Judge Gove Speaks

Michael Gove is apparently not a wholly bad man. Oh, I know that the teaching profession is overjoyed to be rid of him, but the legal profession is leaping up and down with glee to have a nice, reasonable chap like Gove in charge of them rather than a grasping, amoral monster like Chris Grayling. That’s because Gove is rolling back some of the worst excesses of the Grayling regime at the Ministry of Justice. You know, things like the UK government setting up in business to advise repressive regimes around the world on how best to control their citizens. (Though apparently we will be fulfilling our contract with the Saudis because it would cost too much money to walk away.)

On the other hand, Gove is still Gove. That much is fairly obvious from the UK Government’s response to the recent petition on trans rights.

Just to be clear on this, the petition is not exactly asking for the moon. It is asking for UK trans people to have the same right of self-determination that has just been granted to Irish citizens. It is also asking for legal recognition for non-binary people, something that has already been granted by governments in places such as India, Pakistan and Australia. Sadly the response from the MoJ is not exactly encouraging.

Actually it is interesting that the response comes from the MoJ and not the Equalities Department within the Home Office, because they are the people responsible for trans rights. It is possibly also significant that the response comes a few days after the public evidence hearings for the current Transgender Equality Inquiry, because if any of the witnesses at that event had wanted to point out the desperate state of trans equality in the UK all they would have had to do was quote from the MoJ’s statement.

But wait, there’s another public evidence hearing this coming Tuesday. Get out the popcorn, folks, this could be a cracker.

So what did the MoJ actually say? Well you can read the whole thing here, but as you might have guessed I’m going to comment on the salient points. Let’s start with the outright lie. The MoJ says:

The gender recognition process in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 was developed as a result of the Government’s commitment to allowing trans people to gain legal recognition in their acquired gender.

Well, no. The UK government fought tooth and nail to prevent trans people getting any legal rights at all. The GRA was only introduced following a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (Christine Goodwin v The United Kingdom, Case No 28957/1995 for any legal wonks out there) which found the UK government guilty of discrimination.

Now let’s move on to the willfully naive. As I noted above, part of the petition calls for legal recognition for non-binary people. The MoJ’s argument against providing this is:

Non-binary gender is not recognised in UK law. Under the law of the United Kingdom, individuals are considered by the state to be of the gender that is registered on their birth certificate, either male or female.

It goes on to note specifically that the Equality Act provides no protection for non-binary people, but only for people who are male or female. I’d like to see that tested in court.

Actually, thinking about it, what the MoJ is saying here is that it is OK under the Equality Act to discriminate against someone if they look neither male nor female. That clearly affects trans people, because you can claim that you are perfectly OK about them being trans, but not about them not looking like a member of their preferred gender. In addition it affects LGB people, because you can claim that you are not prejudiced on the grounds of sexuality, but rather on the grounds of gender performance. So the MoJ thinks it is OK to discriminate against a gay man if he looks effeminate, or against a lesbian if she looks butch. This is an issue that affects the whole LGBT community.

Finally they note:

We recognise that a very small number of people consider themselves to be of neither gender. We are not aware that that results in any specific detriment

If ever I saw a call for a social media campaign, that was it. CN Lester noted:

And went on to say:

That hashtag is filling up nicely.

Having read a number of government responses to online petitions, it does seem that it is a standard tactic to quote existing law as an argument for not changing it. The MoJ statement has taken this to heart and goes into great detail about all of the hoops that trans people are forced to jump through in order to achieve legal recognition of their gender. As Maria Miller perceptively noted at the Transgender Equality Inquiry on Tuesday, those requirements are now far more stringent than those recommended by the medical profession when approving patients for surgery.

The key sentence in the MoJ response is this one:

A person’s gender has important legal and social consequences.

Basically what that is saying is that differences between men and women are enshrined in UK law, and if we allow trans people to unilaterally switch between genders then the whole fabric of Patriarchy will crumble.

Remind me again how it is that trans people are agents of the Patriarchy who reinforce the gender binary.

By the way, the petition currently has just over 30,000 signatures. If it gets over 100,000 that will force a debate in Parliament. You can sign it here.

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2 Responses to Judge Gove Speaks

  1. Katie says:

    Gove is a millionaire religious fanatic whom during his tenure as education secretary promoted creationist schools which forbid the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution. I think the government are doing this because they think it’s a good way of showing off how powerful they are without having to fear any comeback from an already marginalised and oppressed minority group.

    Their rule seeks to divide the transgender community with much the same tactic that they have used to divide and rule the entire country. In an effort to turn Abraham Lincoln’s United We Stand Divided We Fall doctrine on its head the privileged Etonians who control Britain similarly see this strategy as a sure fire way to maintain their own 21st century equivalent of slavery as did their 19th century Confederate aristocratic slaver political forebears.

    The fact that Argentina has a law that protects the right of freedom to define and express one’s gender identity is even possibly a factor here: they are showing off to the Argentinians by doing exactly the opposite that they do in an atmosphere where the Falklands/Malvinas Islands have once again become a contentious issue between them. To this aristocratic government’s mind we are simply their whipping folk. Trouble is, Britain is out of the loop as Argentina now has the full support of the USA and also most Latin American countries. I’d love to see this government which is trying so hard to be a 21st century version of Margaret Thatcher end up losing the Falkland Islands and end up completely humiliated.

    This is the Tory government that want to get rid of the Human Rights Act. I’m sure these neo-Dickensians think more of their horses when they’re out chasing poor defenceless foxes around the Chipping Norton Set countryside than they do us plebeian human beings. Identity is actually the main human right because our identity is what makes us human beings. It’s no accident that the first thing that the Nazis did to prisoners in the concentration camps was turn them into a number even going so far as tattooing it into their skins, shaving their heads and making them wear uniforms to make them look like one identical mass and dehumanise them. Perhaps there are many amongst the Tories who still harbour a grievance that it was the ordinary common people who stopped Hitler from winning the war.

    I’d say keep on fighting though, because this current lot are little more than scared, quivering, little public schoolboys deep down inside. Behind every bully lies a coward.

  2. Jazzlet says:

    Reading the response from the DOJ was frustrating as it avoided giving any justification other than ‘this is what the law is’ when the whole point of the petition was that the current law is not fit for purpose – unless your purpose is to make life difficult for those who do not fit into rigid definitions that make Old Etonians comfortable. This kind of response is all too common to petitions on whatever subject, essentially ‘you haven’t really understood the issues, so here’s an explanation that will reassure you nothing needs to change – now go away and don’t trouble your little head anymore’.

    But thanks for a rather more cogent analysis than I was able to make as I was so infuriated to get yet another ‘don’t trouble your little head about this’ response.

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