Government’s own researchers debunk preposterous claim trans activists ‘skewed’ Gender Recognition Act consultation

Transgender people and their supporters gather in Parliament Square to protest against potential changes to the Gender Recognition Act on 04 July, 2020 in London, England. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

There is “little evidence” for the claim that the overwhelming support for trans people in the public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act was “skewed” by trans activists, say the researchers who analysed the results.

The Gender Recognition Act consultation in 2018 was one of the biggest public consultations the UK government has ever conducted, with more than 100,000 people responding to 22 questions about potentially reforming the process of legal gender recognition for trans people.

The three researchers from Nottingham Trent University, who were tasked with analysing the responses, have made it clear that they found “little evidence” for the claim that public support for trans rights was “skewed” by an “avalanche” of responses from trans rights groups.

The claim has been widely reported, beginning with a Sunday Times piece in June. “We spent a long time with the data and employed a number of advanced analytical techniques to investigate the influence of potential campaigns on the consultation responses,” wrote professor Daniel King, professor Carrie Paechter and Dr Maranda Ridgway in a blog reflecting on their analysis.

“However, we have seen little evidence that supports the view that the results were ‘skewed’ by an ‘avalanche’ of responses from trans rights groups,” they say.

“It is of course apparent to anyone who has followed this consultation that there has been considerable interest from a variety of organisations and campaigns, from all sides, who sought to encourage people to respond to the consultation. Throughout the analysis we were sensitive to such issues.

“We investigated the potential influence of these campaigns on the responses and weighted them accordingly. As we detail in the report, we were able to identity 17 separate campaigns: using text recognition software, we examined how they may have influenced individual responses.

“We specifically identified campaign-derived responses, campaign-informed responses and campaign-inspired responses. Our research indicates that the vast majority of the written responses were not directly derived from campaigns, but were from individuals and written in their own words.”

The researchers also added that the commonly reported figure of “70 per cent of respondents were in favour of self-identification” – which also first appeared in the June Sunday Times article – did not come from their analysis.

“We are not sure where the reported figure of 70 per cent in favour of self-identification has come from. This question was not directly asked in the consultation and this figure does not arise from our analysis,” they said.

Eighty per cent of respondents were in favour of de-medicalising the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate, and three-quarters were in favour of dropping a requirement for trans people to provide “evidence” of living in their chosen gender.

But despite this strong public support for the key demands made by LGBT+ campaigners, which was that trans people no longer be required to get a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before being able to have their gender legally recognised, Conservative equalities chief Liz Truss declined to reform the GRA.

Instead of streamlining the requirements for gender recognition by reforms to the law, Truss promised to “place the whole procedure online” and reduce the current £140 fee to an unspecified “nominal amount” – citing a minority of trans respondents who said cost was the main barriers to gender recognition, compared to the majority who cited the bureaucratic process.

The researchers also said they were “struck by many of the accounts that people provided detailing their personal experiences or those of loved ones”, some of which ran to 5,000 word answers to a single question.

“It is sometimes easy to lose sight, in the arguments that surround GRA reform, that at the centre of this are real people living real and often difficult lives.”