GRA Scotland: 'Gender Recognition Reform does not impact sport participation', say sportscotland and LEAP Sports

Sport will not be impacted by changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) as certificates linked to the legislation are not used in “any part of the process” of sports eligibility, a sport charity and agency has said.

The comments from LEAP Sports Scotland and sportscotland were made during a committee at the Scottish Parliament on the gender recognition reform on Tuesday.

Ministers say the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is about “simplifying and improving the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition”.

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The reform will require applicants to make a statutory declaration they intend to live permanently in their acquired gender.

Malcolm Dingwall-Smith, Strategic Partnerships Manager at sportscotland told the committee reforming the Gender Recognition Act does not impact significantly on sport.

If passed, applicants will no longer need to provide medical reports or evidence, and the process will be substantially quicker.

The Bill will also lower the age at which trans people can obtain the relevant document from 18 to 16.

Hugh Torrence, executive director of LEAP Sports Scotland, said the practice of sport would not be affected by any of the proposals in the new Bill.

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Speaking at the equalities committee, Mr Torrence said: “Those campaigning against gender recognition reform continue to raise sport frequently despite many reassurances from sports bodies and from LGBTIQ+ organisations that the proposals do not change the legal position to sport.

"As to the Bill more widely, LEAP Sports is supportive of the current proposals on the basis of significant improvements they will make to the lives and experiences of trans people in Scotland.”

Section 195 of the Equality Act allows restrictions on whether a transgender person can participate as a competitor in sport if such action is necessary in upholding fair competition or the safety of competitors. None of the reforms propose to change the Equality Act.

Malcolm Dingwall-Smith, strategic partnerships manager at sportscotland, said the agency had a “clear commitment” to inclusion, but agreed the Bill “would not impact significantly on sport”.

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He told the committee everyone in sport should be treated with “kindness, dignity and respect” and said transgender people still faced “too many barriers” in sport participation.

But following extensive consultation, sportscotland guidance concludes “maintained physical differences” means it will “not always be possible to balance transgender inclusion, competitive fairness and participant safety”.

Mr Torrence said sports governing bodies were consulting with trans people on what inclusion "might look like” in the sports community.

The committee also heard about the impact reform to the GRA would have on young people and children.

Ellie Gomersall, president-elect of National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland, said the organisation “stands strong” in supporting reform to bring Scotland “closer to international best practice”.

Ms Gomersall said the union particularly welcomes the removal of the need to attain a gender dysphoria diagnosis for a gender recognition certificate.

She told the committee her own experience as a trans woman who still faces “horrific” waits to access gender identity clinics and the inaccessibility of “huge costs” in private healthcare.

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"This is particularly inaccessible for those of us who are students,” she said. “Our student loans often don’t even cover the cost of the roof above our heads let alone private healthcare.”

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, also welcomed the reform as he said gender identity was the “core of a person’s dignity”.

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