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Lynne Jones: I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to a document produced by the parliamentary forum on the medical view of the aetiology of transsexualism. There is a link to that report on my website, and work is being done to update that view. The forum is attended by the people who are most expert in the condition and it is advised by them. It is not correct to say that the Royal College of Psychiatrists takes that view. Its lead member on its panel attends and advises the forum.
Andrew Selous: I hear what the hon. Lady says, but I challenge her and any other hon. Member to produce a list of experts in the field who genuinely believe that the matters are absolutely predetermined physiologically and genetically. I am not saying that there is no physiological element. However, a number of the doctors at the two main centres in this country which deal with the conditionthe unit at the Charing Cross hospital and the Portman clinichave gone into print, and have suffered considerable hostility as a result, saying that they do not share that view. Even research undertaken in the Netherlands is not accepted as conclusive.
Mr. Woodward: Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the logic of what he is saying is effectively to reduce all the surgeons who carry out this work to nothing more than cosmetic surgeons, doing it because somebody comes along and says, "Well, I just fancy changing my gender"? That is not what happens. Years of work lie behind such operations, some of it very distressing to the individuals. After having counselling and living in the other gender, there is then a big decision to be made about the operation. The hon. Gentleman must bear it in mind that no doctor would undertake that work as a flight of fancy. It is not a cosmetic procedure; it is a very serious procedure. The hon. Gentleman must reflect on what he is suggesting doctors are doing in these cases because, in my view, they think that they are providing a necessary medical remedy.
Andrew Selous: I take the hon. Gentleman's sensible point that this is a major, serious operation. There are provisions in the Bill to ensure that gender change cannot happen in a short period, as it currently does in some cases, which causes concern.
I am simply making a general point that a range of factors cause gender dysphoria, and they are principally psychiatric conditions. Reference has been made to the fact that in every case people who want to change their gender have been preconditioned genetically and physiologically so to do. I am not questioning their right to do so or the fact that they face discrimination. I am merely making the point, which I think a large number of clinicians and others accept, that this is a psychiatric matter as much as it is a matter of genetics or is in any way preordained.
It is important also to note that we are not discussing intersex conditionsa point that the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Kali Mountford) established early on in a useful intervention on the Minister. Those are a separate category from the transsexual issues that we are discussing.
If the Bill is enacted in its current form it will very much affect marriage, as it will, in effect, legalise same-sex marriage. We should be concerned about that. These points were made by the Bishop of Winchester in the other place, as the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) made clear, and he accepts that he has a difference with the Bishop of Winchester on the matter. We have to accept that if we pass the Bill we will be allowing two men or two women to marry. I have sympathy with the point made by a number of Labour Members that when a married person wants to adopt a different gender the couple should not be forced to dissolve their marriage; I think that they should be able to stay together. I know that the Government are trying to support the principle that marriage applies purely to a man and a woman, but they are going about it the wrong way and putting gender before sex. As the plaque on every registrar's wall says:
Andrew Selous: I shall deal with those two points in turn. The hon. Lady says that same-sex marriage is excluded from the Bill. I disagree. I think that it is same-gender marriage that is not included, because I come from the premise that one cannot change the biological make-up of a human being. I accept that people may want to adopt a different gender, and we have heard movingly from the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward) about his sister. I am not denying that people should have the opportunity to do that if they so choose. However, if one accepts that a human being has a unique biological make-up, which any law made in this House cannot change, we are talking about the ability of a man to marry another man and of a woman to marry another woman. There cannot be any dispute about that.
The hon. Lady asked what other means we could use to prevent some of the problems that transsexuals face. We could deal with employment problems by using employment legislation to ensure that there could be no discrimination. Insurance has been mentioned a number of times, and there are ways of dealing with that. I think that I may be the only chartered insurer who is a Member of the HouseI am certainly one of very few.
We should be very keen to stop any form of harassment. We have legislation to stop race-hate and homophobic bullying, and I would be very much in favour of legislation to make sure that transsexual people were not harassed or intimidated.
Lynne Jones: I just wanted to inform the hon. Gentleman that there is legislation preventing discrimination in employment: the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999. That provides guidelines but it does not deal with cases in which employers require to see birth certificates, so people often censor themselves in applying for jobs and promotion. That problem cannot be overcome other than by full legal recognition, enabling transsexual people to have a reissued birth certificate.
Andrew Selous: The hon. Lady makes a practical point, and one way to get round it might be to say that a gender recognition certificate could be used in place of a birth certificate. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady shakes her head but I see no reason why that would not work while we were looking at practical alternatives. I now give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow).
Mr. Bercow: I admire my hon. Friend's courage and principle in standing up for that in which he believes. I put to him two simple questions. First, would he acknowledge that at heart his motivation for opposing the Bill is a religious one, which may be convincing to him, but is not necessarily convincing, or a basis for legislation, in the minds of many others?
Secondly, I put it to him that his opposition to discrimination, harassment and ill treatment would probably sound more convincing if he had argued for practical equality before the law prior to the Second Reading of this Bill.
Andrew Selous: I shall deal in turn with those points raised by my hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour. First, I speak today, as do several hon. Members, from personal religious conviction. However, I have received letters from constituents who are worried about the Bill but do not have a personal faith. People of all faiths and none will be concerned that Parliament is being asked to legislate to create a legal case for something that I do not believe to be valid in terms of biology and physiology.
I do not quite understand my hon. Friend's second point. I am on the record as having expressed concerns about homophobic bullying, race harassment and so on, and I repeat that I would not want that to happen to transsexual people.
Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend has been very fair, and it is right that I should clarify my second question for the avoidance of doubt. I do not dispute that he is opposed to harassment and violence. My question is this: if he believes that transsexuals experience day-to-day discrimination and disadvantage, and he has long been conscious of that, why did he not argue for reform of the law before, instead of declaring a willingness to consider the matter on Second Reading of this Bill, to which he is explaining that he is opposed?