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Gender Recognition Reform Explained

On Thursday 3rd March the Scottish Government introduced the Gender Recognition Reform Bill to the Scottish Parliament. A Bill is a proposal for a new law, or changes to an existing law. The purpose of this Bill is to update the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans men and women to update the gender on their birth certificate. 

The Bill will now go through a process of “scrutiny”. This will be led by a committee of MSPs who will examine and gather evidence on the Bill. The Bill will also be debated in the Scottish Parliament, where MSPs can ask questions about the Bill, share the views of the people they represent and request changes. The final Bill will then be voted on by MSPs. This process will take about a year. If the Bill goes through this process successfully it will become an Act of law. 

The Gender Recognition Act 

The Gender Recognition Act is the law that allows trans men and women to update their birth certificate and get what’s called a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). The reasons someone might get a GRC could include:  

  • to have matching gender marker across all their identity documents,  
  • to make sure their true gender recorded on their marriage or civil partnership certificate 
  • having their true gender recorded on their death certificate 
  • having a GRC can also impact things like tax or pensions – as having mis-matched documentations can cause issues in processing 

You can change the gender marker on other documents such as a driving license and passport without a GRC. Trans people do not need a GRC to access single sex/ gendered spaces or services that align with their lived gender.  

Why does the Gender Recognition Act need updated? 

Under the current rules, to get a GRC you have to: 

  • Have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from 2 medical professionals 
  • Have lived in your gender for at least 2 years and be able to evidence this 
  • Be at least 18 
  • Pay a fee  
  • Have all this evidence assessed by a panel of “experts” who will decide whether to grant you a GRC or not.  

This current system does not provide legal recognition for non-binary people or those under 18. For those who can access legal recognition, the process is not only degrading and invasive but is also inaccessible due to associated costs and huge waiting times for appointments to gain access to a gender dysphoria diagnosis. Being required to live in your gender for two years with mismatching documentation leaves trans people open to discrimination and harassment. For young trans people aged 16 and 17 being ineligible for a GRC means that they have to enter adult life with mismatching documents which can ‘out’ them as trans and impact their safety, as well as cause problems later on if they do get a GRC and need to change their details. 

Trans people deserve a simple and accessible system to legally change their gender. One that respects their privacy, is available to all trans people and reflects that trans people know who they are and should not be asked to prove this.  

What’s good about the Bill 

The Bill makes it easier for trans men and women to get a GRC and goes some way to improving the current system. It does this by: 

  • Introducing a “Self Declaration” approach- meaning you need to sign something to say you intend to live in your gender for the rest of your life. This removes the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the requirement to have lived in your gender for 2 years and the requirement to be assessed by a Gender Recognition Panel 
  • Lowering the age of gender recognition from 18 to 16 
  • Removing the cost 

What’s not good about the Bill 

There are some areas of the Bill that we believe do not go far enough. There are: 

  • The Bill does not extend legal recognition to non-binary people 
  • The Bill does not provide options for under 16 
  • There is a requirement to have a 3 month “lived experience” before and a 3 month “reflection period” after signing your statutory declaration 

What is the LGBTYS position on the Bill 

We know this Bill is not good enough, particularly because it excludes non-binary and younger trans people.  

However, we welcome this Bill as we believe it is still a significant step forward for trans rights and believe the alternative (not having the Bill pass) will be damaging to trans rights in Scotland. Our focus over the next year will be supporting the Bill and looking for ways to improve it through the parliamentary process.  We will also aim to ensure that no further “compromises” are made to a Bill that already does not go far enough.  
As the Bill goes through parliament, LGBTYS and the Trans Rights Youth Commission will be working to gain support for the Bill. We want to centre trans (including non-binary) young peoples’ voices throughout this process so will be creating ways for you to get involved in the process. 

What can you do? 

  • Write to your MSPs to ask them to support the Bill  
    If you are a trans person or a trans ally, you can use our email template to write to your MSPs and ask them to support the Bill. Click here for more information.

  • You can respond to the committee’s call for views
    The committee who are examining the Bill want to hear what the public think of it. There is a ‘shorty survey’ which is mostly tick-box, with an open text box for any points you want to expand on.  There is also a ‘detailed consultation’.  If you are a trans person you could share your views on the Bill and how it impacts you and your life. If you are a trans ally you could share your views on the Bill and why you support it.

    You can share your views here.

    Areas you might want to cover are:
    • Non-binary inclusion: the Bill does not allow non-binary people to apply for gender recognition – should they be able to apply for a gender-neutral marker such as ‘X’? 
    • People under 16: The Bill does not allow for people 15 and under to apply for a GRC, should they be able to? What process would you like to see in place? Should parent/ guardians be involved (or someone else like a judge who is impartial)? 
    • Living in acquired gender: Once an application for a GRC has been submitted, the person must then live in their ‘acquired gender’ for 3 months before the GRC is issued. Is this better than two years? Will trans people already be living as their authentic selves by the time they apply?  
    • Reflection Period: Once a GRC has been issued (by now a person will have applied for the their GRC and lived in their acquired gender for at least 3 months) a reflection period is then in place where a person can request the process to be cancelled.  How could this be improved? 
    • Self Declaration: What impact will removing the need for diagnosis of gender dysphoria have on you or your friends, family or the LGBT community? 

      For more ideas on what to say, you can look at the statement written by our trans rights youth commission.

  • Join the Trans Rights Youth Commission 
    If you are a young trans (including non-binary) person aged 13-25, y
    ou can join our trans rights youth commission who are taking action to improve trans rights in Scotland. For more information 
    get in touch.


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