The next frontier of LGBT equality? Reforming the Gender Recognition Act

“You can get married now, isn’t that all you wanted? I thought the struggle for LGBT equality was over?”

Over and over again, I get asked these kinds of questions. People trying to figure out what’s next after equal marriage.

While there’s still plenty of progress to be made for the whole community, for trans people in particular, there remains serious legal gaps that exist before we have full equality.

One area under review is the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA). This is the law that enables some trans people to have their gender legally recognised with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Being able to change the name and gender on their birth certificate makes it easier for trans people to get a new job, get married or change their records. While it was ground-breaking when first introduced, the act is now outdated and in urgent need of reform.

So when people ask those questions about what’s next, reform of the GRA is the answer they get.

This would be life-changing for so many trans people in Britain. Getting rid of a humiliating, dehumanising process to allow trans people to have their gender recognised by the state without being treated as having a mental illness would be a huge step forward towards equality.

Anti-trans fear-mongering

However, campaigning and lobbying to reform the GRA cannot solely fall on the shoulders of our trans siblings. You’ve probably seen online or in the news the hostility facing trans people at the moment. There are deeply misleading stories about young people being ‘turned trans’ and repeated arguments that being trans is a mental illness. For many cis lesbian, gay and bi people this should sound eerily familiar. It’s exactly how we were talked about in the 1980s.

Now we look back and think how absurd it was that anyone was ever allowed to claim that same-sex attraction was a mental illness or that talking about it was like ‘brainwashing’ kids into a new identity. The world didn’t end when people of the same sex could finally marry each other. It won’t end when trans people are able to be recognised for who they are.

What we’re seeing in the debate around the GRA is history repeating itself.

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