GI’s take on the LGB alliance: they will not divide us

On Tuesday evening, reports emerged that a new ‘LGB Alliance’ was being set up to campaign for the rights of lesbian, gay and bi people. The group excludes trans people on the grounds that gender is a social construct and LGB people are same-sex attracted not same-gender attracted. One person on Twitter announced that ‘gender extremism’ had met its match in the new group. It is also vehemently opposed to Stonewall, accusing the charity of discriminating against LGB people by becoming trans-inclusive. 

This is not the first time that LG(B) people have distanced themselves from trans people. It is a worrying step backwards that highlights the normalisation of anti-trans sentiment in society. Although trans people such as Martha P Johnson and Sylvia Riviera were key figures of the early Pride movement, trans liberation has historically been sidelined in favour of LGB equality.

Two somewhat contradictory philosophies emerged in regards to people’s goals for the new Pride movement. On one hand there were those pursuing an assimilationist view of equality where all the rights of straight people, such as marriage, were available to all. On the other, there were those pursuing radical queer liberation that involved dismantling the societal structures that oppress both cis and trans queer people. Queer liberation questioned the role of the nuclear family, its tendency to reinforce gender roles and the institutions attached to it such as marriage. 

Unfortunately, those pursuing an assimilationist goal came to the conclusion that it would be easier for LGB people to achieve equality if they distanced themselves from trans people, rather than standing with us in solidarity, as we were seen as too much of a ‘hard sell’. It is during this time in the 80s that we first see a clear split between increasingly discrete concepts of ‘sexuality’ and ‘gender identity’ becoming mainstream and the gap between LGB and T widens even further.

This divergence in thought and the practice of excluding trans people go hand in hand. We see it in the first 25 years of LGBT charity Stonewall’s existence. Before the organisation became trans-inclusive in 2015, we saw great advancement for the rights and inclusion of LGB people, but trans people were left far behind.

Following the ‘Transgender Tipping Point’, there was an acknowledgement of the role trans women and trans women of colour in particular played during the early Pride movement. People were talking about trans issues and Stonewall was now campaigning for trans equality. It seemed the days of trans people being sidelined were behind us.

But in the last couple of years there has been a resurgence of transphobia that echoes the darker days of the 1980s. Every day there is a new article in the media using the same hateful, vitriolic language as was used about gay people to stir up the same fear in the public. Not only has this sea of disinformation had the effect of stalling proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, but hate crimes against trans people have skyrocketed. People feel increasingly emboldened to deny us our rights to be treated fairly and with respect under the Equality Act, going as far as barring us from bathrooms and swimming pools.

Now is not the time for LGB people to turn their backs on us. Distancing themselves from the trans community to assimilate and hide will not work. The rise of fascism in all its guises does not end with the attacks on trans people and we need only look across the Atlantic to the US Supreme Court to see how closely a pushback on trans rights is followed by a pushback on LGB ones.

Thankfully, we do have incredible allies who have stood up with us and for us. We’ve seen campaigns like #LwiththeT, #GwiththeT and #BwiththeT that show us that as a community for all LGBTQIA+ people, we are more united than ever. Solidarity is necessary and appreciated, but we also need our LGB allies to stand with us publicly, push for greater representation of trans people and call out transphobia when and where they see it. Together we will continue making space for people of all gender identities, gender expressions and sexualities until everyone is free to safely and freely live their lives without judgement or fear.

Please donate here to support our work supporting and standing up for young trans people. You can also support our ‘Trans Writes!’ campaign by using our webtool to contact your MP and tell them about the need for fit and working gender recognition laws.

Young people at Gendered Intelligence

Young people and the Gender Recognition Act

Gendered Intelligence’s stance on gender recognition reform for young people

When the Government announced its consultation on the Gender Recognition Act in July of this year, what we were hoping for was a robust enquiry into how we can best reform legal gender recognition in the UK for the benefit of all trans people, including young trans people.

With our work at GI being centred around young trans and gender diverse people, we were disappointed that there were no questions explicitly about their experiences of dealing with the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). This seems like a missed opportunity to meaningfully explore options for gender recognition with young people whose current and future well-being depends on updates to the GRA, especially in the current climate where increasingly vocal, transphobic rhetoric questions  trans people’s very existence. If Scotland can ask these questions, why couldn’t England and Wales?

It’s so important to get the biggest and most useful change for the most amount of people, taking special consideration of those who’d otherwise be ignored or left behind. We need to get this right, or we’ll be waiting another 14 years before there’s any hope of reform again.

If you’re a young person or ally

There are a few opportunities to shoehorn answers into the consultation response by young trans people or their allies. Questions 10 and 11 are the most obvious, where the interaction between age and the GRA is talked about. We’ve some guidance here on what we might write for these questions, but the best answers will always come from the heart and from direct experience. There are other opportunities throughout the consultation response, such as questions 1 and 2. Question 5 asks about documentary evidence of gender, which is something many young people are going to struggle to get, and this is just another one of the many places where young people’s experiences can be talked about.

What Gendered Intelligence has been doing

When the Scottish Government undertook its own consultation on Gender Recognition Act reform, it asked for feedback on its proposed options for young people. Our view now is the same as then: that young people know who they are, that approaches that affirm their gender are the best for young people and the people they know, and that the baseline for respect and recognition needs to be much higher than it is.

Our policy officer has been meeting the young people we work with at their youth groups, asking them what their first-hand experiences are with the GRA and how the process might be improved. By and large, they said the same thing over and over again:

  • This isn’t rocket science.
  • We know who we are.
  • Fix it and fix it now.
  • Make sure everyone who needs access to the process can get it.

Gendered Intelligence’s take on young trans people and the GRA

Whilst we’re all too aware that this isn’t being explicitly consulted on, we need to be making a stand and speaking up for those the reformed Act may continue to leave out.

It seems so obvious that 16 and 17 year olds should have full, autonomous access to the GRA process that it needn’t even be mentioned, but here we are! At 16, a person can change their name, receive any medical or even surgical treatment they want, and can even marry. There would be absolutely no logic to deny extending the GRA to 16 and 17 year olds, and ultimately we don’t see any real pushback to this.

None of the options given in the Scottish Government’s consultation for under-16s were perfect, but some were better than others. Obviously there needs to be some system in place, and some of these templates could be easily mirrored down in England and Wales, making for a seamless system across Britain.

Gendered Intelligence is asking for a system of legal gender recognition for under-16s through parental application, with the option of application by a capable child where parental consent can’t or won’t be given. A system of parental application might be best as it works under the assumption that the young person will have parental consent and support, which is ultimately one of the biggest factors in how successful and happy a transition is for a young person and their family.

Of course, the reality is that many young people of all gender identities don’t have much parental support, so there has to be something in place for them. We’re asking for a system of ‘application by capable child’, wherein a capable young person can access the GRA process by providing a statutory declaration. Application by capable child as the only option would make the process longer and should only be as a fall-back option where parental consent isn’t granted.

Young people’s access to a system of legal gender recognition that works for them must be guaranteed. Their right to recognition cannot be muted or discounted simply because of their age.

Making a better future

Having worked with young trans and gender diverse people over many years, we see them for themselves  – the full range of young people just being themselves, in their own unique ways. There can be no doubt that they should have the right to be recognised in the gender they know themselves to be.

Now’s the time to refuse to be belittled, to refuse to be silenced, to speak truth to power and make the world a better place for young trans and gender diverse people. I hope you’ll join us.

Gender Recognition Act 2004 in Scotland

What does Scotland think about gender recognition?

The Scottish Government have released an update following their recent consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 which closed in March 2018. The letter published on their website includes a brief analysis of the results to some of the key questions posed to the public. Gender recognition is a devolved area of law in Scotland and reforms to the GRA 2004 are an ongoing conversation in both Westminster and Holyrood.

The first results from the consultation are positive and suggest that a significant number of people are in favour of making gender recognition less restrictive, to include young trans people under 18 and non-binary people.

Over fifteen and a half thousand responses were received, including submissions from 162 organisations covering a wide range of interests from trans and wider LGBTQ community groups, women’s groups and religious bodies. Excitingly, a majority of people who responded supported the Scottish Government’s proposal of a demedicalised model of gender recognition that does not rely on the approval of a panel of “experts”.

Under this model, Scotland would introduce reforms similar to those seen in Ireland and Canada where people do not need evidence from a medical professional to change their legal gender. The model that we would be most likely to see in the UK would be statutory declaration, where people would sign a legal document in front of a witness such as a solicitor.

There was also an encouraging result for young people aged 16 and 17. A majority of submissions agreed that these young people who are old enough to marry, join the army and vote in Scotland, should also be able to change their legal gender.

For children up to the age of 16, less than a third of respondents said they should remain excluded from being able to have their legal gender changed, with this figure rising to just over a third for children under the age of 12. Almost a quarter of people thought a capable child under 16 should be able to apply to change their gender and a similar number of people thought children should be able to apply with parental agreement.

Finally, almost two thirds of respondents agreed that non-binary people deserve legal recognition in Scotland. This would also mirror reforms seen in places such as in Australia, New Zealand and parts of the USA. A similar figure also thought the Equality Act 2010 should be amended to include all non-binary people in its protections against discrimination. Currently, the protected characteristic is ‘gender reassignment’, not gender identity, which was written to cover people undergoing a medical pathway of transition and is therefore not inclusive of all trans people.

The results of the Scottish consultation are an encouraging indicator that there is an appetite to reform laws to better include trans and non-binary people in parts of the UK. 14 years ago, the GRA 2004 was one of the most progressive pieces of legislation for trans people in the world. The results from this consultation show that spirit of inclusion is still alive and that change is possible.

There are only a few weeks until the English consultation closes. It is so important that trans people, their families and their friends make sure their voices are heard. We have a once in a generation opportunity to make legal gender recognition easier, more affordable and demedicalise the process.

If you haven’t yet submitted a response but are finding the process a little confusing, we will be running a drop in on the 6th October where you can fill out the consultation with support from our staff and volunteers. We also have online guidance to help you respond to the key questions.