When the shit hit the fan about the Equality Act 2010, I was incensed and decided that as well as spreading awareness on the internet, I was going to put in some work going through legal channels to object to this. So I wrote to my new MP, Penny Mordaunt of The Conservative Party. I was not at all optimistic and to be honest I don't have a very good opinion of Tories.
I sent the following e-mail to Penny Mordaunt.
I am writing to you to express my grave concern regarding something I have just learned which has disturbed me greatly.
The provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 that overrode the 1975 act, have now been repealed.
This means that there is now a distinction between 'women' and 'transsexual person with (or without) gender recognition certificates'. I believe this distinction has wide ranging negatives consequences for the lives of many women. I am specifically asking for your help, as my MP and as someone who is listed as having a special interest in health, to protest this.
Healthcare, both primary, secondary and tertiary is important and necessary for all genders. I strongly believe this includes trans people, intersex people and cis gendered people. I believe that in this country mental health services are sadly lacking, and trans people seem to be at the sharp end of this negligence.
In particular, what is worrying me most, is the access that women have to support, counselling and healthcare after sexual assault and rape. Statistics on rape of trans and intersex women are limited, but what little I can find shows me that trans women are some of the most susceptible women to sexual assault, which is usually motivated out of fear, ignorance and hatred of people that are 'different'.
The repeal of the provisions in the GRA now mean that when women other than cis gendered are trying to access services such as rape crisis, they can be denied. This makes absolutely no sense to me, to deprive women who are *more likely* to be raped of support after they experience this rape. This means many women having to suffer mental torment, as well as perhaps not being made aware of the physical treatment they could receive. This means many women are traumatised and potentially not seeking treatment for physical injuries resulting from a sexual assault.
I do not believe it is fair or morally right for anyones ignorance, prejudice or fear regarding trans women to affect their rights to seek basic healthcare and support services, which is what is happening and will happen as a result of this change in law. The fear/misunderstanding/ignorance that leads to cis gendered women
thinking that trans women are not 'real' women or are *really* men, is damaging and threatening to the lives and health of many women in this country.
We really need to see the law changed to recognise the womanhood of all women and STOP the denial of services, anything else is unacceptable because I have said, this puts the health and the lives of too many people at risk.
Thank you very much for taking your time to read this. I look forward to reading your reply and hearing what your opinions are on this matter, how you plan to address this and what we can do to move forward. This is no longer the dark ages, this is a time when we should be recognising that gender and sex are not quite the cut and dry matter that we used to think they were.
After two weeks I had not received a response, so headed over to her website again, where I discovered that she has a surgery on Fridays and you can also book appointments for Mondays.
The call to her office got screened by her PA, who told me in no uncertain terms I'd have to let HER know what my concerns were before she'd pass them on to Penny. She gave me her e-mail address, I sent a copy of the above e-mail to her.
Three days later, I received the following response from Penny.
Many thanks for your note regarding the Equality Act. I have some experience of discrimination on this front as, while a candidate, I fought and won a case against the PCT for denying access to particular healthcare for a trans gender woman. We used the human rights act as leverage, so I am very interested in the proposed Bill of rights and how this will strengthen equality legislation.
However I am no expert in these matters, but your note has prompted me to ask that the House of Commons prepare a briefing note for me on this topic. I would be very happy to raise these issues in the House and with the Ministers responsible.
I will write again once parliament has returned, I am fully briefed and have had an opportunity to assess what I can usefully do to help.
Thanks again for raising this with me.
All best wishes,
I am not particularly used to writing/receiving response to this sort of letter, so I'm unable to tell if it's a particularly good response.
I'm giving her points because she's answered my concerns, shown interest, promised action and promised further contact.