News from the Sunday Times that the proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act to allow a change of sex on a birth certificate on application (“self-ID”), in place of a dysphoria diagnosis, have been dropped, replaced by a promise to reduce the current £140 fee.
There has been enormous controversy around the proposals, which gained far more public interest than most legal reforms when Stonewall called not just for self-identification but also for the abolition of single-sex exceptions to the Equality Act 2010. These represent the strides made over the twentieth century for women to access public life, public space, spaces in which to recover from male violence, and sports, among others. Needless to say, many women’s groups were aghast at the prospect of these exceptions being removed and a return to the “unisex” – in practice, male – spaces of the nineteenth century.
There was also disquiet over the possibility of the process being abused, and of the practical obstacles to women’s groups distinguishing between a person who identified as (but took no steps to look like) a woman, and a man. Such instances might not be common, but the law must cater responsibly for the uncommon but reasonably foreseeable.
Perhaps now that there is clarity over self-ID, there is scope for truly radical legislation and guidance capable of support across the feminist and transgender communities. We could start with proposals for CAMHS funding to be doubled; mental health support for adults to be provided within a strict six month window; improvements to the public sector’s adherence to PSED to ensure quality Equality Impact Assessments are undertaken; free legal support for anyone who has been unlawfully discriminated against by an employer; the abolition of gendered work and school uniform; and access to free education for young adults whose school-age education was disrupted by gender difficulties or sexual harassment.