So I watched the final session of the trans inquiry today (a bit piecemeal, as I was nipping in and out of meetings, so I didn’t see it all live). Today it was the evidence from the ministers, so I was going to blog about what they said. Then I went off to a rather different kind of meeting, a meeting of a university student trans and non-binary group, a place where students can talk about gender issues. Most of the students who attend are 18, 19, 20 years old. I doubt any of them have watched any of the trans inquiry, nor submitted evidence.
So I’m not going to just talk about what the ministers said. I’m going to compare what they said to the conversations I had 2 hours later. (All names are pseudonyms)
- Ministers said they were on a “journey” with regard to understanding trans identities. They want to listen and understand. They sort of acknowledged that there may be some issues around non-binary identities in terms of recognition and equality protection and they were open to looking at it, but it would take time. They outlined the guidance they make available to employers, though they acknowledged guidance isn’t always taken on board.
Cass was leading the group meeting that evening and explained to the group that they have a gender fluid identity: some days they present as masculine, some days as feminine, and some days as androgynous. They have no intention of medically transitioning. Cass is in their final year of uni. In about six months, they will be applying for jobs. At the moment, Cass is not guaranteed any protection against employment (or any other) discrimination regarding their gender presentation.
- NHS England Commissioners explained that they were working on “growing capacity” in gender identity services, will “model through” service demand and had made progress in improving stakeholder relationships. They were taking clinical advice on how gender services should assess patients, and were working on developing GP awareness of referral routes.
Two hours later, Katie said she didn’t feel that ready to talk to medical professionals re: transition and wasn’t sure what, if any, medical interventions she wanted. I advised her that the waiting list for the GICs in her region ranged between 12 months and 3 years, so she might be best off asking to go on a waiting list now, even though she didn’t really feel ready to talk to her GP. And Sarah told the group that because she’d written the date of her gender clinic appointment down wrong, she’d now been discharged, and would have to be re-referred.
- Ministers said that they were determined to tackle hate crime, and were interested in hearing about any legislative changes that might be helpful. They needed to do more training to ensure that police are always supportive and believing to victims of transphobic abuse. They didn’t know what the current conviction rate was
Rose told us that, once again, she’d had abuse shouted at her in the street. This has been an ongoing issue for Rose for some years, to the extent that she largely treats this as routine. I’ve encouraged her to report, but she’s reluctant.
- Ministers were “interested in hearing the evidence” for changing passport application procedures and allowing non-binary recognition. They stressed that a passport is a travel document
Again, Cass will be applying for jobs in 6 months time. To do that, they will need to show a passport or a birth certificate (despite the statement that a passport is a travel document). They would prefer to describe themselves as something other than male or female.
- Ministers said that gender was very important in terms of identification but they were open to listening as to whether less focus was needed on gender, and open to debate on self-identification. They thought gender was important for monitoring issues like equality in education. They thought some trans people might need time to adjust and make decisions regarding living in their permanent gender, and might need medical support. They stressed the obligation to protect personal data re gender change.
Katie asked me why it cost £140 to have her gender recognised in the UK. She asked why it was assumed she needed time to consider how she wanted to have her gender recorded since, after all, it wouldn’t do irreversible harm if she did decide later she wanted paperwork changed again. As already noted, she’s going to have to wait at least a year for medical support anyway. She was worried about approaching tutors to start the process of getting gender records in the uni changed, since she wasn’t sure they’d understand their duties regarding recognising her change of details and keeping this private. It is also worth noting that the UK government manages to monitor the impact of issues such as ethnicity and socioeconomic status on Katie’s educational participation without requiring her to write it on her exam scripts nor have these details centrally and permanently recorded.
- Ministers said they had struggled to find and talk to partners of transitioning people, and that they understood that marriages were personal and sensitive area. However, they thought changing gender could be a significant change in the basis of the marriage, and some partners might need protection.
Cass and Sarah’s girlfriends both said that they were happy with their partners’ trans/genderfluid identities, and that this had not caused them to rethink their relationships. Conversely, another (non-trans) couple I know have recently broken up because one of them took a job far away. Transitioning is something that may make a significant difference to a relationship: so is changing from a cohabiting to a long-distance relationship. I am unclear why the government feels the need to decide for people what counts as a fundamental change in their relationships.
If I’m honest, after first watching the ministerial session of Trans Inquiry through, I was mildly positive. The right noises were made, there seemed to be some willingness to budge. After spending the evening with young trans people, I’m embarrassed by how little I was willing to settle for. And I’m embarrassed that I’ve been having these same conversations with young trans people for over a decase now. I shouldn’t be telling them that this is the way the system is, and change will happen but it will be slow, and take time. They deserve better. They should be angry, and we should be angry on their behalf.