As providers of health and wellbeing services for vulnerable people, we are dismayed by Women and Equality Minister Liz Truss’ poorly-informed comments on transgender issues.
Nobody’s fundamental rights should be subject to ‘checks and balances’, as the Minister suggests. Single-sex spaces are already protected under the Equality Act; trans and non-binary people deserve the same access to relevant services and provisions as everyone else.
Trans and non-binary people face discrimination and exclusion in all areas of life. They are disproportionately likely to experience sexual violence and domestic abuse, plus encounter severe difficulties in accessing healthcare, housing, education, jobs, and benefits. This is especially the case for trans women and girls, plus trans and non-binary people of colour.
Trans and non-binary people of all ages require support in accessing services, and making informed decisions about their own lives and bodies. The Minister’s statement that young people need to be ‘protected’ from making ‘irreversible’ decisions appears to contradict existing legal precedents.
These include the principle of Gillick competence, and the Fraser guidelines, which together protect the rights of minors to make their own decisions around medical treatment, if they can demonstrate appropriate capacity to consent.
Any move to undermine these principles will have deeply concerning implications for all minors. In particular, young people’s confidential access to contraception, sexual health services, abortion services, counselling and therapy will be at risk. Rather than positioning trans and non-binary people as a problem, the Minister, along with the Women and Equalities Committee, should focus on ensuring that the Government delivers on the recommendations of the 2015 Transgender Equality Inquiry.
These include the expansion of healthcare provision, and reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to ensure full legal recognition for trans and non-binary people of all genders, on the basis of self-determination.