Today, an open letter detailing concerns and signed by a number of trans activists has been sent to Maria Miller, MP, chair of that inquiry.
Below is the text of a press release sent to newspapers in respect of that letter, as well as additional background material, explaining why this intervention is problematic.
Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, was today called out for a clumsy attempt to sabotage a parliamentary inquiry into transgender issues.
Last week, the Women and Equalities Select Committee, chaired by Maria Miller, MP, started taking evidence on issues affecting trans people in the UK. This is part of a lengthy process and will involve reviewing evidence from several hundred people, including dedicated experts and individuals personally affected by the issues.
At the weekend, however, in response to another matter, the Ministry of Justice published a letter arguing that the current system is working well, and they are unaware of any problems encountered by key segments of the trans population.
In an open letter to Committee Chair, Maria Miller, MP, co-ordinated by gender activist, Jane Fae, many of the UK’s leading trans activists and experts have expresssed dismay at this untimely intervention by the Ministry of Justice, concluding that this “looks like a deliberate attempt to sabotage [the] inquiry”.
According to Jane Fae: “It is beyond belief that the Minister would respond in such dismissive terms at the very start of a parliamentary inquiry. There was no need to make any statement on these issues until January 2016 and given that an independent inquiry is underway, the trans community would perfectly understand such a delay.
“What they will not understand is why this response now and why the claim that trans people encounter no detriment as a result of some of the issues raised. This government has made much of policy being led by evidence. Whereas in this instance, it seems clear that it is prejudice that is leading, and evidence is nowhere to be seen.”
Jennie Kermode, who chairs the charity Trans Media Watch, said: “I am disappointed by this attempt to derail an important evidence-gathering process. The Ministry of Justice’s pronouncements on non-binary people, in particular, contradict the existing evidence, and they do not appear to have consulted any researcher in the field. This approach to decision making should worry everybody, regardless of gender.”
Footnote: the statement that has caused such concern was posted by the Ministry of Justice in response to a petition on transgender issues.
At time of writing, it has not been possible to obtain clarity from the MoJ as to who signed this statement off. However, it is unlikely in the extreme that such a statement could have been published without endorsement from a Minister: and in the end, the buck stops with the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, MP.
Additional background material