While it appeared to contain some positives, we found it to be deeply unsatisfactory.
So we wrote back.
The text of our letter follows:
Dear Minister Freer
We would like to thank you for your swift response to our open letter received on 2nd March 2022.
While it was slightly encouraging to hear that the Government is ‘working to make things better’ and that you ‘recognise there is more to do’, you finish by asking ‘I hope you find this my response useful and reassuring’. Unfortunately, I am afraid to say that we, nor the majority of the transgender community, do not. We have indicated some of the reasons why below, and would appreciate it if you could directly address these points.
We notice that you were very careful to avoid mentioning the forthcoming guidance on Single Sex Spaces by name, and in actuality your comments appear to be more alarming than reassuring. You state that ‘lt is important that service providers can be confident in their ability to use these exceptions and know that the law is on their side’.
The message to the transgender community appears to be loud and clear - the Government wants service providers to be able to exclude transgender people from services, and to be able to do so explicitly and legally despite the position set out in Briefing Paper ‘Gender recognition and the rights of transgender people’, published on 22nd July 2020.
It is very telling that the Government is appearing to side with those who wish to exclude, rather than clarifying that transgender people should be included wherever possible, and this alone makes a mockery of your reassurances and claims of support.
You also use the phrase ‘checks and balances’ when it comes to transgender people and legal recognition. It’s one that has been used repeatedly within Government and by those with trans hostile intent, further stigmatising transgender people in the UK.
It’s a phrase that we at Steph’s Place and the wider community find confusing, deeply insulting, insensitive and highly damaging in the current environment.
So we would appreciate it if you could enlighten us and explain exactly what these ‘checks and balances’ are, and more importantly, what they are intended to achieve?
The country would be rightly outraged if such ‘checks and balances’ were applied to other minority communities, and I wonder if you would have accepted such had they been applied to sexual identity. And most pointedly, such ‘checks and balances’ are not even entertained for those that arguably need them the most - the identities of cisgender peope, where it’s a known fact that that crime and abuse is committed almost exclusively by this group.
So please do explain exactly why do transgender people need to have ‘checks and balances’ on our identities, a position that appears to be segregationist, is inherently discriminatory and oppositional to fundamental human rights?
With Scotland now enacting sensible reform on Gender Recognition, and Wales looking at avenues to do the same, England and Westminster is looking increasingly backwards and regressive both within the UK and on the wider world stage (where Mexico have in the last couple of days legally recognised transgender children, and Colombia non-binary people), instead buying into the manufactured moral panic around transgender people and actively promoting it to the point of causing harm.
This self same harm is also evidenced in the proposals on the ban of Conversion Therapy, where the Government have stated the intention of ‘protecting people from conversion to, or from, being transgender’.
The inclusion of ‘conversion of people to being transgender’ appears to be little more than pandering to the the hyperbole from trans hostile groups and advocates of conversion abuse, despite there being no actual evidence of this occurring. This does nothing but legitimise the scaremongering of those intent on removing transgender people from UK society, and the Government is actively promoting these views.
While we have little reason to doubt your own personal commitment to advancing the rights of transgender people in the UK, we as a community believe that the Government is speaking from both sides of it’s mouth, and it has lost all credibility. Not just with us, but the wider LGBTQ+ community.
On the very same day we received your response, your fellow minister Kemi Badenoch appeared before the Women & Equalities Select Committee repeating trans hostile misinformation and prejudice, and clearly endorsing a position that trans people should be subjected to conversion abuse.
Despite this we would still welcome the opportunity to discuss the myriad issues affecting our community with you, assuming the Government is at all interested in rebuilding the trust or credibility it has lost and enacting much needed and neglected reform, as opposed to tinkering around the edges to give the appearance of such.
Steph’s Place UK (Steph, Claire, Julie, Paul, Nicola & Vicky)