Another year, another consultation on the GRA asking the same questions

You may recognise some of the text from our response to the Government's consultation back in 2018. If the same questions keep being asked, we'll keep giving the same answers.

Response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act


BiCon is an annual get-together of the members, friends and allies of the UK’s bisexual community.

We believe it is the longest-running annual LGBT event in the UK.

BiCon has a large number of trans and non-binary attenders. From its start in the early 1980s, BiCon’s informal policy has been to recognise people's self-identification of their gender for all purposes including access to single-sex spaces and workshops. This became an official policy in 1992.

In the 28 years since this policy was put in place – and before – we have seen no evidence that anyone is harmed by it.

We recognise the similarities between accusations and implications currently being made about trans people (especially trans women) and their rights and those made in the 1980s and 1990s about lesbian, gay and bisexual people with Section 28 and other discriminatory laws and policies.

The Government’s response to the GRA consultation:

1 Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?

They do very little to do that. Indeed, by backing down from the Government’s original version of what the response to their consultation two years ago would be, they have caused distress to many.

2 Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?

Removed entirely.

3 Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?


Requiring a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is a medical not socio-legal issue. Not all trans and non-binary people wish to access medical transition.

There are excessive delays for trans and non-binary people in being able to access gender identity clinic services with waits of over 1-2 years being common for first appointments. Some GPs will not refer people to gender identity clinic services and self-referral is not usually possible. Further appointments and access to medical transition treatment take years because of delays between appointments and waiting lists.

BiCon Continuity supports a simple process of self-identification of gender identity (including non-binary gender options) via statutory declaration.

4 Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?


People's lived experiences are not accurately reflected by paperwork. Ability to obtain, retain and manage paperwork needed for a GRC application is linked with other privileges like education, social class, stability of employment, stability of finances, stability of housing, age and disability. Many trans and non-binary people have additional protected and non-protected characteristics which make dealing with evidence, bureaucracy and health services difficult or impossible.

BiCon Continuity Ltd support a simple process of self-identification of gender identity (including non-binary options) via statutory declaration.

5 What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?

Statutory declaration is an existing well recognised legal process which is very low cost and accessible to most people. It has existing and well understood safeguards for fraud and misuse.

6 Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?

It needs removing, as in Scotland.

No other life or health process (including tattoos, plastic surgery, spending large amounts of money, changing housing or employment) has a system where a person's spouse has to give written consent for that person to proceed with the activity. This provision is cruel to trans and non-binary people and singles them out as people that others need protection from which is not supported by any evidence. Trans and non-binary people are much more likely to be the victims of abuse than the perpetrators.
BiCon Continuity recommend that there is a system in place that allows the trans person to obtain a GRC and if their spouse objects they can file for rapid no-fault legal separation/divorce with appropriate systems for minimising adversarial aspects of this process and protecting any dependants appropriately.

7 Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?

We would not support any arbitrary age limit but, if necessary, look at the individual’s competence to make such a decision.

8 What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?

They are, apparently deliberately, inconsequential.

Some anonymous ministerial briefing was done before they were announced, making it sound like they could have been worse and this had a negative impact on trans people’s mental health.

The actual announcement did not make up for this, and it is particularly insulting that the majority of respondents to the Government’s consultation were dismissed because their views did not fit those of the ministerial team then in place.

What is the point of having a consultation if that is going to happen? What is the impact to trans people’s mental health on having to answer the same questions on the same issues again, as here?

9 What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?

What the majority of respondents wanted, and what we have set out then and now.

10 Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004?

Should it be enacted, it probably would be. It still has an unnecessary and problematic “living in role” provision, but it is considerably shorter.

Wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation:

11 Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?

For one thing, plenty of trans people do not identify as either ‘male’ or ‘female’. The Government’s National LGBT Survey was flawed – by only being interested in the identity aspect of sexual orientation, it underestimated the number of bi+ people – but it clearly confirmed that.

Given the transphobia driven by the prejudices of a few, there is also a completely understandable reluctance by many to be on a government list of trans people. Unless you need one for a specific purpose – and they’re unnecessary for having a passport or driving licence in the correct gender – what is the benefit of paying so much and jumping through the assorted hurdles to get one?

12 Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.

What challenges there are minimal compared to the problems in trying to amend the Equality Act 2010: yet more “debate” calling into question the validity of trans people.

13 Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?

What challenges there are minimal compared to the problems in trying to amend the Equality Act 2010: yet more “debate” calling into question the validity of trans people.

14 Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed?

As many disabled people, for example, know it is (deliberately?) not easy to get action under the Equality Act. It takes months of trying for a remedy before court action, and then such action is neither cheap or without risk.

If the Equality Act is to mean something, it needs to be usable by those disadvantaged groups it says it wants to protect.

15 What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?

One issue is that a few bigots have been allowed to pretend that such services have, overall, problems with being trans-inclusive. The vast majority do not, but this campaigning puts off trans people from using them and normalises transphobia.

16 Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?

Obviously, yes.

Simple legal recognition would be a start.