Gender Recognition Act review will launch before summer, government says

The government is planning to launch a consultation on reforms in the next few weeks.

Theresa May last year announced plans to consult on changes to the Gender Recognition Act to streamline the process that allows transgender people to change their legal gender, after a report called for a ‘self-identification’ system.

Progress on the issue has been plagued by setbacks and hostile media coverage, and the consultation – initially touted to launch in 2017 – has still not materialised.

But Minister for Women Victoria Atkins has this week vowed to push ahead with progress on the issue, after attending an event hosted by PinkNews and Stonewall where transgender people spoke about their experiences.

Speaking in Parliament during a debate on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Atkins sought to assure MPs that the gender recognition issue was still on the agenda.

Atkins said: “Many trans people are clear that the process is not working for them. I was delighted to go to an event on Tuesday, which the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee hosted… and I found it personally very interesting.

“I was very concerned to hear some of the issues raised by guests at that event.

“We’ve engaged constructively with a wide range of organisations to understand their views, we’re analysing the responses of trans people in the LGBT Survey, and we are expecting to launch the consultation before the summer recess.”

She added: “The government recognises that conversations about transgender equality can elicit a wide range of views, and sometimes this strays into abuse and intimidation.

“This is unacceptable. As members across the House have said, it must stop.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May (Peter Nicholls – WPA Pool / Getty)

The summer recess is on July 21, giving the Government Equalities Office nine weeks to publish the consultation.

Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt has also insisted plans would go ahead, adding: “The Government Equalities Office will publish a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act shortly.

“Our National LGBT Survey received over 100,000 responses and we are using these results to shape the questions in the consultation.”

Labour’s shadow equalities secretary Dawn Butler challenged Mordaunt over the apparent instability of the Women and Equalities brief, which has been through three Secretaries of State in six months.

Maria Miller, the Chair of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, suggested at a PinkNews and Stonewall event earlier this week that the delays to the Gender Recognition Act changes were partly caused by the successive departures of Justine Greening and Amber Rudd from the equalities brief.

(Jess Glass / PinkNews)

Mordaunt responded: “I do think we need to stabilise the work of the Government Equalities Office, and I think we need to increase what we’re doing on the equalities agenda across government.

“We have done some tremendous things in recent years and we need to build on that if we’re going to address equality.”

She hinted: “Since I have taken this post I have given this a lot of thought and I will be making some announcements in the coming weeks.”

Speaking at a panel discussion on transgender issues jointly hosted by PinkNews and Stonewall on May 15, Miller had said: “In terms of why has the government not yet published the consultation, I would also say why have they not addressed some of the 33 recommendations that were in the report that we issued three years ago.

“This is continuing to be put into that box marked ‘too difficult’.”

Miller added: “Why has it not been done? I think having three Secretaries of State in such a short period of time is unfortunate, and Minister for Women and Equalities has become the fastest-changing Cabinet post of all Cabinet posts.

“I think that has probably caused a lot of the delay.”