The day that Lauren Quick, 11, started at the mixed comprehensive in her Yorkshire home town, an older lad stormed into her classroom at break, shouting, "Oi, there's a tranny in here – show me where it is!"
Suddenly, Lauren, who had been insisting from the age of three that she had "a girl brain in a boy's body", was surrounded. She was distraught and, weeks later, made her first attempt to kill herself. Two further attempts followed in the next five months – the last in the school lavatories.
Her life, says mother Jan, had become a living nightmare. Every day, she faced shouts of "man beast" and "tranny" from pupils, as well as calls to "get your dick out" – even, on one occasion, when she was being escorted by a teacher. Lauren's response was to self-harm on a regular basis.
The town's police hate crimes unit became involved three times after several incidents, including one pupil spitting in her face and a mother who was picking up offspring shouting, "You fucking tranny", through the car window as Lauren walked home from school. Lauren was more often absent than in school.
Although the school supported Lauren's desire to be accepted as a girl, and made determined efforts to stamp out the bullying – taking the perpetrator of each incident aside to explain Lauren's circumstances – one day, everything came to a head. Lauren was ambushed on the way home by older boys, who tried to remove her skirt in an attempt to see her genitals.
Lauren refused point-blank to return to school. Jan obtained a transfer for her to a nearby high school, which had already successfully dealt with a transgender pupil. Lauren lasted only a few weeks. Now 14, she is being educated three days a week in a unit for long-term ill and severely bullied pupils. She would like to go back to school, but she and her mother doubt that it will ever be possible.
"There are no easy answers, but the school was just handling it on the hoof," says Jan. "There was no attempt to plan anything. The school was totally unprepared for dealing with a kid like Lauren."
The deputy head of that school, who still speaks to Lauren on the phone occasionally, agrees. "We were dealing with things that we could not possibly ever have expected. Who teaches you how to deal with a 13-year-old who wants to be a girl, but is having erections in class? We were dealing with each incident as it came up, but perhaps we should have tackled it as a school."
Lauren's story reflects the difficulties experienced by British schools when faced with a pupil who does not fit neatly in to the "boy" or "girl" box. It's not just confusion about personal pronouns, either – even the most mundane problems, such as which lavatories a trans pupil should use and where they change for PE, become major issues.
In Lauren's case, she was not allowed to use the girls' loos, and felt humiliated at having to use the disabled ones, particularly as they were kept locked and she had to ask for the key.
Looking at her now, making some toast in the family kitchen, she is like any other gangly 14-year-old girl with her dyed, shoulder-length hair, denim skirt and leggings. But she has male genitalia and, by British law, must wait until she is 16 to have medical treatment to give her the body she feels was denied her at birth.
According to figures provided by the Gender Identity Research and Education Service (Gires), one in 1,000 school children suffer from gender dysphoria – roughly one pupil for every high school – though not all of them will seek gender reassignment surgery.
Lauren is typical in that she has been the target of severe bullying. According to research by Gires and the transgender pressure group Press For Change, more transgender pupils report being bullied than gay pupils, who themselves report rates of name-calling of 82 per cent. Most fail to complete their school education, although they catch up later and gain more than the national average number of qualifications.
More seriously, around half of all transgender teenagers will make a suicide attempt before they turn 20. In February, 10-year-old Cameron McWilliams was found hanged in Doncaster. The inquest revealed he had expressed a desire to be a girl.
In this highly volatile atmosphere, schools must somehow act in the best interests of their most vulnerable pupils. As Bernard Reed, trustee of Gires, says: "Schools think it is so rare that they don't take it seriously, but when a trans child comes into a school, the effect can be seismic."
The Home Office acknowledges the problem of transphobic bullying and has commissioned Gires to produce information for schools explaining gender variance, its medical, legal and equality aspects, which will be displayed in the Crime Reduction section of the Home Office website.
Press for Change has just produced a "toolkit" for further education and sixth form colleges, consisting of 21 five-minute lessons aimed at leaders of education institutions. It was commissioned by the Learning and Education Council, the trade union Unison and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership.
As the deputy head at Lauren's former school says: "We had nothing to help us, but when Lauren had been at school for a while we began getting calls from teachers at other school asking for advice with similar situations."
Not all transgender pupils' school experiences are negative, however. When Pippa James explained at a parents' evening that the reason her 15-year-old son Tim's grades had plummeted was because of his despair following his recent declaration that he wanted to be a girl, the school pulled around to protect the bright teenager.
Although Pippa and her husband offered to remove Tim, the year head backed his desire to "transition" to become "Becky" over a school holiday, declaring that they knew him and could "ensure his safety".
Shortly after, Tim tried to hang himself. Following a number of meetings between his parents and the school, Tim was told to stay home for a day while groups of pupils in his year in the mixed comprehensive were told by well-briefed teachers what was happening to Tim, what to expect and that bullying would not be tolerated.
Curious pupils asked questions, but accepted it and simply viewed him as the fastest runner in their year. According to the family and the school, not a single case of bullying against Tim was reported – even when he came back with long hair and female clothes.
Becky, now 19 and a talented artist, has undergone gender reassignment surgery in Thailand paid for by her parents, and is intending to go to art school.
As Pippa says: "In terms of school, it was a wonderfully positive experience. Becky's life, apart from school at the time, was terrible and she was in utter despair. If school had not dealt with her kindly and been accepting, it would have been the last straw and she would have ended it all."
The despair to which Pippa alludes is because of the battles that Becky, Lauren and all young trans teenagers in the UK face in obtaining medical help for the outward signs of puberty, until they make a decision about gender reassignment.
England has only one clinic – at London's Tavistock and Portman Trust – which offers advice on gender dysphoria to young people. In Britain, the reversible use of drugs is banned before the age of 16 – although other EU countries and the US permit their use.
Jan Quick and the James family have re-mortgaged their homes to pay for their children's treatment. Lauren goes twice a year to Boston, in the United States, for puberty blockers, having been turned down by the Tavistock.
Pushing for reform of UK medical protocols is a major focus for Press For Change, but the organisation is also disturbed by the lack of protection for trans pupils in school. Goods and services regulations just introduced by the Government's Equalities Office do not address transphobic harassment in schools as they specifically exclude education.
"Individual schools now could choose not to educate a child, not to allow them to sing in a choir or to go on a school trip," says Professor Stephen Whittle, an equalities lawyer and a professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, who started out female. "The only protection for kids will be under education law – protecting the right to education as such, but not the nature of it."
Many campaigners for transgender equality are pinning their hopes on the Single Equality Bill, which is expected next year. The Government has been consulting on it and will report in the summer. One of the questions is whether the Bill should extend to schools.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is calling for explicit protection for transgender children in an equality Act, and extension of the public sector duty to promote equality for transgender people.
"All children have the right to be educated in a fair and tolerant environment, free from bullying." said a commission spokesperson. "At the moment, a very vulnerable group of young people are not adequately protected by the law."
The names of transgender young people and their families have been changed to protect them
Transgender in history – and today
* Elagabalus, who reigned as Roman Emperor of the Severan dynasty from 218-222, offered vast sums of money to any physician who could provide him with female genitalia.
* Jennie Hodgers was born in County Louth, in Ireland, around 1843, but enlisted as a private in the Illinois Infantry Regiment under the name of Albert Cashier. She was accepted as a male and fought 40 battles on the Unionist side under Ulysses Grant.
* Gires has prepared a booklet for the Department of Health, "Gender variance in children and young people: Answering families' questions", which is available in printed form as well as online ( www.gires.org.uk).
* Parents, teachers and teenagers affected by transgender issues can find more information on the Mermaids website at www.mermaids.freeuk.comReuse content
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that allows people having gender dysphoria to change their legal gender. It came into effect on 4 April 2005.
Operation of the law
The Act gives people with gender dysphoria legal recognition as members of the sex appropriate to their gender (male or female) allowing them to acquire a new birth certificate, affording them full recognition of their acquired sex in law for all purposes, including marriage. The two main exceptions are a right of conscience for Church of England clergy (who are normally obliged to marry any two eligible people by law), and that the descent of peerages will remain unchanged. Additionally, sports organisations are allowed to exclude transsexual people if it is necessary for 'fair competition or the safety of the competitors'.
People present evidence to a Gender Recognition Panel, which considers their case and issues a Gender Recognition Certificate. If the person involved is in a legally recognised marriage they will be issued an 'Interim Gender Recognition Certificate', which for a limited period can then be used as grounds for annulment of the marriage, but otherwise has no status. After annulment, a full Certificate will be issued.
The Act requires applicants to have transitioned two years before a certificate is issued. It makes no requirement for sex reassignment surgery to have taken place, although such surgery will be accepted as part of the supporting evidence for a case where it has taken place. There was a six-month period from 4 April 2005 until 3 October 2005, where only people who transitioned six or more years previous could apply. Additionally, for two years following implementation of the Act, those who transitioned six years or more previous to application for a gender recognition certificate were required to supply a lesser level of evidence, as such people were likely to have problems in obtaining some of the documentary evidence that would be required of those who had transitioned later. There is also a mechanism whereby those who have obtained legal recognition in recognised overseas jurisdictions may obtain recognition under the Gender Recognition Act with much reduced evidence requirements; such applicants are not required to have transitioned two years before nor to be resident overseas. Successful applicants are entered onto a Gender Recognition Register, held by the registrar general, similar in operation to the Adoptions Register for those who have been adopted.
A Birth Certificate drawn from the Gender Recognition Register is now indistinguishable from any other birth certificate, and will indicate the new legal sex and name. (Due to flaws in the original Act, many birth certificates issued during the first seven years of operation could be distinguished, for instance by the omission of the Informant field. These issues were corrected by the Gender Recognition Register (Amendment) Regulations 2011.) It can be used wherever a birth certificate is used, such as for issue of a passport. The birth certificate showing the previous legal gender continues to exist, and will carry no indication that there is an associated Gender Recognition Certificate or alternative birth certificate. Certain authorised agencies, with court permission, may have access to the Gender Recognition Register showing the links between these certificates, but the link will be invisible to the general public. This is the same way that birth certificates drawn from the Adoption Register work.
See also: Christine Goodwin and Goodwin & I v United Kingdom
The Act was drafted in response to court rulings from the European Court of Human Rights.
The previous precedent dated back to 1970, when Arthur Cameron Corbett, 3rd Baron Rowallan had his marriage annulled on the basis that his wife, April Ashley, being a trans woman, was legally male. This argument was accepted by the judge, and the legal test for gender in the UK had been since been based on the judgement in Corbett v Corbett; it had even led to the curiosity of a legal marriage between two lesbians since one had been born male.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on 11 July 2002, in Goodwin & I v United Kingdom, (a.k.a. Christine Goodwin & I v United Kingdom  2 FCR 577), that "the UK Government had discriminated based on the following : Violation of Article 8 and Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights". Following this judgement, the UK Government had to introduce new legislation to comply.
The bill was introduced in the House of Lords in late 2003. It was passed by the House of Lords on 10 February 2004, with 155 votes in favour and 57 against. The House of Commons passed it on 25 May. It received Royal Assent on 1 July 2004.
The bill faced criticism in the House of Lords, including a wrecking amendment from Lord Tebbit (who has described sex reassignment surgery as "mutilation"), and from Baroness O'Cathain, who introduced an amendment to allow religious groups to exclude transsexual people. However, this amendment was narrowly defeated after opposition from Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester, and Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester.
Support for the bill in the House of Commons was split broadly down party lines. At both the second and third readings (i.e. before and after amendments), all Labour Party, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party votes were in favour of the bill; all Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist Party votes were against.Conservative Party MPs were split on the issue, and the party leadership did not issue a whip mandating MPs to take a particular stance on the bill, instead allowing its MPs a free vote. 25 Conservative MPs voted in favour and 22 against the bill at its second reading, and 20 voted in favour and 39 voted against the bill at its third reading. Less than half of the Conservative Party's 166 MPs participated in either vote. Among those who voted against the bill were Ann Widdecombe (who opposed it on religious grounds), Dominic Grieve, Peter Lilley and Andrew Robathan. Among Conservative MPs who supported the bill were Kenneth Clarke, Constitutional Affairs spokesman Tim Boswell, and future speaker John Bercow.
In November 2017, the Scottish government published its review of the GRA with intentions to reform it "so that it is in line with international best practice." The "Ministerial Foreword" to the review acknowledges that the 2004 GRA is "out of date" and places "intrusive and onerous" requirements on the person applying for the gender change. The government recommends keeping the existing requirements for applicants to declare that "they fully understand the implications of their application and intend to live in their acquired gender for the rest of their lives" but proposes eliminating the requirement "to provide medical evidence and to have lived in their acquired gender for two years before applying."
Concerns regarding marriages and civil partnerships
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(November 2013)
Concerns about the act have been raised by supporters of transsexual rights, particularly regarding marriages and civil partnerships. The act required people who are married to divorce or annul their marriage in order for them to be issued with a Gender Recognition Certificate but this is to change with effect from 10 December 2014, from which date a gender recognition certificate may be granted while still in an existing marriage. In both England and Wales, and Scotland, such an application from a married person will require written consent from the spouse - the so-called spousal veto. However, applicants in Scotland benefit from a workaround, where it is possible for applicants in Scotland to apply to the sheriff court to have their interim GRC replaced with a full GRC, bypassing the "spousal veto". Some parliamentarians, such as Evan Harris, viewed the original requirement as inhumane and destructive of the family. MP Hugh Bayley said in the commons debate "I can think of no other circumstance in which the state tells a couple who are married and who wish to remain married that they must get divorced". Despite this opposition, the government chose to retain this requirement of the Bill. Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, David Lammy, speaking for the Government, said ‘"it is the Government's firm view that we cannot allow a small category of same-sex marriages"
Although the Civil Partnership Act 2004 allows the creation of civil partnerships between same sex couples, a married couple that includes a transgender partner cannot simply re-register their new status. They must first have their marriage dissolved, gain legal recognition of the new gender and then register for a civil partnership. This is like any divorce with the associated paperwork and costs. Once the annulment is declared final and the GRC issued, the couple can then make arrangements with the local registrar to have the civil partnership ceremony. The marriage is ended and a completely new arrangement brought into being which does not in all circumstances (such as wills) necessarily follow on seamlessly. This is also true for civil partnerships that includes a transgender partner, which the existing civil partnership must be dissolved and the couple can enter into a marriage afterward. For a couple in a marriage or civil partnership where both partners are transgender, they can have their gender recognition applications considered at the same time, however they are required to dissolve their existing marriage/civil partnership and then re-register their marriage/civil partnership with their new genders.
Tamara Wilding of the Beaumont Society pressure group said that it was "not fair that people in this situation should have to annul their marriage and then enter a civil partnership. The law needs tidying up. It would be easy to put an amendment in the civil partnership law to allow people who have gone through gender-reassignment, and want that to be recognised, to have the status of their relationship continued." As discussed above parliament has already chosen not to do this, a legal viewpoint supported by others, such as barrister Karen Brody, who have argued that a change in the law isn't necessary. From a legal perspective this may be true as most of the benefits of marriage are available to the couple under a Civil Partnership. However, the emotional stress caused is immeasurable as in the case of a Scottish couple.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) appreciates the challenges to married transsexual people and their partners presented by Schedule 2 of the Act and in a recent submission to government they recommend
“The government amends the Gender Recognition Act to allow for the automatic conversion of a marriage into a civil partnership upon one member of the couple obtaining a gender recognition certificate”.
- ^The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 29 of this Act.
- ^Example of a Gender Recognition CertificateArchived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^Example of an Interim Gender Recognition CertificateArchived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^"Gender Recognition Bill: House of Commons Second Reading". The Public Whip. My Society. Archived from the original on 3 February 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- ^"Gender Recognition Bill". The Public Whip. My Society. 30 April 2005. Archived from the original on 3 February 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
- ^ abCowley, Philip; Mark Stuart (19 November 2004). "Mapping Conservative Divisions Under Michael Howard"(PDF). Revolts.co.uk. Archived from the original(PDF) on 3 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
- ^"Gender Recognition Bill: House of Commons Second Reading". Press For Change. Archived from the original on 2 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
- ^"Review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (9 Nov 2017)". Scottish Government (Riaghaltas na h-Alba). Retrieved 22 January 2018.
- ^"Ministerial Foreword to the Review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (4 November 2017)". Scottish Government (Riaghaltas na h-Alba). Retrieved 22 January 2018.
- ^Till Political Convenience Do Us Part; Christine Burns
- ^See the Honourable Dr. Harris, House of Commons Standing Committee A, 9 March 2004, Col 60. - https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmstand/a/st040309/pm/40309s09.htm
- ^The Honourable Hugh Bayley, House of Commons 2nd Reading 23 February 2004, Col. 60; the Honourable Andrew Selous, House of Commons 2nd Reading 23 February 2004, Col. 64
- ^The Honourable David Lammy, House of Commons Standing Committee A, 9 March 2004, Col. 69. It was suggested in the debates that the number of transgender people who have undertaken gender reassignment and who are currently living in a marriage was no more than 200.(the Honourable Mr. Oaten, House of Commons 2nd Reading 23 February 2004, Col. 69)
- ^Levy, Andrew (1 May 2008). "Transsexual husband annuls marriage and enters into civil partnership with wife to keep pension benefits". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
- ^Fracassini, Camillo (30 October 2005). "Sex-change couple seek marriage recognition". Times Online. London. Retrieved 2008-09-07.
- ^Submission on the United Kingdom's sixth periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political RightsArchived 2 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.