Landmark report finds Britain failing transgender people

Britain has a "long way to go" to ensure transgender people are treated equally, with the NHS in particular "failing" severely on the issue, the first-ever parliamentary report on the issue has found.

The landmark report urged the Government to come up with a new strategy for full transgender equality within six months, and complained that a plan issued in 2011 remains "largely unimplemented".

It found that people whose gender identity differs from that assigned at birth encounter "high levels of transphobia" on a daily basis.

This undermines their careers, incomes, living standards and mental and physical health, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee says.

NHS 'failing' transgender patients

Lou Ceridwen, 23, told ITV News she could face years waiting to transition. Credit: ITV News

MPs were particularly scathing about the way the NHS treats transgender people, claiming that it is "failing in its legal duty" to provide equal access to services and reporting "overwhelming" evidence of poor treatment, including "completely unacceptable" waiting times for first appointments and surgery.

It comes after an ITV News investigation in October found transgender people are waiting months, and sometimes even years, for the earliest stages of gender reassignment.

The NHS as an employer was also "failing to ensure zero tolerance behaviour of transphobic behaviour amongst staff and contractors", the report found.

The report said universities and further education colleges also needed to introduce tougher action on "unacceptable" levels of bullying, including gender identity awareness training for all staff.

Read: How I was let down by the NHS over gender reassignment

More than 30 recommendations

The report made more than 30 recommendations, including one which urged the government to replace the terms "gender reassignment" and "transsexual" with "gender identity" in equality legislation.

Others included calls for:

  • A reduction from 18 to 16 the age limit for obtaining official recognition of a new gender without parental consent

  • Mandatory training for police on transphobic hate crimes

  • The introduction of the option to record gender as "x" on passports, and removal of the requirement for a doctor's letter to change the gender shown on the document

  • Action to prevent the "outing" of transgender people in court cases

  • Training for all school staff to deal with "gender-variant" young people

  • A move towards "non-gendering" of official records, so it is only noted when relevant

  • A change so mental health is no longer treated as a mental health issue, with treatment based on 'self-declaration' rather than a 'medicalised' assessment

'Urgent' action required on transgender prisoners

Tara Hudson, who was forced to serve a jail term at an all-male prison. Credit: ITV News

The report also warned of a "clear risk of harm" if trans people are held in prisons according to their birth genders, after two transgender women died in 2015 while serving time in male prisons.

The committee said the position of transgender prisoners must be "urgently" clarified in new guidelines.

Committee chairwoman Maria Miller MP added that while media coverage of transgender people had "improved a great deal in recent years", there will still too great a focus on transgender celebrities.

There is a stark contrast with the day-to-day experiences of many ordinary individual trans people, who still endure routine hostility and discrimination," she said.

Gender reassignment among children

The number of children 'coming out' as transgender has increased fourfold in five years. Credit: PA

The report received evidence that the numbers of children and teenagers "coming out" as transgender had increased fourfold over the past five years.

Authors added that consideration should be given to the quicker provision of puberty-blocking drugs, which delay the onset of adulthood to give young people longer time to consider whether they wish to go ahead with gender reassignment before they develop adult sexual characteristics.

The report said it found a "clear and strong case" that delaying treatments risks "more harm than providing it" due to the risk of suicide and self-harm if withheld.

Despite its many recommendations, the report stopped short of recommending official recognition of changed gender for children under 16, despite the government facing calls to do so.

Jackie Driver, lead director for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "We welcome today's landmark report on transgender equality. Despite the marked progress that has been made towards achieving equality for trans people, prejudice and barriers still remain."

If you or someone you know needs advice on gender transition, the following support groups may be able to help: