UK set to follow Argentina’s lead on transgender rights

This week the UK government announced its plan to reform gender identity rules, which will help improve the rights and dignity of transgender people.

<p>Mitch Yusof and Marcela Romero at Trans Pride</p>Mitch Yusuf and Marcela Romero calling for transgender rights at Trans Pride © International HIV/AIDS Alliance

Under the current Gender Recognition Act (2004), people who wish to change their legal gender identity have to prove they have been living as that gender for at least two years and must obtain a doctor’s diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

The process has been described as very slow and overly complex. “The Gender Recognition Act forces people to jump through hoops and undergo deeply personal and intimate examination of their life,” said Sophie Cook , a transgender woman and former Labour candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham, wrote for Pink News.

Also speaking to Pink News, Sara PhillIips of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, said: “Onerous application systems only impact negatively on one’s mental health and do not serve to provide any benefit to the state.”

The reforms will remove intrusive processes and requirements for medical evidence, and allow people to self-identify through a simple administrative process.

Demanding transgender rights

The announcement came at the end of the Alliance’s ‘Trans Week’ (17-21 July), an event to learn more about the needs and priorities of transgender people globally as a key population in the response to HIV. The event was timed to coincide with Trans Pride, held in Brighton (21-23 July).

Marcela Romero, founder and regional co-ordinator of the Latin American Network of Transgender People (REDLACTRANS ), who co-organised and participated in the Alliance event, said: “The medicalisation of the gender identity of transgender people and their subjection to psychological diagnosis needs to stop. We demand the legal recognition of our gender identity now!”

REDLACTRANS played an instrumental role in the introduction of a gender identity law in Argentina in 2012 – the first of its kind in Latin America. The law enables people to change their gender and name given in their identification documents without the need for surgical intervention or judicial permission. Since the implementation of this law, according to research by REDLACTRANS, there has been an increase in the number of transgender people in employment and studies, as well as in those accessing healthcare.

Romero said: “A person without identity does not exist. With the passing of the law, we succeeded in getting our existence recognised. It was a first step.” Similar laws have since been approved in Colombia (2015), Ecuador (2016), and Bolivia (2016).

Overhaul of UK gender legislation long overdue

The UK government could do well to look to Argentina as an example to ensure respect for the self-perception of identities, without the need for previous medical, psychiatric or psychological treatments.

Certainly the need for an overhaul of UK legislation was apparent at the first Annual Trans and Non-Binary Conference in Brighton, hosted by the University of Brighton (20 July). For people like Joshua Measure-Hughes (18) and Kathryn Walsh (19), who spoke candidly about their struggles navigating UK healthcare systems and even having their right to vote challenged due to inaccuracies in name and gender, the UK government’s announcement is welcome news.

Transgender rights regress in US

While progress is being made in the UK and in Latin America, the United States is now going backwards in terms of transgender rights. Just two days after the UK government stated its intention to reform the gender recognition act in efforts to ensure transgender people are treated fairly and equally, President Donald Trump declared via Twitter that transgender people should no longer be able to serve in the US military.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community has condemned Trump’s statement as a discriminative attack, highlighting the harsh reality that the human rights of transgender people continue to be violated throughout the world. The need for advocacy for the global recognition of transgender people’s rights is as strong as ever.

Mitch Yusof, member of the regional steering committee for the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) , and executive director at SEED Malaysia also co-organised and participated in the Alliance Trans Week event. Speaking alongside Romero on stage at Trans Pride, he said: “It is a choice that I make to live my life truthfully as I am. My T stands for truth. And in the end, trans lives matter where ever we are.”