Over the past few months, we’ve been watching closely as the Women and Equalities Select Committee undertook its inquiry into trans equality. Today we learn how well the committee listened to trans experts, activists and individuals as they related their experiences of discrimination in our schools, workplaces, hospitals and beyond.
During the inquiry, the committee heard about endemic levels of transphobic hate crime, the failure of the NHS to understand and meet the needs of trans patients and the failure of the law to protect trans people.
Thankfully we can say that today’s report, and the recommendations the committee has made to the government, are a welcome step towards trans equality.
In particular, we’re pleased to see recognition of the need to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004. While a hugely significant piece of legislation at the time, we now need to catch up with countries like Ireland, Malta, Netherlands and Denmark. The current process of getting legal recognition of your gender is lengthy, bureaucratic and belittling. Essentially trans people have had to ‘prove’ their identity. Instead, the committee has recommended that people should be able to self-define their gender.
Another crucial point was the recognition that the current Equality Act makes no provision for people who don’t identify as either male or female, and that it only covers those who have or want to transition. The committee recommends that the act should - and can - be updated to reflect all trans people.
The report also states, in no uncertain terms, that the NHS desperately needs to address the provision and quality of care provided to trans people, from the lack of awareness of GPs in primary care services through to the unacceptable waiting lists young people and adults face accessing gender identity services.
Despite all these positive recommendations, there are still things we’d like to see more on. We’d still like to see clear steps to make sure that trans people are not being excluded from single-sex services and from participating in sports. And we’d like to see more autonomy for young trans people. As the late great David Bowie said – they’re quite aware of what they’re going through…
While the report didn’t pull any punches about the treatment of trans people in the NHS, unfortunately, its discussion of access to medical treatment wasn’t as clear cut, and for those trans people who do want surgery or hormones – and not every trans person does – we’d like to see how this will work in practice.
And the spousal veto remains a thorny issue. While they didn't provide clear answers, the committee has acknowledged this as a serious issue and urged the Government to further investigate.
The fact that this inquiry even took place is hugely important, and it’s clear from the report that the committee has really listened to the diversity of voices who gave evidence. This report is a good step towards securing equality for trans people and we now look forward to working alongside the government, trans communities and allies across the UK to ensure that these recommendations translate into concrete actions from the government. We eagerly await the government’s action plan in June…