Time to Sparkle

By Danielle Oliver, Support Worker

As Riverside gets ready to attend Sparkle, the biggest Transgender Pride of the year, this weekend I reflect back at what this year for me a transgender woman has brought.

I could say it has been an amazing year for me personally but for the community it has been a year of swings and roundabouts.

The UK Government is currently reviewing the Gender Recognition Act which would enable people to self-declare their gender. I believe this is fantastic news, but it has raised some issues.

There has been uproar from sections of society, the biggest argument being that men could go in traditional women-only spaces such as toilets.

In my opinion, if anyone is going to use a bathroom not for its intended purpose you should probably not be in there, regardless of gender. And who has a male and female toilet in their own home?

Putting that to one side, one of the main issues is that the Gender Recognition Act has absolutely nothing to do with safe spaces anyway. Trans people using spaces in line with their gender has been in law since 2010 when the Equality Act listed gender reassignment as a protected characteristic. The Equality Act is not currently under review.

So why is the Gender Recognition Act review a positive move? Currently to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate, a document issued that shows a person has satisfied the criteria for legal recognition in their acquired gender, you have to send a lot of evidence, pay a large chunk of money and then a panel of people you have never met get to decide if it is ok, before you have to swear you will never identify as the opposite gender again.

Under the new legislation, it’s hoped the legal process for transgender people to register their new identities will be streamlined and made less medically intrusive.

The review is also looking at something called spousal veto, where a married person seeking gender recognition has to have permission from their spouse. This was originally put in place to stop same sex marriage but is now outdated and needed to be reassessed.

Nobody is asking to change on a whim, what people want is to be able to complete a statutory declaration in front of a solicitor without the spousal veto. I personally don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate and I don’t mind telling you that – my passport says female and my driving licence says female and I am happy with that. I refuse to get one because I don’t believe people who have never met me should get to decide my identity.

One absolute positive for the trans community is the declassification of gender dysphoria as a mental health condition in the recent revision of the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Disease. It’s now called gender incongruence.

For a long time, there have been arguments that trans people are mentally ill and shouldn’t be given surgery. I have faced it numerous times myself, but this appears to be a vindication. There is a huge stigma around mental health still and a lot of trans people do suffer from anxiety and depression due to social pressure and prolonged dysphoria. But this is a victory for trans people everywhere and should be celebrated.

At Sparkle this weekend I am going to celebrate, what has been for me, a year of progress. And to all my trans brothers, sisters and non-binary, enjoy any Pride you are attending.