UK: Gender Recognition, Self-Determination and Segregated Space

In July 2017, the Government announced a public consultation on legal gender recognition in the United Kingdom. In particular, it will invite opinion and advice on plans to adopt a model of self-determination (similar to that currently applied in other European jurisdictions, such as Ireland). Self-determination would allow trans persons to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate on the basis of a statutory declaration, without oversight by a Gender Recognition Panel (s. 1 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA 2004)), a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or having to prove real life experience (GRA 2004, s. 2).

The plans to reform the GRA 2004 have met with opposition among some politicians and trans-sceptical advocates (e.g. see here, here, and here).The primary objection is a belief that, if there is no procedure to verify that individuals genuinely self-identify with their asserted gender, dishonest men will improperly claim a female identity in order to access women-only spaces (increasing the risks of assault). In addition, opponents object that self-determination would create a right for trans women, who have no intention to medically transition, to enter locker rooms and public restrooms.

There are, however, important difficulties with abuse-focused objections to self-determination.

Such arguments are a solution to a problem that does not appear to exist. Despite the persistent invocation of assault-focused opposition to trans rights, there is little (if any) evidence that cisgender men use those rights to commit crime. Although, in the UK and around the world, many men do perpetrate assaults against women (often in women-only spaces), they are not dishonestly using trans legal protections to facilitate their crimes. Rather, these men enter segregated facilities in open violation of the law. While reforming the 2004 Act may not reduce the instance of male-pattern violence, neither would it assist nor encourage the commission of such violence. Read more via Oxford