Non-binary legal recognition too ‘complex’ to introduce, UK government confirms

Non-binary legal recognition too 'complex' to introduce, government says

Legally recognising non-binary gender identities would have “complex practical consequences” and Boris Johnson’s government has “no plans” to do so, the Cabinet Office has said.

More than 136,000 people had signed a petition asking the government to include non-binary identities under existing gender recognition laws in the UK.

The demand was for the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which allows adult trans men and women to change their legal sex, to be amended so that non-binary people could “be legally seen as their true gender identity”.

“By recognising non-binary as a valid gender identity, it would aid in the protection of non-binary individuals against transphobic hate crimes, and would ease gender dysphoria experienced by non-binary people,” said the petition, which was signed by 136,221 people.

As it had more than 10,000 signatures, the government had to respond, which it did on 20 May. “As set out in the response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation, there are no plans to make changes to the 2004 Act,” the response says.

It continues: “The 2018 GRA consultation did not bring forward any proposals to extend the GRA to provide legal recognition to a third, or non-binary, gender. The government noted that there were complex practical consequences for other areas of the law, service provision and public life if provision were to be made for non-binary gender recognition in the GRA.

“In UK law individuals are considered to be the sex that is registered on their birth certificate – either male or female. The GRA provides a means for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificate, but there is currently no provision for those who do not identify as male or female.

“This government wants everybody in the UK to feel safe and confident to be themselves.”

In the 2018 consultation on reforming the GRA, 58 per cent of respondents thought the law should be changed to include non-binary people.

According to the government’s 2018 National LGBT Survey, just over half of trans people in the UK are non-binary. This varied by age, with 57 per cent of trans respondents to the survey under the age of 35 being non-binary, while 36 per cent of those aged 35 and older were non-binary.

The people surveyed were also younger than the general population, with two-thirds of those who answered the survey aged 16 to 34. This is consistent with previous findings by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that younger people are more likely to be out as being lesbian, gay or bisexual (the ONS did not ask about gender identity).

Belgium recently committed to legally recognising non-binary people. It will be the third European country to do so, following Germany and Iceland.

Malta, most Australian territories, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Uruguay all legally recognise non-binary genders. Countries including Denmark and New Zealand, several US states and Canadian territories all offer ‘X’ gender options on legal documents for non-binary citizens.

All petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures on the official government site are considered for a debate in parliament. The government must consider holding a debate on non-binary legal recognition and has until 8 June to set a date.