Labour has planned to modernise the Gender Recognition Act for trans people, which means the party has taken a second look at its promises to retain self-ID.
Self-ID refers to the way a person’s legal sex or gender is identified without medical requirements and has been a major goal of the transgender rights movement in politics.
The shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds shared the plans via an article for The Guardian, criticising the Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson for “demonising vulnerable LGBT+ people.” Dodds’ contribution to the article is rather confusing, considering that Labour’s outlook on this subject seems to be changing dramatically. Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the party, gave an interview to The Sunday Times in April that angered the LGBTQIA+ community, saying: “For 99.9 percent of women, it is completely biological … and of course, they haven’t got a penis.” He added that trans rights would not “roll back” women’s rights.
Dodds has now said that “we are proud of the Equality Act and will oppose any Conservative attempt to undermine it. We will protect and uphold it in government, including both its protected characteristics and its provision for single-sex exemptions.” She explains that the reform of the current Act will retain the medical diagnosis that includes a Gender Recognition Certificate, but will remove the “anonymous doctors” that make the ultimate decision. It will be replaced by one doctor who will diagnose an individual with gender dysphoria. This will then include not supporting the self-ID for trans people.
In 2017, Conservative prime minister Theresa May said the process should be de-medicalised by the government, with the Labour Party declaring in 2020 that they would fully support “updating the GRA to introduce self-declaration.” Now, in 2023, there have been multiple instances in which the solidified opinion of Labour has faltered – including the interview with Starmer.
The article of Dodds’ effectively introduces that self-ID will no longer be a policy it retains, but that the medical aspect is still very much for debate. This is all in an effort to “modernise” current policies. Dodd refers to Section 25 of the Scotland Act that was invoked in January, raising “concerns” over this, saying: “We will not make the same mistakes. The requirement to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains an important part of accessing a gender recognition certificate.”
The law wanted to make it easier for transgender people to legally change their sex by removing the diagnosis and lowering the age to 16. Dodds describes it as “cavalier”. She finalises by saying: “Put simply, this means that there will always be places where it is reasonable for biological women only to have access. Labour will defend those spaces, providing legal clarity for the providers of single-sex services.”
She acknowledges that this will “not please everyone” and they will “be attacked from all sides, in good faith and bad.”