Trans women told by doctors they are 'not wearing enough lipstick'

·2 min read
Senior male GP at his desk chatting with a patient  - Getty Images
Senior male GP at his desk chatting with a patient - Getty Images

Trans women are being told they are not wearing enough lipstick or “feminine clothing” by doctors, MPs have heard.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee heard evidence on Wednesday from a variety of medical professionals and campaigners regarding gender healthcare as part of its inquiry into the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

Dr Harriet Hutchinson, community organiser at Action for Trans Health Durham, described the current processes of “attempting to prove your gender to a clinician” as a “disturbing”, “intrusive and degrading" process.

In accordance with current regulations, in many cases trans people are required to live in their ‘preferred’ gender for two years in order to gain ‘real life experience’ of living and working in their preferred gender.

Dr Hutchinson told the virtual hearing: “Our services users have been in appointments where they've been criticised for not wearing lipstick or received lectures from cisgender clinicians that the trousers they were wearing weren't 'feminine enough' to be regarded as female presentation."

She added: "So the idea of having to prove your gender is very reductive and forces trans people to conform to stereotypes in order to receive a diagnosis and then, of course, receive criticism for perpetuating gender stereotypes."

Dr John Chisholm CBE, chair of the Medical Ethics Committee at the British Medical Association (BMA) also told MPs: "It's very onerous and dehumanising to have to be asked all these intrusive questions in order to prove, in essence, that you are who you say you are…

"We've come a long way from regarding gender dysphoria as a medical problem, or a psychological problem or a mental health problem, and yet we are forced back into this paradigm by way of how the law operates."

As of 2020, more than 13,500 trans and non-binary were on a waiting list for an NHS gender clinic, according to research conducted by the BBC.

The NHS constitution mandates that after receiving a GP referral, the waiting time for a first appointment at a gender clinic should be no longer than 18 weeks, but in many parts of the country this wait is now up to five years.

Earlier this month, the cost of applying for a GRC was cut from £140 to £5 as part of changes the government claims will make applying for one “simpler and much more affordable”.

The move came after ministers decided last September against wider changes to gender recognition rules that would have allowed people to change their gender legally without a medical diagnosis - a decision which prompted LGBTQ+ campaigners and charities, such as Stonewall, to deem it “a shocking failure in leadership”.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee hearing continues.