates there could be up to 500,000 trans people living in the UK.

Within the trans community there are multiple schools of thought about self-ID.

Jake Graf, a trans actor and director who is married to former Army officer Hannah Graf who is also trans, said he worries self-ID could prevent people who change gender from being taken seriously.

“To have my birth certificate in my correct gender meant the world to me,” he told Kate Thornton on Yahoo’s White Wine Question Time podcast.

“There’s a school of thought that it’s degrading, that we shouldn't have to have anyone validate us.

“But then there's also a flip side to that, that if we were all able to self-ID then would we be taken seriously?

“I had to go to a councillor to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. When that doctor said ‘yes, you have got gender dysphoria’ it did feel like a huge relief.

“I sat there thinking ‘is he going to believe me?’ and when he did I felt such a relief that all I’d felt throughout my life wasn't me be being crazy or mentally ill.”

Jake Graf and Hannah Winterbourne at the DIVA Magazine Awards at the The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, London (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Jake and Hannah Graf at the DIVA Magazine Awards in London in 2018. (Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

Addressing the backlash from feminist groups, Jake said: “As much as I fell we should have the right to self-ID I do feel there will be less belief in us.

“Because people don't get it. People will think, as they do, that there are people who will abuse the system.”

Jake’s wife Hannah said: “I do find it frustrating. One of the difficult things that came out of the Gender Recognition Act reform consultation is that we divided into camps straight away.

“There were a lot of people who said 'we don't like this because of all these reasons and we're going to put out this misinformation and these arguments.'

“And therefore the transgender community said no. And so all of a sudden you've got these two very polarised positions.”

Listen to the interview with Jake and Hannah Graf below

Out of step with the public

There is a wide gulf between MPs and the general public when it comes to the issue of self-ID.

A poll conducted by LGBTQ publication Pink News found 56% of the public are in favour of self-ID, compared to 39% of MPs and 28% of Tory MPs.

60% of Labour MPs support the idea of self-ID, more than the public as a whole.

Short sentence on Labour results

PinkNews CEO Benjamin Cohen said: “More than two years since the prime minister made a groundbreaking pledge in favour of trans equality, it is clear that the public backs reforming the law to allow trans people to self-identify in order to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate.”

Women against self-ID

Some feminist groups argue against allowing people with male bodies to access spaces such as women’s prisons, rape crisis centres and female changing rooms.

Trans activists argue there is no evidence to support the argument that doing so puts women at risk.

The Scottish Government recently abandoned similar plans to introduce self-identification after backlash from feminists and women's groups.

People participate in 2019 NYC WorldPride March in New York City, NY on June 30, 2019. (Photo by Kim Kaye/Sipa USA)
People participate in 2019 NYC WorldPride March in New York City, NY on June 30, 2019. (Photo by Kim Kaye/Sipa USA)

Judith Green, co-founder of WomansPlaceUK, a feminist organisation that argues against self-identification, says the public has not been sufficiently consulted on the issue and further debate is required.

“A lot of MPs don’t really know what is meant by self-ID,” she told Yahoo News UK.

“We want politicians to speak to their constituents are actually hear their concerns.

“How many MPs have held meetings or consultations? I bet you its zero.”

WomansPlaceUK’s official position on the GRA consultation states: “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.”

More than 100,000 people responded to the Government’s proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) and an official response has not yet been released.