Common Sense Champion: Liz Truss
This week’s Common Sense Champion is Secretary of State for International Trade & Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss.
As part of her equalities portfolio, Liz led the Government response to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) consultation. This was one of a broad range of efforts made to address and improve things in the area of transgender rights. Liz’s approach has been characterised by pragmatism and a balanced tone and we think she should be recognised for this.
The response to the consultation took a clear-headed and common sense approach to some very sensitive issues within the trans debate. It was a classic example of listening to both sides, considering the evidence, and making a decision that struck the right balance between the sometimes conflicting rights of people.
Debates around transgender rights are often divisive and heated, perhaps understandably so. Certainly few other topics arouse such strong sentiments, and this is why it is especially impressive that Liz Truss has manoeuvred her team and department so deftly through the potential minefield.
Public sentiment is important whenever we think about policy – particularly so when policies intended for a particular group of individuals can affect others. In our polling last year, 61% of people thought that rights for people who were born male but identify as female and vice versa are about right or have gone too far.
Liz has remained consistent and pragmatic in her approach, especially when it comes to protecting younger people. In an appearance before the Women and Equalities Select Committee, she rightly remarked that the Government should be making sure that under 18s are protected from making decisions that have major health implications or are largely irreversible in the future.
The CCS welcomed the Government’s response to the GRA. It was right to resist the introduction of self-ID for those wishing to be recognised as a gender different to their biological one. Sticking with a process that incorporates medical checks and balances for those who transition and a reflection period before final sign-off is common sense.
We also welcomed the opening of new gender identity clinics which will offer first class advice to those considering transitioning. It is proposed to streamline the process to obtain gender recognition certificates – which is good news. We are heartened to see that the Government recognises that the existing legislation strikes a reasonable balance between the rights of transgender and other people.
In the consultation, thirty-four percent said the process was too expensive and so the Government will now reduce the fee from £140 to a nominal amount. Last year, the Government also provided funding for Britain’s first National LGBT Health Advisor to help improve transgender people’s experience – this is important to reassure those individuals that the Governments takes the issue seriously.
At the heart of the trans debate is the question of individual dignity and liberty – what makes Liz Truss’s work in the trans sphere so commendable is that it delicately strikes the right balance. She is clearly trying to allow people to live their lives as they wish and free from discrimination, but in ways that protect the rights and safety of others where potential clashes inevitably occur.
All governments have to carry out these balancing acts, and it is particularly hard when they have to do so on issues as important, personal, and emotive as that of trans rights.
This is why we think Liz Truss should be commended for her words and actions since taking on the Women and Equalities brief, and have made her this week’s Common Sense Champion!