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Welcome to Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity.

If you’ve experienced hate crime, sexual violence or domestic abuse, we’re here for you. We also support lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people who have had problems with the police or have questions about the criminal justice system.

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GRA Reform Consultation – Galop’s Response

1.0 About Galop:

Galop works to make life safe, fair and just for LGBT people. This year marks 35 years’ of providing advice, support and advocacy to LGBT people and campaigning to end anti-LGBT violence, abuse and discrimination. Galop works around 3 key areas; hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence. We also have specific projects to support trans victims of crime and young LGBT people at risk.

Alongside our direct work with LGBT victims and survivors we undertake policy and community development work and use our expertise to help make the criminal justice system fairer and more effective for our clients.

We have developed our work in the area of practise based insight, highlighting the experiences and needs of LGBT victims and survivors with for example: The 2016 Hate Crime report; The 2017 Online Hate Crime Report; The 2018 Professionals handbook for working with victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes and shortly we will be publishing the Lloyds Foundation funded National research project into LGBT Domestic Violence.

For more information on our work and access to resources please go to: www.galop.org.uk.

2.0 Executive Summary:

In 2004, the Gender Recognition Act was introduced. It is a significant piece of trans equality legislation. However, it has proved to be problematic in some respects, for example by requiring people to go through a bureaucratic, costly and medicalised process, dependent on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, gender identity disorder or transsexualism. The Act also requires people to define themselves within a binary gender identity, which has left non-binary people without access to the same equality provisions.

Galop encourages you to take part in this consultation, to have your say, and let the Government know how the existing legislation works for you, you are welcome to use the points we make in our response.

3.0 A Note to Terminology:

Trans – In this document, the word trans is used to include all those whose gender identity is different from that assigned to them at birth. This includes people who transition from one binary gender to another and those with non-binary and gender fluid identities. It includes those who transition medically and/or surgically and/or socially, according to the Equality Act 2010.

GRA – Gender Recognition Act 2004

GRC – Gender Recognition Certificate given by a panel operating under the GRA after assessing someone’s application

4.0 Galops’ Response:

Below are points we will be making, which you are welcome to use in your feedback.

Question 3: Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?

No. Galop does not thinks that trans people should be required to obtain a medical diagnosis before being able to access the benefits of the GRA.

The reasons for our view are:

  1. The World Health Organisation no longer considers gender dysphoria a mental illness. The agency recently announced that it has moved “gender incongruence” out of the chapter of mental disorders and into the sexual health chapter. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/27/health/who-transgender-medical-disorder.html
  2. Being trans is not a mental illness and should not therefore require a mental health diagnosis to have validity. Being trans means identifying with a gender that is different to that assigned at birth and this does not necessarily equate with ‘gender dysphoria’ or any mental ill-health or distress.
  3. The current process for getting a medical diagnosis and service from an NHS gender identity clinic is long, with waiting times from referral to first appointment often taking two to three years. Private medical help is expensive. Both avenues present obstacles to trans people who have already self-identified as having a gender identity different to that assigned them at birth. The delays cause real distress and, in the experience of our clients, it is often during this time that they are vulnerable to experiencing hate crime and other forms of abuse, violence and discrimination.

Question 4: Do you also think there should be a requirement for a report detailing treatment received?

No. Galop does not think that trans people should be required to submit a medical report before being able to access the benefits of the GRA.

The reasons for our view are:

  1. This is not a requirement in other countries such as Ireland, Malta, Argentina and Norway, which have simpler non-medicalised systems in place for recognising trans people’s chosen gender. Their experience demonstrates that a requirement to submit a medical report is not necessary for a gender recognition system to work effectively.
  2. There is no single pathway for transition; individuals make decisions on what surgeries and hormones to have based on a variety of factors. Some options are not available for medical or other reasons. This does not make someone’s transition or gender any less authentic than those who have opted for medical intervention. Requiring a medical report disempowers those who have made non-medical choices or who are unable to access medical interventions.
  3. Requiring a medical report is a lengthy, bureaucratic and expensive process. A detailed account of received treatment is also intrusive and some trans people find this disclosure of very personal information distressing and demeaning.

Question 5: Do you agree that an applicant should have to provide evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for a period of time before applying?

No. Galop does not think that evidence of living in an acquired gender for a period of time should be required.

The reasons for our view are:

  1. Adopting a self-declaration process is less bureaucratic, and saves time and money. Processes based upon self-determination have been shown to work in other countries, for example, Ireland, Argentina, Malta and Norway.
  2. Evidence of living in an acquired gender may give power to organisations to define what is legitimate evidence of acquired gender. For example, someone may be on the waiting list for an appointment at their gender identity clinic. During this time it may feel safer for them to choose a certain clothing option at work, to prevent transphobia from colleagues or members of the public. If their workplace prescribes binary gendered options, then they might have no choice but to wear clothes that do not represent their chosen gender, as a means of staying safe.
  3. Evidence of living in an acquired gender is particularly difficult for non-binary people to gather. Most aspects of life are gendered in a binary way and so non-binary and gender fluid people may be forced to use an expression of binary gender in some circumstances because alternatives are not available or it is safer to do so.
  4. The current GRA also makes no provision for non-binary people to have their gender identity recognised.
  5. What constitutes evidence of living as any gender is culturally, socially and historically specific. It is also subject to individual interpretation and preference.
  6. There may be GDPR implications for the current requirement of submitting a substantial amount of personal and financial information to provide evidence of living in an acquired gender.

Question 6: Currently, applicants for a gender recognition certificate must make a statutory declaration as part of the process. (A) Do you think this requirement should be retained.

Yes. Galop thinks that obtaining a statutory declaration as part of the GRA process would be helpful.

The reasons for our view are:

  1. The provision of a statutory declaration is a formal step, similar in seriousness of intent as an application for a passport. A statutory declaration could detail the legal and criminal consequences of making false, timewasting, or protest declarations.
  2. Galop thinks that it would be helpful for the Government to adopt a system whereby all government records relating to someone (HMRC, DWP, Passport, DVLA, Local Authority etc) can be updated quickly and easily with a statutory declaration.

Question 7: The Government is keen to understand more about the spousal consent provisions for married persons in the Gender Recognition Act. Do you agree with the current provisions? Please explain the reasons for your answer. If you think the provisions should change, how do you think they should be altered?

No. Galop does not think that a spouse’s consent should be required for a trans person to access the benefits of the GRA.

The reasons for our view are:

  1. The spousal veto gives power and control to a spouse about whether a trans person is able to define their gender legally and yet remain married. This may be used by abusive partners as a tool for abuse and coercive control.
  2. The spousal veto has been dropped in Scotland. Galop thinks that should be equity across the UK on this matter.
  3. Galop would wish to see a system that enables trans, including non-binary, people to apply for gender recognition in their own right without requiring the permission of their spouse, or ex-partner, who they may still be legally married to.

Question 8: Currently applicants must pay £140 to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Do you think the fee should be removed from the process of applying for legal gender recognition?

Yes. Galop thinks that costs associated with applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate are problematic:

The reasons for our view are:

  1. The cost of current GRA processes are difficult for many trans people. Costs can include the £140 administration fee, doctor’s fees, solicitors, medical reports and other required paperwork.
  2. Trans people are at significant risk of poverty and unemployment due to discrimination based on their gender identity which makes paying administrative fees difficult. Even with the current fee exceptions the most vulnerable may not fit in these categories e.g. being homeless and not claiming benefits. Galop recommends significantly reducing, or completely removing the administrative fees for GRA.

Question 9: Do you think the privacy and disclosure of information provisions in section 22 of the GRA are adequate?

No. Galop does not think that current disclosure provisions are adequate.

The reasons for our view are:

  1. Galop is not aware of any prosecutions ever being brought for the criminal offence of a professional outing a trans person as provided for under section 22 of the GRA. This is despite us dealing with numerous cases where we have helped victims present clear evidence to the police that a crime has been committed under this provision.
  2. We believe the problems to be:
    1. It is framed as a criminal offence instead of a civil law protection. Police forces have seemed unwilling to enforce these due to the police viewpoint that privacy protections are usually the responsibility of individuals to enforce through the civil courts.
    2. The time frame in which individuals must report, have it investigated and then have a case heard in court are unrealistically short.
    3. The requirement to have a GRC is an addition hurdle added to people who identify as trans but feel unable of unwilling to apply.
  3. We recommend that the principle of current legal protections be retained but they be redesigned as civil legal protections which individuals are able to enact themselves without having to persuade police forces to enact them.

Question 11: Is there anything you want to tell us about how the current process of applying for a GRC affects those who have a protected characteristic?

  1. Age is a protected characteristic and the 18+ age limit on applying for a GRC negatively affects trans youth, for all the reasons stated above for adults.
  2. The medicalisation of the GRC process is particularly difficult for young trans people who have less access to gender identity services and the financial resources for the GRC process.
  3. Galop’s casework has found that the level of abuse, harassment and homelessness experienced by young trans people is particularly concerning.
  4. Galop has also found that services working with under-18s are often ill informed and sometimes unhelpful in recognising the risks faced by young trans people. Lack of access to legal recognition of their gender puts these young people at further risk.

Question 13: Do you think that the operation of the single-sex and separate-sex service exceptions in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Galop thinks that the changes to the GRA will not affect the ability of single sex services to function effectively and safely, including all women (or all men).

The reasons for our view are:

  1. Some trans women have been accessing UK women’s services successfully for many years. In Scotland in particular there has been a longstanding history of domestic and sexual violence services being inclusive of trans people (Stonewall Report 2018). Galop believes that lessons from this good practice can be learnt across the whole sector.
  2. This successful practice has not been dependant on trans women having a GRC or having transitioned surgically. Self-identity, experience as a victim/survivor and good practice within an agency are more important in operating successful, safe services, in Galop’s experience. and that of the women’s organisations included in the Stonewall Report.
  3. This positive experience is echoed in other countries which do not require a gender recognition process based on medical evidence.
  4. A de-medicalised gender recognition process does not mean a process without rigour and legal consequence, as noted in other parts of this document.
  5. Galop supports the need for single sex and women-only services and supports the development of robust, effective, safe practice within all services working with victims/survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Galop believes that all women should be able to access those services on an equal basis. No woman has an absolute right to access a single sex domestic abuse or sexual violence service: it will depend on eligibility, suitability of the service to meet her needs, and capacity to offer that service. However, no woman should be excluded simply because she is trans.
  6. Galop’s experience suggests that there are significant barriers for trans men in accessing services around domestic and sexual violence. There are few services accessible to men as a whole and, in Galop’s experience, the complexities faced by trans men in seeking help are little understood by all services. Trans men and non-binary people may feel excluded from both women-only and men-only services and unable to find the help and support they need as victims/survivors.
  7. Galop’s experience of working with trans victims/survivors of domestic abuse has highlighted that there are still barriers to getting help and support. This may result in trans victims/survivors being excluded from services or being hesitant in approaching services for help. Galop believes that clarity and change in the GRA will enhance service provision and positively effect trans victims/survivors being able to access help and support.

In summary, Galop agrees with the conclusion of the Stonewall 2018 report that creating more equitable access to single sex services is primarily about improving practice, rather than legislative change. Positive change to the GRA is needed and will support good practice within services but good practice is, and should be, happening anyway. Galop thinks that the GRA changes which we support will positively affect the lives of trans people and will not negatively affect the functioning of single sex services.

Many participants told us that reform of the Gender Recognition Act would have no relevance to how they deliver their services. While respondents were aware of a view that gender recognition reform could allow violent men to pose as women to access their services, with one participant expressing a concern about this, there was otherwise a clear consensus that services’ thorough risk assessment procedures would safeguard against this. These participants said that gender recognition reform would not compromise their ability to protect their service against, or turn away, any abusive or disruptive individual.”
Supporting trans women in domestic and sexual violence services, Stonewall, 2018, p.8

Question 20: Currently UK law does not recognise any gender other than male and female. Do you think that there needs to be changes to the Gender Recognition Act to accommodate individuals who identify as non-binary?

Yes. Galop thinks that the inclusion of a non-binary option would be beneficial.

The reasons for our view are:

  1. Non-binary people are currently unable to have their gender identity legally recognised and may therefore face inequalities and discrimination. We believe GRA reform should provide a legal recognition for non-binary

5.0 A Note to the Consultation Process:

The consultation process is open until 11pm on Friday 19th October 2018.

Here’s a link to the online form: https://consult.education.gov.uk/government-equalities-office/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act/

The online consultation form is quite long, with 21 questions. However:

  • You can start your feedback to the consultation questions and save your completed sections.
  • You can then request this to be emailed to you and continue to complete it later.
  • It is not a requirement to answer all the questions. You can miss some questions and concentrate on those that you would really like to give your personal input on, if you would prefer.
  • It is also possible to respond in writing (in place of the online form), and to just the questions you would really like to respond to.
  • Responses in writing can be sent by:
    • Email to gra.consultation@geo.gov.uk; or
    • Post to:

Government Equalities Office
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London
SW1 P3

6.0 Contact details:

For more information or questions please contact info@galop.org.uk .

Our services:

Our hate crime casework service can give you advice, support and help if you experience homophobia, transphobia or biphobia. Click for more

Domestic abuse is any kind of threatening behaviour, violence, or abuse between people who have been intimate partners or family members. Click for more

Galop provides confidential and independent advice and support for LGBT+ people who have experienced sexual assault, abuse or violence. Click for more