One month and five days after Tory equalities chief Liz Truss announced the government would not be reforming the Gender Recognition Act, the women and equalities select committee has launched a new inquiry into trans equality.
The women and equalities committee is a cross-party group of MPs who scrutinise the government on equalities issues, chaired by Caroline Nokes, a Conservative MP, who announced the inquiry in a video posted to Twitter today.
“The government has said that it wants to make the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate kinder and more straightforward. That’s progress, but is it enough?” she asked.
The Gender Recognition Act (GRA) is a 2004 law that governs the process by which adult trans men and women in the UK can get their gender legally recognised by obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
Only around 5,000 people have used the GRA to get a GRC since the law was introduced, and this low uptake is one reason that the government announced, in 2017, that it would be looking at potentially reforming the law.
On its website calling for people to submit evidence, the women and equalities committee explains: “The government has published its proposals for changes to the gender recognition process and set out how it plans to move forward.
“The women and equalities committee will examine these proposals, gathering evidence on whether the government’s proposed changes are the right ones and whether they go far enough.
“This inquiry will explore what changes, if any, should be made to the existing legislation, in order for current legislation to improve trans equality.
“The written evidence published as part of this inquiry will be used to inform the work of the committee. Publication of written evidence does not equate to an endorsement of the views it contains by the committee.”
The women and equalities committee last carried out an inquiry into trans equality in 2015, the results of which recommended reforming the GRA. In 2018, there was a huge public consultation on potential reforms that more than 100,000 people responded to.
It took the government two long years to publish the results, which showed that the public overwhelmingly supported removing the requirement that trans people have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before being able to get legal recognition of their gender.
But the Tories ignored these results, scrapping all the proposed reforms and instead saying that they’d reduce the £140 cost of applying to a “nominal fee” and place the whole process online.
While the women and equalities committee inquiry launched today is a separate process, and one that will allow a group of MPs to hold Liz Truss accountable for the government’s handling of the GRA reform process, transgender and non-binary people in the UK are exhausted of having their lives and rights debated in the public sphere where a majority of the voices in the discussion are either not trans, or are anti-trans.
Whilst despair raged across Trans Twitter, some elders steadied the ship. Christine Burns, author of Trans Britain and one of the architects of the Gender Recognition Act, said: “Much as yet another enquiry might sound like Chinese water torture, there is a valid procedural point to the independent select committee scrutinising what’s happened in the last four years and, particularly, holding Liz Truss’s feet to the fire for the car crash.
“I know people are tired and feeling broken by the brutality of what’s gone down but it is important for genuine organisations to step up again and provide the evidence of how much harm has been done to achieve worse than nothing of substance.”
which held the previous inquiry. Reading between the lines, I think we can take it that the Committee isn't happy about the outcome of the GRA inquiry (after all, they suggested GRA reform in the first place) and are trying to pressure the government for further reform.
— Fran Amery (@fran_amery) October 28, 2020
And What The Trans!?, a trans-run news podcast, dispelled misinformation about what a committee enquiry means in a thread.
Look, there is a lot of panic in the community today.
It is not required…this is not the consultation all over again.
Don't do this usually, but please share this thread. I covered the 2015 Trans equality inquiry. I know ROUGHLY how they work. SHARE SHARE SHARE https://t.co/r2ph3lgJeN
— What The Trans!? (@WhatTheTrans) October 28, 2020
However, for the most part, the reaction from the community – at least online – has been one of exhaustion, rage and despondency.
Big déjà-vu energy here.
Despite the 70% positive response to the huge public consultation around GRA reforms,
coupled with a recent petition with over 100,000 signatures in support of self-declaration,
the Gov decided to open yet another enquiry on the GRA reforms 🙃 https://t.co/rimjSE3NSo
— NUS UK (@nusuk) October 28, 2020
please, can we please just talk about the crisis in trans healthcare and finally, finally take the discussion about GRA reform out back to shoot it https://t.co/mqY420Tpd9
— the obvious halloween pun (@dykespraxic) October 28, 2020
Oh for fuck's sake. We've already had years of muck-raking in the gutter press and anti-trans article after anti-trans article. You already have the data from the last consultation that shows how gender law reforms are supported. Do you really need to go kicking the hive again? https://t.co/1uoaVtLfZO
— Tess Stenson (@TessStenson) October 28, 2020
Nothings ever actually gonna change is it, we’re just gonna stuck in an endless cycle of consultations about administrative details while we desperately try to navigate the hell of obtaining the care we actually need, love this shithole island https://t.co/a5nP1Mg44o
— Jodie 😎💖 (@ansnarkist) October 28, 2020
You did a consultation on this 2 years ago. Over 100,000 people responded and the majority were in favour of reform to a self identification system. You chose to ignore these results. Why are you consulting again? Why are you ignoring the “will of the people”? Leave us alone. https://t.co/7oRXpxejYd
— Madwoman in the attic (@brynismyname) October 28, 2020
It would be great to be left alone by the government for literally one minute. https://t.co/zZtrDMMNkJ
— Jon Owojori Fernandez (@thattransjew1) October 28, 2020
what the actual fuck we just had a 2 year consultation where they told trans people to fuck off and scrapped the whole reform because of an overwhelmingly supportive response from "trans activists" and now we are having another one?
do we just keep re-consulting until terfs win? https://t.co/dbU7H1dmXF
— Katie (@cherrykate196) October 28, 2020
Not another thing for the anti-trans activists to brigade. Just let us live. Don’t let cis people respond https://t.co/v9cvplaXEQ
— Phoenix (Penny) CS Andrews (@pennyb) October 28, 2020
The fact that another consultation literally *just* happened, and sparked a wave of transphobic hostility in the UK, but received different results than its reactionary creators wanted so they’re redoing it just to get the results the way….. speaks VOLUMES https://t.co/uOQnWXRtoz
— hormonal jew (@degendering) October 28, 2020
They want trans people to write 3000 word essay on things we've already answered!
We answered these questions already in a 2 year long consultation and now they want us do an essay in a month.
This government wants us to suffer https://t.co/3kBE2MdXEk
— Shash / சஷ் (@itsShash1) October 28, 2020
Get f**ked. You ignored the 70%, you put us through hell for 3 years that will continue for a decade. Just leave us alone now. You bowed to a well funded hate mob. Do one. https://t.co/j8uHaGaGGQ
— Rachel Tomes (@RachelT1722) October 28, 2020
This is some kind of joke, right? A consultation took place, and its findings were totally ignored. 70% of the respondees favoured GRA reform, but it was not delivered. Trans people are sick and tired of having their existence debated in a public forum. GRA reform now. https://t.co/bOuqU7R9dS
— Annie Wallace (@anniewallace) October 28, 2020
Stop enquiring and proposing and leave me the fuck alone https://t.co/N3keAxaAIE
— 🔪🔥abolition in our lifetime 🔥🔪 (@livwynter) October 28, 2020