Britain’s doctors union has come out in support of proposals to allow transgender people to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis, as the government stalls on promised reforms.
The British Medical Association voted for the government to simplify the rules so that trans and non-binary people – who identify as neither male nor female – can change legal gender via a “witnessed, sworn statement”.
Under legislation introduced in 2004, trans people have to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria – the discomfort people can feel if their gender identity does not match their body – and prove they have lived as their acquired gender for two years.
“As doctors we want to make sure all our patients get treated fairly and with respect,” Tom Dolphin, an anaesthetist and a member of the council of the BMA, which held its annual meeting this week, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The BMA’s motion would bring Britain into line with countries like Ireland, Norway and Argentina that have adopted self-identification to make the process of changing one’s birth certificate less medicalised and invasive.
The British government launched a consultation to review the law in 2018 but it has not taken further action, amid a heated debate about trans rights, with opponents of “self-ID” saying it could potentially let predatory men into women-only spaces.
A leaked report published by local media in June said the government had ditched Gender Recognition Act reform plans and instead was drawing up ways to stop trans women who had not had gender reassignment surgery using female-only spaces.
An Equalities Office spokesman said on Monday that officials were examining the results of the consultation, which closed in 2018, and “will be responding shortly”.
Trans people face high levels discrimination in healthcare, with 32% experiencing unequal treatment, compared to 13% of all LGBT+ people, according to a 2018 survey by British LGBT+ advocacy group Stonewall.
The BMA called for trans people to receive healthcare “in settings appropriate to their gender identity” and for under-18s to be able to get treatment “in line with existing principles of consent”, which requires they fully understand what is involved.
The government’s National Health Service guidelines for gender dysphoria state teenagers can take cross-sex hormones from the age of 16 after having puberty-blocking drugs for at least a year.
The number of under-18s being referred to Britain’s only state-funded gender identity clinic for young people have soared in the last decade to about 2,700 a year, up from 94 in 2009/10.
A psychiatric nurse who worked at the clinic is fighting a legal battle against her former employer, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, to restrict puberty blockers for under-18s, arguing the long-term effects are unknown.
Helen Webberley, a doctor who founded GenderGP, an online private clinic with 3,000 trans patients, said the BMA’s motion was a positive step, but called for efforts to ensure “this actually gets translated into care for trans people”.
She said waiting times for government gender identity clinics of several years needed to be addressed.
-Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage – Thomson Reuters Foundation