Penny Mordaunt insists trans rights U-turn accusations are ‘smears’

Penny Mordaunt appears on BBC News

Penny Mordaunt has described accusations that she U-turned on her support for Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform as “smears”.

The Tory leadership hopeful has received criticism this month from across the political spectrum for her flip-flopping on trans rights.

Mordaunt served as minister for women and equalities under Theresa May, and it was during that time that May announced plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

The reforms would have demedicalised and streamlined the process of gender recognition to allow trans people to self-identify, but the plans were scrapped by Mordaunt’s successor Liz Truss.

However, since announcing her bid for Tory leadership, Mordaunt has hit out at trans rights and insisted that she never supported self-identification for trans folk.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday (17 July), Mordaunt reiterated that she does think trans people should have to receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before their gender can be legally recognised, and described accusations of a U-turn as “smears”.

“We all know what’s going on,” she said. “This is the type of toxic politics that people want to get away from.”

Grilled on why, under her leadership, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) publicly supported GRA reform, she said: “We didn’t actually – on my shift – produce the policy.”

Leaked documents suggest Penny Mordaunt supported some demedicalisation of gender recognition

On the same day as her BBC appearance, the Sunday Times reported that a leaked government document showed that as equalities minister, Penny Mordaunt was “in favour of removing at least one medical requirement needed by transgender people” to change their legal gender.

The note sent to Mordaunt in 2019 by a senior civil servant read: “Currently, applicants are required to provide two medical reports: a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (which we are now intending to remove) and a report detailing any medical treatment received.

“There is no requirement to have undergone any medical treatment as part of transitioning, nor does the report’s contents have any bearing on the panel’s decision, so it is unclear what practical value this current report has in the process.

“However, this element of the process goes to the heart of whether we have a system that is essentially self-identification, or whether there are external checks in place… You have all indicated you would like some form of medical requirement to remain part of the process — particularly some form of assessment that the applicant is of ‘sound mind’ as they make their application to change their gender.

“This could be from a GP, a registered counsellor or a therapist. This would help safeguard vulnerable individuals, and would also provide a defence against potential vexatious applications.”

Another document from February 2020 reportedly shows that official government support for self-ID only ended when Mordaunt was replaced as minister for women and equalities by Truss.

A spokesperson for Mordaunt’s Tory leadership campaign said: “The fact that so much of this contest has been distracted by side issues instead of the cost of living crisis impacting millions of people is a major disappointment.

“Arguing about policy is one thing, but questioning Penny’s values and integrity must be challenged.

“To be clear, on the issue of self-ID, leaked documents prove that all ministers in the department wanted to maintain medical involvement, including Penny. Other ministers can back this up.”