Trans migrants in Britain could face increased harassment and discrimination if the government proceeds with plans to stop recognising legal gender change documents from some other countries, LGBTQ+ rights activists said.
Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, told parliament this week that the government intended to remove recognition from some countries as their gender change requirements were no longer as rigorous as the British system.
Cianán Russell, a senior policy officer at Brussels-based pan-European LGBTQ+ group ILGA-Europe, said the lives and safety of trans people were “being used as a political pawn” amid an increasingly bitter row over trans rights in Britain.
“We are deeply concerned about the UK government’s decision,” Russell told Openly.
“It puts trans migrants in the UK – and those considering migrating to the UK – at significantly increased risk of harassment and discrimination.”
Badenoch said the change was needed to protect the British gender recognition system’s integrity and credibility.
A government spokesperson said: “The government is merely ensuring that individuals who can access the UK’s fast-track gender recognition system are from countries with at least equal checks and balances to the UK.”
Trans people in Britain have to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria – the discomfort people can feel if their gender identity does not match their body – and prove they have lived as their acquired gender for two years to gain a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
However, the law offers a fast-tracked certificate for people who have legally changed gender in one of several dozen other countries – from the United States to Malta, Germany and South Korea.
Scotland recently passed legislation to allow trans people to change their legal gender on the basis of self-determination, removing the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Britain allows people to update their gender on many official documents including passports, driving licences and medical documents without a GRC.
However, it is required to change a birth certificate and sex marker with the government tax office, as well as for marking gender in marriage and death certificates, according to TransActual, a British trans group.
‘SHOCKED AND SADDENED’
Badenoch said the government was finalising details of which overseas countries and territories would be removed from the approved list, without specifying further details.
Her announcement drew sharp criticism from numerous LGBTQ+ rights groups in Europe.
“The countries that have already introduced self-determination will probably be the first ones that they will take off, ” said Zhan Chiam, deputy director of Berlin-based advocacy group Transgender Europe.
More than a dozen countries worldwide allow self-ID, including Malta, Denmark, New Zealand and Argentina, while others like Germany, the Netherlands and Finland are currently considering similar legislation.
“As a Commonwealth member state and a former British colony, we are shocked and saddened to hear about the proposal,” said Robert Attard, an activist at the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement.
Scotland, as a part of Britain, will not be directly impacted by the change. It comes after the British government said it could look to block Scotland’s self-ID law.
Campaigners in Spain, which is set to change its laws to allow self-ID, also condemned Britain’s change in policy.
“This is an attack on freedom,” said trans activist Mar Cambrollé.
“They can deny our human rights, but we’re not gonna stop existing.”
Reporting by Enrique Anarte.
GAY TIMES and Openly/Thomson Reuters Foundation are working together to deliver leading LGBTQ+ news to a global audience.