New Tory MPs demand reform to Gender Recognition Act The Times 28.08.20

The original article is here.

Conservative MPs who won seats in Labour’s northern heartlands last year have broken ranks to urge Boris Johnson to press ahead with plans to make it easier for people to change their gender, warning of a “new Section 28 moment”.

In an intervention that highlights unease among the new intake of Tories elected in December, nine of Mr Johnson’s MPs backed proposals to allow transgender people to be legally recognised in their new identity by self-declaring their transition.

Under the terms of the Gender Recognition Act, trans people have to receive a medical diagnosis, submit a paper application and wait for two years for legal recognition of their new gender at a cost of £140.

The government has yet to respond to a consultation on replacing it with self-identification, which some feminist groups have criticised amid concerns over the safety of single-sex spaces. Despite the pledge appearing in Mr Johnson’s election manifesto, Downing Street has repeatedly briefed that it will be dropped. The reports were a particular source of unease for younger Conservative MPs.

In an article for the Conservative Home website, Alicia Kearns and Nicola Richards, MPs for West Bromwich East and Rutland and Melton, said it was the prime minister’s “duty to follow through” on the reforms. “As Conservatives, we have made it a central tenet that individuals should be free to live their lives as they choose,” they wrote.

Their intervention was co-signed by seven other new Conservative MPs, one of whom told The Times that any attempt by ministers to ignite a “culture war” over the issue would backfire.

“This is about people’s families,” the MP, who represents a former Labour seat in the north said. “No 10 have to tread very carefully.”

Referring to the controversial Thatcher-era legislation that prevented teachers from discussing homosexuality with their pupils, since disavowed by the Conservatives, the MP added: “This has every potential to be our Section 28.”

John Cope, deputy chairman of the LGBT+ Conservatives group, said the MPs’ criticism proved that “the new intake is modernising, moderate and very liberal”. He said that up to 50 MPs could support the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.