7 July 2020
The University of Warwick Rainbow Taskforce and Warwick Students' Union have today sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women and Equalities in response to concerns that the government may be slowing (or reversing) progress on trans rights in the UK. You can read the letter in full below:
Dear Prime Minister and the Minister for Women & Equalities,
Through our values and guiding principles, the University of Warwick has committed to support our LGBTQUA+ community on campus to ensure that they are included and supported in line with their gender. The University has established an Rainbow Taskforce to advise on how to ensure that our community is supported and included. The Taskforce, in partnership with the Students’ Union, wishes to write to you with regard to recent developments on GRA reform.
In response to the Government’s 2018 consultation on Gender Recognition Act reform, the University of Warwick Rainbow Taskforce and Warwick Students’ Union submitted responses in support of reform towards a system of self-declaration for legal gender identity, and the legal recognition of non-binary gender identities.
In line with scientific research and the University’s principles of dignity and respect, the submissions advocated for legal gender recognition which is founded on self-definition and not medical diagnoses. As such, the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and an accompanying report detailing treatment received should be removed from the Gender Recognition Act.
With official waiting lists for a first appointment at a UK gender identity clinic at 12-18 months (Vincent, 2018), and some patients reportedly waiting up to 6 years, the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria produces significant delays and barriers to legal recognition of gender. Diagnosis procedures are also reported as intrusive and controlling by some trans patients, and still can rely on outdated gender stereotypes (Davy, 2011; Pearce, 2018). The Women and Equalities Select Committee (2016) Transgender Inquiry Report itself noted that existing pathologisation of trans people in the GRA is highly intrusive and can cause significant distress. Hines (2010) has also shown that it constitutes a severe breach of privacy for some trans people.
Non-binary gender identities are valid, yet they are currently afforded no legal gender recognition. As such, the submissions also called for the recognition in law of non-binary gender identities. Legal precedent for this now exists in at least Australia, Bangladesh, California, Canada, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan.
Research has identified non-binary recognition as a key issue for GRA reform (Pearce and Lester, 2016); non-binary individuals are currently not recognised under law, causing detriments in social, legal and medical settings (Vincent, 2016; Women and Equality Select Committee, 2016; Pearce 2018).
It is of great concern therefore to hear recent reports suggesting that the UK will not be moving to recognise non-binary gender identities, or to a system of self-declaration of legal gender identity. Of equally grave concern are the suggestions that, despite assurances within the 2018 consultation that the Equality Act 2010 fell outside of its scope, measures may be introduced which restrict trans people’s access to single-sex services.
We reject in the strongest possible terms the implied claim that trans women are not women, or that trans women are a danger to cisgender women in women’s only spaces. Trans people have been using single-sex services in line with their gender identity for many years without issues, both at the University of Warwick and across the length and breadth of the UK. We strongly condemn any measures which would restrict their access to those services.
In addition to the intrinsic harm of denying trans people access to single-sex services, particularly when there is no guarantee of alternative gender-neutral services, we question whether such measures could be enforced and fear that they would be open to abuse by those who wish trans people further harm.
Trans people are extremely vulnerable members of our communities, with 41% of trans people and 31% of non-binary people having experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months (rising to 53% of trans people aged 18 to 24). (Stonewall, 2018) 48% of trans people already don’t feel comfortable using public toilets, due to fears of harassment and violence, and 44% avoid certain streets altogether because they don’t feel safe. (Stonewall, 2018) 34% have been discriminated against because of their gender identity when visiting a café, restaurant, bar or nightclub in the last year. (Stonewall, 2018)
Any move towards access criteria based on gender assigned at birth, or anatomical status, would require additional or supplemented forms of identification to be produced for all citizens, since no current identification carries this data. Such criteria applied evenly would also force men who are trans (trans men) to access women-only services.
Since identity checks are rare, especially for single-sex services such as public toilets, challenge would likely be applied on the basis of gendered presentation/appearance, which is largely subjective. This impacts not only trans people but all those with a non-normative gendered appearance, such as women with facial hair, a masculine style of dress or otherwise masculine presentation. This would disproportionately impact gay, lesbian and bi women, and women who do not conform to western standards of femininity.
In 2020, barriers to trans inclusion in all areas of life must be dismantled, not constructed. The University of Warwick and Warwick Students’ Union are committed to taking all steps necessary to facilitate trans inclusion within our communities. We call on the Government to take this opportunity to do the same, by reforming the GRA to implement legal gender recognition on the basis of self-identification and the legal recognition of non-binary gender identities, and to resist any attempt to roll back trans rights.
The University of Warwick Rainbow Taskforce
Warwick Students’ Union