Instances of transphobia at Cambridge are "few and far between." But this is not good enough.LOUIS ASHWORTH

Today, the Gender Recognition Act consultation closes. Under the consultation, the government is considering reforming the GRA to allow the legal self-identification of one’s gender. This is one of the most significant ways in which anyone and everyone can make a positive difference to LGBT+ rights, both on a legal and an every-day level.

Back in 2004, the UK’s Gender Recognition Act was a truly revolutionary piece of legislation that allowed trans people to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate that would change the legal gender on their birth certificate. This process involves a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, ‘living as’ one’s ‘acquired gender’ for two years with the intention of living as that gender for the rest of one’s life, paying a fee of around £150, and a panel decision on whether you really are of that gender.

Most trans people I know - including myself - are not intending to apply for a GRC. This is not only because of the length of the process, but because of the humiliating notion of having to ‘prove’ one’s gender. There is also the fact that there exists no option to change one’s legal gender to non-binary. Compared to other countries such as Denmark, Argentina, Malta, and Portugal which all allow legal self-identification - devoid of medical intervention - this piece of legislation is now outdated.

“I have sat through countless humiliating doctor’s appointments where I have had to signal my desire to as my ‘acquired gender’ for the rest of my life and talk about my goals for transition at length”

It is essential to remember that such a legislation reform would positively impact the lives of trans people on a day-to-day basis. Take how a reformed GRA would de-medicalise being transgender. As a transgender person myself, I have sat through countless humiliating doctor’s appointments where I have had to signal my desire to as my ‘acquired gender’ for the rest of my life and talk about my goals for transition at length.

Being a bloke, I’m lucky in that I fit relatively neatly into the gender binary. For transgender non-binary people who go through these same processes in order to have their name changed or their gender marker changed without any hope of legal recognition at the end of it - I can only imagine how horrible and isolating such an experience is. Through legal self-identification, such degrading processes would be eradicated and trans people would be given the same autonomy over their own genders possessed by cisgender people.

Cambridge is a decent place to be a trans person, at least to a certain extent. Before I arrived back in 2016, I remember reading that it was said that to be an LGBT+ person in Cambridge was easier than being a Tory here. You can make your own mind up about whether this remains true today, but the sentiment that it is easier to be LGBT+ here than in most other places does ring true.

Considering the prominence of derogatory debate around trans identities and of vocal trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) that continually rail against trans identities and efforts to make the lives of non-binary people easier and less socially marginal, I have come across TERF ideology perhaps only three times in Cambridge. Once from someone genuinely trying to understand the trans perspective. Another from a Cambridge academic who, after a panel discussion on the importance of self-identification, confessed that she had been given more to think about than she had been in a very long time. And now from the leaflets and stickers that have been distributed across the city in the run up to the closing of the GRA consultation callin for ‘the protection of women’s rights’.


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Mountain View

Simple steps toward gender neutrality would change our University for the better

Only once have I been made to feel unwelcome in a certain space simply for being trans. This was in the sacred male space of the barber’s shop. Assumed to be a woman, I was refused service. They were evidently uncomfortable with the idea of serving a transgender man.

These instances have been few and far between. This is really good going. But, still, not ideal.

With legal self-identification, my hope is that further legal protection of trans identities will give trans people a greater ability to stand up to transphobia in all its forms. I know that, for me, government recognition of my identity and government recognition that people should be able to determine their own genders without state barriers and the imposition of medical processes will mean that I will have further confidence to go forward in the world and live my life as a trans person, but also as myself, gender not being a barrier to my self-determination.

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