Three wasted years
Derailed by a bunch of self-absorbed women whose only response to a proposal to make life easier for trans people was to talk about themselves, it was foregone conclusion that the GRA consultation would do nothing to address the large and growing issues at the heart of the Gender Recognition Act
How do I feel about yesterday’s damp squib of an announcement on Gender Recognition reform? Inevitably, the ink was barely dry on the statement from the Minister for Inequalities when the usual posse of chancers and ne’er-do-wells, aka the Fourth Estate, was texting me, asking for “a reaction”. For that is all I am to most of them: a “reaction”; a handy tag on which to build a re-reaction and thence a dramatic confrontation with anti-trans ideologues.
Does it matter that I might be unhappy, upset? If being trans has taught me one thing, it is this: that the vast majority of journalists do next to zero research before launching themselves at a subject. What they lack in awareness, they yet make up in ballsy self-confidence and the knowledge that they control the exchange in the studio, and in the edit suite after.
Relief — and disappointment
In fact, I was not that upset. Relieved, yes. Because the myth of what Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform entails has been polluting public discourse for far too long. With it off the table some of us can, perhaps, get back to living our lives in slightly more peace. Angry? Not especially.
No: the emotion uppermost then — doubly so today — was disappointment at three wasted years. Frustration, too, at serious discourse derailed. For there were — and are — some serious and growing issues around how we do gender recognition in the UK. These remain whether you take the process online or leave it off.
Many of these I have detailed elsewhere. There are problems — growing problems — with how the gender recognition panel (grp) deals with individuals who transitioned years, decades ago and now, despite undergoing affirmative surgery, are being knocked back because they can’t lay their hands on the relevant paperwork. Like how many of YOU — cis and trans alike — could locate paperwork on medical procedures undertaken last year, let alone in the noughties?
the increasingly pointless demand for “proof” of gender “dysphoria”
This is compounded by growing demands not just for evidence of surgery, but evidence citing the precisely correct medical term. So statements made in good faith can be rejected if a medical practitioner, who may only deal with the grp once every five years, fails correctly to second guess the required words. On top of this is the increasingly pointless demand for “proof” of gender “dysphoria”.
Sure: to non-trans folk that must seem like a no-brainer. Until you realise that if you are applying for a gender recognition certificate (grc) some time post transition, the chances are your dysphoria will be seriously reduced, if not altogether absent. If I applied for a grc today, I would have to rely on a diagnosis buried in documentation that is over ten years old, written by a now-retired consultant, and hope that meets the criteria. If it does not I am screwed!
Because after all, having been trans and “post-op” for many years just is not enough to demonstrate determination to live in my gender for the rest of my life. Any day now I might rock up at my local GIC and demand they sew the bits back on!
As for the diagnosis itself, “dysphoria” has an increasingly patchy track record in the UK. It turns up in the Diagnostic Standards Manual (DSM) V, an American text of seriously dubious pedigree: not at all in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). It was there, sort of, in the last version — ICD10 — appearing as a mental health disorder referenced as “transsexualism”. It’s still there in ICD11, which has come out since the launch of the GRA consultation: but no longer a disorder.
For most purposes, UK psychs tend to prefer ICD over DSM. In respect of dysphoria, some go to the ICD, some to the DSM, some to a mix of the two. All, though, are signing up, when they “give evidence”, to a diagnosis that would not ordinarily be used in the UK. Dumb is one of the politer words I can think of to describe this situation. Also, uninformed, dogmatic, stupid.
It could all be so much better
In light of yesterday’s announcement, I spoke briefly with Christine Burns, one of the architects of the original GRA. She was — briefly — quite chipper, pointing out that plans to computerise the grp process were opportunity, not obstacle. That the best approach to system design was not to reproduce faithfully existing process — which, presumably, would mean trans folks scanning pages and pages of documents before submitting them online to the panel. Rather, it could consider a secure tick box approach accessed directly by medics. This would cut back on paperwork: remove, too, the embarrassment of supporting evidence rejected because it used the wrong words.
We will get the cheap and cheerful version, and nothing fundamental will change
It could all be so much better: and at the same time, any drive back to fundamentals would put many of the issues mentioned above back on the table too. Because any decent analysis would expose, brutally, the flaws in the existing process.
It was a fine hope. But I suspect, in her heart of hearts, Christine knows this will not happen. We will get the cheap and cheerful version, and nothing fundamental will change.
Three wasted years.
A triumph of selfish ignorance
In that time, none of the above has received even a smidgeon of attention in the popular press. Let alone horror stories like the trans woman instructed to drop her knickers and skype her genitals to a GP to “prove” she’d had surgery!
None of it.
Instead, through a combination of malice and ignorance, there has been a pointless swirling debate around the obsession of one tiny group of bigots: those women (mostly) who have turned a proposal for making life just a bit easier for one very small minority into a lengthy existential wank on the nature of womanhood.
through a combination of malice and ignorance, there has been a pointless swirling debate around the obsession of one tiny group of bigots
Trans rights? No-o! It’s all about ME-E-E! Non-binary people? Forgotten. Under-18s? Ignored. Every single other bit of the conversation has been derailed and debased by the insistence of these bigots and their friends in the media to discuss the thing it was never about in the first place. What it means to “be” a woman.
A bit like government launching a consultation on how society deals with menstruation — and a load of religious men turns out to discuss whether possible proposals are “clean” or “unclean”.
Trans people exist. We are not some figment of the popular imagination. And since we exist, society needs to deal with us. That it can do by considering arrangements, as it does for other minorities, in terms of “reasonable accommodations”: and the state, in turn, can do that without ever needing to define womanhood. Sure: “legal womanhood” may be under consideration. But that is a matter of phrasing. Just like the fact that even though much legislation in the UK references ONLY male persons, it does also apply to women.
Work left undone
For three years we have failed to discuss the most important flaws in the current process. Under a more insightful Minister for Equalities, this might not have been an issue. Penny Mordaunt, I suspect, might have backed away from the rhetorically loaded term “self-identification”. But once the dust had settled, she might have committed, at very least, to a proper overhaul of the process, including, going forward, direct consultation with trans people.
Alack! Liz Truss was long ago suborned by the self-absorbed tendency. If it does not contain cheese or pork, she is not interested
Alack! Liz Truss was long ago suborned by the self-absorbed tendency. If it does not contain cheese or pork, she is not interested. A creaking vessel of a system sails on into forecast storms ahead. Which means we are just going to have to do this all over again in a few years time.
What a complete and utter waste of time!