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Statement on the Gender Recognition Act reform announcement

Published on 30th September 2020 at 12:48.

The University of Sussex Students’ Union wants to offer its solidarity to transgender and non-binary people who have been hurt by this government’s refusal to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

Last Tuesday, the government’s Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, announced that the only changes to the Gender Recognition Act will be lowering the price of the application form for the Gender Recognition Certificate (which is currently £140, not including the fees for changing legal documents) and moving this process online.

There will be no reform of the Act itself, as according to Truss, the government has come to the “right conclusion”. This is despite the fact that the respondents to the consultation demonstrated overwhelming support for the proposed reform, with 80% in favour of demedicalising the process (page 47).

It is important to recognise that, in the UK currently, the only thing that the Gender Recognition Certificate affects is the sex recorded on an individuals’ birth, marriage, and death certificates. It is not needed for other legal documents (such as passports, bank accounts, or driving licenses), despite the claims of transphobic groups.

This means that a few simple documents, which have no bearing on what a person does in their daily life, are the only legal documents that you need more than a deed poll and a letter from a GP to alter. It also has no connection to the Equality Act nor access to single sex spaces.

Truss also declared that the government will be launching three new Gender Identity Clinics in the UK in order to reduce waiting times. This claim is technically false - these new GICs are pilot schemes which were planned by the Gender Dysphoria Clinical Programme established in 2018 by NHS England, one of which was launched prior to her announcement, and the other two will be launched later this year. Neither Truss nor the government has any right to claim that they were behind this.

The government has also claimed that the consultation was ‘skewed’ by ‘trans activists,’ but in reality, many transphobic groups attempted to sabotage it. This is clear from this independent analysis carried out at Nottingham Trent University (page 147).

The last three years have consisted of rising hate crime and much so-called ‘debate’ around the rights of transgender people, while transgender and non-binary people have been left in the dark about the government’s response. The harm that this has caused cannot be stressed enough.

We condemn the government’s lack of action to protect transgender people, and we also call for the University of Sussex to stand by their transgender and non-binary students and staff. While the University is part of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme, they have shown a clear disregard for the safety of trans students and staff through their inability to address institutional transphobia and protect transgender and non-binary people on campus. 

Specifically, we call on the University of Sussex to:

  • Make a public commitment to never attempt to exclude transgender and non-binary people from bathrooms or changing rooms on campus, irrespective of government intervention to allow institutions to make such exclusions 
  • Put an end to so-called academic ‘debate’ over trans people’s right to live and exist
  • Send its Trans and Non-Binary Equality Policy Statement, published in November 2018, out to Schools and formulate a set of recommendations, in conversation with student and staff representatives, about how best to improve trans and non-binary staff and students’ experiences at Sussex.
  • Work with the Students’ Union and other student groups and societies to develop clear guidelines around how to report transphobia in the Sussex community, and provide clear information about what will happen next, as well as signpost support for these students.
  • Work with students and staff to improve access to information and resources to encourage people to understand the experiences transgender people have, reduce misinformation, and thereby tackle transphobia at Sussex.

We will be hosting a series of discussions for trans and non-binary students to share their experiences studying at Sussex and any questions or concerns they might have about access to resources, University processes, transphobia at Sussex or any other issues.

Please email [email protected] or [email protected] if you have any questions or would like to get involved.