Gender equality will only be achieved if trans and non-binary people can identify as they wish

Most of us take our gender for granted. We don’t worry about people addressing us with the wrong pronouns or challenging which public toilet we use. Should we require a service specific to our gender, we never imagine someone questioning our entitlement to it. Being our gender is like breathing the air, a reflex. Like air, however, gender is a deceptively complex compound.

Our genetic code, our physical bodies, our internal sense of self, our external expressions of identity and the social norms and stereotypes projected upon us – all these factors are implicated in the idea of gender. Most of the time, they align. When they diverge, we are confronted with the complications of gender, compelled to examine it with our conscious brains and to unpack what the complications mean for our values of equality, fairness and human dignity.

Trans people are those whose internal sense of their gender – what psychologists refer to as ‘gender identity’ – diverges from the sex assigned to them at birth. For anyone who is trans, or who knows a trans person, the urgency of acknowledging their real gender is clear.

As in every movement, we must stand together and be heard. The cruelty of denying people their basic right to self-determination contributes to the fact that at least 45% of trans people in the UK have attempted suicide, and a similar proportion have experienced at least one hate crime in the last year.

In the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, the Government took an important step forward by enabling trans people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, legally recognising their correct gender. This can make a huge difference in applying for jobs and accessing public services. But the Act needs improvement.

The Government’s public consultation on what this reform should look like closes on 19 October  – and it is urgent and critical that everyone who believes in equality uses their voice to support trans rights. The bulk of the proposed reforms aim to eliminate excessively bureaucratic and sometimes traumatising barriers to acquiring a Gender Recognition Certificate. One of those is the requirement that trans people first receive a diagnosis of mental illness – an old-fashioned notion (now rejected by medical professionals) that being trans is a disease.

Another is the requirement to obtain specific medical interventions. Not all trans people want or need such interventions – and the law should not force unnecessary medical treatment upon anyone. A third is the requirement that trans people gather evidence of living in their ‘acquired gender’ for two years. In practice, amassing that evidence can be burdensome. Asking people to suffer without legal recognition for two years is unnecessary and cruel.

A fourth barrier is spousal consent. The Act should be changed to ensure trans people seeking access to a Gender Recognition Certificate cannot be held hostage by an objecting spouse. The Government is also rightly considering how the Act should be amended to recognise people who do not identify with the traditional gender binary.

 

Source – Metro Newspaper

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