Trans News :Jo Coker and Kirstie McEwan at the Speakers House, Houses of Parliament

Jo Coker and Kirstie McEwan at the Speakers House, Houses of ParliamentTogether with my COSRT colleague, Jo Coker, I was pleased to have been invited to attend a panel event on trans equality, held at the Speaker’s House in the Houses of Parliament on 15th May 2018. The event was jointly organised by Stonewall and Pink News and chaired by the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP.

The event came about, partially at least, in response to the significant anti-trans press and discrimination experienced by trans and non-binary people in the UK today. The delays in changes to current legislation, which are required to improve the human rights of trans and non-binary people, was also highlighted during the panel discussion. Maria Miller, the chair of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, headed a committee in 2016 which produced a report recommending changes to improve the rights of trans people, including the expansion of healthcare provision and changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010. To date these recommendations have not been implemented and the delay is perhaps attributed to changes ‘being too difficult’. In addition, it was pointed out that the Minister for Women and Equalities has become the fastest-changing Cabinet post, with three ministers holding the post within the past six months!

The event opened with introductory statements from the hosts and, I was pleased to note, with representatives from each of the major parliamentary parties confirming their support for the event and for trans rights. The main event was a panel discussion taking questions from the participating audience. The panel of five was representative of trans, non-binary and allies, each having equal opportunity to respond to questions raised. (Maria Miller MP; Pips Bunce, Credit Suisse; Marai Larasi MBE, IMKAAN; James Morton, Scottish Trans Alliance and Bex Stinson, Stonewall).

A particularly salient point was the comment that, with the implementation of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 and The Equalities Act 2010, the UK was once at the leading edge of trans equality and support within Europe. However, these pieces of legislation are now 14 and 8 years out of date respectively, and the UK has now been overtaken by many other countries with more up-to-date and more inclusive equalities legislation. The GRA is a devolved piece of legislation and Scotland has already carried out its own consultation to review the GRA, with a target of revised legislation being implemented by 2020. One of the major changes proposed is to allow people to self-identify their gender and to eliminate the need for medical evidence or to have proof of living in the person’s acquired gender for a period of two years. There will still be a need for a statutory declaration, such that an individual is aware of the legalities involved with self-identification and declaration of gender.

There can be no exact quantification of how many people in the UK identify as trans and non-binary. One member of the audience made a comparison, based on statistics, that there were likely to be as many trans and non-binary identifying people in the population as those who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis. Medical training devotes many hours to learning how to diagnose and treat rheumatoid arthritis. There is no provision for how to work with trans healthcare in general medical training; this was seen by some as a sad indictment of NHS medical training and a situation which needed to be addressed.

These are the two significant issues that were discussed which particularly struck me as a trans woman. There were many other questions from the floor about how to be an ally, what is the right way to determine a person’s preferred pronoun (politely ask, if you did not know) and how to treat people in the workplace. The panel responded to each question with positivity and awareness. This event has certainly raised the profile of trans equality and has underlined the need for political support, in order to ensure that the required changes to legislation are made sooner rather than later.

The event ended with the reading of a poem written and presented by Jay Hulme. It was an emotional and appropriate ending to an event devoted to inclusivity and equality.

Jo and I were very pleased that we were personally invited and that we were able to attend this high profile event on behalf of COSRT. We hope that it is indicative of greater political understanding and a motivation to encourage change.