Focus: The Identity’s response to Boris Johnston around the review of the Gender Recognition Act
The Rt. Honourable Boris Johnston, MP
Office of the Prime Minister
Mr Prime Minister Boris Johnston
I am writing to you in response to reports of plans on the part of government to reconsider and potentially to make changes to the rights of current legal provisions in respect of transgender individuals.
May I appeal to you first on the basis of one parent to another? By the time he had reached his early twenties, my son had made the decision to transition in order to realise his sense of his male identity. At that time, more than a decade ago, the nature of transgender identity was even less well understood than it is now. When I approached my GP to seek help and guidance, he really did not know what I was talking about. He was not unsympathetic, just uninformed, and the best he could offer me was that I listen to a programme that I had in fact heard broadcast a few weeks earlier on Radio 4. This was an instalment of The Moral Maze that considered certain aspects of the ethics associated with transgender identity.
My son is a highly gifted, creative and talented young man, well adjusted and happy in his male identity. While he was in the process of transition, he was also completing his PhD. However, the trials of his adolescence were greatly exacerbated by the challenges he faced in relation to his gender. I recall my own experience of puberty well enough to confess that I cannot imagine the agonies that accompany undergoing puberty in a body that is physically female but psychologically, spiritually and emotionally male (or vice versa in the case of a transgender woman). The focus must of course be on the individual undergoing such experiences, but the process of transition affects everyone in the family. I appeal to you to think compassionately, as father to your children, about what this means for a child, for parents, for siblings and for other family members.
I am also writing in my capacity as CEO of the registered charity, Focus: the Identity Trust (NIC 100557)www.thefocustrust.com which provides support for transgender and intersex people and their families. At Focus: the Identity trust, we are in favour of the recognition that to be transgender requires medical intervention, which may be pharmaceutical or surgical or psychological (in the form of counselling) or a combination of these, in order to acquire a sympathetic and well informed diagnosis. We believe that recognition of this fundamental principle protects both people in transition and the medical professionals who may provide either pharmaceutical or surgical treatments for such individuals. We encourage the recognition of transgender identity as a permanent, not a transient or intermittent condition. We do not seek to limit or deny the rights of others, we seek clarity of expression and understanding in taking this stance. We ask that everyone be treated with an equal measure of the dignity deserved by their humanity.
Fundamental to this stance is the recognition that to be transgender is a matter of gender identity, not one of sexual orientation. Transgender individuals may therefore, like the rest of the population, be gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or heterosexual. Some may identify as queer. Some may be non binary, but others may not. At Focus: the Identity Trust, we encourage greater research so that all of these matters may be better understood; greater provision of public education to help promote improvements in understanding; and a more sophisticated and compassionate attitude towards small minorities within the diverse composition of society as a whole.
The question of intersex identity also requires to be much better understood. The principle that female genital mutilation is a criminal offence is now recognised in our country by law. However, there is a persistent argument that the genitalia of intersex individuals should be ‘corrected’ by surgical means as early as may be possible in the life of a child. At Focus: the Identity Trust, we take the view that therapeutic intervention may be required, for instance to ensure a urinary tract that is fully functional, but interventions to ‘correct’ the gender identity of an intersex infant should in our opinion be disallowed. No decision should be taken until the person him or herself is ready for this.
I appeal to you in your public capacity as Prime Minister of the UK and in your private life as a father to think with compassion, insight and understanding about what it means to be transgender or to be intersex, and about what it means to have a child who is compelled to undergo the process of transition in order to realise their true identity.I ask you to ensure that the rights of this small minority of people are given full legal protection in a manner befitting an enlightened society in twenty first century.
With very good wish,
Linda M Ballard
Rev Dr LM Ballard, BA, BPhil, MTh, PhD, CEO, Focus: the Identity trust