LONG, SLOW, DEMEANING, INTRUSIVE AND DISTRESSING
or SWIFT, PROFESSIONAL AND RESPECTFUL?
Evidence from the Gender Recognition Panel in Practice
I have written a paper* to submit to the Scottish Government, as an input to their consultation on reforming the gender recognition act towards self declaration. It is based on evidence from the minutes of the Gender Recognition Panel User Group (obtained through a freedom of information request) and on statistics from the tribunals service.
The Scottish Government says that one of the strong reasons for its proposal to remove evidence requirements from the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is:
“the need to move away from procedures which are seen as demeaning, intrusive, distressing and stressful”.
They describe the process as too long, too difficult and too expensive.
This is also frequently echoed by politicians and commentators across the UK. For example as Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey put it:
“I’m very much in favour of self ID for trans people, because the process that many have to go through to identify as a trans man or a trans woman is dehumanising, it’s long, it’s degrading.”
But is this true?
Minutes from the Gender Recognition Panel User Group (covering the UK overall ) and statistics published by the Courts and Tribunals Service show that:
· Too long? 75% of applications for a Gender Recognition Certificate receive a decision within 20 weeks, and many with 6–11 weeks. There is no backlog of applications.
· Too difficult? Over 90% of applications are successful and receive a GRC.
GRCs are awarded based on a review of documents that show that the person has a diagnosis of dysphoria and has changed their official documentation for two years. It is not an in person hearing — the panel’s role is to check whether the evidence such as passport, utility bills and doctors reports have been provided and checking the statutory declaration.
The panel are supportive of applicants — if they find that there is information missing (such as someone failing to fill in the form correctly, or failing to send marriage or divorce documentation) they do not turn them down. Instead they issue ’directions’ to give people a chance to supply the additional documentation. Around 30% of applications get directions and the majority of these go on to succeed after amending their documentation.
·Too expensive? Overall the process costs between £100 and £560, including medical reports (by comparison the administrative cost of applying to become a British citizen is £1300 )
·Demeaning, distressing? In User Group meetings trans advocacy organisations and clinicians spoke freely with panel members and administrators over several years and did not describe the process as demeaning, intrusive or distressing.
In fact the words which are so often used by politicians and lobby groups barely come up in the discussions over 12 years of meetings.
· Since the end of the ‘fast track’ period around 300 GRCs have been issued a year. This matches estimates of the number of genital remodelling surgeries done each year.
This analysis does not support the Scottish Government’s case that the gender recognition process is too expensive, too long, demeaning, intrusive, distressing and stressful (which came from a survey of people with no particular experience of the process).
This evidence suggests that the process is adequately, efficiently and professionally serving the population it was designed for.
[* Paper updated March 14 with further minutes of user group meetings received]