Original article from Kent Live
Gender recognition certificates are still "infuriatingly far from being inclusive" say Kent's LGBTQ+ community, despite the government's move to reduce its price-tag.
LGBTQ+ people in the county have been digesting the news that, as a result of a gender recognition consultation, the price of getting their identity legally recognised has dropped sharply.
The certificates, which require lengthy amounts of complicated paperwork in order to be issued, allow trans and gender non-conforming people to change their gender in the eyes of the law.
This is an essential part of trans people's daily lives, as it means that their official documentation, from bank statements to passports and driver's licenses, will all reflect their correct gender.
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The price of these was originally what some saw as a prohibitively high £140.
But it was announced by Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, on May 4 that this fee had dropped to just £5.
“We want transgender people to be free to live and to prosper in modern Britain,” she said.
“In the National LGBT Survey, 34 per cent of transgender people told us that the cost of applying for a certificate was holding them back from doing so.
“Today we have removed that barrier, and I am proud that we have made the process of getting a certificate fairer, simpler and much more affordable.”
Whilst this is, on its own, a good piece of news for transgender people in Kent, it has also come in for criticism.
It has been slammed as "not enough of a reform" to address existing issues and dubbed still exclusionary as a process in itself.
KentLive spoke to three transgender and non-binary people in Kent to get their opinions on the changes.
Necessary but awkward?
Charlie, 25, a screenwriter working in Canterbury, sees the process as necessary for him, but structurally hostile to those that need to access it.
"I mean, for me it’s going to be essential because it’ll allow me to marry or be buried as male, which feels very fundamental to me.
"Even though I’ve spent hundreds of pounds and hours of my time changing my name and gender marker legally, getting hormones and looking and sounding like a bloke, if I die right now I’ll be buried as a woman, which is a really distressing thought.
"The fact that it has dropped to a fiver is fantastic and makes the process more accessible to a degree, but the paperwork side of it is incredibly complicated and unnecessary."
Applying for a gender recognition certificate is complex and requires a large amount of evidence, with little clarity on what that evidence is meant to be.
As a result, the reform has been accepted but with great scepticism due to its failure to make the process meaningfully different beyond the initial cost.
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A 'waste of time'?
Kayleigh, a 22 year old social and environmental activist from the Isle of Sheppey, hasn't bothered applying for one, explaining: "I know how much of a waste of time it is."
For Kayleigh, having to be addressed incorrectly is, "just easier" than having to actually go through the bureaucratic process of formal recognition – speaking to the core point of contention for many trans and genderqueer people.
The government's initial consultation on gender recognition saw 34 per cent of people say that the cost of the certificates put them off – but this conceals the true takeaway from that survey.
As Kayleigh pointed out, and as it was reported in Forbes, 4 in 5 respondents to that consultation actually favoured self-identification, over the lengthy process of certification.
This approach would allow trans and non-binary people to decide to transition formally on their own terms, rather than having to seek lengthy medical and institutional approval to be referred to as their real gender.
However, this consultation was scrapped and no plans for self-ID have been discussed since.
Reflecting on the disconnect between the results of the scrapped consultation and the new policy, Kayleigh simply stated: "I mean it's nice that the price has come down, but I don't think the government has done this because it will help trans people."
Indeed, whilst it may seem an inclusive move to remove a substantial financial barrier to transition, for many this reform will be either irrelevant or simply a consolation.
The years-long waiting lists for initial gender identity consultations on the NHS drives many people to seek private treatment, which itself is a financial barrier to accessing gender-affirming care.
But for non-binary people, this news isn't simply not enough – it doesn't include them at all.
With only two legally recognised genders, those who fall outside of the binary are left having to be addressed and treated formally as something they're not.
Mathias, 24 from Medway, is simply not reflected in the current legal definition of gender.
"I don’t have too much to say on the GRC front as it really doesn’t apply to me, being non-binary, and I feel like that’s a whole different conversation," they stated.
"It’s wonderful that they have reduced the price, but it really should be free, if it can even be deemed necessary.
"It’s a win for binary trans people, I suppose, in a sentence. But it is so far from being inclusive that it’s infuriating."
Though genderqueer identities have been recognised in LGBTQ+ circles since the 1980s and reflected in cultures around the world before then, they are not recognised by any part of the UK government.
So, in spite of progress being made through this price cut, the response from Kent's LGBTQ+ community is definitively mixed, if not wholly sceptical.
It seems we still have a long way to go in either legally recognising trans people, or changing our ideas of gender altogether.