Equalities office plays down reports of MPs' concerns around Gender Recognition consultation as campaign group prepares to meet at House of Commons

Equalities office plays down reports of MPs' concerns around Gender Recognition consultation as campaign group prepares to meet at House of Commons

Women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt. Image: Getty

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Equalities Office has played down a report that women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt is facing opposition over the Gender Recognition Act consultation.

A report in the Sunday Times claimed that a poll showed 67% of MPs “of all stripes” are concerned about proposed changes to the Act, but the Equalities Office said neither they nor any ministers were approached about the coverage.

The public consultation, which runs until October 19, is gathering views on proposals to make it easier for transgender people to legally change their gender and obtain legal documents in the gender they live as.

“This is an open consultation – we are not putting forward any specific proposals for how we want the system to change,” said the statement from the Equalities Office.

“Only after we have gathered all the evidence will we set out what we think the new gender recognition process should look like.”


'Intrusive and bureaucratic'

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Campaign group Fair Play for Women, and other similar campaigns like Woman’s Place UK, say that making the process easier to legally change gender could open the system up to abuse from predators who want to gain access to sex-segregated spaces for nefarious reasons.

Currently, transgender people must live in their preferred gender for two years, have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a psychiatrist and face a tribunal that decides whether to issue them with a gender recognition certificate.

“We know that many trans people find the current requirements [to legally change gender] overly intrusive and bureaucratic,” said the Equalities Office statement.

But it added that no change would be made to the Equality Act over single-sex spaces.

“We have always made clear that any reform of the Gender Recognition Act will not change the exceptions under the Equality Act that allow provision for single and separate sex spaces.”

The Act allows certain single-sex spaces to exclude trans people in extenuating circumstances, for instance if the provider can prove that including them would put someone at risk.

However, transgender people do not currently need a gender recognition certificate to access facilities, like toilets and changing rooms, that match their gender identity, so this will not change even if changes were made to the process of them legally changing gender.


House of Commons meeting

Fair Play for Women is set to hold a drop-in session in the House of Commons on Tuesday (October 16) and spokesperson Nicola Williams said they had requested the presence of Ms Mordaunt.

The group has also been urging constituents to write to their MPs if they have concerns over the consultation, but it is not known which, if any, MPs will attend the Tuesday meeting.

Previous meetings campaign groups have attempted to hold have been shut down by complaints and protesters, with Leeds City Council cancelling a meeting last month, and Millwall Football Club cancelling another earlier this year that was going to be held on their premises. Complaints were made that the meetings were hosting transphobic views.

The Mercure Hotel in Cardiff also cancelled a meeting after complaints, and masked protesters picketed a meeting in Bristol.

An open letter published in the Observer on Sunday, saying that public and private organisations are “closing down discussion” around concerns, was signed by 195 people including writers and actors.

Penny Mordaunt has been approached for comment.