Conference Countdown 2015: Transgender and intersex health charter

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

First thing on Monday morning, Conference will debate a long 122 line motion on what is billed as a health charter for transgender and intersex people, but actually is much more wide-ranging.

Trans and intersex  rights is the next major front for equality campaigners. Lynne Featherstone in government set out an ambitious transgender action plan but this was kicked into the long grass when she was moved out of the Home Office in 2012.

Certainly, there is much to be done. Figures show that waiting times for a first appointment at a gender identity clinic are more than excessive.

Gender Identity clinic waiting times


In Scotland, young people are now being told that they have a 7 month wait before they will get an appointment at the only Gender Identity Clinic for children and  teenagers in the country. This is a mighty chunk out of a school year for very vulnerable young people who may be at particular risk of self harm and suicide.

One issue that I don’t think the motion tackles is the lack of gender specialists being trained. Until more people can be attracted into the field, the problem is surely only going to get worse at a time when many more people are seeking help. In Scotland, referrals are steeply increasing, with 2 young people a week being added to the waiting list. The clinic has recently been extended from one half day a week to one full day a week but that is far from sufficient to cope with demand. An article in today’s Sunday Herald shows the extent of the problem:

The long wait can have a serious impact on trans people who are desperate for help, both mentally and physically.

Gerber admitted: “It can be distressing and there are reports of people committing suicide as a result of that.”

Steph Bell, from Edinburgh, said she was so desperate for treatment that she told her health board she was thinking of buying hormones online, as she couldn’t face waiting months for help.

The 29-year-old claims after she told the Lothian health board her plans they agreed to move her up the waiting list, but nine months later she has still not been seen.

Bell, who has a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome, said she avoids going out alone and struggles with anxiety, made worse by her wait for hormone therapy.

Here is the motion in full. The deadline for amendments is tomorrow at 1pm. 

Conference notes with concern that:

The transgender and intersex communities are too often marginalised, with little or no emphasis on their needs from government or third sector organisations. Transgender and intersex individuals experience similar levels and types of discrimination within society, including but not limited to hate crime, health discrimination, and difficulty obtaining documents in the correct gender.
Legislation concerning the transgender population often does not fully advance – and sometimes actively hinders – transgender equality. Transgender and intersex people are at a higher risk of mental health issues and suicidal ideation than the general population and the rest of the LGBT+ population, especially among BME transgender and intersex people.

Conference welcomes the party’s strong record of promoting transgender and intersex equality at all levels of politics. Conference also welcomes the commitment made in the 2015 General Election Manifesto, Stronger
Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone, to allocate £8 billion per year of additional funding to the NHS.

Conference is also concerned that:

Gender identity clinics are chronically underfunded and waiting times for each step of the gender transition process are often in excess of the statutory eighteen-week limit by a factor of three or more. Funding problems and waiting lists often force transgender people to seek private medical treatment at great personal expense, from obtaining hormone replacement therapy to updating documentation and obtaining second opinions for treatment.

The lack of a gender identity clinic in Wales forces transgender patients to travel to London for their appointments at personal cost in both time and money.

The right of transgender people – and especially transgender children – to receive adequate necessary medical care is increasingly under threat from multiple fronts.

The statutory NHS scrutiny body Healthwatch has described the treatment of transgender people in the NHS as that of “second-class citizens”.

Several gender identity clinics refuse to treat intersex patients or patients who do not fully identify as either male or female.

There are no explicit protections for transgender refugees seeking asylum due to fear of persecution in their home country.

Current practices in data collection make it difficult for a transgender person to have their gender recorded accurately under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998, and that, without a gender recognition certificate, their transgender status is not guaranteed to be treated as protected or sensitive data.

There are provisions in the Equality Act 2010 which mean that jobs and services cannot be open to only transgender people, but can be open to only cisgender people; this can prevent autonomous organising for transgender rights.

Very few people are fairly compensated for transgender or intersex activism, leading activists to sacrifice great amounts of their own time and money to ensure their voices can be heard.
Depictions of transgender people, both in fiction and political discourse, invariably resort to stereotypes and innuendo at best, and are outright voyeuristic and bigoted at worst, and almost entirely are a result of cisgender people projecting what they believe to be a transgender person’s experience.

Conference believes that:

Variations in sex and gender, however they manifest, are a simple fact of human physiology and psychology, and neither the state nor society should pass judgement on people who deviate from what is considered the norm.

It is irresponsible at best and malicious at worst, to refuse marginalised people such as the transgender community the right to organise or access sheltered accommodation.

Every person has a right to receive prompt medical care that is free at the point of service.

No person, and especially no child, should be made to undergo unnecessary medical treatments without their informed consent.

We have a responsibility as liberals to represent and liberate the most marginalised people in society.

Conference calls for:

The funding that NHS England has requested to be provided to ensure compliance with each person‘s needs and with waiting time standards in all aspects of the gender healthcare service.
The NHS to guarantee in their gender dysphoria protocols, in line with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care:

The right of transgender and gender-variant children to receive puberty-blocking medications until they are eligible for hormone replacement therapy.

The right of genderqueer, non-binary, and intersex people to access gender identity and reassignment services without discrimination based on their identity.

An independent inquiry into widespread and systemic abuse of transgender people within the health service.

Protections on gender reassignment in equality law to be expanded to also explicitly cover gender identity and expression, and all legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation to be extended to include gender identity and intersex status where appropriate.

Provisions in the Equality Act 2010 that legalise discrimination against transgender people and prevent autonomous organising to be reversed.

A streamlined simplification of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow individuals to change their legal gender at will.

The phased removal of gender markers in documentation unless it is absolutely necessary, and the introduction of an ‘X’ gender option and ‘Mx.’ title option on the remainder.

Changes to government-issued documentation on the basis of gender reassignment to be provided free of charge.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission to develop standards of best practice in which equality and diversity monitoring forms request transgender status separate from gender and sexual orientation, with options for ‘prefer not to say’ and ‘other (please specify)’ for each question.

Transgender status of any kind to be explicitly designated as ‘sensitive personal data’ under the Data Protection Act 1998 and ‘protected information’ under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

The practice of unnecessary surgery on children for the purpose of resolving intersex variations of primary sex characteristics to be phased out, and for the Royal College of Surgeons to develop standards on that basis.

More paid roles to help increase transgender and intersex representation, especially in third sector organisations working with LGBT+ or young people.

The government to recognise and observe Bisexual Visibility Day (23 September), Intersex Awareness Day (26 October) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November).

The party to continue to make the case for transgender and intersex equality, especially through challenging transphobia in political discourse and encouraging positive depictions in the media.

Conference also supports the Welsh Liberal Democrats in campaigning to
establish a gender identity clinic in Wales.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Conference, Events and Op-eds.


  • The reference to “Bisexual Visibility Day” seems a little confusing. What’s that got to do with being transgender?

  • Brenda Lana Smith 6th Sep '15 - 4:49pm

    In your trans and intersex rights deliberations… please include a resolution to relieve the mentally debilitating legal plight of gender variant folk on British Overseas Territories; where—be we (transgender, transsexual, cross-dressers, or intersex) covert or overt, UK Gender Recognition Act 2004 preferred gender certificated or not—can be discriminated against with impunity… to this effect… BLS’ 2015-08-20 written submission to the UK 2015 Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into Transgender Equality:

    This 82-year-old 31-year (1984-11-14 Dr S Biber, Trinidad, CO, USA) postoperative male-to-female transsexual Bermudian—contentedly ensconced in Britain since being driven beyond Bermuda’s socio-economic pale with impunity near 26 years ago—found no advantage in jumping through the complicated hoops necessary to become a GRA 2004 gender certificated person… particularly as:

    °1. My Parkinsonian cis-genndered male partner of nine years died 1979-07-04… and…

    °2. It would afford me no protection or equality should should I return to Bermuda… to wit… United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Overseas Territory Department, confirmed:

    — That the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004 does not extend to British Overseas Territories.

    — That Bermuda has not enacted any legislation to recognise Gender-Variant folk…

    — That it would appear that there is no gender recognition system in place in Bermuda and Bermudian courts or officials will not therefore recognsze United Kingdom gender recognition certificates.

    — That Bermuda is expected to comply with obligations under human rights instruments which have been extended to it. In particular. Bermuda is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) …

    Accordingly I feel that it incumbent on the United Kingdom government to ensure—by Good Governance mandate if necessary— that UK Equality Legislation extends to all British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies…

    Respectfully submitted…

    Brenda Lana Smith D.


  • Simon McGrath 6th Sep '15 - 4:54pm

    The sentiments of the motion and the substance are fine – but it is not well drafted.

    This line:
    “No person, and especially no child, should be made to undergo unnecessary medical treatments without their informed consent”
    Implies opposition to infant male circumcision. There is a debate to be had on that but surely not as part of an entirely seperate issue ?

  • This is worryingly ideological.

  • Looks wonderful!
    This: “The phased removal of gender markers in documentation unless it is absolutely necessary, and the introduction of an ‘X’ gender option and ‘Mx.’ title option on the remainder” sounds like it might mean it, but it would be good if it explicitly said something like, “Full legal recognition for non-binary genders.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Sep '15 - 10:00am

    Trans and intersex rights is the next major front for equality campaigners.

    As opposed to equality of wealth?

    Of course this is an issue we should care about, but putting it this way suggests we don’t care about the sort of inequality problems that affect a much bigger proportion of the population. Economic inequality in our country has been growing continuously since 1979, so to brush it aside as if it is unimportant, and give all our attention to smaller groups of people who have a right to say they get treated unfairly is silly. Unless we as a party really do have a death wish.

    There has been much talk recently about how the people of this country rejected left-wing politics in the 1980s, and so how this means anyone who wants to concentrate on such thing is a vote-loser. However, what actually happened back then is that what got dubbed the “loony left” seemed to be obsessed with various fringe issues, and so less concerned with the bread-and-butter issues of income and security which are on the biggest things on the mind of most of the population, but particularly those who are on average or below average incomes.

    Liberals were at the forefront of the fight for gay rights in the 1970s and 1980s, and I remember we were often jeered about it by Labour activists, particularly when the Jeremy Thorpe issue arose. However, we didn’t give the impression of being obsessed with it to the exclusion of all other issues.

    Campaigning on equality issues for small groups will always work and go down better if it is made clear that it is just part of a greater concern over equality for all, which is so neatly summed up by that great phrase “none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

  • Bit of a straw man there, given this is far from the only motion on the agenda for the week.

    We can and do definitely campaign on more than one issue at a time, and I really doubt gay rights campaigns in the 70s were predominantly about income inequality – though given the huge income inequalities for trans, intersex and genderqueer people, arguably this is an income / wealth type of inequality campaign too.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Sep '15 - 4:40pm


    We can and do definitely campaign on more than one issue at a time, and I really doubt gay rights campaigns in the 70s were predominantly about income inequality

    Well, I was waiting to see if anyone else would respond, but as they haven’t, I will.

    That wasn’t what I was saying. Gay rights campaigning was there, but not singled out obsessively as it seems to be now.

    My objection was to Caron’s words “Trans and intersex rights is the next major front for equality campaigners”, which suggest they are to be considered the main equality issue that we should be concerned with, as if other equality issues are of less importance or have been solved. They haven’t. Income and wealth equality remains the biggest issue, as economic division has consistently grown in recent decades. Caron may not have meant it that way, but her words could be interpreted as suggesting we don’t care about that issue.

    The biggest real barrier to freedom now is probably the high cost of housing meaning that for many the freedom of having your own place to live has gone. Why isn’t THAT the next major front for equality campaigners? Doesn’t mean we can’t have a concern over transgender issues, does mean that we ought to make sure we have a sense of balance, and not become obsessed with issues which, while important to a small number of people, are fairly fringe to everyone else. As I was saying, to a large extent that actually was what lost the “loony left” support in the 1980s, rather than their economic policies as now claimed.

    It seems to me to be that whipping up of LGBT issues is done to disguise a shift to the economic right. See how the gay marriage thing was waved around fairly transparently as a way for economic right-wingers to pretend they weren’t right-wingers because here was an issue where they took a different stand from old-style right-wingers.

  • @Matthew: in this case, it’s not. I’m very much on the left of the party.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Sep '15 - 11:39am

    Matthew, that comment was made in the context of this motion. Standing up for LGBT rights does not mean that we aren’t actively campaigning on the other issues to do with inequality in our society.

    To suggest that this is some sort of smokescreen for right wingers is an unnecessary and uncivil approach to take to people who have spent their lives campaigning against inequality in all its forms. Perhaps you have no personal experience of someone close to you struggle with gender identity. Perhaps if you had, you might have greater understanding of why this motion is needed. It can and will save lives if implemented.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Sep '15 - 4:28pm

    Caron Lindsay

    Perhaps you have no personal experience of someone close to you struggle with gender identity.

    Er, well I’ll respect the person’s privacy and not say who it is, but you are actually quite wrong here.

    I hear what you are saying, and I did say that you may not have intended it that way, but I can assure you, there IS a danger with a somewhat obsessive approach coming across like that. It really was a major reason why Labour lost support in the 1980s that they seemed to be obsessed with things like this and to have lost interest in ordinary working class people and their problems. What I am saying is that you should not have used the words “the next major front”, because that did give the impression you considered it much more important that wealth and income equality.

  • David Allen 10th Sep '15 - 5:00pm

    I agree with Matthew. Going right back to the Bermondsey byelection, Peter Tatchell was positioned (both by his homophobic opponents and by his own campaign) as someone whose main interest in becoming an MP was to advance gay rights. Simon Hughes told the voters that he did also support gay rights but would be an MP for all his constituents and would concentrate on the issues which most mattered to them all. Simon won a landslide. As time passed, gay rights campaigners (including Tatchell) learned that a less aggressive, more inclusive style of campaigning worked better, and they made much faster progress. If gender identity campaigners can act similarly, it will be good for their cause and good for ours.

  • iantha kirkup 19th Sep '15 - 10:09am

    I am concerned by the statement of changing the gender recognitiona act so a person can change their gender “at will”. What happens if that person is married, if they were to change gender their spouse would legally become homosexual and be treated by society as such when possibly contrary to their own sexual orientation. In this case both marital partners would have previously vowed before God to enter a lifelong heterosexual relationship.

    Please we muste enter a clause protecting marital spouses.

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