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MP Caroline Noakes responds to ‘bile’ sent to her over gender reform report

The Conservative MP heads up the Womens and Equalities Committee, and led an inquiry into reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: House of Commons/Caroline Noakes

The MP, Caroline Noakes, has responded to people sending her “bile and abuse” following the publication of a report on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) by suggesting they actually read the report.

In the report published on Tuesday (21 December) the Women and Equalities Committee, headed by Noakes, said that the UK government had caused “real distress” to trans people over how they had handled a consultation into reforming the GRA.

An accompanying statement from Noakes added that the government had “spectacularly missed its opportunity” to modernise the process of transitioning.

“Is that so bad?”

Writing in The Guardian, Caroline Noakes questioned why she was getting so much abuse for trying to improve the situation.

Explaining that the report came as a result of an inquiry set up in the wake of the government’s delayed response to its own consultation, Caroline says the recommendations made in Tuesday’s report were in line with the feedback the consultation had.

Broadly this would be: replacing the gender recognition panel, and removing the requirements to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria and to have to live in the preferred gender for two years. The report stated this could entrench “outdated and unacceptable gender stereotypes.”

What the government did do was digitise the process, reduce the fee from £140 to £5, and claim it was opening at least three new gender identity clinics, which had already been announced by NHS England. 

However, Noakes clarifies, there would still be a “drawn out” process before someone can get a gender recognition certificate. 

“The most common objection people have raised is the issue that any changes to the GRA would make it easier for men to legally change their gender, access women’s spaces and pose a serious threat to their safety” write Noakes, which she describes as “patently nonsense”.

Addressing the subject of single-sex spaces Noakes points out the report calls for those to “not only upheld but clarified.” Going on to explain that the Committee has asked the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to improve guidance and support both single-sex and trans and non-binary specific spaces. 

“Sometimes it will be appropriate to provide exclusive spaces. Those that argue I am against this are plain wrong,” adds Noakes. 

She urges those directing “bile and abuse” her way to read the report concluding that “Ultimately, the current process is clunky, time consuming and, in many cases, those going through it find it downright cruel.”

She closes by asking, “Is that so bad?” in regards to wanting to make the GRA “kinder, quicker, and much more understanding of the needs of transgender people and the concerns of women’s rights groups.”

“From my email inbox you would have thought so, but I don’t.”

In response to the Women and Equalities report, a Government Equality Hub spokesperson says it has listened during the consultation and the department is “taking steps to modernise the way that individuals can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate”.

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