We have collated our statistics for our first three months open. Below you can find a breakdown of the areas we have recorded.
During this period, 61% of our enquires were from trans men and women, while 17% were from those who identify as lesbian, 11% from those who identify as gay, and 11% from bisexual individuals. We are thrilled to have offered our service to a range of individuals from the LGBTQ+ community. Moreover, during this quarter, the largest percentage of our enquiries, 28%, were regarding gender recognition issues. A number of these regarded statutory declarations for Gender Recognition Certificate applications, which must be witnessed by a solicitor.
Moreover, many individuals that used our service informed us of their difficulty in finding inclusive, LGBTQ+ friendly firms, or solicitors willing to offer their services free of charge, or at a reduced price. The increased likelihood of destitution, mental health problems and other socio-economic conditions for LGBTQ+ individuals, means the community requires greater support to deal with legal issues. Yet, with the significant cuts to legal aid in a wide range of areas, many have found affordability and obtaining support a particular issue when trying to access their rights. And while the Equality Act 2010 protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination when using a service, our findings highlight the entrenched discrimination within the legal system.
In May this year, the fee to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate was cut from £140 to £5. As a result, we have found more individuals wishing to apply for the certificate. Whilst we welcome the fee reduction, the entire process remains complex, cumbersome, and costly (ancillary costs of medical reports and statutory declarations can increase the final sum by hundreds of pounds). Put simply, the fee reduction is not a substitute for meaningful reform to the Gender Recognition Act.
A recurring concern brought to the Clinic was continued threats of libel, specifically to stop and/or intimidate trans people. We note the increasing pattern of threats of libel against the LGBTQ+ community, in this country as well as across Europe.
For example, comments by a senior LGBTQ+ researcher at Human Rights Watch on actions in Poland which were used to silence activists fighting for freedom of expression can be summarised as follows:
‘Scapegoating and targeting a vulnerable minority is becoming a routine and nasty part of governments playbooks, with dangerous repercussions for human rights’
We highlight this to raise awareness for the negative way in which the law can be warped to silence the fundamental rights it claims to protect.
In one particular situation, a trans client of ours, threatened with libel, was told in a Letter of Action that they must apologise publicly, potentially make a Statement in Open Court, pay a ‘substantial sum’ in compensation for the ‘distress caused’, and pay the legal costs of the other side in full.
All these factors and concerns highlight the important work that the The LGBTQ+ Clinic is attempting to achieve for the trans community and how our free services and continued support is regrettably, but crucially needed.
Another collation of our data suggest intersectional discrimination is a continuing issue, nearly half of the individuals using our service being people of colour. This disproportionate statistic of ethnic minorities struggling to gain sufficient legal representation or advice, yet again highlights entrenched institutional discrimination, which significantly affects individuals who are in the most need.
Lastly, the same was found for the disabled community with nearly half of issues raised to us included a person with a disability. Intersectional discrimination is an ongoing concern and one that we feel should be acknowledged and highlighted in the hope that systemic changes can be realised.
Without the The LGBTQ+ Law Clinic, many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community would have struggled to find legal representation to resolve their disputes. We are proud to offer our services to some of the most vulnerable individuals in the United Kingdom and uphold the Rule of Law by ensuring access to justice for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Article written by two of our volunteers, Ellie Rees and Lexi Wilkinson.