James Kirkup James Kirkup

How women won the war against gender ‘self-ID’

Equalities minister Liz Truss (Getty images)

Liz Truss, in her role as equalities minister, has confirmed to Parliament that the Government will not amend the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow people to change their legal gender without the approval of doctors and officials. ‘Self-ID’ is not happening. There is a lot to say about this statement, and the way it has been made. Here are four thoughts, for now.

1: It was the women what won it

This decision is a significant reversal in government thinking. In 2017, when the May government announced a consultation on GRA reform, a system of self-ID was effectively the default option. Most politicians paid no attention to the detail, instead outsourcing their judgement on a complex and seemingly obscure issue to officials who were often very (too?) close to highly-effective professional advocacy groups such as Stonewall, which has led the push for self-ID.

Today’s announcement is a product of remarkable grassroots political organisation. Even though a great many politicians privately came to see the flaws and risks of the self-ID proposal, very few of them engaged with this topic publicly. The real political opposition to self-ID came from ‘ordinary’ women who saw the proposal as a potential threat to their legal rights and standing. Some of them came to the issue via Mumsnet <waves to FWR board>. Others attended townhall meetings of A Woman’s Place UK, a group set up by women with their roots in the trade union movement.

This grassroots movement deserves a lot of attention and study. It shows how, even when politicians aren’t doing their job properly and listening to all sides, people with determination and organisation can make themselves heard. They can also go head-to-head with the professional advocacy groups. In the consultation on GRA reform, there were around 102,000 responses. 39 per cent of them came from an online form set up by Stonewall, a professional and well-funded charity.

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