Lord Lucas: Government must ensure a 'wide, slow discussion' as it seeks to amend the Gender Recognition Act

Posted On: 
12th July 2018

Conservative peer Lord Lucas writes ahead of his debate in the House of Lords today on the gender recognition process and the Government's LGBT Action Plan.

Credit: 
PA

The government is looking at amending the Gender Recognition Act (2004) to make it easy for a person to reassign their gender.

I hope that they make this change wholeheartedly, and do not get an attack of the collywobbles on the way. We all have a lot to gain if the reform is followed through to its full conclusions.

Sex has a strongly bimodal biological distribution: most people are clearly male or female.

Gender is a set of behavioural biases derived from sex, onto which we have loaded a set of social mores and assumptions. It has a broad bimodal distribution. Both sexes display both masculine and feminine traits, though their average distributions are different.

To quote Ms Weronika, “some people say there are only two genders and other say there are many genders. They are both wrong. Gender cannot be counted or clearly defined. We can only distinguish male-typical expression and female-typical expression, but their lines are fuzzy.”

Gender has a long history of confining the roles and behaviours of women (and of men too). We do not have to accept that.

A lot of us have, after all, spent a lot of time pushing in this direction. More women engineers. More men as primary teachers. More women judges. More men looking after children.

Let us all take advantage of the changes that we need to make so that transsexuals can be comfortable in society.

Why should we let ourselves be defined by labels, when they offer us no advantage? We do not need males to be men, or females to be women. Who should care if a male wears a pink dress and make-up or a female climbs trees or has hairy armpits?

Not that I expect things to change fast. Or that far. Most of us are creatures of well-worn habit. Biological sex exerts a strong influence – as James Damore correctly reminded Google.

But the changes that we are looking at making to the Gender Recognition Act create predictable problems, which we should tackle at the same time.

The government should support sports governing bodies in evolving fair rules to accommodate easy gender reassignment. Unless we are to exclude most women from the top ranks of sporting competition, we must adjust the rules to take into account those women whose bodies have been formed by testosterone. Similar problems have already been tackled by disabled sports.

We should revisit the discriminatory practices we have created to allow women male-free spaces. We should have a wide, slow discussion – a lot of women (in particular) will be affected. Women-only toilets may fade anyway (the younger generation seem largely unfussed) – but bathing, or refuges?

The government should help recruitment and employment practices evolve from the simplicity of tick-box discriminations to looking at the complex realities of disadvantage, seeking ways of examining potential wherever it is found, and adapting employment practices to take advantage of it.

We should all take great care how we allow children’s bodies to be chemically and physically altered in the cause of helping them be comfortable with their gender. Once everyone has freedom to roam in the gender space, what justification will there be for such treatments?

These are all questions that the government should address in this review. They are all soluble, but will cause unnecessary pain if left unsolved. I very much hope that the government will have the courage to tackle them.

Lord Lucas is a Conservative peer