Labour Party Plans to Simplify Legal Process to Change Gender, But Critics Warn of Self-ID Loopholes

Britain's main opposition Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds (2nd L), Labour Party deputy
NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images

The Labour Party is reportedly preparing to make the process of legally changing one’s gender easier, potentially by allowing just one doctor, regardless of expertise, to sign off on the decision.

With the general election looming in Britain and current projections pointing towards a resounding victory for Labour, the left-wing party is already consumed in discussions on the issue of gender and how the party will govern if given power.

According to a report from The Times, Labour will seek to “simplify” the process of receiving a gender recognition certificate. While the exact policy has yet to be finalised, the British paper of record cited sources within the party who said that Labour is looking to scrap the Gender Recognition Panel, which ultimately signs off on allowing an individual to legally change their gender.

Furthermore, Labour is reportedly considering having only one doctor needed to approve of the legal gender change.

However, according to the sources cited by The Times, there are ongoing discussions over whether such a doctor would have to be a specialist, given that this would require a family doctor GP to still write a referral and thereby keep in place the two-step process which many within the party want to get rid of.

Yet, others have noted that family doctors are already stretched thin in Britain’s socialised system and may not be qualified to determine whether someone qualifies under the law to change their gender.

While not confirming the potential of a one-doctor process, Labour shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds said: “We believe everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

“We want to see the process for gender recognition modernised while protecting single-sex spaces for biological women. This means stripping out the futile and dehumanising parts of the process for obtaining a gender ­recognition certificate while retaining important safeguards.”

The leaked plans were criticised by some as essentially providing a loophole for gender self-identification. Columnist for the Observer, the sister paper of the left-wing Guardian, Sonia Sodha wrote on social media that the “proposal from Labour makes no sense”.

“Instead of a quasi-judicial panel of lawyers and medics signing off based on medical evidence submitted, single GP sign-off would effectively constitute self-ID,” she said, while warning that it is likely that “some GPs would become known for signing off as a formality.”

Sodha also questioned whether GPs under the Labour proposal would be forced to carry out background checks to ensure that they were not providing gender recognition certificates to sex offenders, noting: “There’s no real precedent for that- it’s not their job.”

Currently, those seeking to change their gender are required to have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have lived as the opposite gender for at least two years, and state their intentions to live the rest of their lives as the other gender. Then, they are required to obtain two medical affirmations, including at least one from a gender specialist, before putting their case before the Gender Recognition Panel for final approval of the legal change. 

Under previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the leftist part advocated for people to change their gender without even a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, however, this was dropped under current leader Sir Keir Starmer as he attempted to move the party to the centre in a bid to improve Labour’s electability in England.

The policy of self-identification without a medical diagnosis was passed by the devolved Scottish government last year, yet this was ultimately blocked by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government in Westminster.

Although recently installed Scottish First Minister John Swinney said this month that he “accepts that transgender women are defined as women,” he has abandoned plans to challenge Westminster’s overturning of the self-ID proposal in Scotland.

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