As a parent of a transgender child I wanted to write to you ahead of the upcoming review of the Gender Recognition Act, to emphasise the importance of care and respect in any debate on this topic.
As you will be aware, the 2010 Equality Act already provides legal protection for girls like my daughter. My transgender daughter already uses girls’ changing rooms, girls’ bathrooms, attends school as a girl, attends the girls only Girl Guides, plays for her girls’ football team. She is accepted and seen by everyone in her life as a girl. She faces the same discrimination and sexism as other girls, in addition to the discrimination and hate she encounters for being transgender.
As a concerned parent of a transgender daughter, I want safety and protection for all women and girls (including for my daughter). Yet I am aware that there are a small group of people in the UK arguing that rights and respect for my daughter come at the expense of rights and respect for other women and girls. This is simply not true. This ‘protect women and girls’ argument has in the past been used to dismiss the rights of other minorities and is now being rolled out to argue against transgender rights.
Many of the arguments being put forward about the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act are not relevant to that Act, but are attacking rights already guaranteed by the 2010 Equality Act. Arguments bring up ‘monster’ scare stories about the new Act letting men invade women’s spaces, arguing that it is a threat to women’s and children’s safety. This ignores the reality that transgender women have always used women’s changing rooms in the UK (with no harm to anyone), and the 2010 Equality Act already guarantees their right to do so.
The current Gender Recognition Act already allows legal gender recognition without surgery or without imposing a stereotype of what a woman or a man should dress like. A reformed Act would simply make it easier and more dignified for transgender adults to change their birth certificate – a change that has no bearing on ability to change passport, or change gender marker in systems including education, sport, or the NHS, areas where a Gender Recognition Certificate is not in any case needed. The proposed reform to the Gender Recognition Action would enable legal self-identification rather than the current humiliating, time-consuming, bureaucratic and expensive process.
Self-identification has already been adopted for 2 years in Ireland, with take up by only 240 individuals, with zero significant impact on non-transgender people. While my daughter is a minor the upcoming review of the act is relevant for her right now in two important ways.
Firstly, a streamlined and less pathologised approach to Gender Recognition sends out an important message to her that she lives in a country where the government respects her as a valued human being. Reform of this Act sends out an important message to an ill-informed public that my lovely daughter is not someone to be feared, is not a threat, is not mentally ill, is simply a girl who is a member of a very victimised and vulnerable minority who needs love, respect and acceptance.
Secondly, the upcoming debate about the Gender Recognition Act is of current relevance to my daughter because she notices and is affected by any discussion on transgender rights. Debates such as the reform of the GRA provide a platform for transphobic individuals in the UK to raise their powerful voices. For me as a mother, at this point in time, the outcome of the reform of the Gender Recognition Act is less important than the way in which the debate is conducted.
Transphobic groups are trying to set the tone for this debate. They are trying to feed an ill-informed general public and media with ignorant lies about transwomen and girls being a threat to other women and girls. They argue that improving rights for transgender girls like my daughter risks damaging the well-being of other women and girls. These messages are insidious and cause tremendous damage to my daughter’s safety, happiness and well-being. Please bear in mind that the girls who are most vulnerable in this whole debate are transgender children like my daughter, who just want to find space in this society to quietly live their lives.
Please do not give credence to arguments that suggest a gain in rights and respect for a tiny and very marginalised minority reduce rights for other women and girls. I am a mother who cares deeply about the well-being of women and girls, and rights are not zero sum. We all benefit from an inclusive and respectful society, a society in which my daughter, all women and girls and all transgender people can thrive.
As you are likely aware, there are no transgender members of parliament. I cannot imagine any other minority having their right to exist debated in parliament without representation.
If you would like to know more about transgender children like my daughter, you can also reach out to Mermaids, the UK’s leading support organisation for transgender children and their families. CEO@mermaidsuk.org.uk
Please also see the following useful resources:
On self-identification and a reformed GRA
Loving parent of a wonderful girl (who happens to be transgender)