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LGBT+ Lib Dems sign Cross-Party LGBT+ Group Statement on Trans Equality

June 19, 2020 7:09 PM
Party President Sal Brinton speaking on the Trans and Intersex Health motion in Bournemouth, 2015

Baroness Brinton supporting the Trans and Intersex Health motion in 2015

LGBT+ Lib Dems have signed a joint statement with other political party's LGBT+ groups, over the recent announcements on trans rights. Our chair Dave Page said "It's good to see the LGBT+ groups in political parties working together on this important issue. We must now use our influence in our respective parties to deliver concrete action.

"Reform of the Gender Recognition Act has been policy of the national Liberal Democrat party since our motion was voted through by the membership in 2015, building on our longstanding commitment to LGBT+ rights."

At the time the plans were trailed in the Sunday Times, LGBT+ Lib Dems had said:

"The Tories will scrap plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act in line with countries like Ireland. Like the SNP, they have given in to right-wing transphobic rhetoric. The Lib Dems and Scottish Lib Dems will continue to fight for trans people.

"Trans people are seen as vulnerable by the conservative groups funding transphobia. We've already seen that they will come for the rest of the LGBT+ community next, and for cis women who don't conform to gender stereotypes. We will continue to fight against transphobia, whether it's coming from popular fantasy authors, Tory peers, or within our own party. Not just for trans people, but for cis women, and for all LGBT+ people."

The joint statement reads:

We write together as representatives of the LGBT+ Groups of six political parties represented in Westminster. As groups dedicated to promoting equality, we wish to express our deep concern, disappointment and anger at a report that has emerged over the weekend regarding legal reforms for trans people.

Our community has been waiting for over 18 months for response to the Government's consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA). The consultation came following a Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry into trans equality, which found significant and ongoing levels of discrimination of trans people, and that the GRA has fallen behind international best practice: the UK system being highly medicalised, intrusive and bureaucratic. It found the system was contrary to dignity and personal autonomy and should move to a self-declaration system. Sadly, since the report's release and the Government's commitment to implement desperately needed change, trans people have been subjected to intrusive, demeaning and abusive questioning across the media and online, with the delay serving to prolong this abuse.

Since 2017, eight countries around the world have introduced legal gender recognition based on self-determination without issue. This includes Argentina in 2012 and the Republic of Ireland and Malta in 2015. Ireland's system of statutory declaration is the model proposed for the UK. In contrast, when legislatures introduce restrictions on to access single-sex spaces, such as North Carolina, women are significantly disadvantaged resulting in restrictions invariably being rapidly reversed.

We sincerely hope that the reports in the media are not accurate, however, they do closely echo the comments made by the Minister for Women and Equalities in her meeting with the Women and Equalities Select Committee on 22 April, and in subsequent published correspondence from her.

We are concerned that many of the measures being reported on will lead to policies and laws whereby people's suitability to access single-sex services or spaces are principally judged on their appearance rather than their behaviour or need. This will severely impact anyone who does not fit another person's perception of what they should look like. As LGBT+ groups, we are aware of increasing challenges in spaces such as toilets and changing rooms for women who aren't feminine in their dress or way they present, which is harming all women in our community. We are also aware that denying access to single-sex services, which trans people already have access to under the Equality Act 2010, could put trans people at further risk.

This seems a far cry from the Secretary of State's statement on 22 April that all trans adults should be "free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution". We warn that the country's reputation with regard to LGBT+ equality is at risk of being profoundly damaged by these proposals, if accurate. Thanks to the ambitious LGBT+ Action Plan and the actions of UK governments over the last two decades, the UK is now perceived as one of the leading actors on the international stage. Indeed, that is why the international community has agreed that the UK Government co-chair of the intergovernmental Equal Rights Coalition and host an international conference on global LGBT+ progress. It is inconceivable for the UK to do so at the same time rolling back rights that have been in place for over 10 years without issue for trans people in the UK.

Finally, we wish to register our concern about the Government's recent statements on trans children and young people. We are deeply concerned that the Government will attempt to interfere in best medical practice without due regard to the evidence, not least of the benefits that such practice gives to the few trans children who receive it. We strongly believe that medical decisions should be left to doctors with expertise in their respective fields and that politics has no place in medical decision making.

YouGov's surveys for Stonewall's 2018 reports on health and trans people found 41% of transgender people had suffered a hate crime, 28% had been the victim of domestic violence, and 46% of trans people had considered suicide over the last year. Change is needed now. We must ensure that trans people of all ages can live in dignity and safety throughout the UK, without discrimination or segregation.

We stand united across parties in our firm support for our trans siblings. The last time that the UK moved backwards on LGBT+ equality was in 1988 with the introduction of "Section 28", which left a whole generation of LGBT+ young people without an education that recognised them. A roll back on trans rights risks repeating past mistakes. We call on the Minister for Women and Equalities to urgently clarify her plans and commit to upholding and protecting the rights of trans people.