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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:30 pm on 23 May 2022.

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Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Equalities) 5:30, 23 May 2022

I stand corrected.

The Government have no plans to change the Gender Recognition Act, and nor do we have an appetite to change the Equality Act 2010. The provisions in those Acts will remain.

The journey of LGBT equality has been debated with rigour, and those debates have not always been respectful. We need to ensure that people feel that they have the right to disagree and to debate those points forcefully where necessary. We sometimes feel that change can be too slow. Those who want more change are always hungrier for speed, while those who are less sure of the change often take some convincing or seek to stop the change. I understand that, and that is where we are today.

Non-binary people are an emerging focus of LGBT equality. Although to many people non-binary identities are familiar and understood, to others they are much newer and raise questions that challenge the traditional notions of gender. Interestingly, throughout history there have always been individuals across many cultures with different experiences and identities, many going back thousands of years. Some of the identities we are debating today have been with us for thousands of years; they are not a new phenomenon driven by TikTok. Some of them go back 2,000 years or more.

Today, as in the past, people who identify under the non-binary umbrella are as diverse as any other group. They are of all ethnicities, sexualities, backgrounds and ages; their experiences will be unique; and the obstacles they encounter will be unique. What is true of one person’s experiences of living as a non-binary individual may not be true of another person’s, and it is those experiences, this information and that data that the Government are committed to examining and monitoring.

Members have called for more data and research, and that is exactly the Government’s position, because we must understand how everyday life for non-binary people is impacted by their identities and explore any obstacles they face that may require addressing in law, which is exactly what Anneliese Dodds supports. We need more data, because it simply is not there in sufficient quality—as I have said, that information is lacking at present. Officials in the equality hub have conducted an analysis of existing data and research on non-binary identities, and have found that it is not of sufficient quality to allow us to draw conclusions, so the Government will continue to monitor research into the experiences of non-binary people, seeking to better understand their lived experience.

I turn to the LGBT plan, to which Members have referred. The Government remain committed to improving outcomes for LGBT people at home and abroad, and we continue to explore opportunities in the areas of health, education and safety specifically. I am working across Government with ministerial colleagues to develop tangible commitments that will improve the day-to-day lives of LGBT+ people in the UK.