Where now for GRA reform ?

Some LGBT organisations breathed an audible sigh of relief today when the government published its long awaited response to the consultation on GRA reform. At least press rumours about steps being considered to roll back trans rights had come to nothing, and there were one or two small steps in the right direction.

I’ll come on to those steps in a minute. But the first thing to say is that the government response is lamentable. The need for fundamental reform was well understood on all sides of the House before the start of the consultation. The consultation itself provided confirmation of the depth of support that exists for trans rights, producing an abundance of evidence for the need to move towards self-ID, while the anti campaign was largely driven by fear and dog whistles.

Speaking for Labour, Marsha de Cordova said today “After three years of toxic debate, it is deeply disappointing that the government have let trans people down… Labour is committed to equality and inclusion for trans people and we continue to support updating the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-declaration for trans people.”

Today the campaign for reform gathered strength as the petition to reform the GRA passed the 100,000 milestone needed to secure a debate in parliament. Please add your names to this.

Reducing the fee is of course welcome, but it was never the fee alone which stood in the way of the vast majority of trans people obtaining a GRC.

Access to health services is indeed – as Liz Truss acknowledged today – a much greater priority for trans people than GRA reform. Why mention it though in this context ? It’s hardly a reason not to act on the GRA. She says that funding for gender identity services has increased by 50% over the last three years. But that’s barely enough to meet the rise in demand, and that’s before you take into account the impact of lockdown and staff sicknesses. The shocking current GIC waiting times, far outside NHS targets, speak for themselves. The new GICs will be a vital help, but no one waiting for access to treatment will be taken in by Liz Truss’s smug self-congratulatory tone.

One of the biggest gaps in the government announcement was the lack of additional support for trans children, who are badly let down under the current system. Here though there is new hope in the form of a separate announcement this evening that the NHS is launching an independent review into gender identity services for children and young people.

Today’s news won’t silence those hostile voices who seek to turn the clock back on trans rights. But the fact that reform of the Equality Act 2010 has been ruled out at this time will draw some of the sting from their attacks. We should also take comfort that even a right wing Tory government didn’t feel emboldened to side openly with the bigots. This is due in no small part to the good work that’s already been done in winning allies and educating people.

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