Trans pensions

There was a story in Pink News last week about trans pensions which struck me as slightly odd and has generated interest in some circles. From just the opening couple of paragraphs you could be forgiven for assuming that this was the problem of Trans women who turn 60 now not getting pensions because they’re unable to get a Gender Recognition Certificate. Certainly I’d be very concerned (And firing off emails and letters to all sorts of people) if they government had rejected any notion of fixing this as I’m hopeful the forthcoming Marriage Equality Bill will resolve a lot of this mess.

Reasons not to be able to get a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) one are surprisingly common and I’m often finding out new and innovative ways that the system has created that deprive people of recognition, but the tend to centre around marriage, which is why they can be fixed in a marriage bill. Currently, to get a GRC you must get an annulment. This isn’t something that everyone is happy doing as even though you can get Civil Partnered/Married again straight away, it’s emotionally quite a blow and has implications for tax, inheritance and pensions. With pensions, any annulment/divorce (Even if you remarry) can cause serious problems for a spouse if they survive their partner or result in other unwanted effects.

But fixing all that was not what was being discussed, and not what was “rejected” by the government in the House of Lords last week. (Hansard link) An amendment was tabled to promote discussion, the text of which would have granted transwomen who transitioned before the GRA was around the ability to retrospectively claim the pension they would have had between 60 and 65. (Basic state pension for 5 years is around £25,000, if adjusted for inflation, but can be more)

Lord Freud notes, in his speech on the matter, that he knew the amendment was tabled largely just to get an update on the ongoing issue and the amendment was subsequently withdrawn by the proposer. It is perhaps somewhat disingenuous to label the response quite so flatly as a “rejection”, especially as the update informs us that it is not a dead topic and is still being looked into.

There’s also a clue the amendment wasn’t seriously expected to go anywhere as it’s quite problematic in it’s practical outcome. It would not have mattered what age one transitioned at, as long as you transitioned more than 2 years before the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) became law. If so, you’d be able to claim your full state pension from between the ages of 60 and 65, even having transitioned at 70.

Not quite so good if you didn’t transition more than 2 years before the GRA as you would then still need a GRC. If you did divorce though, or were never married, and received a GRC within 2 years of the GRA you would again be able to claim full state pension between 60 and 65, regardless of when you transitioned.

Confusing? Yes, rather.

There’s also the problem of money. Lord Boswell, when proposing the amendment, reckoned on 50 individuals, which results in a cost of one or two million pounds. The HMRC suggests 750 people who could be eligible, which I can believe. There are at least 7,500 fully transitioned individuals in the UK according to their figures, rather more than the four thousand or so that GRC figures would suggest and this would apply to any trans women over about 70 who transitioned in 2002 or earlier.

That puts the cost anywhere from nine to thirty eight million pounds.

You can bet the inevitable Daily Mail headline will run with the £38 million, not the £9 million. “TAXPAYERS FUND SEX SWAP GRANNIES £38 MILLION WINDFALL” Unpleasant though it is to have to say it, I don’t think it would help to have such headlines in the run up to the consultation on the marriage equality bill, where much more is at stake.

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