Belfast transgender case ‘could have nation-wide repercussions’

A pending judgement in a Belfast court could have repercussions right across the UK, according to a prominent transgender writer.

Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 10:18 am
Debbie Hayton

Debbie Hayton said if the case now before Mr Justice Scoffield succeeds it will spark other cases across the nation, with the aim of re-writing the rules on switching gender via the courtroom, instead of via the political process.

The case in question is a judicial review challenge, taken in the High Court by an anonymous person who describes themselves as transgender (referred to here as Person A) against the UK government’s Equality Office.

It centres on something called a “gender recognition certificate” – a document transgender people can get to officially switch their identity.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Although activists have maintained that getting a certificate is too difficult, it is already possible to get one without having had any hormone treatment, or having undergone any surgery.

However, applicants must have had a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” – an NHS-recognised clinical condition, describing the discomfort they feel with their physical gender.

They must also state their intent to live in their new identity for life before they can obtain a certificate, at a cost of £140.

Activists have been trying for years to scrap these requirements, replacing them with a system called “self-ID” (basically allowing anyone to “identify” as whatever gender they want, with no professional approval).

But following a growing backlash – largely from feminists – against the idea that men can become women by the power of thought alone, the government decided not to press ahead with proposals to relax the gender recognition requirements.

The Belfast court challenge comes in the wake of gender activists’ failure to win political support for their reforms.

Person A is legally registered as male, because they never obtained a gender change certificate.

They are arguing that the requirement to show a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is “stigmatising”.

Debbie Hayton, a 52-year-old Birmingham-based trade unionist and teacher, who regularly commentates on transgender matters, told the News Letter: “If this case succeeded in Northern Ireland, there would be repercussions in Great Britain.

“If legislative change could be bypassed by a legal ruling in Northern Ireland, I would expect a flurry of similar cases in Great Britain...

“The diagnosis of gender dysphoria is fundamental to the application process for a Gender Recognition Certificate.

“It provides objective evidence of need.

“Removing it by a legal ruling would change the nature of the process to one that was based on what the applicant wants.”

She added “transsexualism – the desire to be the opposite sex – causes significant distress and is therefore, by definition, a disorder; but there should be no shame in that, and rather than deny our disorders we should accept them”.

Dr Hayton underwent reassignment surgery years ago, and takes hormones (but also argues that it is not possible to fully change one’s sex, which is coded into people’s genes).

She never obtained a gender recognition certificate, because she never felt the need.

(Whilst Dr Hayton maintains fully changing sex is impossible and has no gender-switch certificate, they are referred to as ‘she’ here in light of the surgery and medical treatment undergone).

“I feel the claimant in this case is missing the point,” she said.

“If we need to rely on pieces of paper issued by the state to prove our identity, we’ll never find peace.”

More from this reporter:

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe