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Reproaching opponents of Gender Recognition Act

02 November 2006


 From Mr Mark Rees
Sir, — On 1 July, the Gender Recognition Bill received the Royal Assent and quietly slipped into law. The Commons had given it overwhelming support at its Third Reading with a free vote of 355-46. This long-overdue compassionate legislation gave to transsexual people, a much maligned and misunderstood minority, legal status congruent with their social roles.

Since Jesus identified with the marginalised, the “unclean” and “sinners”, and consequently incurred the displeasure of the establishment, it is surely reasonable to assume that Christian people would do likewise, and share our thankfulness that Parliament has taken this humane step. Many have, but others have called us deluded, deceivers and idolaters (Evangelical Alliance), and “nasty and vicious” (Baroness O’Cathain of the Christian Institute).

Of greater distress to us than this is the fact that the Bill was opposed by some bishops in the Lords. They even went so far as to support the Baroness’s amendment, which would have given the right to churches to dismiss and deny transsexual people employment, especially as ministers, refuse us goods and services (including accommodation), and bar us from worship. At least the bishops would not support that last demand of the Baroness. If for “transsexual” one substituted “Jewish” or “black”, there would be an outcry; although our condition is as much a choice as our racial features, a view backed by the eminent medical specialist Lord Winston.

Many transsexual people are respected members of various professions, and I am one of several to have been elected to public office in spite of my known transsexual status. Unlike the bishops, the voters knew me as a person. Given that, why was it deemed necessary to bar us from emloyment?

The Bishop of Winchester was concerned about the effect of the Bill on family life. Perhaps he is unaware that transsexual people are very much in favour of family life. Research and personal observation show that partnerships including a transsexual person are stable and long-lasting, and that such people make excellent parents. Isn’t that what we need?

The condition is one that causes immense anguish, sometimes to the point of suicide. The medical treatment enables us to be freed from this pain and introspection, so that we can move forward into living a life that is of benefit to the community.

Thank God, I have been treated with love and understanding by my Christian, mostly Anglican, friends. Others have been less fortunate, and have been hounded from their churches. Regrettably, some identify the bishops who voted against the Bill in the Lords as “the Church”. My efforts to persuade them that the Church is more than a handful of prelates cut little ice.

It has been my hope that it might be possible to organise a service to give thanks for the passing of the Act, and to include penitence and reconciliation; but this has met with considerable antagonism from some colleagues, solely because of the bishops’ opposition. I wonder if there is any serving bishop who would have courage enough to say, “On behalf of the Church, I am sorry for the hurt we have caused you.”

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