‘It’s very onerous and dehumanising to have to be asked all these intrusive questions in order to prove, in essence, that you are who you say you are’
MPs have heard that trans women are being told they aren’t wearing enough lipstick or “feminine” clothing by doctors when they seek medical attention.
The Women and Equalities Select Committee held a session on gender identity clinics and transgender healthcare on Wednesday as part of its inquiry into the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).
Evidence was given by Dr Harriet Hutchinson, community organiser at Action for Trans Health Durham, who said that trans women are currently having to attempt “to prove your gender to a clinician”, reported The Telegraph.
She told the virtual hearing that people using the charity’s services “have been in appointments where they’ve been criticised for not wearing lipstick or received lectures from cisgender clinicians that the trousers they were wearing weren’t ‘feminine enough’ to be regarded as female presentation”.
Describing the process as “intrusive and degrading”, Dr Hutchinson added: “So the idea of having to prove your gender is very reductive and forces trans people to conform to stereotypes in order to receive a diagnosis and then, of course, receive criticism for perpetuating gender stereotypes.”
MPs also heard evidence from Dr John Chisholm CBE, chair of the Medical Ethics Committee at the British Medical Association (BMA), who said the process was “dehumanising” for trans people.
“It’s very onerous and dehumanising to have to be asked all these intrusive questions in order to prove, in essence, that you are who you say you are,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way from regarding gender dysphasia as a medical problem, or a psychological problem or a mental health problem, and yet we are forced back into this paradigm by way of how the law operated.”
Current regulations mean that many trans people are required to live in their “preferred” gender for two years to gain “real life experience”.
According to research by the BBC, more than 13,500 trans and non-binary people were on a waiting list for an NHS gender identity clinic as of 2020.
These clinics offer assessment and support to people above the age of 18 with gender dysphoria, as well as services on the NHS including hormone treatment, facial hair removal, genital hair removal prior to surgery, voice coaching, speech and language therapy, and psychological support.
NHS England pledged to bring waiting times to no longer than 18 weeks, but the average wait for a first appointment at a gender identity clinic is 18 months. The BBC’s research found that some people had to wait three years for a first appointment.
The government slashed the cost of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) from £140 to £5 earner this month as part of changes to make it “simpler and much more affordable” to apply.
It came after ministers ruled out changes to the GRA last September, which would have enabled people to self-identify their gender and change their birth certificates without a medical diagnosis.
The UK’s equalities watchdog said the decision was a “missed opportunity”, while LGBTQ+ groups branded it “a shocking failure in leadership”.
The inquiry by the Women and Equalities Select Committee hearing continues.