They’ll angrily tell you that they oppose both it and its reform, but none of them can tell you what it does or what the reforms would do.
The Scottish government recently released the results of its second consultation into reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Again, just like the first, and just like the one for England and Wales, it showed that the majority of people and the majority of experts support reforming it. The Gender Critical (GC) movement were of course not happy with this and brought people from all across the UK to Holyrood to protest against reforming it (including members of the anti-abortion, anti-gay rights group Scottish Family Party). You might imagine that protesters against reforming a law might have a clear idea of why they oppose reform, but from talking to hundreds of these people (for years now) it’s very clear they simply do not even know what the GRA does.
Last year I wrote about the England and Wales proposed GRA reform, highlighting what it is, what it does and doesn’t do, what the reasons to reform and the arguments against it are. The main concern then (and as far back as 2018 when the reform was announced) was “I’m worried if we reform the GRA it will mean any man will be able to use women’s spaces”. If you ask the people who were at the recent protest, or those supporting it online, you will no doubt be told this and probably only this. So what’s the issue with that concern? I don’t want men roaming free in women’s spaces either. Well… the GRA doesn’t determine who can use what spaces, that’s a completely different law called the Equality Act of 2010 (EA2010). Trans women and girls are legally protected to use women’s spaces by the EA2010, but were protected long before that with The Sex Discrimination Regulations 1999, and before that there were no laws either way. Trans women and girls have used women’s spaces your entire life, certainly long before 2004 when the GRA passed.
So what does it do?
The GRA allows trans people to get something called a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) which allows them to get married and die in dignity, along with a couple of other things (most notably you do not need a GRC to update your passport or any other form of ID). Today obtaining a GRC is pointlessly and intentionally difficult to the point where most trans people don’t even bother, resulting in all kinds of unnecessarily cruel situations like this lady, my friend, who recently died and had to legally be recorded as a man in death. The proposed reform would bring the process of obtaining a GRC in line with the difficulty of updating your passport and other legal ID.
Anyone who has ever applied for a GRC, or who has even looked at the process, will instantly see a huge problem with the main GC “concern”; in order to get a GRC today you must use women’s (or men’s if you are a trans man) spaces for a minimum of 2 years before being able to even apply! In fact reducing this time is one of the main points in the proposed reform! It is simply not possible to be informed of what the GRA requires today whilst simultaneously fearing that reforming it will change the regulations on who can use what spaces. On top of that anyone who has talked to trans people in the UK about this will realise that we all already use the facilities that are best for us without a certificate.
Note there are some other concerns, all of which are addressed in my article, but this is — by far — the main one, and usually is the only one that people raise.
How has this happened?
Anti-trans groups and the British media have nicknamed GRA Reform as “Self ID”, no doubt a phrase you will see a lot from GC people. This refers to how the reform proposals suggest removing the requirement of needing a medical diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria to get a GRC (again, bringing it in line with passports and others). But with that phrase they are able to fearmonger up the idea that the reform would take us from a world where there is strict regulation on who is trans and who isn’t, to one with no rules at all, with the implication that only those officially designated as trans women can use women’s spaces. This is of course false, and anyone who has done any research on this at all will know that, but those campaigning against it don’t care. In fact you will often see them using “Self ID” to mean GRA reform, using sex segregated spaces and other trans rights such as healthcare interchangeably. This is part of their recruiting strategy; if you don’t want a man watching your daughter undress then you’re opposed to “self ID” so you should oppose the GRA reform, even though it’s completely unrelated to that.
GRA reform isn’t that big a deal even for those it affects, it makes your life easier and more private and dignified, but it’s not nearly as important as things such as access to healthcare, which for trans people in the UK is almost non-existent. If the reform ever passes then those protesting it today will be completely unaffected by it. It is however, an excellent catalyst in the culture war, it’s become a proxy for those who just oppose the idea of trans people, or all LGBT people in general, to fight against conceptually. If you continue asking questions to those opposing GRA reform they’ll likely start bringing up “Gender Ideology” or talking about “trans crimes” rather than highlighting any tangible issues with the proposed reforms, or bringing in examples of problems in the now over 10 other countries that have something similar (because there aren’t any).
So what can we do?
The British media is completely broken beyond repair and a lot of GC people are far too indoctrinated to ever change their minds (Have you ever noticed how most of them seem to have dedicated their entire lives to this? No one is just a little bit GC). I think the best course of action is firstly writing to your MP explaining the current law, what the reform should contain, and address the main “concern” by pointing out that it doesn’t make sense. Secondly I think that it’s worth countering this misinformation calmly and clearly whenever you encounter it online or in real life. Don’t expect to change the mind of the people spreading it, just make the counter information available for passers by. Thirdly don’t let them turn the argument into something completely unrelated as they will almost certainly try to do, stay on topic and when they bring up anything else just point out that that’s unrelated to the GRA and ignore them. For many GC people GRA reform is just a spring board to talk about why trans healthcare should be banned or why Stonewall and other LGBT organisations should be shut down.
Handy single tweet rebuttal — GRA reform doesn’t affect who can use what spaces, that’s the EA2010. Trans women and girls have used women’s spaces your whole life without issue, in fact that is required before you can even apply for a GRC.