By Brodie Gettins

TODAY marks the last day for the public to participate in the UK government’s consultation of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The consultation at Westminster opened in July this year, after being stalled due to transphobic media coverage. However, the Scottish government closed theirs in March, earlier this year. UWS News have been speaking to Scottish LGBT+ communities, to find out what these consultations mean to trans lives and why people of the UK should participate today.

The UK Government website states;

“Trans people are able to receive legal recognition of their acquired gender through a process set out in the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004. Since the GRA came into force, only 4,910 people have legally changed their gender. This is fewer than the number of trans respondents to the government’s LGBT survey, who were clear that they wanted legal recognition but had not applied because they found the current process too bureaucratic, expensive and intrusive. The government therefore seeks your views on how to reform the legal recognition process.”

Scottish Trans Alliance manager, James Morton, reveals that parts of the process are “bizarre” and can be unnecessary. “You have to send a big set of evidence and a complicated application form off and within that you need to include a psychiatric report from a gender specialist and that describes your childhood, your adulthood, what kind of toys you played with or how distressed you’ve been about your gender. It’s a level of detail that people don’t want to share with random stranger,” he says.

In addition, people are required to submit details of hormonal or surgical treatments that they’ve went through and evidence of name and gender changes, such as bills and bank statements.

Although the consultation that closes today is for England and Wales, people in Scotland can still take part too. James says; “We’ve been encouraging people in Scotland to  respond to the UK consultation as well because there are lots of people within Scotland who have English birth certificates. So, if they’re going to be able to have their rights, then we need Westminster to reform the law as well as the Scottish parliament.”

Nicole Kusel-McCrory , LGBT+ Liberation Officer from Glasgow Caledonian University, says her transitioning process has been generally positive; “In terms of the medical side of things, having the NHS is a very lucky thing for people like myself because although waiting lists are long and are getting longer, healthcare is free and so I am able to access different medical services which I feel I need for myself transitioning.”

However, she still believes that more change is needed; “The gender recognition act consultations are very important to both transgender people and society as a whole. This is because as society is ever-changing and attitudes towards transgender or intersex people are also changing and since the act was introduced in 2004, it is time that the act be amended to be more in line with conditions for trans or intersex people today.”

Like many transgender people in the UK, their main problem is dealing with the daily negative attitudes from others. “The only issues I have personally had to deal with is people being rude to you and/or saying rude remarks towards you in public,” Nicole reveals.

LGBT+ charity, Stonewall, reveal in their 2018 ‘LGBT Britain – Trans report’ that 41% of trans people had experienced a hate crime or incident in the past twelve months, because of their identity.

Moreover, certain media outlets have been accused of not helping to reduce the negative attitudes, but spur them on instead. Politicians such as Ed Milliband have picked up on this and compared nowaday’s media coverage of transgender people to the homophobic new coverage of gay people in the 1980s. The current consultation had also been delayed as a result mainstream media outlets expressing anti-trans views.

One organisation who is campaining to put a stop to the hostile coverage of trans people, is LGBT Youth Scotland, who launched the #OurLives campaign in September this year.

A spokesperson for LGBT Youth Scotland says; “The main aim of the campaign is to fill a huge gap in the media representation of trans people. Sadly their personalities, their ambitions, their senses of humour and their complexities are lost when the media would rather focus on debating their right to a happy existence.”

James Morton believes that it’s vital people educate themselves before taking part in the consultation, so that they are not responding based on prejudice or misunderstanding. “Its always difficult when it’s a minority group’s rights, because a lot of the general public just don’t understand the rights of trans people and other groups who they maybe don’t encounter very often. That means it’s really important that people responding to the consultation do educate themselves,” he says.

The consultation closes at 11pm tonight. You can take part here. 

By Brodie Gettins

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