06.06.24 UK Elections

What does the UK election mean for gender policies?

The general election campaign is in full swing for all UK parties. Ahead of polling day on 4 July, TBIJ’s Trans+ Voices project sets out what the vote could mean for the future of recent policy announcements about trans healthcare, education and more. While manifestos have not yet been published, responses by the major parties to these proposals indicate whether a new government might take them forward or not.


In April, paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass published an NHS England-commissioned report on healthcare for trans young people, in which she made 32 recommendations. These included screening young people in gender identity services for autism and possible further restriction of access to hormones for under-18s.

Though the report was criticised by trans-led organisations for its contents and methods, the Conservative and Labour parties both leading parties have indicated they would take its suggestions forward. Conservative leader Rishi Sunak described the report as “very supportive … of the direction of travel we’ve taken”, while Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said a Labour government would “work to implement the expert recommendations of the Cass review”.

Puberty blockers

Health is devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the NHS in each nation stopped new prescription of puberty blockers to under-18s earlier this year following an interim report by Cass. Just before parliament stopped work due to the election, the government legislated to bring in an emergency ban across England, Wales and Scotland from 3 June to 3 September, which means no new private prescriptions for under-18s can be issued.

A new government would need to carry out a consultation with the appropriate committee in order to make the ban permanent, but Streeting has previously said he welcomed the Conservatives’ approach to the issue. On 30 May, Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project said the organisation was planning a legal challenge to the emergency legislation.

In April, the Scottish Greens said it would oppose any attempt to increase the age of accessing gender-affirming healthcare to 25 in Scotland following the publication of the Cass review. Equality spokesperson Maggie Chapman MSP said: “Trans people are not and must not be used as political weapons.”

Earlier this year, the government also suggested trans people should not be placed in single-sex hospital wards, a change to the NHS Constitution for England also supported by Streeting. Those proposals are under consultation until 25 June.


Last month, the government published draft guidance for changes to the relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum in England. It proposed that sex education should not be taught before Year 5 and that gender identity should not feature at all. The proposals are open for public consultation, closing a week after the election.

Both Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, and Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, declined to support the government’s RSHE proposals, saying they needed time to consider the details.

Another consultation, concerning draft guidance for teachers around gender-questioning pupils, closed in March of this year, with responses yet to be published. The proposed guidance said teachers should not automatically accept a pupil’s request to use a different name or pronoun and should discuss such requests with the child’s parents. Phillipson said she welcomed the consultation.

The Reform UK website says the party would “ban transgender ideology in primary and secondary schools” in the first 100 days of a new government.

Single-sex toilets

Kemi Badenoch, the Conservatives’ minister for women and equalities, has said gender-neutral toilets threaten women and girls’ rights to dignity and privacy. She announced in May that the government would pursue legislation requiring new public buildings in England – such as restaurants, shops and offices – to include separate male and female toilets. However, the proposed legislation did not make it to parliament before this session ended due to the election.

Labour has stayed largely quiet on the specific issue of toilets, although in January, Starmer answered a question about whether single-sex spaces in general would be guaranteed under a Labour government by saying: “Yes – and I’ve been really clear and unwavering on this.”

A 2020 motion passed at the Liberal Democrat conference said: “Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are non-binary.” The party supports the use of gender-neutral toilets and pronoun badges at party conferences.


In 2022, the Scottish parliament voted to pass a piece of legislation called the gender recognition reform bill, which aimed to make it easier for people to legally self-identify their gender. However, it was blocked by UK government ministers who claimed it could affect equality law across Britain. John Swinney, Scotland’s first minister, recently reaffirmed his commitment to the legislation, but said he would “wait and see” until after the election before beginning talks with a new government.

Such changes at Westminster have been ruled out by both major parties. Starmer previously said his Labour party would support self-ID, but the party changed its stance in 2023 when Anneliese Dodds said a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria “remained an important part” of being able to legally change gender.

The Conservative government rejected self-ID in 2020 following a consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, despite responses showing public support for simplifying the process. Nearly two thirds of respondents said a diagnosis of gender dysphoria should not be a requirement for legally changing gender, 80% said there should be no requirement for a report detailing treatment received, and 79% said an applicant should not have to provide evidence they have lived in their acquired gender for a period of time.

The Green party previously passed policy supporting “the right for individuals to update their legally recognised gender by self-determination”.

The Liberal Democrats have previously backed calls for self-ID. The party’s website states that gender recognition reform should include the “de-medicalisation and simplification of the process to obtain a gender recognition certificate”.

The Equality Act

While the parties have not published their manifestos, gender has been the subject of one high-profile pledge by the Conservatives. On 3 June, the party said that it would rewrite the Equality Act so that its protections relating to gender apply only to a person’s biological sex.

Sunak said the “current confusion around definitions of sex and gender” had to be addressed to protect women and girls.

Labour MP John Healey told the BBC that the Equality Act already protected single-sex spaces for biological women, saying the Tories’ proposal was “an election distraction”. Swinney of the SNP said that changing the Equality Act was an “explicit, outright threat” to devolution.

Policy documents published by Reform UK also state the party would “replace” the 2010 Equality Act.

A joint statement from the LGBT+ Consortium, Stonewall, TransActual, Mermaids and others said that under the Equality Act, trans people can already legally access single-sex services based on their gender and services can already legally exclude them in certain circumstances. “It is not necessary to redefine sex in the equality act for service providers to provide a range of services,” they said. “This is something they do routinely already.”

Reporter: Eve Livingston
Bureau Local editor: Gareth Davies
Deputy editor: Katie Mark
Editor: Franz Wild
Production editor: Alex Hess
Fact checker: Lucy Nash