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What's the story?
It’s the political hot potato that has routinely been flung down the line like a rugby ball.
And this week Boris Johnson seemed to confirm that the results of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultation would be delayed once more.
“On the general issue of our response to the Gender Recognition Act, we’ve said that we’ll be responding over the summer and that’s what we’re going to do,” the Prime Minister said, somewhat vaguely.
Journalists and campaigners had anticipated an announcement from Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss before recess.
Yet the Parliamentary session is over and we are seemingly no nearer an answer on the issue of self-identification.
It had been reported that the Government was poised to scrap plans to make it easier to allow people to change their legal gender by “self-identifying” as male or female.
The plans were originally drawn up under Theresa May’s government to enable transgender people to change their birth certificate without a medical diagnosis.
But a source seemed to quash any hopes of major reform, telling The Sunday Times: "In terms of changing what is on your birth certificate, you will still need to have proper medical approval.
"And you're not going to be able to march in and find a hippie quack doctor who is willing to say you're a woman. That's not going to happen."
However, a Government source later suggested that the story had been briefed by ministers who were "trying to stampede a decision that has not been taken".
The reports sparked criticism from LGBT activists, including those within the Conservative party.
Deputy chair of LGBT+ Conservatives John Cope said it could be a “Section 28 moment”, comparing it to the law passed by Margaret Thatcher in 1988 that banned councils and schools from promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality.
Mr Cope said such a decision would end up being “apologised” for and “unpicked within years”.
Under the 2004 GRA legislation, those wanting to change their gender pay £140 and have to produce two medical reports that they have suffered from gender dysphoria.
Those who wish to continue apply to a Gender Recognition Panel for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
To grant a certificate the panel must be sure that the applicant has gender dysphoria, has lived in their gender for two years before application and intends to continue living in their gender until death.
Once a GRC is made, a birth certificate will be re-issued confirming the applicant’s true gender and new chosen name if relevant.
Theresa May pledged to let people officially change gender without medical checks in 2017, saying that “being trans is not an illness and it should not be treated as such”.
A huge public consultation on potential changes was held in 2018, with more than 100,000 people reportedly sharing their views on proposed improvements to the law.
According to reports around 70 per cent of responses to the consultation were in favour of allowing people to self-identify as a man or a woman.
Ms Truss set out her priorities in response to the consultation in April this year, vowing the “protection” of single sex spaces and ensuring transgender adults are free to live as they wish while maintaining “proper checks and balances”.
Her comments sparked fears inside the LGBT community that the UK could adopt something akin to the American “bathroom bills”, which restrict transgender people's access to restrooms. But her proposals remain to be seen.
It’s not the first time the issue has been kicked into the long grass.
Ms Truss’ predecessors Penny Mordaunt and Amber Rudd also promised to publish the results and the government’s proposals for reforming the GRA.
Anything else I need to know?
It appears there is no obvious consensus in the parliamentary Conservative party on the issue.
Penny Mordaunt, widely thought to be in favour of reform, urged Liz Truss “to be brave" when considering amending the GRA.
While Michael Gove said last year: "If you are seeking gender reassignment within the NHS then it's initially treated as a mental illness.
"It's not. It never should be.”
There is a fair amount of scepticism on the Conservative backbenches over self-identification, but many from the new intake of ‘Red Wall’ MPs take a more liberal stance.
The British public seem to be almost as divided as the party.
A recent poll found that 50 per cent were in favour of trans people self-identifying, compared with just 27 per cent who said they opposed.
A large minority, 23 per cent, said they did not know how they felt about trans people being able to self-identify.
A separate poll found that 28 per cent agreed that it should be easier for people to change their legal gender, with 47 per cent against.
That, perhaps, is the crux of it. There is no easy win for the Government on this issue.
A quick glance at social media shows that this is a debate that can inflame tensions like no other.
The Refresher take
With public and party so divided, you could understand why the Government might want to sweep its response to the consultation under the rug.
But that might not be as easy as it sounds. The issue of trans rights is under the spotlight like never before – we’ve even seen JK Rowling butting heads with Labour MPs over the issue.
Parliament is also unlikely to let this slide. In June a coalition of the LGBT+ groups from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland said they “stand united” in their firm support for the transgender community.
The groups wrote to Liz Truss, complaining the delays had led to “continuous scaremongering and vilification in the media”.
While most activists and charities have criticised the delay, some have noted that the time gives them time to “reset” the debate.
And Ms Truss’ own future seems to hang in the balance, with reports suggesting she may be moved from her post in the near future.
“It might be hedging our bets, but there is a good chance a new minister will look upon this issue more favourably,” one campaigner admitted.