There are fears that the Government will not go forward with plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which would allow people to change their legal gender by “self-identifying” as male or female.
Lack of reform to the act will have a detrimental impact on the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of Bristol’s transgender community, say akt, a charity working with LGBTQ+ young people who are homeless or facing homelessness in the city.
Reforms to the GRA would let transgender people to change their birth certificate without a medical diagnosis. However, the Sunday Times have reported that these plans will not go ahead, with announcement of a ban on “gay cure” therapies instead, which was described by the newspaper as “an attempt to placate LGBTQ+ people”.
This news comes after women and equalities minister Liz Truss’ comments earlier in 2020, which called for protection of single-sex spaces such as public toilets – which the Government is now reportedly now preparing to do.
This lack of reforms to the GRA and backwards nature of the Government’s plans for public spaces will have a severe negative effect for trans people across the UK and in Bristol, and especially so for young people and those who are homeless or at risk of sleeping rough.
25 per cent of Bristol’s youth homeless are LGBTQ+ and, after a dramatic rise in homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth, homelessness charity akt opened a service for young queer people in the city.
“Many of the young people we have helped in Bristol identify as trans,” says Mijanou Blech, project leader for akt Bristol.
“They have come to us after being rejected by family and friends. They constantly worry about showing and exposing their true selves as they have so often had to hide from transphobic family members and professional bodies.
“This is now further compounded by the government’s refusal to amend the GRA to acknowledge self-identification as a trans person.”
These fears are compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to many LGBTQ+ people living in hostile environments, surrounded by friends and family that don’t accept them.
“akt identified an epidemic within the UK surrounding the safety of trans people prior to the pandemic,” says ex-akt service user Faz Bukhari. “Trans people were already more likely to be homeless and engage in unsafe behaviour.”
Faz says that the pandemic has exacerbated what was already a major issue within the trans community and that the proposed scrapping of gender self-identifying plans is just another blow for an already marginalised community.
It will mean that to identify as their correct gender, trans people will have to go through a highly medicalised process to be seen as their gender: young people currently have to wait between two and three years to be admitted to a Gender Identity Clinic, a wait that is likely to rise to five years.
“It’s a detriment to the community and the NHS,” says Faz. “We want to save the NHS, but this will just put more stress on it, through waiting lists and the detriment to trans people’s mental health. It’s demoralising, damaging and cold.”
According to the Sunday Times, about 100,000 responses to the public consultation were received with a majority of about 70 per cent in favour of allowing people to self-identify as a man or a woman.
Officials said that the results had been “skewed” by an “avalanche” of responses generated by trans rights groups.
Trans people, who make up around one per cent of the population, are receiving increased from news outlets and anti-trans rhetorics are being spread on social media – and that accompanied with lockdown and a non-supportive Government is a worrying situation for akt.
It is especially worrying for homeless trans people, trans people living in hostile environments and trans people of colour; at least ten black trans women have been murdered since the beginning of June 2020.
The charity calls on the Government to consider their plans to scrap the reforms to the GRA, for fear that trans communities across the country will face even more increased suffering.
“Trans people do not decide to be a different gender on a whim, they profoundly feel at odds with the gender they were born in and are mentally and physically driven to be the person they truly are,” says Mijanou.
Main photo: Jack Joseph