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Tonight I attended, what can only be described as a propaganda meeting on behalf of trans activism, at Garden Court Chambers. I felt that the panel deliberately ran down the clock in order to discourage and actually stop discussion happening, as I will explain.
As we were introduced to the meeting we were told about where the toilets were (single sex on 1st floor, gender neutral on ground floor - which is nice for people with accessibility issues).

Garden Court Chambers had held an event on the GRA two years previous.
The panel were described as 'experts' and the question that Stephen Clarke, barrister from Garden Court, wanted to address was 'where have we come from?'

Clarke felt that transgender people have a manifest right to have their identity recognised in law and in public.
However, life insurance companies had stipulated that it is necessary to know the full history of individuals when drawing up contracts (presumably because of the clear difference in average age of deaths between the sexes and related likelihood for certain co-morbidities in risk
assessment, which appeared not to have occurred to Clarke), and therefore insurance companies had effectively blocked privacy on that count for transgender individuals.

In 2002 in the Christine Goodwin case Strasbourg began to reverse this position. Goodwin was apparently
unable to conceal her trans identity, because although she passed completely as a female, every time she went to the Job Centre, the computer system there revealed she had been assigned male at birth.

This amounted to state interference in an individual affairs, and also
caused her pain, humiliation and exposure to harm and threats.

Clarke said don't believe in the bogeyman, and said that when gay people had been allowed to serve in the army, there was zero effect on its effectiveness, and that the same applies in the situation of changing
legal gender.

Then Clarke spoke about the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, and how it is currently not fit for practice now, as it is too traumatic for trans people to expose themselves to.
He broke this down into sections:

1. Panel - Clarke said that people needed to appear before a panel.

(Stephen Whittle hilariously interjected at this point to clarify that applicants *do not* have to appear in front of the panel.)
2. Criteria / Evidence
- two separate confirmations are needed for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
- intention to live in target gender until death.
- psychological evaluation

(Again this evidence is paper-based)
To live in stated gender for two years prior to receiving certificate.

Also there is no need to have had treatment nor surgery prior to receiving the certificate, and as Whittle cheerfully corrected Clarke again, one only need to say that one is 'planning' to do so.
4. Certificate

There is such thing as an interim certificate, which applies in cases where a spouse has not consented to the gender change. Currently this is grounds of divorce, but the affected individual can gain an interim certficate in these circumstances which can be
converted to a full certificate following divorce.

8. Appeals
Apparently appeals are very rare - which seems to indicate that the current system works favourably towards accepting applications and/or is robust enough.

9. Securing certificate - final process
Clarke wanted to see legal gender and social reality aligned - which is an extraordinary ambition.

If no surgery or hormone treatment is required then how can society at large even begin to literally see men as women and women as men? An impossibility.
Clarke mentioned a few times that he had run over a bit.

He discussed the case of the Guardian journalist who had gained full legal recognition as being a man before giving birth to a child. He has his full certificate and everything, but the Registrar General has said it is
'a matter of truth' and that the child in question has a right to know who has given birth to them.

Clarke asked 'who controls your identity?' - and I felt that he was slightly invoking a paranoid fantasy of state control, rather than a bureaucracy recording facts.
Then Clarke threw up a slide of all the questions that he would like answered, but whoops no time to look at those at all because he was all timed out.

Next up was Lui Asquith from Mermaids who is a woman who identifies as non-binary. They graduated in family law in 2016 and
now heads up the legal department at Mermaids. Asquith seems to have been on a number of LGBTQ steering groups and Mermaids is currently developing a network of trans inclusive lawyers.
Asquith made the statement that 'we know trans kids exist because we know that trans adults exist'.

Lets think about that a bit. Because adults say that they are trans, it absolutely must be true that trans kids also exist. Obviously no evidence, scientific or otherwise
(like a survey of older trans people for example) was presented with this factoid.

Asquith main concern was 'empowering and protecting' children and ensuring 'healthy development' of trans kids. At no time did Asquith mention puberty blockers. Not once. This was all about
how legal recognition could make the lives of trans kids much more tolerable. Under the current system, which does not allow kids to be legally recognised in their target gender (either as trans or non-binary) it is causing them to feel as if they are defective.
(Oh and btw Asquith couldn't stay long because they had a train to catch. We were reminded of that before they spoke, whilst they spoke and after they spoke, so it did rather create an effect in one's mind that they couldn't be questioned.)

Perhaps most interestingly Asquith
revealed that they realised they were non-binary during a spell of depression in which they took a career break and it seems started to volunteer for Mermaids.

Asquith realised they had not had a happy childhood because they had grown up in a society in which they were robbed
of language to describe their non-binary experience. Non-binary identities are not recognised by the state, and it would make the future journey of trans kids and NB kids feel much more safe if that were the case.
Asquith felt that sometimes people forget that trans people are first and foremost human. Trans is healthy. The current system causing harm to trans children (i.e. non-legal recognition) must be stopped.

Though it isn't just legal recognition though, it is also healthcare.
Though they weren't keen on discussing healthcare really and decided it was a separate issue after all.

Asquith stated that there are no safeguarding issues intrinsic to a child saying they are trans.

They they mentioned the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child - and that this was the 'heart beat of the conversation'.

Asquith spoke again about ensuring the 'survival and development' of the child, but again did not expand on what this meant practically speaking.
Again, Asquith repeated that the current system of not allowing under 18s to legally reassign gender caused 'indirect harm' and felt that the legal capacity for under 18s to have the capacity to understand consent was 'overwhelming'.
(How would a child who hadn't gone through puberty possibly understand the context of a legal gender change though?)

Asquith talked about systems in other countries (Norway apparently have a minimum age of 6!)

They admitted that trans people, including kids, have protection
under the current 2010 Equality Act, however still urged the room to think about all the indirect harm experienced by a child who isn't able to change their gender legally.

Asquith reminded us again that they had a train to catch but that they welcomed email and discussions
after the meeting.

And then the final turn was from Stephen Whittle, who had a very long introduction from the host. Whittle started with a favourite anecdote and that he really wanted to talk about the GRA consultation.
Whittle stated that the battle to get the Gender Recognition Act started in roughly 1992 and was achieved in 2005, and that comparatively speaking it didn't take long (which is true if you compare how long female suffrage took). Two years ago a storm developed which has
augmented a 'profoundly difficult' time for trans people as their very existence has been questioned.

Whittle stated that prior to the 2004 Act the only opposition had been from the evangelical right and that womens' organisations had said nothing.
Whittle felt that women who call themselves 'feminists' were objecting to the removal of medicalisation as a requirement to certification, and that this small group of women didn't accept 'women with penises'.

Whittle stated that men have always been able to enter into womens'
spaces, and made a joke about men going into kitchens (presumably because Whittle thinks women belong in the kitchen - no one laughed at that joke btw and I should think he was a little ashamed he even said it).

Whittle stated that although 12 thousand women had signed a
petition against the proposed reforms to the GRA, and he had organised a meeting with trans prison lobbyists, none of these women could be bothered to turn up to the meetings to discuss the issues in person.

Whittle had tried hard to resolve the differences and discuss the
issues, but the real problem was women wouldn't come.

So, what is self-declaration about then?

The current legislation requires a diagnosis, but the current DSM handbook has removed gender dysphoria as a mental illness.
Whittle then made a slightly smutty joke about the smile on his wife's face the night they were officially married. Prior to that time she had been discriminated in law and as the spouse had an inferior tax status, etc.

Allowing people to change their legal gender enables
people to plan for the future, to be optimistic and improves access to healthcare (this is must be a clear contradiction, presenting as the opposite sex in healthcare is clearly detrimental and ultimately impossible).

So, Whittle posited, who is behind this small womens' movt?
It is being funded by the evangelical right wing, said Whittle, and that similar things were going on in Nigeria right now.

55,000 people had answered the GRA consultation but only 5,000 were trans people, and most of the others don't even know trans people!
Whittle stated that about 5,500 people have GRCs and another 7,500 trans people have not bothered to get one. He repeated that there was no medical requirement in order to get one, and that it was not particularly expensive to get one either.

Whittle said that prior to the
GRA 2004 Act that trans people had always been self-declaring anyway and that making it self-declaration now did not present any material difference (in which case why bother proposing to change it).

Being recognised in law in the target gender allows one to be a full citizen
and would also de-pathologise trans identities (which surely came with the depensation of medicalisation).

Whittle overran, as did the others, that out of a session which lasted an hour and a half there was just ten minutes left at the end for the Q&A.

As the Mermaids rep
had already left the building that left Whittle and Clarke to answer any questions.

The moderator basically read the riot act and said that questions had to be constructive and brief and *must* be framed within the context of addressing trans rights since that was the topic of
debate.

A woman asked a question about the balance of rights - between those of trans people and the rights of women to safe spaces, and that the removal of prerequisites and safeguards made women vulnerable - the case of Karen White cited.
Another woman said that it was not true that right wing evangelicals were funding the feminist movt questioning the self-declaration, and that it was mainly being funded directly from individual women, who were mainly on the left and involved in the TU movt.

She also asked how
would the law define the difference between male and female if self-declaration came to pass?

Whittle agreed that the Karen White case was very unfortunate but that he had only heard of two such cases in which self-id/trans id had been abused. One was by a man who had
pretended to be trans, and another was by a transwoman who had unfortunately had mental health problems.

Whittle felt it was unfair that feminists focus their attention on TW who present masculinely - since this is the Achilles heel of TW - they do not want to be reminded that
they do not fit feminine archetypes.

Whittle felt that the Karen White case was not a good example as no safeguarding processes had been followed in that case.

Whittle kept his head down, and did not look up, and was clearly making it known to the audience he was 'under
attack' from barmy women.

Whittle said that all trans people experience male violence and that we should be working together so that trans and women can be both be safeguarded.

Whittle by name, Whittle by nature, and boy did he Whittle. Whittle, whittle, whittle.
Whittling down the time, all the time.

The conversation had become so toxic that it was now impossible to have a conversation, and it is particularly difficult to have a conversation when women don't bother turning up at scheduled events to discuss the same.

Clarke butted
in to state that the Karen White case was indicative of the wider problem of mental health in womens' prisons, and that risk assessments often aren't undertaken.

Whittle stated that people who don't have legal recognition of their gender experience much harm.
Then the moderator said 'times up' !

Whittle added that he preferred to make friends, rather than enemies, and that anyone was welcome to contact him privately on his email.

And that really was the end then.
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