LGBT Humanists has responded to the UK Government’s consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which for the last fourteen years has laid out the process by which individuals can have a change of gender legally recognised.
The current consultation seeks opinions on potential reforms to the Act to remove the necessity of a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before someone can legally change their gender in England and Wales, amongst other things.
LGBT Humanists has responded in support of this change, submitting that gender dysphoria should not be considered a medical disorder and that its classification as such has negative consequences for transgender people, both in terms of the legal process of transitioning and in encountering social stigma and prejudice. At the same time, LGBT Humanists notes that this is not proposed to – and should not – lead to any reduction in legal protections on grounds of sex.
Lizzie Streeter, Chair of LGBT Humanists said,
‘Humanists UK is an ethical movement for social and political change. We support the freedom of all people to make choices about their own lives to the extent that they do not harm others. In line with this, we have a longstanding commitment to supporting the human rights and dignity of transgender people and their equal treatment. This leads us to support proposals that will ease the lives of those who wish to have their gender legally re-assigned so that they can live their life recognised as that gender by public authorities and service providers.
‘We support this on the understanding that safeguards to ensure the genuine intent of applicants for legal reassignment will be in place, and that existing Equality Act protections on the grounds of sex will be maintained. All public authorities need to be aware of these, to prevent laws designed to liberate one set of people inadvertently risking the oppression of another, as has happened in at least one recent case.
‘These protections guarantee, for example, that single-sex services or facilities can continue to be restricted to people of one sex only, if such a restriction is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.’
Existing rules also provide a lower age limit of 18 before someone can be legally recognised as a different gender from the one they were born with, 18 before physical surgery can occur, and 16 before being able to access cross-sex hormones. The government is not proposing any change to that as part of the present consultation.
Jenny Bartle, Board member of Humanists UK and LGBT Humanists, added,
‘Humanists UK is committed to freedom of thought and the free exchange of ideas. Beyond the parameters of the specific legal situation currently under review, we have no opinion on any philosophical or sociological questions of language and meaning around gender. It is a topic outside our remit. We know, however, that this is a divisive subject of debate in politics, academia, and civil society. Debate over these issues has become severely heated in recent months, with some taking a hostile, zero-sum attitude that is not conducive to mutual understanding or evidence-based policy making. We implore everyone involved in this debate, particularly online, to remember that all parties in the discussion are human beings with feelings and many different genuinely held concerns, and it is the responsibility of each of us to listen to each other patiently when balancing risks and rights in our plural society.
‘In accordance with our own values as an organisation, all our personnel are committed to “engage in dialogue and debate rationally, intelligently, and with attention to evidence” and to do so in a way that “recognises the dignity of individuals and treats them with fairness and respect”. Although these are our own principles, we would commend them to all participants in this discussion.’
For further comment or information, please contact Rachel Taggart-Ryan on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read LGBT Humanists’ consultation response.
Read more about Humanists UK’s work on human rights and equality: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/
For over 30 years LGBT Humanists has promoted humanism as a rational, naturalistic worldview that trusts the scientific method as the most reliable route to truth and encourages a moral and ethical life based on logic, reason, and compassion. We campaign for equality and diversity, particularly relating to sexual orientation and identity, both in the UK and internationally. It is a volunteer-led section of Humanists UK.
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.