A Conservative former minister has denounced the government’s decision to ditch self-identification for trans people, warning that it will “snatch away” the fundamental rights of as many as 500,000 Britons.
Crispin Blunt said that the announcement earlier this week was a “crushing disappointment” to the trans community, whose hopes of reform were dashed after waiting two years for the outcome of a consultation begun in 2018.
The Reigate MP told the House of Commons that trans people could see no “strong or coherent reason” for the change in direction by Boris Johnson’s government after his predecessor Theresa May paved the way for the change.
Mr Blunt called for cabinet minister Liz Truss to be stripped of her responsibilities for women and equalities, suggesting that she was “overburdened” by her principal role as international trade secretary and had not developed a reputation for focusing on her equalities brief.
But Ms Truss insisted that the settlement reached by the government “balances the rights and upholds the rights of transgender people and women” by protecting single-sex spaces by making it easier and less expensive for trans people to register their change in gender.
The minister was forced to submit to a grilling from MPs on the decision in the Commons chamber after Mr Blunt secured an urgent question.
Mr Blunt, who is openly gay, told her that evidence in favour of the reform had been “tragically” ignored and said there was no majority in parliament for her decision to continue to require medical diagnosis for an official change of gender.
And he asked her: “Do you understand the crushing disappointment of trans people with the content of your statement on Tuesday, when set against the consultation on which it was based?
“Do you appreciate that trans people cannot discern any strong or coherent reason for this screeching change of direction?”
Following months of bitter argument on social media over the issue, Mr Blunt said that trans people felt that “fears void of evidence” were being used to deny them their rights.
He said the trans community felt “anger at the prospect of their seeing their fundamental rights being snatched away”.
And he warned: “The longer this uncertainty has been allowed to continue, the worse the fear and anger have become, and the delay in (Ms Truss’s) statement has helped contribute to that.” The former minister told MPs: “The underlying trend of the majority of people in this country is following the path set by a change of attitude a generation earlier towards towards those with different sexuality.”
Younger people were particularly supportive of trans people’s rights and “the vast, vast majority of LGBT people will stand in solidarity” with them, he said.
Far from resolving the issue, Ms Truss had delivered “an inherently unstable situation that will have to be addressed”, he said.
But Ms Truss responded: “The settlement we have reached balances the rights and upholds the rights of transgender people and women.”
She said that research showed the “number one concern of transgender people” was to increase healthcare services, which the government was addressing by putting in place the first new clinics in the UK for 20 years. The application procedure to register a change in gender is to be placed online and the current £140 fee reduced to a nominal amount.
“I believe that we have come to the right conclusion, which is in line with other major nations,” she told MPs.
Announcing the outcome of the consultation earlier this week, ministers said that there were already “proper checks and balances in the system and also support for people who want to change their legal sex”.
Many trans people have attacked the current system as intrusive, demeaning and bureaucratic.
They must apply to a panel for a gender recognition certificate, supplying two reports from a doctor or psychologist stating they have suffered from gender dysphoria.
Proposals to rewrite the 2004 Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification were sent out for consultation in 2018, after senior ministers backed the move.
But Boris Johnson is believed to have got cold feet, as the issue become tangled up in the separate controversy over women-only bathrooms and other spaces.