Labour to 'simplify tortuous and degrading' gender transition process if elected, Wes Streeting says

Labour wants to "simplify" the process by which people can legally change their gender to make it less "degrading" and "tortuous", a shadow minister has said.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said parts of the process for acquiring a gender recognition certificate (GRC) - the mechanism that allows transgender people to have their new gender recognised in law - were "unnecessary" and "degrading".

Under existing rules, people who want a GRC must show proof they have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years, and their application must also be approved by a panel of doctors and lawyers.

Speaking to Sky News Breakfast, Mr Streeting said Labour wanted to keep the requirement for an individual to have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress due to a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

However, he said the party would change the process so that a single doctor was involved rather than a panel.

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"At the moment, in order to obtain a gender recognition certificate, trans people have to go through a process that I think they feel is quite degrading and torturous in terms of the requirements that are placed on them to demonstrate their living their lives in their assumed gender," he said.

"And what we want to do is to simplify the process by still requiring a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to obtain legal recognition, so a doctor would still be involved, but trying to take out some of that unnecessary and degrading part of the process."

The shadow health secretary said the number of people applying for a GRC was "very small" but Labour wanted to ensure they had an "experience that is much more respectful and so they can live their lives, with freedom, dignity and respect".

It comes after JK Rowling criticised Sir Keir Starmer over his party's stance on transgender issues and accused him of "abandoning" women with his "dismissive and often offensive" approach to critics concerned about the impact on single-sex spaces.

In an article for the Sunday Times, the Harry Potter author said she would "struggle" to vote for Labour in the general election.

She added: "For left-leaning women like us, this isn't, and never has been, about trans people enjoying the rights of every other citizen, and being free to present and identify however they wish.

"This is about the right of women and girls to assert their boundaries. It's about freedom of speech and observable truth. It's about waiting, with dwindling hope, for the left to wake up to the fact that its lazy embrace of a quasi-religious ideology is having calamitous consequences."

When asked "who was more important" out of those who defined themselves as transgender or non-binary and those who were female, Mr Streeting said: "Everyone's important as far as we're concerned."

He said the Equality Act under the last Labour government "made very clear provision for the protection of single-sex spaces - and that's biological sex".

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Mr Streeting added: "I think that's very important, particularly in those spaces, whether hospital wards or prisons, or services that are designed for, female survivors of male violence against women and girls.

"It's really important that in some contexts, that when we talk about women's rights, women's spaces, women's voices, that we are protecting those as single-sex spaces.

"And should we be elected at the next general election, the next Labour government will be committed to that, too, just as the last Labour government was."

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The Conservatives have criticised Labour's proposals, with equalities minister Kemi Badenoch arguing they would "unravel all the protections in the current system designed to protect women and girls".

She said: "This change creates more loopholes for predators and bad faith actors to infiltrate women-only spaces and put us at risk.

"Labour has never understood or cared about this issue or the vulnerable women impacted by their policies."