Legal systems for determining and regulating gender
Phase One of the research is already underway. We are looking at recent international developments and activist arguments to chart possible pathways for legal gender reform in England and Wales. We are also drawing on a wide range of feminist, critical race, and disability scholarship to question more broadly the long-term future of legal gender.
Most of the international developments which we have looked at so far relate to people’s ability to change their assigned legal gender status, and focus on transgender people. For example, a growing number of countries, including Argentina, Republic of Ireland, Malta, Denmark and Colombia, now allow transgender people to change their assigned legal gender status by way of self-declaration. This is different from the UK where, currently, a person who wants to change their assigned legal gender must provide evidence to a quasi-judicial panel, the Gender Recognition Panel, that they have lived in their “acquired gender” for at least two years, and that they have been medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Some countries are also moving towards recognition of non-binary genders, such as Canada and Germany.
Whilst international developments towards self-determination are important, as is the government’s current consultation on reform of the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004, our project is interested in law’s regulation of gender more broadly, and its implications for society as a whole.
In Phase One, we will identify different pathways for legal gender reform to take forward into Phase Two. Undoing gender inequality, gender as self-determination, and abolishing assigned gender are three possible starting points. Phase One will explore the legal forms these different pathways could entail, the challenges they pose, and how they might combine.
Currently in Britain, we are all assigned a legal gender at birth. But do we still need to have a legal gender status? What would be the social, political and cultural implications of abolishing legal gender status, or reforming legal gender status in other ways?