Gender Recognition Act consultation: we need you!

Our women’s and LGBT+ campaigns are responding to the government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Here’s why we think it’s important for students’ unions, societies and activists to respond too.     

Read our guidance to support you to respond to the government consultation

The National Union of Students is calling for students and students’ unions to respond to the government’s consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA), saying yes to reform, yes to self-declaration.

NUS Women’s and LGBT+ campaigns represent women and LGBT+ students (and all their intersections), and we believe that the GRA reform consultation is a topic which students and students’ unions should respond to collectively in solidarity with trans people, and especially trans women.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is a piece of legislation which allows transgender people to legally change their gender, therefore receiving a new birth certificate with their preferred name and gender on it. This process requires two years “lived experience” in the acquired gender, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the submission of evidence to a panel. We believe that this is an outdated system that is overly long, bureaucratic and expensive and therefore needs to be reformed.

It is especially important that students and students’ unions respond. Students are overwhelmingly young people who often will not have met the archaic requirements of lived experience and a gender dysphoria diagnosis. As a result, the current requirements disadvantage young people. In addition, the current process can cost upwards of £200 which financially disadvantages young trans people. Furthermore, we believe that as a student movement, we need to stand with the most marginalised people in society – responding to the consultation is an important and simple way to do this for trans people.

Our guidance will help you to craft your response to the consultation. In our response to the consultation:    

  • We are calling for the removal of a requirement for lived experience. The current criteria relies on outdated gender stereotypes and pushes trans people into absurd situations where their documents and clothes are deemed more important than their actual lives. 

  • We are calling for the removal of a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Maintaining it pathologises trans people’s experiences and making medical intervention a necessity for legal recognition. 

  • We want an end to the binary regulation of gender by ensuring that non-binary people are better able to move through the world without being forced into the boxes of “male” or “female”. 

  • We want fees to be abolished. Trans people should not have to pay over £200 just to have their birth certificate reissued.

  • We are also calling for an end to coercively assigning gender at birth, and an end to gatekeeping of gender identity and experience by the state.

As we campaign for these essential reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, I urge cis women to take the time to reflect. We must remember that we are not fighting in isolation, we are mobilising directly against those who seek to use this reform to revoke the rights of trans and non-binary people; those cis women who wish to exclude and demonise our trans sisters and siblings. 

For too long, cis women have been comfortable avoiding this fight, mistaking passivity for action, conflating silence and solidarity. Our feminist movement has reached a point where inaction is simply not good enough. So long as there are people attacking the rights of our trans siblings, we must speak as loudly and fervently as we can. Our solidarity must be clear. We must move beyond arguing the ‘validity’ of trans identities, and towards celebration of them. It is this, the complete liberation of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, that will bring our movement closer towards the liberation we tirelessly pursue.

– Sarah Lasoye, NUS UK Women’s Officer

Students and students’ unions can stand with trans people by filling out the GRA consultation along the lines trans students have suggested and working to make sure that over the summer students’ unions are equipped to support trans students. Once legislation is proposed to Parliament, NUS will be producing a toolkit to enable engagement with MPs.