Belfast court trans judgment ‘a major change to the system’

A Belfast court judgment has been hailed by as a “landmark” moment in UK transgender rights by influential campaign group Stonewall.
A transgender toilet sign; c/o IndridColdA transgender toilet sign; c/o IndridCold
A transgender toilet sign; c/o IndridCold

However, a prominent critic of transgender activism has said it looks like a way of introducing a contentious change in the law “through the back door” – rather than via a political route.

The case in question concluded in Belfast’s High Court on Friday.

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A transgender person (who was granted anonymity) had challenged the government over its requirements for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate.

These certificates are an official recognition of someone’s transition from male to female (or vice versa) and allow the bearer to change their sex on their birth certificate.

In order to get one, applicants do not need to have had any hormones or undergo any surgery.

However, there are a handful of criteria:

> Applicants must show they have lived in their new identity for two years;

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> They must pledge that they intend to remain in their new gender permanently;

> And – crucially – they must have a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” – something which is described in law as a “disorder”.

The NHS describes it as “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity”.

Whilst the judge ruled that the government is still able to require applicants to undergo some kind of diagnosis, it is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights to call their condition a “disorder”.

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The court challenge followed a long-running campaign by trans activists to get the government to scrap this need for a gender dysphoria diagnosis, and replace it with a system called “Self-ID”.

Self-ID basically means letting people switch from male to female, or vice versa, without any diagnosis or medical / official oversight.

After initially signalling that it supported Self-ID, last September the government dropped its plans – largely thanks to a campaign by feminists worried about men “identifying” as women in order to gain access to female showers, toilets, sports, and so on.

Reacting to the Belfast judgment, Eloise Stonborough, associate director of policy and research at Stonewall said: “The current system to changing your legal gender is out of date and demeaning.

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“Trans people wishing to change their legal gender must prove, among other criteria, that they suffer from a medical ‘disorder’.

“It is fantastic that the High Court has ruled that this requirement is an ‘unnecessary affront to the dignity of the person applying’.

“Equality for all trans and non-binary people is long overdue, and we hope that this landmark ruling will be a wake-up call to introduce a system that treats trans people with the respect they deserve.”


Dr Debbie Hayton, meanwhile, is a prominent critic of many of the claims of trangender activists, and routinely writes columns about such matters (her day job is as a schoolteacher and trade unionist in England).

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She was originally a man, but underwent hormone treatment and surgery and now lives as a woman (though she has also written about the fact she cannot change her genetic make-up).

She never felt the need to get a certificate herself, stating that they are usually used for retroactively changing one’s birth certificate, and that she has never wanted to do that.

She said that for her the Belfast court judgment “raises major concerns”.

“Fundamentally, it seems like the courts doing the job of government,” she said.

“It’s the job of government to make laws, not the courts.

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“This court judgment here significantly changes the basis on which gender recognition occurs.

“Gender recognition was brought in to help people with a recognised medical condition live their lives in society. That’s what it’s there for.

“Now, we call these medical conditions disorders.

“What’s wrong with having a disorder? Short-sightedness is a disorder!

“All it means is that it is away from the norm, it’s a variation – that’s all.

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“I’ve lots of ‘disorders’ – that’s what makes me Debbie Hayton and not someone else.

“It seems to me it takes away the need for a meaningful diagnosis of something and introduces Self-ID by the back door.”

Read more from this reporter:

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Alistair Bushe