Legal Recognition of Non-binary Gender Identities — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 23 May 2022.

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Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley 4:30, 23 May 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered e-petition 580220, relating to legal recognition of non-binary gender identities.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank Ezio, who started the petition; we have met and had a good conversation on the subject. The petition has gained more than 140,000 signatures, so this topic is on the minds of many.

Many of the people I have spoken to have said that they supported the petition because they feel that, at present, they do not exist. I want the community of people who feel that they are non-binary to know that, of course, I accept that they exist. I see them; I hear them; I feel for them; and I want to help them. I say to them, “We are a tolerant nation and we accept you as you are.” It does not follow, however, that the law should be changed to reflect the way that certain individuals feel. No matter where anyone sits on this subject, their opinion should be respected.

I have not taken part in any social media discourse on this subject, because I believe that it often becomes completely negative. I have met some people who suffer with gender dysphoria, and I do not think that such discourse helps them in any way whatsoever. We must always remember that we are talking about human lives—about people with whom we share society. I have spoken with many people about this subject, and I thank them all for their contributions.

The petition asks to

“Have non binary be included as an option under the GRP (Gender Recognition Panel)/ GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate), in order to allow those identifying as non binary to be legally seen as their true gender identity. As well as having ‘Non-binary’ be seen as a valid transgender identity… By recognising Non-binary as a valid gender identity, it would aid in the protection of Non-binary individuals against transphobic hate crimes, and would ease Gender Dysphoria experienced by Non-binary people.”

That may seem straightforward. It would be just an extra column on a birth certificate or a gender-recognition certificate and part of the forms that we complete daily, and the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is already in place, so why not? Whether or not our starting position is to agree with the idea, we need to look at the impact on and implications for wider society.

Let me walk hon. Members through my reservations. First, I do not believe that the inclusion of non-binary would necessarily help with gender dysphoria. If people feel that they can exist only by putting an X in a box, we as a society need to convince them differently. Prior to the debate, I spoke with many people in the non-binary community, and they certainly spoke well. I do not think any of them need a mark in a box in order to exist.

Secondly, I do not think the change would reduce any so-called hate crimes. People who carry out such offences have no place in a free society, and we already have criminal laws in place to deal with such appalling behaviour. There are also practical issues relating to the non-binary and trans questions: protecting our kids from making life-changing decisions before they are adults and old enough to make such decisions; single-sex spaces; and, of course, sport.

I will start with children. In certain areas of the country, clusters of schoolchildren are saying that they are non-binary or trans. Where has that come from? Why is it more prevalent in some areas than in others? Who or what is putting that idea in young minds? Who is telling them, “You can be the opposite of what you are”?