Gender Recognition Act – Whose Lives Are Actually At Risk?

by Erika Baker, Convener of the Christians for LGBTI+ Equality Facebook Group

Erika Baker

I have been genuinely shocked by the vitriolic responses to the Government’s consultation on the proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) from feminists and from many Christians.

None of the arguments appear to be remotely rational, nor do they have anything to do with the proposed changes.

Radical feminists seem to have developed a concept of what it means to be female that absolutely depends on gender being fixed. Anything that challenges that view challenges their identity.

Concerned Christians base their objections on Genesis, a story that explains that God created male and female, and that can seemingly only be true if the categories are rigid and binary, and if male and female only refers to external physical characteristics.

Even many gay Christians appear to have used the acronym LGBT for decades as a synonym for “gay” and there is an astonishing level of LGB ignorance of trans people and aggression towards them.

As when sexuality is debated, it seems there is virtually no compassion for people who, through no choice of their own, find themselves outside what society considers to be the norm. Instead of looking at the reality trans people are living in, people look at their own fears and blame trans people for finding wholeness through transitioning.

Whenever our gender and sexuality are debated, science and psychology are ignored and trans people’s actual well-being is disregarded. To many people in society, trans people become “mere issues”, and personal belief and irrational fears become the sole arbiters of truth.

The argument that trans people are a threat to society, and to women in particular, tends always to focus on just trans women. Very little is being said about trans men and non-binary people meaning that all the shrill fear and public condemnation is reserved for trans women.

While those fears are definitely real, they are neither legitimate nor well-founded. Many are based on complete ignorance of the current legal situation.

One argument goes like this: ‘What if trans people are suddenly allowed to self-identify and use any toilet they like? What about safe women-only spaces in women’s refuges? Trans women in women prisons?’ The fact that not all trans women have had gender confirming surgery and that some may never want to have surgery seems to add another layer of terror of women with penises allowed to access women-only spaces and abuse “real” women. Or, another argument goes, ‘once trans women are allowed to access women-only spaces, it makes it easier for men to dress up as women to enter those spaces and assault women.’

The moral panic is palpable.

In reality, the proposed changes to the GRA have hardly any effect on trans people’s access to single‑sex facilities and services. The Equality Act of 2010 already legislates for trans people to use facilities and services that are best aligned with their gender identity. This does not depend on having a gender recognition certificate, nor on having had any kind of surgery or medical intervention. Trans people can already change their names, and gender identifier on passports and other documents, with the exception of non-binary people, as there is as yet no non-binary category on official documents. One exception are prisons, where it is harder to be placed in the right estate, although in practice, most cases are assessed on an individual basis.

All that the proposed changes within the Act are aimed at is changing birth certificates without requiring a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and evidence of having lived in the acquired gender for at least two years in the form of bank statements, passports, payslips, utility bills etc. The fact that this evidence must be available before a Gender Recognition Certificate is issued should make it obvious to the “panicking worrieds” that people are already changing their identity and peacefully living trans lives.

People who fear that self-identifying will suddenly open the doors to hostile men in women-only spaces need to realise that trans women have been using female toilets and changing rooms for many years. In order to convince doctors that they should qualify for a Gender Reassignment Certificate, trans people must prove that they have been living in their acquired gender for at least 2 years.

The fact that those who now worry about the changes have felt safe in the past, and that there have been no reports of women being attacked in public toilets by men pretending to be trans women, should help to set minds at rest.

The idea that women’s refuges will no longer be safe is particularly strange. Are we to assume that a man who wanted to attack defenceless women would go to the trouble of obtaining a new birth certificate, when he could far more easily enter a women-only space as a cleaner, electrician, plumber or delivery man?

If we are genuinely concerned about violence, we ought to look at the violence against trans people.

The recent Stonewall trans report makes sobering reading. Rather than being predators, 41% of trans people and 31% of non-binary people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months. More than 28% of trans people have faced domestic abuse from a partner. 25% experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. 12% of trans employees have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers in the last year. 36% of trans university students in higher education have experienced negative comments or behaviour from staff in the last year. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of nearly 2.5 million adolescents, found that sexual minority youths have greater risk of life-threatening behaviours compared with their heterosexual and cis peers. Transgender youths are the most affected followed by bisexual and homosexual teens.

THIS is where our fears should be focusing – on the safety of trans people in our society.

Trans people are not the problem –WE are the problem.

Trans people do not threaten us  – it is OUR responses that threaten their physical and mental well-being.

Instead of giving in to our fears and trying to rationalise them,  would it not be better to resolve to find out more and to educate ourselves?

We owe it to our trans siblings to do what we can to create a society in which they are fully included, fully respected, fully safe.

This post has been written with the input of the Revd Dr Tina Beardsley, who is a member of the Coordinating Group for Living in Love and Faith and author of This Is My Body: Hearing the Theology of Transgender Christians

This entry was posted in Erika Baker, Human Sexuality, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Gender Recognition Act – Whose Lives Are Actually At Risk?

  1. David Shepherd says:

    Hi Erika,

    As you’ve explained, the Act will facilitate “changing birth certificates without requiring a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria…. However, the effect of the Act will be to give access to medical treatment for gender dysphoria (the DSM-V term), such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, gender reassignment surgery without requiring a medical diagnosis.

    The Gender Identity Service has reported significant year-on-year increases in referrals for under-18s. Yet, concerning puberty blockers, they state: ‘However, we don’t know the full psychological effects of the blocker or whether it alters the course of adolescent brain development.”

    Again, the Porto Biomedical Journal reported: “The primary risks of pubertal suppression include adverse effects on bone mineralisation (which can theoretically be reversed with cross-sex hormone treatment) and compromised fertility; data on the effects on brain development are still limited.”

    Furthermore, the Lancet published a study of 41 patients who underwent lynestrenol monotherapy Puberty Suppression In Transgender Children and Adolescents. Uterine bleeding was documented in 19 (48.7%) patients. Many other symptoms were observed.

    So, the Act will simply authorise the exposure of children to both the known and the yet to be researched adverse effects of puberty blockers, but without the safeguards of proper medical diagnosis.


    • Peter Jermey says:

      Sorry I’m not Erika, but my experience of the NHS is that I have to visit my GP several times just to get a prescription for painkillers. The idea that people are going to be able to self refer for surgery or even puberty blockers is just not being real.

      It’s also not clear to me if children are being considered for being able to declare their identity or not?


  2. chris russell says:

    It lacks insight somewhat to say that “[c]oncerned Christians base their objections on Genesis”. There is not in fact any identity problem i.e. of sexual differentiation, in Christian thought and history. Certainly there is an alarming problem of this kind which has arisen comparatively recently in societies which have moved away from mores derived from their Judeo-Christian heritage, but this would surely provide a compelling basis for Christians who object.


  3. Ada Wells says:

    The article is disingenuous from the start. Among the dozens of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, I’ll pick just two glaring ones.

    Firstly – Feminists are lied about in the second paragraph. Non-sexist people (aka feminists) most certainly do not want gender to be fixed. If you believe that men and women are fundamentally equal, fully human people then the only difference between men and women is biology. The idea of a “female” or “male” brain is a tool of the patriarchy to oppress and “other” women. Gender is a means of limiting and restricting people from being themselves. Feminists have no problem with people breaking the chains of gender stereotypes and dressing and presenting as they will. Transgender ideology attacks women by requiring the whole of society to stop believing that women are fully and completely the same kind of people as men except for the biological differences of body structure – this damages young girls by lying to them that their degree of womanhood depends on their behaviour. It also means that any services or opportunities which have been put in place for women to allow centuries of oppression to be overcome will now be also open to any man who wants it.

    Secondly – the Equalities Act gives zero protection to the dangers inherent in the self-ID plan in the GRA. This is because although the EA has a provision to allow single sex facilities to be maintained, this is unenforceable because the GRA allows someone to keep the fact of their transition a secret, and even asking someone if they have a GRC (even if they look and dress male as there are plenty of transwomen whose womanhood looks pretty much male) would be defined as a hate-crime meaning that no one even actually needs to bother with getting a GRC to fully exploit its potential to open up all previously single-sex options.

    And that’s without even going into the deep homophobia of the trans movement and the safeguarding implications of having a quick and easy route for anyone to be able to quickly and easily change their identity and have all links to their former name expunged from public record.


    • Ada, in what way is the “trans movement” (whatever that is) homophobic?

      I genuinely don’t understand what you mean by that claim.

      Also, I’d guess about 98% of trans people don’t belong to a ‘movement’. They are just ordinary people leading ordinary lives, flying your planes, teaching your kids, nursing your relatives, and working rationally and productively – just like lesbian, bisexual and gay people – as doctors, soldiers, lawyers, and all kinds of other jobs.

      What makes the ordinary lives that trans people want to lead ‘homophobic? Especially as many trans people turn out to be lesbian or gay. I don’t ‘get’ your claim.

      Also, you seem to promote a familiar meme of some feminists, that gender is a social construct. The *expression* of gender may be a social construct, but psychological identity (which is *also* biology at work) may often lean towards ‘I feel like a woman’ or ‘I feel like a man’ (most humans recognise this) and the brain can also interact with hormones which support that sense of ‘who I am’. Far from gender being merely a social construct, I’d argue it is a trait (and a loveliness for many) that has evolved over millions of years as part of reproduction and survival. I think that’s why women often have certain qualities that I don’t attribute to culture but to nature, including a tendency in some towards receptivity. I believe gender identity is integral, may evolve in the womb, and probably develops and expands after birth.

      Are you transphobic?


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  5. English Athena says:

    I agree about the alphabet soup’s not necessarily being helpful. Why bundle trans people in with gay people? Unfortunately, there has just been a case of a trans woman in a women’s prison raping other prisoners. Refuges are definitely an issue. On the other hand, loos are not. There is a museum in Hull where everyone goes into the same area, with the basins, and everyone uses a cubicle. It was causing confusion when I went, with men squeaking and bouncing out, but no reason to be frightened.


    • English Athena,

      I think it is good that there’s a ‘T’ in LGBT. Call it solidarity if you like. One key thing lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have in common is that they are abused or discriminated against because of their sex. By living out their sex and/or gender in ways that are different to the majority, they face religious disapproval, abuse on the street, discrimination sometimes. They all have to struggle for the right and freedom to be who they are.

      I think there is a huge common interest shared by different expressions of LGBT. Not to mention, trans people may also be lesbian or gay.

      I think it’s really been unfair the way people have cited a single criminal who molested women in prison, and generalised that to the myth that trans people are a threat. A very few criminals who are men abuse school children. Does that mean that men should never be teachers?

      I felt Erika was right to challenge the scare-mongering, while 99.9% of trans people, like 99.9% of cisgendered people are no threat at all, just living their lives.


  6. I want to affirm your article, Erika. Trans people are ordinary people leading ordinary lives – as teachers, pilots, nurses, soldiers, doctors, lawyers – the list goes on.

    I don’t think any gay or lesbian person would want to have to get a certificate, through a lengthy and costly process, to prove they are gay or lesbian. It would feel outrageous. If you are lesbian, you already know who you are, from inside your own being, far better than anyone else can say.

    In the same way, a trans person is the best reporter of who they are, how they feel, what gender they understand themselves to be (if any).

    I think a very simple process, with a 6 month cooling off period, could be helpful to give a trans person’s gender identity legal status and access to services. A process as simple as the one that already exists for changing your gender on a passport.

    Transgender people need affirmation in church. They need support and love. A blessing liturgy at the start of transition would be so helpful. That would be radical inclusion.


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