On Liz Truss, The GRA Reforms + Confirmation Bias

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “On Liz Truss, the GRA Reforms & Confirmation Bias”. On the right is the a logo for the blog, ”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

CW transphobia, terfs, fascism mention, pathologisation and domestic abuse mention, ableism

Hi all, 

So, as you will almost certainly be aware, the UK government finally released the long-awaited outcome to the GRA reforms for England Wales and Northern Ireland first planned years ago. In a nutshell, it will get a bit cheaper, it will move online, there will be no rollbacks like was feared in the past, but ultimately the main point of the reforms (depathologising it and making the process more humane) will not be happening. You can read the paper here. 

I have a lot of thoughts now the dust has settled a bit, and seeing as I have not done a post on this blog addressing the GRA exclusively due to my stressful situation, now is the time to do so. Specifically, the broader context going on out of public view that has emerged this week.

Let’s talk about context

Shortly after the government finally published the consultation results, there was a blog post put up by Crispin Blunt, a Tory MP. He heads the multi-party LGBT group in the Houses of Parliament explaining some of the events that happened in Parliament regarding the reforms.

Here is the most relevant extract: 

I regret that the considerable work done in privately agreeing a way forward by the wider LGBT+ lobby both in Parliament and outside, to deliver respect and reassurance around the position of trans people in the UK meeting square on the anxieties of some cisgender women around single-sex spaces for example, and the quality of relationship and sex education in schools, was not adopted by the Government, and does not appear to have been properly understood. It is certainly seems to me that the Minister for Women and Equality’s own appointed LGBT+ advisers and those that serve in the Government Equalities Office have also had their advice disregarded.

I am now releasing the private paper that was agreed by the Officers of the APPG on 8th July 2020. The paper was shared with all the political parties’ own LGBT+ Groups and was discussed fully with the relevant civil society groups. Whilst different organisations had their own order of policy priorities for trans people, it was agreed that the APPG position paper, in light of the government’s apparent position, would represent a satisfactory outcome to the consultation. The paper was offered privately to the government in the wake of the anxieties set off by the Secretary of State when she appeared before the Women and Equalities Select Committee on 22nd April 2020.

Crispin Blunt, Tory MP for Ramsgate and Head of the All Party Parliamentary Group for LGBTQ+ Rights

Firstly, there was lobbying going on after all. A lot of LGBT organisations were claiming behind the scenes stuff is happening with the UK government. However, with the lack of physical evidence available publicly for trans folk to read, it was hard to believe, and it felt nobody was on the side of trans people. After all, that is why people protested. So I’m glad there was confirmation of this existence and some detail.

This was written as a reaction to both the consultation and the statement Liz Truss had written to Parliament (you can read that here). This statement not only showed that in the eyes of the Government it was a low priority matter, but it was also quite telling about Truss’s mindset. For example:

“We have also come to understand that gender recognition reform, though supported in the consultation undertaken by the last government, is not the top priority for transgender people. Perhaps their most important concern is the state of trans healthcare. Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long. I agree, and I am deeply concerned at the distress it can cause.” 

Liz Truss

In other words – you can have healthcare or self-ID, you can’t have both (even though this binary X or Y is a false choice. It also misrepresents the actual new gender clinic announcement, which was decided long before today. One of these, the Indigo Gender Service, got formally announced this week as well, which I will blog about another time when a bit more is known about it.

“Britain leads the world as a country where everybody is able to lead their life freely and treated with respect and that, for many years, transgender people have been widely accepted in British society; able to use facilities of their chosen gender; and able to participate fully in modern life. 

At the heart of this is the principle of individual liberty. Our philosophy is that a person’s character, your ideas, and your work ethic trumps the colour of your skin or your biological sex. We firmly believe that neither biology nor gender is destiny.”

Liz Truss again

This is gaslighting (with terf dogwhistles included) and shows Truss hasn’t engaged with the issue properly, nor wants to see legitimate structural barriers that harm transgender people. At best, they are just empty platitudes designed to cater to the uninformed and privileged majority that wouldn’t grasp the underlying harm first hand. People want to feel comfortable and reassured that the government are doing the right thing. Hence, statements like this will work on many of its readers and politicians add them for this purpose. It’s a psychological trick. However, there is more to the story. 

This is only the tip of the iceberg. 

I’ve long believed the Gender Recognition Act misrepresentation and bad faith debating of a political issue the average voter doesn’t know much about was Brexit style discourse on a smaller scale. These actions only reinforce this. With the above evidence combined with the results from the consultation, it clearly shows the government’s minimal efforts are rooted primarily in trying to please both the transgender community and terfs. This is fundamentally impossible, because one side supports human rights and science, the other side is bigotry and fascism. Now the average understanding of transgender issues by the public has been reduced as a result. This had led to genuine fears as a result of misinformation and a view that transgender issues are complicated when they aren’t.

Additionally, evidence shows Liz has lied about which groups she has been meeting regarding the GRA. Namely that she did not meet the LGBT Consortium and Trans Media Watch like she claimed and instead only listened to anti-trans hate groups. The Consortium person was just a staff member that was vaguely associated with them. She did meet the Heritage Foundation, a significant driver of the anti-trans movement, in August 2019, as part of her role as Trade Secretary, so it’s likely she talked to them about transgender rights. Her behaviours show she is hiding something so so she has little credibility at this point.

Here is an extract from Baroness Liz Barker, a Lib Dem House of Lords peer, from her speech accusing Liz Truss of this, who said that: 

“[Liz Truss] should come clean, admit that she’s not met with anyone who would be affected by the reforms she has rejected, and address any bias in who she has met. “…This is not an appropriate way for a government minister to behave.” 

Baroness Liz Barker, Liberal Democrats Houses of Lords Member

What Barker is referring to there is when Liz Truss had an Urgent Question session regarding her behaviour around announcing the GRA reforms. This was also put forward by Crispin Blunt which was a good thing to do. Releasing a statement the way she did wasn’t good enough. As for the Urgent Question session, you can read that here or watch that here.

However, Liz shared nothing new or reassuring. All her responses to very valid questions by MPs across the whole political spectrum were repeating contents of the Parliamentary statement I already picked apart earlier. It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever watched and considering how evil the Tories are usually, that says a lot. 

Why this is a classic example of confirmation bias 

It is becomingly increasingly clear that Liz Truss isn’t fit to be an MP, let alone the women and equalities minister in charge of reforming an act of law affecting a marginalised group. She has been only seeking out supporting evidence that matches her own anti-trans perspective and refusing to entertain the lived experience of trans people.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees with me!” these people say, purposely omitting the fact that they’ve actively chosen to only speak with people that do and excluding anybody who doesn’t. Only after the transphobe finishes their “consulting” and the people purposely silenced speak out, it becomes clear that said bias was so intense it made the consulting a lost cause all along. To them, the idea of consulting was a lie.

Transphobes will do anything to validate their inaccurate and scientifically invalid perspectives even if it means excluding pro-LGBT people from the conversation. They don’t care about the consequences on trans people even though legal recognition would help protect us from discrimination, homelessness and abuse, among other things. You cannot get transphobes to suddenly come round unless they were already coming round on their own accord and needed an excuse to show this with others.

Therefore, it’s not “Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees with me!”, instead “Everyone I’ve spoken to and have not challenged my views and made me uncomfortable agrees with me.”  

This is also something I can corroborate from my own experience as this behaviour was something my transphobic relatives did despite my best attempts to get them to come round. Hence, as a trans person with lived experience, when I think of Liz Truss after considering all the above, that is what I see.

Liz Truss is a danger to not just the trans community, but any marginalised group in general. That includes cis women as well. She is not fit to be women and equalities minister nor trade secretary (as organising trade deals that are harmful to the UK will affect cis women and marginalised people more, such as higher tariffs on food). She is not even fit to be an MP, and Liz needs to be removed from Parliament immediately. 

With all the above considered, it’s no wonder she purposely chose to do what she did. She chose to discard the results of the consultation, claim it was hijacked by trans people and push anti-trans rhetoric.

The claim trans people hijacked the consultation is untrue. This was debunked by Nottingham Trent University, of which the Equalities Office had contracted to analyse the results ages ago. Also, the 70% statistic said in the news as the number of respondents supporting self-ID was fake. Nottingham Trent University said this number did not exist in the consultation results. The actual number was much higher, and I suspect Truss made it up herself as she likely leaked the initial plans to the press back in June 2020.

Hence, the consultation paper was little more than an inconvenience to this confirmation bias and must be omitted on purpose. It doesn’t fit the narrative Liz wants to craft, hence is why she has treated these reforms the way she has. Speaking of the results, they included highlights such as: 

“Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64.1%) said that there should not be a requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in the future, with just over a third (35.9%) saying that this requirement should be retained.” 

“Around 4 in 5 (80.3%) respondents were in favour of removing the requirement for a medical report, which details all treatment received.” 

“A majority of respondents (78.6%) were in favour of removing the requirement for individuals to provide evidence of having lived in their acquired gender for a period of time.” 

“The majority of respondents (83.5%) were in favour of retaining the statutory declaration requirement of the gender recognition system. Of those who were in favour of retaining the declaration, around half (52.8%) did not agree with the current declaration wording that the applicant intends to “live permanently in the acquired gender until death”.” 

Extracts from the summary section of the GRA 2004 reform consultation paper

On a wider note, this situation also sums up politics in the UK today. You can have all the statistical evidence on your side and the backing of many credible experts. Still, if the person in charge of making the final decision is a bigot consumed by validating their bigotry, it doesn’t matter. Ad hominem attacks, gaslighting and misrepresentation of arguments are given equal standing and purposely chosen. This isn’t just limited to gender recognition.

Where do we go from here? 

Trans people like myself are tired of the relentless, institutional transphobia that has stemmed from the UK media and far-right groups as a result of the government not nipping it in the bud. This failure did influence the consultation and media coverage over it, turning what should have been a simple administrative change into a culture war battleground that does little more than terrorising marginalised people. Fear leads to us wary of engaging services for fear they will reject us due to pressure or brainwashing put on them by terfs. This is likely what happened to me when I first tried to flee domestic abuse last year.

I’m glad Nottingham Trent highlighted the intersection between autistic people and trans people in the consultation, specifically concerning gatekeeping and having their gender identity invalidated because they’re autistic. This was so important to mention as it shows more needs to be done on an intersectional basis, likewise an accessibility one. Also, the move to online and the cost reduction are the right moves as well on their own merits (but not by themselves).

Terfs genuinely think that self-ID has been defeated by the UK government when this is far from the case and shows how little they know about transgender people. Trans people can update every other document much more quickly and efficiently than the GRA. Likewise, trans people can access spaces much more often than transphobes will ever accept. Hence, transgender rights will eventually be victorious regardless of what bigots say, including self-ID for birth certificates (that isn’t even a valid form of ID).

To achieve that, there will be many things that the trans community and UK government bodies need to act on, specifically: 

  • getting Liz Truss sacked as equalities minister 
  • reforming trans healthcare so it’s fit for purpose 
  • combatting transphobia in broader society, including in the media 
  • ensuring the public have accurate information on transgender issues, specifically for trans kids and the law 
  • reforming the GRA 2004 properly as shown in the consultation
  • ensure non-binary people have legal recognition 
  • protecting trans kids
  • get gender critical feminism decreed to be hate speech 
  • improving the Equality Act 2010 to not only be more inclusive of nonbinary people but also strictly clarify (or ideally remove) the legitimate aim exception not to allow providers to discriminate against trans people 

I’m sure there’s many more, but you get the point. 

Considering the circumstances, I can personally deal with this outcome despite the huge disappointment. Not because I don’t believe the Act shouldn’t be reformed (far from it), but because the result could easily have been far worse. I am glad that rights weren’t rolled back and, in some ways, progressed forward, but this mess was still avoidable and fixable before Boris Johnson became prime minister.  

The GRA needs to be left alone until after the government has sacked Liz Truss at the very least. Nobody should trust the most fascist and intentionally malicious Tory party with reforming it correctly even if they intended to. Hence, if reforms do happen under this administration, there would need to be cross-party involvement.

That’s all for today, 

Milla xx 

PS I recently set up a crowd funder to help kickstart my medical transition privately. Please consider donating to it if you have something to spare. You can view it here. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!