Requiring a trans woman to show she suffered from a “disorder” is an unnecessary affront to her dignity, the Northern Ireland High Court has ruled. The obligation required in order to secure official recognition of her preferred identity is incompatible with human rights, said the ruling.
Judicial review proceedings brought against the Government Equalities Office (GEA) focused on the terms of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The woman, who has chosen to stay anonymous, began her transition more than 20 years ago, and took legal action in a bid to obtain a new birth certificate. In order to obtain the “Gender Recognition Certificate” (GRC) that allows a replacement birth certificate to be issued with the correct gender, she required a medical report to confirm a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”. Her lawyers that amounted to unlawful stigmatisation.
Justice Scoffield found that the specific requirement to prove she was suffering from a disorder was unjustified.
He described it as “an unnecessary affront to the dignity of a person applying for gender recognition through the legal process set out for that purpose by Parliament”.
The woman’s affidavit explained that the legal requirement caused her to feel shame and distress.
“It makes me feel that what I am, at the core of my being, in terms of my gender identity, is pathological and disordered,” she stated. “As the evidence before the court demonstrates, such feelings are not unique to me but, sadly, are all too common for trans people in the United Kingdom and, indeed, across the world.”
In his judgment Mr Justice Scoffield concluded that it was proportionate to require medical reports as part of the GRC process. He held that the obligation for specialist input in support of an application strikes a fair balance between the individual’s interests and those of the community.
However, he ruled that having to demonstrate suffering from a disorder to secure the certificate is now unnecessary and unjustified, particularly in light of diagnostic developments.
Solicitor Ciaran Moynagh of Phoenix Law, said: “We are delighted the court today has recognised that being trans is not a mental illness and the word disorder is now unjustified and stigmatising. We look forward to learning how the Government will remedy the Gender Recognition Act in light of this judgment.”
In 2017 the government announced that they would consider reforming the Gender Recognition Act. Several countries had made changes to legislation that allowed trans people to self-identify, including Ireland. Since, under pressure from anti-trans activists, the UK government has announced it will make no significant reform to the legislation. It has introduced online applications, and reduced administration fees, but the spousal veto and the need for medical sign-off remain unchanged.
Workers’ Liberty support transgender rights and express our solidarity with trans people. We oppose prejudice, hostility and discrimination against trans people. As part of this approach, we recognise the flaws in current gender recognition law and support proposed changes to it, including self-declaration of gender.