Legally changing your gender is now cheaper than going to the pub, after the UK government made the application process far more affordable. But the discount has rekindled debate about the true costs of transitioning.
Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss announced on Tuesday that the fee for the Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) would be reduced from £140 to £5, in response to feedback that the government received from transgender people.
According to Truss, 34% of transgender people who participated in the National LGBT Survey said that the cost of the application process made legally changing their gender more difficult.
“As we build back better, we want transgender people to be free to live and to prosper in modern Britain,” the minister said, adding that she was “proud” to make the application process more affordable.
Under the Gender Recognition Act, individuals must undergo a two-year waiting period and appear before a panel of specialists before they can receive the certificate which recognises their chosen gender.
The government is also working on moving the application process online. Together with the fee reduction, the new measures aim to make obtaining the certificate a “kinder and more straightforward” endeavor, Truss said.
As of December 2020, 5,871 GRCs have been granted since 2005, according to government figures. But some estimates suggest that there could be as many has 500,000 transgender people living in the UK.
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The initiatives have been described as a compromise by the government, which was heavily criticised by trans rights groups for rejecting a proposal that would have allowed people to change their gender legally without a medical diagnosis.
Eloise Stonborough, associate director of policy and research at Stonewall, an LGBTQ charity, welcomed the reduced fee as a “small step in the right direction,” but claimed that some trans people would still have trouble paying £5 for the certificate.
Mermaids, a UK charity supporting transgender children and youths, said that it also supported the new changes but that the right of recognition should be extended to young people.
We welcome the fees for Gender Recognition Certificates being cut to £5, but we need recognition for nonbinary people AND young people!Legal recognition = protection 🏳️⚧️ #TransRightsNowhttps://t.co/rtPlKW0PBw
— Mermaids (@Mermaids_Gender) May 4, 2021
Some on social media seemed frustrated that the government couldn’t be equally generous when processing other forms of paperwork.
“It costs 5x that to order a replacement proof of car ownership,” noted one commenter.
Cheaper than an NHS prescription
— Celia Mindelsohn 💙 (@ChelseaCes) May 4, 2021
Others wondered whether the £140 fee was really to blame for the large discrepancy between the number of gender certificates issued and the estimated number of trans people in the UK.
There were also accusations that the government was being insincere by suggesting that the application fee was what is truly holding trans people back from obtaining legal recognition.
“[T]he majority of the cost is not the application. It’s having to go private because the major barrier is inaccessible healthcare,” read one unimpressed reply.
How dare you claim this makes anything "fairer and simpler".As everyone pointed out already – the majority of the cost is not the application.It's having to go private because the major barrier is inaccessible healthcare.
— Naff Doo Daa (@NaffDooDaa) May 4, 2021
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