Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
The government has reduced the application fee for a Gender Recognition Certificate from £140 to a “nominal fee” of £5.
A Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is needed for trans men and women in the UK to amend their birth certificate and change their legal sex. Non-binary people are still unable to do so.
The change was announced by equalities minister Liz Truss on Tuesday (4 May), who added that the process will soon be moved online to make it “fairer and simpler”.
“As we build back better, we want transgender people to be free to live and to prosper in modern Britain,” she claimed.
“In the National LGBT Survey, 34 per cent of transgender people told us that the cost of applying for a certificate was holding them back from doing so.
“Today we have removed that barrier, and I am proud that we have made the process of getting a certificate fairer, simpler and much more affordable.”
The government said this would “modernise” the application and remedy “one of the key issues” identified by trans people in the gender recognition process.
While removing the fee is a positive step, it comes as little comfort after Truss scrapped any plans for meaningful reform to a process widely condemned as intrusive, intimidating and undignified.
Only a minority of trans respondents said cost was the main barrier to gender recognition, compared to the majority who cited the bureaucratic process.
To obtain a GRC trans people must first get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which can take years due to the painfully-long waiting times at NHS gender clinics.
They must also have medical reports submitted to a panel of cisgender people, whom the applicant will never meet, to judge whether they meet the criteria for legal recognition.
Back in 2017 Theresa May announced plans to “streamline and de-medicalise” the process in favour of self-identification, for which a public consultation found overwhelming support.
But these reforms were devastatingly abandoned by the Tory government last year in favour of what Stonewall has described as “minor administrative changes”.
Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said in response to the application changes: “It’s also important that the government commit to a clear timeline of further changes to streamline the application process, and move it online.
“However, none of these changes are a substitute for meaningful reform to the Gender Recognition Act.”