54% of Tory MPs oppose transgender women having the same legal rights as those born female, a poll has foundHayoung Jeon/EPA
New rules allowing people to change gender without consulting a doctor are facing a barrage of backbench opposition, according to a poll of MPs that suggests ministers will have to rethink the plans.
A public consultation ends [this] week on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act that would allow people to legally self-declare as the opposite gender without needing to live in the role for two years and seek a doctor’s backing.
But the poll shows that Penny Mordaunt, the minister for equalities charged with introducing the changes, will have a tough time getting them approved by parliament and risks a bitter showdown with Conservative MPs, whose support she needs in a future Tory leadership contest.
The poll — one of a regular survey of MPs on topical issues by ComRes — found that only 9% of Tories back self-declaration without a doctor, with 69% opposed. And 54% of Tories oppose transgender women getting all the same legal rights as those born female. Eight out of 10 say they are worried by the number of children wanting to change their gender and 56% are opposed to puberty-blocking drugs being administered. The poll found 63% of Tories fearful of speaking out after examples of campaigners branding those who question the plans “transphobic”.
The issue became heated after a transgender prisoner, Karen White, who retained her male genitalia and was accused of raping two women, was put in a women’s jail where she sexually assaulted four of the inmates. White was jailed for life last week.
The ComRes poll shows that 67% of MPs of all stripes are fearful of the effect the planned changes will have on women’s changing rooms and refuges. Half have been contacted by members of the public concerned at the proposals.
Mordaunt spoke strongly in favour of the reform when she introduced the proposals in cabinet in late June, according to another minister present.
The minister told The Sunday Times: “She said it was the defining moral and cultural issue of our time and that we must get this right now because we have failed to be on the right side of previous controversies. She said this was the equivalent of establishing gay rights in the 1980s. Nobody round the table made a fuss.”
Mordaunt also told a Stonewall fringe event at this month’s Tory conference that “we need to make [the] reform and more a reality”, according to a tweet from the group.
Nicola Williams, of the feminist group Fair Play for Women, which opposes the reform, accused Mordaunt of “pre-empting” the result of the consultation.
Mordaunt appears to be retreating. She is now expected to shorten the time period for changing gender and keep the doctor involvement. Other ministers, including Liz Truss, Victoria Atkins and Sarah Newton, are said to be concerned by the plans to remove doctors from the process.
A Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times showed that plans by the Scottish government to allow children as young as 12 to alter the gender on their birth certificates are also unpopular. Only 6% of voters back the change.