The Gender Recognition Act strikes the right balance in providing “proper checks and balances” while supporting people who want to change their legal sex, the Government has said.
Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss said that instead of changing the legislation, the process and experience of applying for a gender recognition certificate would be made “kinder and more straightforward”.
But the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called it a “missed opportunity to simplify the law on gender recognition”, while the LGBT Foundation said it was “incredibly disappointed”, and Stonewall said the moves were not enough.
In a long-delayed response to a public consultation on the 2004 Act, Ms Truss wrote: “We want transgender people to be free to live and to prosper in a modern Britain.
“We have looked carefully at the issues raised in the consultation, including potential changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
“It is the Government’s view that the balance struck in this legislation is correct, in that there are proper checks and balances in the system and also support for people who want to change their legal sex.
“However, it is also clear that we need to improve the process and experience that transgender people have when applying for a gender recognition certificate, making it kinder and more straightforward.
“Our changes will address the main concerns that trans people themselves tell us they have about it.”
She said the process would be moved online, and that the fee would be reduced from £140 to a “nominal amount”.
Ms Truss said gender recognition reform is “not the top priority for transgender people” and that their “most important concern is the state of trans healthcare”.
“Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long.
“I agree, and I am deeply concerned at the distress it can cause.
“That is why we are opening at least three new gender clinics this year, which should see waiting lists cut by around 1,600 patients by 2022.
“The full benefit of the increases in clinical capacity that we’ve been able to secure will lead to greater patient choice, shorter waiting times, better geographical coverage and easier access.
“It will also make it easier to fulfil the medical requirements of obtaining a GRC.”
More than 100,000 people responded to the Government’s consultation which was launched in July 2018 and closed in October 2018.
Nearly two thirds of the respondents said people should not have to get a doctor’s letter saying they have gender dysphoria, while four out of five people said a medical report should not be required.
An EHRC spokeswoman said: “We welcome steps to reduce fees and NHS waiting times.
“However, this was a missed opportunity to simplify the law on gender recognition whilst maintaining robust safeguards.
“Trans people should be free to live their lives without fear of discrimination and prejudice and there is more to be done to increase understanding in wider society and address the divisive public dialogue in this space.”
Amnesty International UK, Liberty and Human Rights Watch expressed ‘huge disappointment’ in a joint statement, adding: “Research has found that medical barriers to gender recognition for trans people are unnecessarily intrusive and can harm their physical and mental health.
“With medical requirements still in place, trans people will continue to be forced through harmful processes to have their gender legally recognised.”
Nancy Kelley, Stonewall’s chief executive, said: “It’s a shocking failure in leadership that after three years and a robust public consultation, the UK Government has put forward only minimal administrative changes to improve the process for legal gender recognition of trans people in England and Wales.
“While these moves will make the current process less costly and bureaucratic, they don’t go anywhere near far enough toward meaningfully reforming the Act to make it easier for all trans people to go about their daily life.”
The LGBT Foundation said the announcement shows that the experiences of trans and non-binary people have been “pushed to the side”.
Assistant director of inclusion Laurence Webb said: “It is disappointing to see trans people being presented as though we are not biological like everyone else, and to see years of trans people’s research into the complexities and nuances of gender ignored in favour of an antagonistic approach that pits marginalised groups against each other.”