Click here for an Introduction to this issue and details of the Parliamentary Forum on Transsexualism.
I am delighted that, the Gender Recognition Bill received Royal Assent on 1 July 2004 and we now have the Gender Recognition Act.
4 January 2005
Information on the GRA
The Parliamentary Forum on Transsexualism
Dr Jane Playdon and I set up the Parliamentary Forum on Transsexualism in 1994. It comprises the UK's leading experts on transsexualism, in both the legal and medical fields, along with a number of MPs. We have been pressing for legal reforms to bring British legislation into line with the rest of Europe and thus end the discrimination from which transsexual people have suffered in this country. I am delighted that, the Gender Recognition Bill received Royal Assent on 1 July 2004 and we now have the Gender Recognition Act.
Before the Act Britain's record on rights for transsexual people was one of the worst in Europe. Sufferers of transsexualism were deprived of their basic civil liberties.
Transsexualism, or Gender Identity Dysphoria as the syndrome is more correctly known, is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic factors and a hormonal imbalance while the child's body is being formed in the womb. When the child is born, it has the brain of one sex but the genitalia of the other and so its sex is incorrectly identified at birth. According to Dr Russell Reid, a leading NHS consultant, "it is the general experience of people born with this syndrome that they are being brought up in the wrong sex from their earliest memories". One consequence of the current legal position has been an "information vacuum". Doctors and parents find it difficult to get help and so children are suffering.
UK law altered dramatically in 1970 as a result of the divorce case between the transsexual model, April Ashley and the late Lord Rowallen. Prior to this case, transsexual people were able to have their birth certificates corrected following surgery and had full legal rights. However, the only way that the judge could grant Lord Rowallen a divorce was to declare his wife to be legally still a man. Consequently, every other transsexual person lost their legal rights.
An important development for trans-people was the case of P v S and Cornwall County Council. The case was brought by a former school general manager, named only as P, for Cornwall County Council, who was made redundant in 1992 when the council learned that he was to have gender reassignment treatment. He had been offered a new contract with a salary rise and other benefits but this was withdrawn.
The Truro industrial tribunal ruled in 1993 that transsexual people were not covered by the Sex Discrimination Act and referred the case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for a decision on whether the European directive on equal treatment for men and women at work also protected transsexuals.
In December 1995, the Court ruled that such discrimination was indeed contrary to European law. Advocate-general G. Tesauro said "Respect for fundamental rights is one of the general principles of community law. The law cannot cut itself off from society as it actually is, and must not fail to adjust to it as quickly as possible, otherwise it risks imposing outdated views and taking on a static role".
Another major development was brought about by Lord Alex Carlile, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomery, who took part in the Forum from its beginning. He was lucky enough to gain a place in the 1995/96 draw for Private Members Bills and decided to introduce the Gender Identity (Registration and Civil Status) Bill. Despite being number three on the list on Friday 2 February, the Bill did receive half an hour of debate time and certainly pushed the issue higher up the political agenda.
There has also been much discussion about the role of health authorities in the treatment of Gender Identity Dysphoria especially when so many health authorities were having to cut their services. The debate was over whether a health authority is obliged to fund gender reassignment treatment. Some authorities argued that gender reassignment is not necessary for the general health of sufferers and that they are therefore not liable for funding treatment. Those who challenged this argue that gender reassignment operations are necessary and that Gender Identity Dysphoria is a recognised medical condition. The treatment corrects what is, in effect, a physical disability.
Representations made to the Home Office following the General Election in 1997 led to an Interdepartmental Working Group conducting a review. Their report was put to the Home Secretary and also went to ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Home Office report was subsequently published on 26 July 2000. In the press release that accompanied the report, Jack Straw is quoted as saying:
"As I know from my constituency casework, the journey which individuals face when they find that they have been born with the wrong gender can be deeply distressing and depressing for them. We have to approach their circumstances with compassion and care. This report seeks to do just that. We will welcome public comments on it before coming to firm conclusions on its recommendations."
The report is available on the Home Office website at:
Five years later, we now have legislation to allow trans-people to legally correct their gender. The following gives background to the acheivement of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA):
Progress of the Bill which became the GRA
The Hansard record of the stages of the Gender Recognition Bill can be looked up via
www.parliament.uk or there is a clear set of links on the Press for Change website
PFC Bill Page
During the progress of the Bill in the House of Commons the following briefing was sent out to MPs:
Cross Party briefing on the Gender Recognition Bill
Background to the publication of the Bill
In July 2002 the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of Christine Goodwin's case for the right to respect for private and family life, the right to marry and to found a family in relation to her status as a transsexual person. The judgement is binding on the Government who have to legislate. On 13 December 2002 the Government announced their intention to legislate to protect the rights of transsexual people. On 11 July 2003 the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) published the draft Gender Recognition Bill to allow legal change of gender. On 27 November 2003 the Gender Recognition Bill received its First Reading. For information about the Bill see the Press for Change website and information from the DCA.
The Bill recieved Royal Assent and became the Gender Recognition Act on 1 July 2004.