Government has ‘mishandled’ trans issues, Maria Miller MP says

Women and Equalities Committee chair Maria Miller MP

The chair of the parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee Maria Miller has accused the government of “mishandling” transgender rights.

Maria Miller chaired a landmark 2016 inquiry on transgender issues that recommended a number of legal changes to ensure services accommodate transgender people.

The government is planning to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow trans people to more easily gain legal recognition, but Miller says many of the recommendations in her report have seen little government action.

The Tory MP for Basingstoke, who is currently chairing an inquiry into LGBT+ healthcare, said that systemic failures have left trans people without access to basic services.

The Chair of Parliament's Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP

The Chair of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP.

She told Press Association: “I think [ministers] have mishandled their approach to trans issues… the debate has been focused in on issues that are much less important to trans people’s lives.

“Many trans people simply don’t have access to the basic healthcare that the rest of us take for granted — things like cervical smears are often things that trans men are not able to access.

“[The provision of services] seems to have somewhat been eclipsed by an announcement by the government on the Gender Recognition Act — that was one of our recommendations, but only one of 33.”

Experts have told an inquiry that NHS transgender healthcare provisions are nearing breaking point, as services fail to keep up with demand and backlogs continue to spiral out of control.

Trans people in some parts of the country could already be facing a wait of up to four years for a first appointment at a gender identity clinic, contrary to a statutory NHS target of 14 weeks.

Further backlogs for gender confirmation treatments have driven many trans people to procure ‘grey market’ hormone treatments online, while some opt to spend thousands of pounds to pay for surgery privately.

Maria Miller MP: Government has left political ‘vacuum’ on trans issues

Maria Miller added that the government’s slow approach to gender recognition reform has also left a “vacuum” on the subject, giving rise to anti-transgender campaign groups.

She said: “There has been very little headway made on that and indeed even on the area the government has announced its interest — the Gender Recognition Act — there has been very little concrete proposals put forward over the last three years, and I think that has left a vacuum which has been unhelpful.”

Miller continued: “My advice to ministers is that they should focus in on getting their services right first and foremost, and also be clear that there is no threat to single-sex services, they are clearly protected in law and they need to be clearer on that.”

In response, the government highlighted to its LGBT Action Plan, announced in June 2018, which made a number of commitments on LGBT+ rights.

A Government spokesperson said: “Our ambitious LGBT Action Plan – announced last year and backed by £4.5 million – committed to putting LGBT people’s needs at the heart of the NHS. This includes improving the way gender identity services work for transgender adults and appointing a National Adviser to lead improvements in LGBT healthcare. Since November, we have also launched the LGBT Health and Social Care Fund, which will provide £1m to tackle the health inequalities LGBT people face.

“Everyone in this country should feel safe, supported and happy to live their lives – and this includes accessing appropriate support and treatment from the NHS as and when they need it, regardless of their sexual orientation, race or gender identity.”