Liberal Democrats react to Transgender Equality Report

Today’s publication of the Transgender Equality Report by the Commons Women and Equality Committee should lead to some big improvements to services and better rights for transgender people. It has some useful recommendations around health services – ensuring, for example, that GPs have sufficient training in how they should treat transgender people. The Committee certainly seems to have listened to many of the concerns put to them.

Their approach to the spousal veto question was more cautious than I would have liked. They basically said that it needed more consideration but didn’t recommend doing away with it, even though they accepted that a spouse could stand in the way of a transgender person getting their legal recognition. However, if the law is changed to abolish that cumbersome process, as the Committee. This is a big step forward:

In place of the present medicalised, quasi-judicial application process, an administrative process must be developed, centred on the wishes of the individual applicant, rather than on intensive analysis by doctors and lawyers.

One of the things I thought was most important is their recommendations around the treatment of young people who identify as transgender, especially around the prescription of puberty blockers. It’s important that young people can get them in time to stop their bodies developing in a way that causes them huge distress. The Committee understood that:

There is a clear and strong case that delaying treatment risks more harm than providing it. The treatment involved is primarily reversible, and the seriously dangerous consequences of not giving this treatment, including self-harming and suicide, are clearly well attested. (Paragraph 252)

49.Accordingly, we recommend that, in the current review of the service specification and protocol for the Gender Identity Development Service, consideration be given to reducing the amount of time required for the assessment that service-users must undergo before puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones can be prescribed.

My worry is that there is such a long wait before children can even be seen, particularly in Scotland. Waiting lists at the Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow, Scotland’s only clinic for gender-variant children and adolescents, are now standing at one year. Imagine what that’s like if your 10 year old child has told you that they are a different gender. They are approaching the point where their bodies are changing and if they have to wait for such a long time to even be seen, that process may advance to the point where it does cause significant harm.

Liberal Democrats have been reacting to the publication of the report. Tim Farron said:

It is great to see the Committee has endorsed many of the recommendations on which Liberal Democrats have campaigned for many years. There is a lot of work left to do in this area to ensure that Britain truly is a free and equal society but this report marks progress.

I am calling on the Government to work with the trans and non-binary community and all others to immediately implement the recommendations of the report.

Equalities spokesperson Meral Hussein-Ece said:

I welcome the considerable work the Committee has devoted to this positive report.

I would however have liked to have seen more definitive recommendations on a number of issues that affect trans individuals for example the spousal veto. I sincerely hope the Government will now build on the great work the Liberal Democrats advanced on this agenda in Coalition.

And LGBT+ Liberal Democrats gave a cautious welcome to the Report:

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats chair Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett said “I welcome the commitment to review and continue the excellent work started out by LibDem former Minister Baroness Lynne Featherstone in her time as Minister for Equalities. We must not be complacent however, as much work remains to ensure the government acts on the recommendations of the report.

Many of the proposed reforms in the report are topics that Liberal Democrats have campaigned on for many years, including allowing “X” Gender Markers on passports and removing medical obstacles when obtaining Legal Gender Recognition. I hope that the government can also extend the work done here and look further at the issues affecting non-binary and intersex people.”

Trans former parliamentary candidate Zoe O’Connell added: “Today’s report is another step closer to equality for trans people, and I hope that the government will act swiftly both to resolve the breaches of the NHS’s legal obligations on waiting times and to bring forward legislation on other issues without undue delay. I am however disappointed that the committee has remained timid in a number of areas, in particular failing to fully recognise the harms caused by the Spousal Veto and not endorsing the more progressive informed consent model of treatment.

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign for reform in these and other areas, in line with party policy.

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

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  • “One of the things I thought was most important is their recommendations around the treatment of young people who identify as transgender, especially around the prescription of puberty blockers. It’s important that young people can get them in time to stop their bodies developing in a way that causes them huge distress.”

    This is a really difficult question, and one probably best left to the experts rather than politicians. Some genuinely transgender children would indeed suffer great distress if they were to go through puberty and develop hard-to-reverse characteristics of the wrong sex; but other children who are simply “going through a phase” might be just as badly damaged by having their puberty delayed by drugs, the long term effects of which are still unknown. Giving kids such potent drugs strikes me as a medical response to a condition that is still poorly understood medically.

    I think the key thing here – as with most transgender issues – is that every case is different and needs to be looked at individually.

    This article discusses some of the issues :-

  • A ten year old does not have the maturity to make such decisions and who knows the damage that could be done. Children should not be sacrificed on the PC altar to appease a very small group.

  • Anne: I believe it was Dr Johanna Olson who said in response to the idea that ten year olds are too young to make a decision about their gender that they decide to kill themselves at that age.

    There is less harm in giving a possibly transgender kid hormone blockers until they are able to make a decision than not giving them blockers. Puberty is stressful enough for people who aren’t trans; for people who are, the feeling of growing up “in the wrong body” is a cause of deep unrest.

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