This year marks the 20th anniversary of my coming out as gay to my family and friends.
Back in those days ‘coming out’ was quite a daunting thing to do, not like these days with all the hover acceptance and flying equality. If you’re hetrosexual you’ll probably never have to tell your parents that you like to kiss willies or tongue tickle a clitoris. OK, you don’t say it like that exactly, but let’s face it, sexuality is about who you are sexually attracted to. So stating that you are attracted to people of the same gender you are pretty much fessing up to having sex with them. So, if like me, you were indoctrinated by the Catholic church to believe that sex was a dirty and wicked sin, you can imagine how mortifying it all was.
Anyway in 2005 I turned my back on the LGBT community and went into effective retirement from sexual life. The perfect pecs on the Gay Times front cover, the clubs that made me feel bad about my own skinny then doughy exterior and my inability to earn the “the pink pound” made me realise that I had nothing to offer that world. I’d had quite enough of falling in love with the wrong people. So the prospect of a relationship gradually faded, until one day I found myself saying to a friend “why would I want a relationship? That would be awful! Having somebody cluttering up my bed and being forced to negotiate with them to watch my favourite TV show, not likely. I’ll be single until I die.”
However fate is a bitch and only three weeks later I walked into a room and met the man I fell in love with. So now I’m paying attention and the news isn’t good.
First I joined Stonewall and had a look at what they were up to these days. Seems that a lot had been happening in my time away. I knew that the equal marriage act had been passed of course and that they were doing a lot of work helping overseas organisations campaign against some horrific human rights violations. However, I also noticed that they were finally fully representing trans people, who had been pretty much ignored in the past.
Then I began to do my own research and discovered that there is a vast amount of work to do in this country around the rights of trans people. Currently the Gender Recognition Act is a horror story of legislation. It is far more interested in protecting the rights of cisgender people like me, than those of the people it is supposed to be supporting.
For instance, did you know that if a trans person wants to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate they need to have:
• An original or certified copy of a birth certificate
• Copies of any official documents that show their birth name has changed to their current name
• Proof that they’ve lived in their transitioned gender for 2 years.
They also need:
• A report from a doctor registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) or from psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council detailing any treatment they’ve had to transition, e.g. hormone treatment or surgery.
It doesn’t end there, and brace yourself because this one’s a doozy. If they are married they need to get permission from their spouse to legally change their gender.
Yes, you read that correctly. Their partner has veto power over something fundamentally personal because our politicians were worried about cisgender people being ‘forced’ into a same sex marriage. Now this is easily obtained if they have a supportive spouse. But what if you’re fleeing domestic violence or your spouse has run away to a different country? You can’t just divorce them, because divorce takes time and a controlling abuser will fight it.
Then to add insult to injury, a person wanting to obtain a GRC has to pay a £140 administration fee, which they lose if the application is rejected for any reason, effectively pricing out people on a low income.
And let’s not forget that to get to this stage many of the applicants will have transitioned and have already obtained reports from three psychologists and myriad medical professionals. So asking for more ‘proof’ to obtain a GRC is simply insane.
So why do I care?
Well I care because not that long ago Gay and Lesbian people were fighting for equality and in this country and that fight has been largely won. Now trans people are fighting for their rights and it is important that we all stand up and support them.
Things are getting better. The BBC and Channel 4 are doing great work in improving trans visibility on their networks with shows like Boy Meets Girl and Banana and a recent report by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has advised that the GRA is amended and a self-declaration system introduced. However the GRC remains and they have steadfastly refused to make any recommendations regarding the spousal veto.
So there you go and as we used to shout in the olden days “I’m queer on a peer, over here. No here!” OK! I’m a little out of practice.