Vintage books on table in library.

The law and its development

Legal commentary

Development of the law regarding gender ID in the European Court

Home Office Report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People April 2000

The Forstater Employment Tribunal judgment: a critical appraisal in light of Miller Karon Monaghan February 2020

To sum up: statute and case law recognises a binary distinction between the sexes; that binary distinction is dependent upon biology and will usually (though not always) find reflection in gender ascriptions; the EA 2010 recognises a binary distinction between males and females and recognises gender reassignment status as a distinct characteristic. The GRA is a muddle. 

Legally this is not a ‘trans-rights’ issue, its a ‘sex-rights’ issue: a blog about boxes Audrey Ludwig July 2020

Does the law say that trans women are women? The Legal Feminist July 2020


Pronouns; compulsion and controversy The Legal Feminist 19th July 2020

Making polices Equality Act compliant Audrey Ludwig 20th July 2020

Where does legislation come from? Policy formulation to drafting Scott Wortley 18th September 2020

On Thursday 24 September, MPs debated the Government’s response to the recent consultation on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004.The debate was prompted by an Urgent Question from Crispin Blunt MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBT+ Rights, to Equalities Minister Liz Truss MP.

Read the Government’s response to the GRA consultation:
Watch the debate:
Read the transcript:

Case law

R (Elan-Cane) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2018] EWHC 1530 (Admin) – This case concerned a challenge to the lawfulness of the current policy of Her Majesty’s Passport Office to require those who apply for the issue of a passport to declare whether their gender is either male or female, and that a passport will only be issued bearing an “M” (male) or “F” (female) indicator in the sex field, rather than an “X”, indicating an unspecified sex. The claim failed.

Jay v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] EWHC 2620 (Fam) (08 October 2018) and note the evidence of Dr Barrett quoted at para 29 of the judgment:

“Separately, and recently, she reports gender identity problems. Her history, if taken at face value, is reasonably consistent with this diagnosis but the difficulty is that other aspects of that history are rather directly at odds with the documentary records leading me to have doubts about the veracity of her whole history – which would include a reasonably consistent history of gender identity problems. This aspect might be made clearer if a source other than [Ms Jay] could be interviewed …. If collateral collaboration is elicited I would reach an additional diagnosis of some sort of gender identity disorder. Whether the intensity of gender dysphoria caused by that disorder is great enough to merit or require a change of gender role might be explored in the setting of a gender identity clinic; it might be sufficiently intense in a prison but not so outside one and in civilian life, for example. If collateral corroboration is not convincingly elicited I would have grave doubts and wonder whether [Ms Jay]’s somewhat dependent personality had caused her to unwisely latch onto a change of gender role as a seemingly universal solution to both why her life had gone wrong and how it might be rectified.”

Maya Forstater v CGD Europe and others: 2200909/2019, judgment February 2020

Miller v The College of Policing [2020] EWHC 225 (Admin) judgment February 2020

R (McConnell & Anor) v Registrar General for England and Wales – blog by Aileen McColgan QC 14 June 2020

The question which arose for the Court of Appeal in the McConnell case was whether a GRC entitled the appellant, who became pregnant and gave birth to a child after having acquired male gender under the 2004 Act, to be listed on the child’s birth certificate as its father. The Court decided it did not.

BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA US Supreme Court 15th June 2020

Commentary and Reform Proposals

How common is intersex Dr Leonard Sax August 2002

What reforms of the gender recognition regime could work? Maya Forstater 9th July 2020

What is the Gender Recognition Act? LGBT Foudation

UN report on Gender Identity 2019

Neurosexism: the myth that men and women have different brains Lise Eliot Nature 27th February 2019

Gender: Why “Self-Identification” Is Not Enough Michael Mascolo Ph.D. Sep 2019

Martine Rothblatt: A Founding Father of the Transgender Empire Jennifer Bilek 6 July 2020

What is a woman? Helen Joyce June 2020 

Of course sex materially exists Kathleen Stock June 2020 

In Humans, Sex is Binary and Immutable Georgi K. Marinov 2020 

The Corrosive Impact of Transgender Ideology Joanna Williams Civitas June 2020

Sex, gender and gender identity: a re-evaluation of the evidence BJPsych Bulletin July 2020

Sexist History at the Heart of the ‘Science’ on Transsexualism, Part I: Benjamin, Ihlenfeld, Money & Ehrhardt Dr Em 1 May 2020

Our society can’t function if it can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality La Scapigliata Jan 25 2019

The Dangerous Denial of sex Colin M. Wright and Emma N. Hilton Feb 13 2020

Other Countries


The Gender Recognition Act 2015

The Irish Question – WPUK October 2018

Guide to the Equal Status Acts 2000 -2012

Male-bodied transgender inmate housed with women Law Society Gazette Ireland October 2019


THE ANTI DISCRIMINATION TRIBUNAL Case 68/2018 As long as the question regarding changing rooms for transpeople is unclear, transpeople must expect reactions by using sex segregated changing rooms. Even though it can be uncomfortable for transpeople to be subject to questions about what they’re doing in the women’s changing room, this does not qualify as harassment

Useful websites

Feminist Legal Group

Fair Play for Women – legal resources note post about criminal offending rates of tranwomen at same level as male rates

Woman’s Place UK

The next meeting of the Gender Recognition Act Reform Group – GRARG

15th July 2020 8pm

It’s been an eventful few weeks since the meeting on 24th June 2020 – I’ve been banned from Medium for the crime of posting a summary of our first meeting. But happily we have found a new home.

We’ve had the shocking spectacle of Google joining forces with Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence to send an email to Boris Johnson urging him not to ‘roll back’ on trans rights.

We have seen the attempts of Allison Bailey to raise money to take her own Chambers and Stonewall to court blocked by the fund raising platform she trusted – but watched her raise her target of £60K in breakneck speed.

We have seen J. K Rowling’s account of her experiences of sexual abuse twisted and used against her by men who apparently can’t stoop low enough to silence an uppity bitch.

We’ve watched the sobering Newsnight report on the Tavistock and seen how Sonia Appleby, now brings a legal claim as the Named Professional for Safeguarding Children and the Safeguarding Children Lead at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

All of this tells me that the Gender Recognition Act and its conflation of sex and gender, has had a massive and detrimental impact on our society and our ability to conduct open, honest and civil public conversations. But there are many of us with the energy to now try and do something constructive. I have had 28 emails setting out the skill set of the group; its varied and impressive. I’ve had input from Scottish and Irish activists which hopefully we can share here to spark more discussion.

We are still waiting for any announcement from the Government as to what their reform proposals will actually look like.

I don’t want to lose momentum so I propose that we meet again on July 15th 2020 at 8pm – Zoom link is here

Meeting ID: 424 788 8422
Password: 456123

Please join the discussion on this website or contact me with any agenda items –

Key aims

I think the key now will be to form smaller subgroups where people can get to know and trust one another, while the over arching aim of the wider group is to have this conversation as openly and publicly as possible – we are doing nothing wrong in meeting to discuss the laws of our own country. We are exercising our protected rights of political speech and we will not be threatened, harassed or censored.

I would like us to start gathering resources and ‘explainers’, to set up a good library of accessible sources, to increase our own and others’ knowledge.

I would like to consider setting up some kind of webinar with guest speakers to help us spread awareness and interest – please let me know what topics and what speakers you would like to hear about or from.

Brainstorming the Gender Recognition Act

What is the GRA and why does it need to change?

The Gender Recognition Act

‘Where a full gender recognition certificate is issued to a person, the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender (so that, if the acquired gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man and, if it is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman’.

Nicola Williams in interview with Joanna Williams:

‘So much could be resolved if we could all acknowledge that gender identity is not the same as sex;. Sex needs to be clearly defined. We need to clarify this in the law. We need to make sure that organisations that use the Equality Act know what it means when there is a clash or rights and know how to enact the law properly by finding a fair balance’

J.K. Rowling Twitter 6th June 2020

If sex isn’t real there’s no same sex attraction. If sex isn’t real the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex, removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth’

How did we end up here?

Back in 2004 those drafting the Gender Recognition Act thought it would apply to a very small group of transsexuals who would go through medical change. It was needed because the UK was found in violation of the ECHR in the Goodwin case. We are still members of the Council of Europe, which has nothing to do with Brexit and therefore we are still subject to the rulings of this court.

Maya Forstater describes the impact of Goodwin

Originally the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) was passed following a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) (Goodwin v UK [2002]). The ECHR found that it was a breach of a post-operative transsexual’s Article 8 rights (concerning privacy) to have to show a birth certificate revealing information about sex when applying for insurance, mortgages and pensions and thus facing potentially intrusive questions. Also their right to marry was breached by not being able to legally change sex (presuming they were initially homosexual).
The UK government ‘gold plated’ the ECHR requirement on privacy (largely because they weren’t yet ready to tackle equal marriage). The demands for self ID (and steps which loosen the bureaucratic requirements taking it towards self ID) go even further beyond what was required by the Goodwin case.
We have seen a number of cultural and legal shifts since Goodwin was decided. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 finally legalised marriage for gay couples, which has positive implications for those transsexual people who prior to this could not marry
The Equality Act 2010 then introduced the nine protected characteristics which included ‘sex’ and ‘gender reassignment’ – NOT ‘gender identity. This has muddied the waters further. In 2000
The Home Office report stated at para 1.5 what is probably still most people’s understanding of what ‘gender reassignment’ means:
Gender reassignment is commonly termed a sex change, but in reality it is an alteration only in
a person’s physical characteristics. The biological sex of an individual is determined by their
chromosomes, which cannot be changed. What can be achieved through the transsexual person’s own efforts, and with counselling, drugs and surgery is social, hormonal and surgical reassignment.

But what seems to have captured almost all our law and policy makers from about 2015 is the argument that ‘gender reassignment’ goes so much further than this, to reveal someone’s true ‘essence’, that gender and sex are both just ‘constructs’ and if someone says they are a woman, that’s all that should be needed to establish the state of womanhood. This is what is meant by ‘self identification’ and it is this that some activists have been pushing as fundamental reform to the GRA.

The fundamental objection to ‘Self ID’ is clear:

“it sets up a direct conflict between sex-based rights and protections and rights based upon gender identity. It paves the way for males to be able to enter female-protected spaces and access provision intended for females.”

J. Williams

And as Maya Forstater has continued to point out, this persistent focus on what ‘gender reassignment’ means to the man who wants to re-assign himself, has ignored the position of those women in single sex spaces who have not been consulted about nor have consented to give away their legal rights to such a space.
Attempts to discuss this have been batted away by some activists who will simply repeat over and over ‘transwomen are women’. Happily, this mantra, alongside its sister ‘No Debate!’ (and dubious uncle ‘suck my dick TERF’) appear to be losing its persuasive power. Many more people are challenging the idea that men can become women on declaration alone.
We ARE going to talk about it.

And where are we going?

Even if Self ID is shelved for the moment, this is confused and confusing law. Its relationship with the Equality Act 2010 is not clear. We need reform if we can’t get repeal. Some want an end to any kind of demand for ‘proof’ before a GRC is granted, others want clarity about the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and how single sex spaces can be protected.
Scotland is continuing to press for change in law to require only three months living as the ‘other’ gender and lowering age for an application for a Gender Recognition Certificate to 16.

In England and Wales, consultation on reform to the GRA was held between July and October 2018 – Stonewall pushed hard for ‘Self ID’ to end the ‘stressful, dehumanising and traumatic’ process of living in the opposite gender for two years. The Government appears to have stated a firm commitment to single sex spaces and ‘Self ID’ – for now – is off the table. Proposed reforms appear now to be limited to make the process of applying for a GRC ‘less bureaucratic’.

The Government will publish more detail about its proposed reforms before the summer recess of Parliament in July 2020.

What is the purpose of this meeting?

This is an open meeting for anyone with an interest in contributing to a discussion about reform/repeal of the existing GRA. I hope people feel they can reveal their identities, but if you can’t I understand.
What is important is that we are having this conversation at all. Probably only a few months ago many of us would have felt wary about such open expression but the tide does now seem to be turning – and particular gratitude is owed to J.K Rowling here.

We are left with legislation which is confused and confusing, given the conflation between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’.

I will set out a brief agenda below. It might all fizzle out after one meeting, it might grow into something amazing. My end goal would be to produce a suggested draft Bill to replace the GRA – I find Maya Forstater’s call for simplicity and privacy by way of short and long form birth certificates to be elegant and compelling.

But I will take simply discussion about this as a victory, and one we have been denied for far too long and at too great a cost to many women.
I am hosting this meeting but I don’t ‘own’ it. I am lawyer, but not in this field, so my knowledge is probably no greater than anyone else’s who has done a bit of reading. The closest I got to being a Parliamentary draftsperson was a year at the Law Commission in 1997. So I don’t claim any special knowledge.

No one should feel intimidated against joining in or contributing. We often forget I think that the Law is not our Master – it is our SERVANT. It exists to make our lives better. Confusing laws do no one any good. It is a vital part of our democracy that we are able to meet and discuss our laws openly and transparently.

I suggest we meet again once the Government’s actual reform proposals have been clearly set out.


  • Welcome! And ground rules. Anyone disruptive will be ejected from the meeting by me and I decide, as host, who falls into that category.
  • Who is here? Who is happy to have their details recorded?
  • How many of us in repeal camp? And how many in reform?
  • Identification of skills we have in the group
  • Identification of what skills we are missing
  • Who else can we approach?
  • What practical next steps can we take? Timescales? Measurement?
  • What do people want to achieve? What would ‘success’ look like?
  • What are the arguments of those who favour Self Id and how do we deal with them?

Further reading

The law and its development

Development of the law regarding gender ID in the European Court

Home Office Report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Transsexual People April 2000


The arguments of those who support Self ID

Views of those who think it important to distinguish ‘sex’ and ‘gender’

What is a woman? Helen Joyce June 2020

Of course sex materially exists Kathleen Stock June 2020

In Humans, Sex is Binary and Immutable Georgi K. Marinov 2020

The Corrosive Impact of Transgender Ideology Joanna Williams Civitas June 2020

First Meeting

Summary of the First Meeting of the Gender Recognition Act Reform Group

On 24th June 68 people ‘met’ via Zoom for the first meeting of the Gender Recognition Act Reform Group. I set out a brief agenda and some further reading in this post.I will set out here a summary of what we discussed, some particular issues of concern that were raised, and where we go from here.

The situation in Scotland

An urgent first item on the agenda was the state of play in Scotland. There was not agreement on what the direct consequences might be of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 but there were clear concerns that we are rapidly heading to a position where we have a neighbouring jurisdiction, with whom we share a land border AND the Equality Act 2010, which is significantly diverging from ours. Self ID is certainly not off the table in Scotland.We pledged to support those in Scotland considering legal action and we will await further updates.

Reform or repeal?

The second issue was how was the group split between reform and repeal. 7 of the 68 said they were die hard repealers; most others expressed sympathy with the idea of repeal but did not think it would be politically achievable. This is my position — while we remain members of the of the Council of Europe I don’t think repeal is a likely option.Some repealers were forthright — Rob Jessel commented:Repeal is the only grown-up approach. A halfway house suits no one. The GRA is a bad law because it’s based on giving a legal footing to people’s fantasiesOthers favoured more more pragmatism:Jessica: I’m a repealer but a pragmatist so the first principle is putting a strong boundary around protecting women’s rights. Then allow legal fiction to TW but ensure sex still a matter of public record and not erased on passports etcA single issue campaign clearly has the benefit of simplicity and a strong message:I agree a repeal campaign is very straight-forward in its demand. The message that sex is immutable is much easier to argue than attempting to get people to understand legal recognition or the distinction between sex and gender
Personally, I think we need to be really clear about whether this repeal or reform is the thing that will be effective in supporting the aims of the group, which I assume are protection of females sex based rights, safeguarding of children without damaging dignity and respect for transsexuals (apologies if that is not the right term) and people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes.Karen commented:I think it is possible to repeal, with a grandfathering clause, and something that covers the privacy issue. All the other issues that drove the GRA are now moot.We all agreed those with existing GRCs should not lose them.Should we then consider forming two separate groups, or continue to work together? The conversation continued online and in chat, the consensus being that it seemed to early to start considering separation and the repealers were willing to work with the reformers. This is likely to be an issue we need to return to if the group continues and gathers momentum.

Skill set of the group

I than asked if people could email me and give me a rough idea of their skills and areas of expertise. We agreed that we would need to harness the knowledge and talent to break the task down before us into manageable chunks — what was really brought home to me in the discussions was just how mammoth an endeavour this is going to be, how the problems with the GRA’s conflation of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ have crept into the analysis of and approach to so much other primary legislation, most notably the Equality Act 2010.But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It is easy to become paralysed by inertia when you are faced with a mountain to climb. I hope we can continue to harness the energy and the enthusiasm of all who came to the meeting. I asked everyone what their version of success looked like. Mine would be, at the end of 12 months to have a draft Bill to present to law and policy makers. But the simple fact that so many were willing to get together and talk openly about this, in the face of so many years of harassment and threats to our employment, even our basic liberty, that I think we had already achieved a significant victory.We ended the meeting by agreeing to meet again in July once the Government had clarified their own proposals for reform to the GRA. I promised to write up the meeting and start a data base of members and their skills.I set out below some of the particular issues that were raised in the discussions.

What would ‘success’ look like?

I think focus on ensuring ring fenced rights/protection for women/girls is my ultimate want, whether that’s via repeal or something else, but my tolerance for the push for self ID has evaporatedWe really need to establish a strong positive argument rather than negative argument: ie. pushing for repeal on the basis of also pushing to properly enforce the equality act & sex discrimination legislation in order to ensure gender nonconformity or ‘trans’ individuals to have the protections they already ought to have under sex-discriminationWe could argue that reform necessary because (1) Act out of date because a key reason for the GRA is no longer needed, because we now allow same sex marriage, and (2) difference between sex and gender needs making in GRA and strengthen EQA also to make single sex exemptions much clearer.The legal categories Woman and Man need to stay tied to biological reality i.e. female / male of any age. It might be good to have two legal ‘gender’ categories of Trans woman and Trans man. Gender Reassignment should allow a Man to change gender to Trans woman and a Woman to change gender to Trans man. No medical or surgical procedure necessary to switch to the Trans woman / Trans man gender. People with gender dysphoria will still need various kind of support but that can be handled separately. Trans woman and Trans man gender categories have legal recognition and protection from discrimination. But no access to single-sex rights so protection for women stays secureWhat are the red lines we want to put down to protect women including data collection/records of original sex — start from thereReally like Maya’s idea of protecting gender as a belief/religionRepeal the GRA, strengthen the EqA to protect people who do not present in stereotypical fashion by all means, but the word ‘gender’ should be removed from every statute.

Particular issues of concern

A clear theme was the dissatisfaction with the confusion around ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and the lack of clarity about what actually was required for a man who wished to be seen as the opposite sex. There is no requirement for either medication or surgery even though it seems the framers of the GRA were clear that it was to benefit that very small number of people who would serious ‘commit’ to ‘sex reassignment’ — for e.g by modifying their bodies.What IS the protected characteristic of ‘gender re-assignment’ in the Equality Act? It does NOT require any medical or surgical intervention. Some argued that body modification ought to be a crtieria for a GRC, others were very strongly against that suggestion:As feminists we must ensure we don’t encourage physical or chemical changes to bodies — we think all bodies are perfect as they are and should not be mutilated to fit social expectationsPlease see the ECHR ruling Garçon and Nicot v France 1997 — France was found to have been in violation of Article 8. The ECHR ruled that any requirement for ‘sterilisation surgery or medical treatment entailing a very high probability of sterility — amounts to a failure by the respondent State to fulfil its positive obligation to secure their right to respect for their private lives.’ My understanding is that because of this ruling there would be no way of only allowing post-op transsexuals to be legally recognised as being the opposite sex to their actual sex.There was a degree of anger that we were being asked to accept a lie upon official documents or that original documents were being over written.I think anything that allows falsifying of a birth certificate is a safeguarding nightmare, and this is not pointed out enough.I think the crucial question is what does the GRA provide? The right to get a new birth certificate, which I think most people would say is not a right that is sensible or safe, especially in terms of safeguarding or fraud (see what has been going in Malta for example)We were told that the degree of secrecy around GRC made it easy for someone to hide their criminal past — apparently there is a ‘special phone number’ if carryng out DBS checks for someone with a GRC.Particular groups of people need protection against ‘the lie’ most notably the ‘transwidows’ who are facing coercion in to ‘same sex’ marriages.Another person mentioned concern for those with learning disabilties:One of my areas of interest is the effect on people with disabilities. I work with people with a learning disability (I’m an NHS Psychiatrist) and I’ve already had the situation of a severely disabled man becoming very anxious and distressed after one of his support workers “changed sex” i.e. had been working with him as a man, started presenting as a woman, being referred to by female name.I also work with many women with learning disability who become very distressed in the close presence of a male (for reasons of previous trauma), and would be further traumatised to be supported by a trans identified male (transwoman) but such women often have difficulty speaking up.

Historical Hansard debates

It was clear that those of us who hadn’t read the Hansard debates at the birth of the GRA needed to do so!If anyone here has not read Hansard, every problem we are currently having was warned about, and people were told ‘this will never happen’. Well, it HAS all happened. It is bad law, rewriting it won’t make it good law.The key debates are
And on no account should this amendment bill be allowed to be enacted: discussions in Mumsnet:

Next Steps

Can we hire MBM and a lawyer to work together to write a draft Bill? Crowdfunding costs
Sub groups to work on particular tasks is a good idea
We outline areas of the GRA such as cost, application, panel process, history and purpose etc — then write that up? — others have already done good work here; need to collect resources.
I hope we can use the good work already done from MayaThanks to all who have emailed me with details of your skill sets; I will collect the information and circulate it before next meeting. I am not naming people, but will set out what kind of skills we have access to in this group.We need to start thinking seriously about how to divide tasks up into smaller sub groups and consider setting up a website to share resources and knowledge.See you in July!