Changing gender to be made easier under Scottish Government plans

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Plans to make it easier for Scots to change gender have been launched by the Scottish Government.

Equality Secretary Angela Constance has launched a consultation to make it simpler and less intrusive for transgender people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender.

Equality Secretary Angela Constance

Equality Secretary Angela Constance

The proposals include reducing the age at which recognition can be obtained to 16 as well as considering options for under 16s.

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The Scottish Government also proposes replacing requirements to provide medical evidence and to live in an acquired gender for two years when seeking legal gender recognition.

The consultation will also look at options for the legal recognition of non-binary people – people who don’t identify as male or female.

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Under the current system, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes it possible for an individual to apply to a Gender Recognition Panel and obtain a full Gender Recognition Certificate.

The Scottish Government wants to streamline the process by which an individual’s new gender can be legally recognised.

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Ms Constance said: “Scotland rightly has a reputation as one of the most progressive countries in relation to LGBTI legal and human rights equality in Europe – but we need to do more to progress equality for trans people. 

“Both our Fairer Scotland Action Plan and this year’s Programme for Government commit to renewing the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. This Act was once considered ahead of its time but it now needs updated so we can ensure we are creating a fairer Scotland for those who are transgender and non-binary.

“By holding a full and wide ranging consultation we can make sure that our law is fit for purpose and in line with international best practice. This is a vital conversation and one which will ensure transgender and non-binary people in Scotland are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.”

The consultation was welcomed by equality campaigners. LGBTI organisations the Scottish Trans Alliance, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland all welcomed the plan..

 Women’s organisations Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tolerance have jointly issued a statement of support for reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

 James Morton, Scottish Trans Alliance Manager, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act.  The current process to change the gender on a trans person’s birth certificate is a humiliating, offensive and expensive red-tape nightmare which requires them to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel years after they transitioned. It makes sense for birth certificates to be brought into line with the self-declaration process already used to change all other identity documents when trans people start living in their gender identity.

“Being able to change the gender on their birth certificate to match their other identity documents is important primarily to uphold trans people’s privacy and dignity but also to ensure that their pensions, insurance policies, civil partnerships and marriages are all administered correctly. We urge the Scottish Government to also provide legal gender recognition for non-binary trans people so that all trans people can have equal inclusion and acceptance within Scottish society.”  

 Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tolerance, jointly said: “For over a decade, we have engaged in constructive dialogue with our colleagues in the Scottish Trans Alliance, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland. We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. We support the Equal Recognition campaign and welcome the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid in Scotland provide trans inclusive services on the basis of self identification. We will continue to work collaboratively with Scottish Trans Alliance and other equality organisations with the aim of ensuring that new processes are appropriately designed and without unintended consequences.”

 Colin Macfarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “This reform is desperately needed as it’s time to move the legislation on from being a long complicated bureaucratic process, which treats being trans as a mental illness.  We believe a better Gender Recognition Act is a crucial next step in achieving equality for all trans people and will help reduce the discrimination and abuse that is all too prevalent in our society.”

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