The UK government has now published the reasons for blocking the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. It’s quite lengthy, so let me summarise they reasons they gave.

  • “Part 2: Adverse effects of different GRC regimes across the UK”: Scottish Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) issued under the new regime would not be recognised by the rest of the UK, which would create legal, administrative, and practical problems.
  • “Part 3: Adverse impacts resulting from increased risk of fraudulent applications”: there is nothing specific to the rest of the UK here - it’s the same argument as made by Scottish opponents of the bill.
  • “Part 4: Adverse effects in relation to the operation of the Equality Act 2010”
    • “(a) Exacerbation of existing issues with the operation of the Equality Act 2010”:
      • single sex clubs and associations would need to accept a larger group of people with GRCs
      • an increase in the number of people with GRCs will make the Public Sector Equality Duty harder to apply and monitor
      • increased complications in equal pay claims due to more people with GRCs who may have been treated differently during their pre-GRC career
      • sex-segregated services, competitive sports and occupational requirements that are permitted to exclude trans people (even with GRCs in some cases) would need to handle a larger number of people with GRCs
    • “(b) New issues”: at the moment, it is practically impossible for school pupils to get a GRC before leaving school. Schools would need to start accepting pupils with GRCs - including single-sex schools.

The first set of perceived problems are due to non-recognition. This seems like a self-inflicted problem to me. However, I’m no constitutional expert - it may have some validity. If the objection was narrowly focussed on this point, I would be much less alarmed.

However, many of the rest are just a repetition of the same criticisms made by Scottish opposition to the bill. These criticisms are alarmist, ignore the experience of countries that have already adopted similar arrangements, and ignore the benefits the bill would bring to trans people. This reveals that it’s not a minor constitutional issue - the UK government is fundamentally opposed to this legislation.

The final issue is the most distressing to me, though. The remaining reasons are that the bill will increase the number of people with GRCs, and various organisations will need to cope with this. I believe this reveals the transphobia of the current UK government. Their position seems to be that the current arrangements are acceptable only because so few people use them. But we know that so few people apply for a GRC because the process is expensive, intrusive and bureaucratic. So the cruelty is the point. I am angry, and sad.