Yesterday (Friday 20th Oct.) was the closing day of the consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act. When the GRA became law in 2004 it was hailed as a huge advance for transsexual people. For the first time transsexual people were recognised in law and they acquired the right to change their birth certificates to match the gender they identified with and lived as. The rights of holders of a Gender Recognition Certificate were given further confirmation by the Equality Act of 2010 which included gender reassignment (i.e. those people holding a GRC) as a protected minority.
However to acquire those rights transgendered people have to submit themselves to medical examination. A diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria is the first hurdle. This is followed by at least two years of living full-time in the gender they identify with and the intention to take the medication and undergo the surgery at some point. When the last occurs depends for most people on the length of the NHS waiting list for gender reassignment (or confirmation) surgery. Further surgery e.g. breast enhancement, facial feminisation, etc. is rarely carried out on the NHS. Thanks to the complexity (and cost) of applying for a GRC it is estimated that only about 5,000 people (transmen and women) have actually received it in the last 14 years. The total number of transgendered people in the UK is probably somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million. For some time there has been pressure to update the Act and make it easier for transsexual people to achieve their aims.
Many transgender people do not wish to be medicalised and wish to self-declare their gender, if indeed they identify with a binary gender at all. Some transsexual people do not feel it necessary to surgically or medically alter their bodies but wish to have their gender identity recognised in law. Unfortunately, it is not just transgendered people who are involved in this consultation. Women (with some male supporters) have objected to loosening the medical constraints on transitioning and in fact, many women in this group, deny the right of transwomen to declare themselves as women. Most of these opponents to change want the law kept as it is while some, I am sure, would like to see the Act repealed and transsexual people returned to the limbo they existed in before 2004. Their reasons for this position is a perceived threat to women from allowing transwomen to enter their “safe” spaces such as ladies’ loos. I don’t think there has ever been a case, anywhere in the world, of a transwoman raping a woman in a female washroom. If indeed such a case ever occurred it would be ridiculous to tar all transwomen with the same rapist brush. Whatever the state of the GRA there is nothing to stop a man putting on a female disguise in order to attack women anywhere. A transwoman is not a man in a frock.
The silly thing is that transwomen are on the same side as women in general in wanting to feel safe from attack and in wanting equality in all fields of life. The anger with which some women have attacked transgender people is startling and terrifying. Some transgender activists have responded in kind and have campaigned to stop the women’s arguments being aired. I do not support that. Freedom of speech means just that, but there is no freedom to hate. All people should have the opportunity to express their opinion and explain their position. They should only be silenced if they threaten another person.
I hope the GRA is simplified and I hope that the women opposing transpeople do not get their way. In fact I hope that women will recognise transpeople as their supporters. I am not transsexual so not affected by changes to the GRA and am not likely to have my wishes answered – i.e. the ability to declare myself of neither gender, or both. Jasmine, however is. Here is what she has to say.
“Hi, I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a woman and I can prove it. I have a Gender Recognition Certificate and a vagina. But it hasn’t always been so clear-cut.
I started feeling that my concept of gender was different to my classmates just before I became a teenager, when puberty was firing off all around me. Prior to that I hadn’t really thought about what I was. I had an older sister, Holly, so I quite happily played girly games like dressing up with her. I wasn’t interested in boy’s sports like football or cricket but I got into athletics at quite an early age. I had friends that were boys and girls who accepted me for being me, but gender rarely seemed to come into it. Then as the boys and girls around me started to change and things began happening to my body It came to me that I was going to be a man and I wasn’t sure I wanted that. I learned pretty quickly that wearing feminine clothes wasn’t acceptable in a teenage boy so began to do it secretly. Holly was the first one to discover that and she helped me develop my dual persona of James and Jasmine. I realised I was transgender but was I transsexual or a transvestite? I didn’t know.
Meeting Angela at university was a liberation but also, perhaps, allowed me to put off a decision. Angela loved me as James and as Jasmine and was happy to be seen with either. I was happy having sex as a man although with the desire to experience it as a woman. Deciding to join the police in 2004 seemed, at the time, to be a decision time. I would be a man who liked cross-dressing in my spare time. But I was wrong. The need to be female didn’t go away. Angela recognised it as much as I did, probably sooner than me. So in 2010 I decided to transition and Angela and I parted regretfully. The police, in theory, were obliging but I met obstacles from some of my colleagues. I resigned in 2012 having started on the process of becoming the woman I felt myself to be and set out to earn a living as a private investigator. Now every experience, every medical and surgical treatment, strengthened my identity as a woman (well, there were some cases that forced me to think about my position). Now that I have completed all the surgery I need and want (I have to take the hormones for the rest of my life) I am certain that I am a woman. I can’t say exactly what a woman is, after all, we are all different with various characteristics, personalities and emotions. I can’t give birth and that Y chromosome still lurks in every cell of my body but the X chromosome is there.
Getting the GRC was a long drawn out process. Living as a woman while still retaining most of my male characteristics was difficult. We are always on edge, wondering if this or that stranger is going to take offence at our existence. Even now when a simple examination of my lower region would convince most people that I am a woman, I am still wary of the person who looks closely at my broad shoulders, narrow pelvis (only slightly broadened by the fat the hormones move around the body) and somewhat masculine nose and jaw line. Nevertheless, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with women, for women’s rights and equality with men in all fields. I am a woman.”
Read about Jasmine’s transition and life as a woman in the Jasmine Frame novels and novellas.