Tory MP Caroline Nokes shuts down idea ‘legal sex can be changed on a whim’ as ‘nonsense’

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  • Caroline Nokes
    British politician (born 1972)

Tory MP Caroline Nokes has spoken out after being targeted with anti-trans vitriol for supporting reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

Nokes is chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, which this week published a 113-page report recommending that the government urgently seek to reform the GRA to remove the need for a medical diagnosis, replacing it with a “statutory declaration” and bringing the UK closer to a system of self-ID.

Since its publication, Nokes says, she has been inundated with hateful replies from anti-trans critics who clearly “have not read a word of the report”.

Writing in The Guardian Thursday (23 December), she explained: “The most common objection people have raised is the issue that any changes to the GRA would make it easier for men to legally change their gender, access women’s spaces and pose a serious threat to their safety.

“First and foremost, even with our proposed reforms, the process for an individual to have their acquired gender legally recognised is a drawn-out process, with numerous stages to go through.”

The MP reflected on years-long waiting lists for an initial consultation with a gender specialist.

Many of her constituents, Caroline Nokes said, waited years for a referral only to “give up and pay for private treatment they could ill afford”.

“The suggestion that someone could change legal sex on a whim is quite patently nonsense; the process takes years,” she added.

“I urge those currently directing the bile and abuse I have received on this issue to read our report in full.”

Gender Recognition Act: Caroline Nokes arrives at Downing Street in a red suit
Caroline Nokes, Tory MP and chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The government conducted a gargantuan public consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, which governs the process by which a trans person can obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate. After delaying the publication of its results for two years, prime minister Boris Johnson and equalities minister Liz Truss decided to ignore it entirely.

The government ditched pleas to meaningfully reform the GRA with the introduction of self-identification, which would have removed the requirements that trans people get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and have their GRC application approved by a panel that never even meet them.

The public also supported legal recognition for non-binary people, something Nokes and the Committee’s report also backed.

Instead, the government announced that they would slash the application price and digitise the process.

The public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act was answered by over 100,000 people. (Conatus News)
The public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act was answered by over 100,000 people. (Conatus News)

It was a dispiriting punctuation mark in the years-long battle to improve trans rights, and came at a time when transphobic hate crimes have rocketed.

Instead, trans people have been left with a system that, Nokes wrote, is “outdated, intrusive and bureaucratic”.

“Ultimately, the current process is clunky, time-consuming and, in many cases, those going through it find it downright cruel,” she wrote in The Guardian. All I have ever sought is to make the GRA kinder, quicker and much more understanding of the needs of transgender people and the concerns of women’s rights groups.

“Is that so bad? From my email inbox, you would have thought so.

“But I don’t.”

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