Tag Archive | Westminster

UK Government to Overhaul Gender Recognition

GRC applicationBe better scrapping it altogether.

The UK government is to carry out a consultation on changing legal gender for transgender easier than the mess it currently is.

Under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, those wishing to change legal gender have to undergo a lengthy bureaucratic and demeaning process to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and it is only once they have a GRC that they can change their gender on official documents.

To gain a GRC, a transgender person over 18 must

  • be diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria
  • have lived fully for the last two years in their acquired gender
  • prove that they intend to live permanently in an acquired gender

The applicant sends their application, along with supporting documentation – and a £140 fee, to the Gender Recognition Panel, based in Leicester, who then forward it to the actual panels of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, where civil servants deliberate over them and decide whether or not to grant the GRC.

Paper applications are usually accepted, although in exceptional cases an oral hearing can take place, which means the application having to make a trip to London, possibly staying overnight, and being interrogated by a cisgender panel.

Many transgender people don’t even bother to apply for a GRC, not only because of the bureaucracy, but because they see it as an unwelcome governmental intrusion into their private lives.

The Equalities Minister Justine Greening said that the government, having listened to activists, intends to set up a consultation upon the process in autumn. Proposals include removing the need for medical diagnosis of gender recognition, with transgender people being able to self-diagnose, as is the case in the Republic of Ireland, and scrapping the two-year transitioning period.

I can only say it’s not before bloody time, dears. The entire process of applying for a GRC, before a transgender person can even get a birth certificate with their ‘acquired’ gender upon it, is overtly bureaucratic, an unwelcome intrusion into private lives and costly for many.

The two-year transition puts young transgender people at a distinct disadvantage, as not only do they have to first be medically diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, they then have to live for two years under the gender they identify with, which means they will be at least 20 years old before they can even think of applying for a GRC. As I have pointed out before, this can lead to transgender young offenders being put in danger, when they are sent to prisons according to their assigned birth gender.

There is no mention however of doing away with the fee for a GRC. This puts transgender people in the lower income bracket completely at a disadvantage. Who can afford £140 for a GRC when they are struggling to make ends meet? How many poorer transgender people will even think of a GRC when their more pressing priority is getting a food bank referral? Where is this money going anyway, apart from into government coffers? As far as I can see the GRC is nothing short of a “Trans Tax”.

But another thought crosses my mind, and that is just what is the Scottish Government doing about gender recognition in Scotland. On 31st May 2016 the Scottish National Party (SNP) First Minister, the simply lovely Nicola Sturgeon, vowed that if she were re-elected that she would make changes for transgender and non-binary people in Scotland to bring gender recognition “iin line with international best practice”.

Nicola Sturgeon, who was duly re-elected, promised to allow transgender people to change their birth certificates and other official documents without need for medical diagnosis, legal recognition for 16-17 year old transgender people – allowing them to change their birth certificates without parental permission, and the legal recognition of non-binary individuals, intersex equality, and same-sex pension equity.

One year on, the SNP repeated these promises in their 2017 General Election manifesto. Well, the SNP have been re-elected to the Scottish Parliament for over a year now, the General Election took place on 8 June, and the SNP still managed to get more votes than Labour, the Tories, and the Lib-Dems put together – and I am seeing no apparent movement on these promises.

Come on, Nicola. You’re dragging your heels, dear (as nice heels as they may be).  It would be terribly embarrassing for Westminster to beat Holyrood to the post on this issue.  Especially considering they already did so on same-sex marriage.

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes

$$-Nicolson.jpg

John Nicolson MP (SNP)

Or, never trust a Tory.

I have never for the life of me ever understood how any LGBT+ person in the UK can be a member of or support the Conservative Party. It really seems like turkeys voting for Christmas, and this is not personal on my part. Okay, so it is. I make no bones about the fact that I think all Tories are scum who need to meet with an accident down a dark close. But the fact is I could never support the Conservative Party, on the grounds that I am evolved way beyond the primordial soup and qualify as a human being.

But people of all sexualities and gender do exist within the Tories. Even the leader of the Scottish Conservatives (a rare and endangered species, on a par with porcine birds), Ruth Davidson, is openly lesbian and has been in a relationship with her partner for many years.

Therefore, with such diversity, the Tories can be trusted with LGBT+ legislation, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.

On Thursday, 20 October, John Nicolson, openly gay Scottish National Party (SNP) MP for East Dunbartonshire, tried to introduce a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons for legislation which would give wide-ranging pardons to gay and bisexual men still alive who were convicted of having sex with underage men when the gay age of consent was still 21. The Bill had previously received support from Conservative and Labour Party MPs, as well as Mr Nicolson’s own fellow SNP MPs. The Tories even promised not to block the Bill.

The Bill was touted as a “Turing Bill” or “Turing’s Law”, after the gay computer scientist Alan Turing, who was convicted of offences of gay sex with minors, underwent voluntary chemical castration, and subsequently took his own life. He was pardoned in 2012.

When the Bill was introduced in the House of Commons however, Conservative Justice Minister Sam Gyimah spoke on the government’s opposition to the bill. And he spoke on, and spoke on, and spoke on; eventually taking up the full 25 minutes of debate, when the Bill should have gone to the vote. There were cries of “shame” from supporters as it became clear that the government were deliberately setting out to scupper the Bill.

Mr Nicolson’s Sexual Offences (Pardons) Bill proposed a blanket pardon for all dead and living men convicted of sex with minors when gay age of consent was 21. The government opposition quite insidiously concentrated upon men convicted of sex with boys under 16, and victims of rape. This is wholly disingenious, as John Nicolson’s Bill had already taken such men into consideration and they would not be covered by the Bill.

Instead, the day before the Bill was to be read, the Tories did a deal with the Liberal-Democrat Party, accepting an amendment to the 2012 Policing and Crime Bill by (unelected) Lib-Dem Lord Sharkey, whereby those convicted but since deceased would be granted an automatic pardon, and those living could apply to the Home Office for a “disregard process” to clear their names. The all-too-obvious elephant in the room here is that the Sharkey amendment would automatically clear the names of dead men who did prey upon little boys and under-16 teens.  Former Liberal leader Cyril Smith about to have his name cleared, anyone?

Besides which of course, many of the men convicted and still alive are very elderly, some in their 80s and 90s. Their lives already ruined, to ask them to go through the trauma of applying to have their names cleared is despicable and thoughtless beyond belief.

Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham, stated “The living would have to apply for a disregard and only then would they be granted a pardon. The onus would be placed right back on the victims of injustice, which, I worry, rather reduces the quality of the apology being offered.”

I partially agree, except for one point; the planned amendment is not even an apology. It is a pardon, which still presumes guilt. Some Tory wets stand by this. Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, himself once convicted of having sex with a young man of under 21, stated on LBC Radio that as it was a crime when he was convicted, then there’s no need to apologise to him.

John Nicolson’s Bill would have set aside nearly 50,000 convictions, of which approximately 15,000 apply to men still alive today. It was a brilliant opportunity, which the government pretended to support, and then pulled that support at the last minute, then completely abused the procedures of the Westminster parliament to bury it.

John Nicolson later stated “I’m very disappointed that the Tory government decided to filibuster and talk out the Turing Bill.

“The bill was intended to be kind and bring closure to generations of gay and bisexual men found guilty of homophobic crimes no longer on the statute book.

“Many of these men are now elderly and have lived with unjust convictions for years – my bill would have given them an automatic pardon.

“I was delighted to receive cross party support from Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs so I was sad on their behalf as well as on behalf of the men that would have been pardoned to see the Tory Justice Minister use political manoeuvring to see off a popular bill.

“As MPs of all parties made clear today there was no good reason for the government to block this Bill. The compromise amendment being suggested instead does not go far enough to right the wrongs committed against these men and their families.

“The Tory whips promised that there would be ‘no tricks and no games’ on their side but it is to their shame that they broke their word.”

Really John? And what else do you expect from a heterosexual Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, who “changed her mind” on equal marriage and stood against adoption of children by gay parents, from heterosexual Sam Gyimah, and from equally heterosexual John Sharkey – whose own party leader, Tim Farron, is a God-botherer who abstained on the equal marriage vote?

Ain’t it amazing how all these straights seem to think they know what is best for us queers? Ever been patronised? You have now.

And of course, we all know what the real opposition to John Nicolson’s Bill was: “SNP BAD!”; to the government’s mind, if it’s an SNP idea, it must be opposed, simple as that.


Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes; “I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts.” (Virgil, Aeneid; alluding to the legend of the wooden horse of Troy)

New Equalities Minister stood against Same Sex Marriage

Caroline Dinenage MP

Caroline Dinenage MP

(But she promises to support it now)

With a new Conservative government being formed at Westminster, the Prime Minister, David Cameron has appointed a new Equalities Minister for England, and his choice is Caroline Dinenage – who not only voted against Same Sex Marriage but took a strong stance against it in public.

In 2013 Ms Dinenage replied to a letter from a reader of Pink News in which she stated that marriage is defined in Canon Law as “one man, one woman”, that this definition is “distinctive”, that the state had no right to change that definition, nor was there any need for it in her opinion.

Ms Dinenage stated in her letter,  “As you may know, as the established Church, its own Canon Law is part of the law of the land and one of its canons states that marriage is in its nature a union of “one man and one woman”.

She continued, “I therefore believe that the institution of marriage is distinctive and the State has no right to redefine its meaning – these proposals were not included in any of the three main manifestoes nor did it feature in the Coalition’s Programme for Government. As I have mentioned, under current law same-sex couples can have a civil partnership but not a civil marriage and I believe that there is no legitimate reason to change this.”

Ms Dinenage subsequently also voted against same-sex marriage in the last parliament.

Caroline Dinenage is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gosport.  In 2013 the MP, who is also a mother of two children, left her husband and entered a relationship with fellow Conservative MP, Mark Lancaster.  Lancaster walked out on his wife of 12 years, Katherine, in 2007 and moved in with Journalist Amanda Evans.  18 months later he left Evans, just four months after the birth of their baby daughter, and entered a relationship with election agent Kathryn Buckie, but their relationship soured.  After Dinenage and Lancaster entered into relationship in 2013, the pair married in February 2014.

Strangely enough, for all her moral outrage against same-sex marriage, Caroline Dinenage has never once made any mention on what the Bible has to say about a wife disobeying her husband, divorce, adultery, and sex outwith marriage, all four of which she has participated in.

With her new appointment however, Ms Dinenage claims to have had a change of heart.  She told Pink News that she is now “fully committed” to LGBT equality and that she was “looking forward” to her new post.

Caroline Dinenage stated “I know that some of your readers will be concerned about my voting record on same-sex marriage however, I want to be clear – I am fully committed to advancing the cause of LGBT equality and support the law on same-sex marriage.

“I’m proud that the UK has just been named the most progressive country in Europe for LGB & T rights for the fifth year running, but as the new minister for equalities I know there’s no room for complacency.

“That is why I’m particularly looking forward to taking forward this government’s work on tackling homophobic bullying in schools and implementing our manifesto commitment to introducing a new law that will build on the posthumous pardon for Alan Turing by erasing the historic convictions of those who would be completely innocent of any crime today.

“I’ll be meeting with LGBT organisations such as Stonewall as soon as possible to discuss this Government’s priorities for this parliament.”

I for one shall believe it when I see it – and I’m not holding my breath. Right away I am concerned at the lack of “Q” and “I” in that statement.  At least the Scottish Parliament has extended their definition to “LGBTI”.

It also may interest Ms Dinenage to learn that while boasting “the UK has just been named the most progressive country in Europe for LGB & T rights for the fifth year running”, it was actually Scotland, which she will have no remit over (thank goodness) which led the league table, with 92%, while the rest of the UK achieved 86%.  One can only wonder if England would have achieved that figure had Ms Dinenage’s appointment been known when IGLA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) drew up this year’s “Rainbow Index”?  I sincerely doubt it.

Meanwhile in a poll in Pink News, over 90% of readers have voted that Caroline Dinenage should never have been appointed Equalities Minister.

During the UK General Election, Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said of Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, “You wouldn’t get Herod to run a baby farm, would you?”  Where England’s LGBTQI community are concerned, it seems to me that Boris’s old school chum and Conservative Party leader, David Cameron has just done precisely that.