British adults will be able to change their gender legally without a doctor’s diagnosis under government plans that will transform British society.
Men will be able to identify themselves as women — and women as men — and have their birth certificates altered to record their new gender.
Ministers plan to tear up the existing rules which mean that people have to live for two years as their desired gender before they can officially change sex.
A consultation on the Gender Recognition Bill, to be published in coming weeks, will also include proposals to scrap the requirement that people get a formal medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” before applying to switch gender.
Critics warned that allowing people to effectively “self-identify” as a member of the opposite sex, while maintaining the anatomy of their birth gender, would unleash a firestorm of legal cases over access to women-only hospital wards, prisons, lavatories, changing rooms and competitive sports.
Justine Greening, the UK minister for women and equalities, called the move to give more rights to transgender people the third great “step forward” after equality for women and the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2013.
The announcement is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Greening said ministers want to “streamline and demedicalise” gender change to make it easier for people to switch their identity legally.
In future people are expected to be required only to make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in the acquired gender until death — in line with arrangements already adopted in Ireland.
The consultation will address whether those whose gender is “non-binary” should also be able to define themselves as “X” on their birth certificates.
A separate consultation in Scotland will go further than England and Wales by recommending that “non-binary” people should be able to define themselves as “X” on passports as well. It will also propose a reduction in the age at which people can change their gender from 18 to 16.
The plans will be highly controversial. Prominent feminists including Germaine Greer and Jenni Murray, the presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, have questioned whether men can become women even if they undergo a sex-change operation.
Stephanie Davies-Arai of Transgender Trend, a group of parents concerned about the growing diagnosis of children as transgender, said: “This has huge implications for women. There will be legal cases.
“The most worrying thing is if any man can identify as a woman with no tests and gain access to spaces where women might be getting undressed or where they feel vulnerable — like women’s hospital wards, refuges and rape crisis centres — then women will just stop going to these facilities.”
Self-identifying was recommended by a parliamentary committee last year chaired by the former cabinet minister Maria Miller and it has the backing of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.
Greening also announced that the government will make it easier for gay men to give blood. At the moment men who have had sexual contact with other men are barred from donating for 12 months. That will be reduced to three months.
Ministers will launch a national survey of Britain’s estimated 1.5m LGBT people to share their views to help inform policy.
Greening, who is in a relationship with a woman, said: “This government is committed to building an inclusive society that works for everyone, no matter what their gender or sexuality.
“We will build on the significant progress we have made over the past 50 years, tackling some of the historic prejudices that still persist in our laws and giving LGBT people a real say on the issues affecting them.”
Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, the lobbying organisation, welcomed the plans. “We need a simple process which isn’t medicalised, intrusive or demeaning,” she said.
The move will put the government on a collision course with some religious groups. Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: “It is worrying when the leaders of the main political parties are so out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.
“Allowing men to self-identify as female without any medical diagnosis allows them to invade the privacy of women and girls.
“It’s time for a reality check. Some things can’t be changed. May and Corbyn want to elevate the principle of ‘gender self-declaration’. But it is wrong, it is anti-scientific and it is dangerous.”
A source who is close to Greening acknowledged that the proposed changes could be problematic.
“That’s precisely why we are going to have a consultation, so we can examine all the implications,” the source said.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said it hopes to have “new arrangements in place by 2020”.
Source: The Australia