Exclusive: The government is enabling abuse by not reforming gender recognition, groups tell new Minister

LGBT organisations have demanded to know when the incoming Equalities Minister intends to reform a key law for the recognition of trans people.

A total of 34 pro-LGBT organisations and individuals including representatives from Amnesty International, Mermaids and Stonewall have signed an open letter to Penny Mordaunt, stating the importance of reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

In 2017, the former Equalities Minister, Justine Greening, announced plans to review the 2004 law, which allows transgender people to gain recognition by changing their legal documents – but the process has since been delayed multiple times.

This has been partly due to pressure from the right-wing press.

Multiple departures from the ministerial position have also contributed to the confusion.

Mordaunt is now the third Equalities Minister since the announcement of this review — following the departure in April of Amber Rudd — it is currently unclear when the review will begin and how much of a priority it will be.

Reports last year stated that the review would begin in spring 2018, but there has been no further information about the review’s time frame.

(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

In the open letter, the groups have highlighted the “humiliating” process the current law requires to change the gender on legal documents, as well as pointing out that transgender people face discrimination and abuse that remains unchallenged while the government delays the review.

“The longer this delay goes on, the longer abusive invective is allowed to continue unchallenged by a government who rightly pride themselves on robustly speaking up for its minority citizens,” the letter states.


The full letter, which was signed by dozens of activists and representatives from LGBT organisations including Gendered Intelligence CEO Chryssy Hunter and Jay Stewart, Paul Dillane of the Kaleidoscope Trust, non-binary activists Fox and Owl and Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt, reads:

Dear Penny,

Firstly, let us wish you a very warm welcome in your new role as Minister for Women and Equalities. You have shown time and time again that your commitment to inclusion and equality is central to your values.

Your moving speeches on gender equality and your being a Stonewall ally stand to showcase this, and we thank you for your transparent dedication to the cause of equality.

We’re writing to you today as an alliance of organisations who are deeply concerned by the delay in starting the Gender Recognition Act reform process.

Your predecessor Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, working with Baroness Williams of Trafford, had shown great enthusiasm in using her tenure as Minister of Women and Equalities to help reduce stigma and discrimination against transgender people. We’re hoping you will have the same enthusiasm in moving forward with us, helping remove the systemic barriers currently holding equality out of reach for trans people.

Amber Rudd and Prime Minister Theresa May (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As the consultation falls in your new ministerial portfolio, we’re reaching out to you to show the impact the continued delay is having on trans people. This consultation being delayed is having a massively detrimental effect on one of the UK’s most marginalised groups.

With the current system of gender recognition, people: must be diagnosed as having gender dysphoria; may be legally forced to delay or annul their application if their spouse vetoes their application; and are subject to the demands and whims of a panel they will never meet, who will have final say over that person’s gender identity.

There is no right to appeal.

Penny Mordaunt (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The gap between the Government announcing the consultation and the subsequent delays have allowed fear and misinformation to fester, particularly amongst those who seek to denigrate and devalue the very existence of trans people.

The longer this delay goes on, the longer abusive invective is allowed to continue unchallenged by a government who rightly pride themselves on robustly speaking up for its minority citizens.

Several of the organisations writing to you today have built strong relationships with the Government Equalities Office over many years, and are excited to work closely together going forward.

(Chris Jepson)

Justine Greening (Chris Jepson)

As you may know, the Gender Recognition Act is in urgent need of reform if Her Majesty’s Government is to bring about full legal dignity for its transgender and non-binary citizens.

When the Women and Equalities Committee set out its recommendations for trans equality in 2016, it called for the government to “update the Gender Recognition Act in line with principles of gender self-declaration [through statutory declaration] that have been developed in other jurisdictions”, in turn removing the medicalised, quasi-judicial process currently in place for instances of gender recognition.

Their recommendations call on Her Majesty’s Government to consult and improve on a process which the Committee has called “bureaucratic”, “expensive” and “humiliating”.

We ask that this Government follows through on the Committee’s reasoned and important recommendations as soon as possible, enshrining the principles of statutory declaration within a robust and accepted legal framework.

(Eleanor Riley/Getty Images)

Your role as Minister for Women and Equalities is centred on ensuring equality for all people regardless of gender identity. Can we call on you to help secure a simplified and de-medicalised process for gender recognition for all transgender and non-binary people as soon as possible?

We are under no illusions that the consultation process will be marred by people conflating separate issues and legislation, and/or using it as a springboard to further incite hatred. We remain, however, quietly confident in dignity winning out and would urge you to carefully weigh this small risk against the immense gains.

This Conservative government has made clear and valiant commitments to the LGBTQ+ citizens of the UK, a legacy you should be proud to build on. The sooner these reforms can be consulted on, and respectfully responded to, the sooner trans people in the United Kingdom will have their right to a quiet and private life enshrined in law.

We therefore ask that you provide us with a clear timeline for when this might be.


We look forward to hearing from and working with you in the near future.