The Guardian – Prison is a desperate place if you’re trans
Changing your gender – never a simple matter.
The proposal by the Government to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has produced some extraordinary panic-induced articles and media outrage of late. Why on earth is this? Partly it is due to unpleasant prejudice but I can’t help but think much of it is based on misconceptions of how people transition.
The only procedure proposed to be changed is the one by which a trans person obtains a gender recognition certificate (GRC), thereby an amended birth certificate and becomes male or female in law. In most cases it is illegal to ask someone to show their GRC, but birth certificates can be requested.
Trans people already change their name and title on their passports and driving licence and request that people refer to them as he or she without obtaining a gender recognition certificate. In fact they are obliged to have these types of official documentation in their ‘new gender’ and demonstrate that they are comfortable being ‘male or female’ and seen as such, before they can be considered suitable for hormones and or surgery.
The crucial thing is that you do not need a gender recognition certificate to change your gender and of course anyone can already go into a changing room of the other gender, though granted it helps if you look ‘male or female’ (which is why most people wait until the hormones have started working)
Since when have you ever been asked to show a birth certificate when entering a toilet? Before I transitioned to male I was forever being told to leave the women’s toilets. I would just mumble, ‘It’s okay I know I should be here’ or I’d ignore them. At the end of the day, people know which toilet they should use. The vast majority of trans people try hard to fit in so that they don’t stand out. If anything, the person who is nervous is the trans person especially the first few times trans people go to the ‘other’ toilets.
There are incidentally no laws that say that men have to use the men’s toilets and women have to use the women’s toilets. Countless times in theatres and clubs, I’ve witnessed women using the men’s toilets to avoid the queues.
So, just because the process of obtaining an amended birth certificate might be made easier, this is not going to result in loads of ‘perverted’ men putting on dresses to enter women’s toilets or other women’s spaces because quite simply- they could already do that now. I doubt they’d even hear about the less bureaucratic and cheaper method of getting an amended birth certificate. As for deciding who uses which changing rooms or toilets, that’s a matter for each organisation though best practice is of course to allow those transitioning to use the appropriate toilets but this has nothing whatsoever to with being legally male or legally female.
Realistically, it has far more to do with how you appear. Gender neutral private cubicles seem a welcome prospect to avoid monitoring of people’s presentation.
It is a commonly held belief that women’s toilets are the area of contention. Surprising then that the ‘British social attitudes’ survey, see page 14, states that 72% of women say they are comfortable with a trans woman using a female toilet, compared with 64% of men saying they are comfortable with a trans man using male toilets according to their research. Thinking about it, this is quite obvious given that women’s toilets have private cubicles.
I was disturbed at the recent incorrect reporting of ‘boys’ sharing girl’s showers at girl guide camps -again more scaremongering. This is such a gross distortion of facts. No, these would be trans girls, who are not happy with their male bodies, being offered separate private cubicles as the girl guiding literature, shows. However, it is not possible to obtain a GRC before you are 18 in any case.
Some people imply that helping trans people more easily obtain legal gender recognition would mean that men would go through the process to define as women to avoid men’s prisons and attack women but that wouldn’t work because there are already policies in place to protect women in prison. Dangerous women, (trans or non-trans) are placed in male prisons if they are deemed to be a risk to other women. Again, this has nothing to do with if someone has a GRC or not. Remember anyone ‘self-declaring’ would swear to be female or male in every area of their life and permanently.
Getting a GRC and amended birth certificate is a cumbersome, lengthy, bureaucratic process. You have to pay a fee, currently £140, provide two medical reports that you’re transitioning (even though surgery is not actually required) provide proof that you have lived in the new gender role for two years using documents such as a passport.
Consequently, very few trans people bother! It is only useful in very specific purposes for instance, if you apply for dual nationality, like I did, or if you wish to marry. Incidentally the original birth certificate stays in existence. The new amended one is simply provided to be able to show employers or other authorities that you are who you say you are without needing to out yourself as having transitioned.
Since the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, only approximately 6000 people have obtained a GRC. Personally, I know tonnes of trans people who haven’t bothered obtaining one. I believe the majority don’t.
‘Making it easier to change the gender on birth certificates will not affect how transgender people access single-sex services because they can already use the self-declared gender recorded on their passports and driving licences as identification’ say the Scottish Transgender Alliance
So the proposal is that instead, you can make a legal declaration so called ‘self-declaration’ in front of solicitor or judge and state that you intend to be male or female permanently and pay a much-reduced fee. Making a false statement on a legal statutory declaration is a serious criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment.
Ireland brought in ‘self-declaration’ in 2015 and less than 250 people have self-declared’ since then, Not exactly indicative of a decision on a whim. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, India, Ireland, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and also the states of Oregon and California in America all have more inclusive gender recognition procedures than the UK. It looks like here in the UK, we’ll be behind again.
Charlie Kiss- author of ‘ A New Man- Lesbian/Protest/Mania/Trans Man’
13th December 2017
For more about my life as a former lesbian feminist and my transition to male -Buy the book’ A New Man’ here