As many of you may know the Government’s response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report into Transgender Equality was published today.
For, the young people we work with in the Young Transgender Centre of Excellence and for so many of our trans community the Government’s response couldn’t have come sooner. However, now that it is here we are in two-minds about how we feel about it.
The Transgender Equality Inquiry was a fantastic opportunity to gather evidence and showcase that true equality for trans people does not exist in here the UK. We have come on leaps and bounds and some may say we are a world-leader in terms of the rights for transgender people, but there is still a long way to go. The trans people we support tell us so every day and we know from working with them, their families and carers and other stakeholders that this is most certainly the case.
The Government’s response certainly wasn’t negative and we are encouraged by the passion for equality, passion to reduce discrimination and drive to ensure trans people live full and happy lives. Notably, the Government have committed to review ‘the Gender Recognition Act to determine whether changes can be made to improve it in order to streamline and de-medicalise the gender recognition process’. Hopefully, although nobody knows for sure at present, this will include moves towards self-declaration of gender and abolishing gender recognition certificates to name but a few.
There were many commitments from Government made in the report, most of which we welcome, however, all in all we did expect more and we would like to have seen the commitments go further.
Firstly, there is a real lack of commitments made regarding trans young people. Every one of the 19 young trans people we support welcomed the recommendations about support for schools and inclusion of trans information in personal, social and health education (PSHE). However, the Government have said that schools ‘should be free to decide for themselves how best they support this, and how they meet the needs of their pupils, in an age-appropriate and sensitive way’.
Although we are very much in support of localism, it seems that strong leadership and guidance is needed from the Department for Education when, from our experience, the vast majority of schools are not aware of what their options are in supporting trans students. How then, can schools be in best place to decide how to best support and provide for trans students if they don’t have the basic information and guidance required to do so?
The Young Transgender Centre of Excellence provides support for schools including, advice, guidance and bespoke training and workshops for staff and students alike. However, we are privileged to have this service locally, with big thanks to BBC Children in Need, but how many other schools nationally have access to this kind of support? If we had to guess, we would imagine it would be the minority.
Secondly, the Government’s response commits to continue to seek evidence, monitor public attitudes towards trans people and review the Gender Recognition Act amongst others. All positive steps forward to ensure trans equality exists at some point in the future. However, at a time when being trans is already a waiting game in particular for young people – with changing your name and other medical procedures being for those 16 years old and above, along with long waiting lists for appointments and medical procedures, we would like to have seen a greater sense of urgency from Government.
We have no doubt that trans equality will be realised and we’ll welcome that day with open arms and an open heart. But it is the job of this Government, especially after such a flagship inquiry from the Women and Equalities Committee, to take decisive actions so that we see a greater improvement in service provision and support for young trans people across the UK in the short term, in addition to the commitments already noted which will improve the situation in the long term.
As an organisation Leicester LGB&T Centre is committed to working with the Women and Equalities Department to highlight issues and to work collaboratively to create positive change as quickly as possible.