Comment: Why the UK’s gender recognition laws desperately need updating
The Gender Recognition Act is key for people wishing to legally change their gender, but its processes are in desperate need of renewal, writes Naith Payton.
The Gender Recognition Act in the UK was a landmark piece of legislation. it allowed many trans people to change their legal gender. It also granted a host of associated legal rights and protections.
But as time has gone on, it’s become clear that the GRA is letting down a whole host of trans and other people.
People under 18
Right now you can only access gender recognition if you are over 18, which leaves trans kids behind. There are many trans children and young people who desperately need the rights afforded by the GRA, but will not be able to receive them until after they turn 18.
We already know that school and college can be really tough times for gender diverse young people, and opening up gender recognition to people under 18 will help change this.
It will go a long way to help fight stigma, and grant legal rights such as protection from discrimination and things as simple as the right to use the correct bathroom or changing room.
There are many intersex people, people born with physical characteristics of different sexes, who wish to change their legal gender. Many will have be raised as, for example, as female and want to their legal gender to male. Right now, they cannot.
Intersex people cannot change their legal from male to female or from female to male without pretending to be transgender. They would have to seek a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and for most intersex people such a diagnosis does not apply to them.
Intersex and trans issues often overlap, but they not the same thing, and for an intersex person to have to pretend to be trans would be a denial of who they are. Legislation should not force people to do that.
There are also many intersex people whose gender is not exclusively “man” or “woman” and they share that issue with….
Non binary, genderqueer and non gendered people
The law allows people to change legal gender from male to female or vice versa, and that’s it. You cannot legally be a gender that is neither.
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Non binary people must decide whether they will remain their birth assigned gender, or go through the arduous process to change it to the other. And both end up with the same result, the wrong legal gender.
There has been talk of allowing non binary people to have an X in gender field on their passport, as some other countries do. But those people’s legal gender would still be male or female in areas such as marriage and pensions.
People who aren’t very good with paperwork
To prove that you have been living as your gender for at least two years, applicants are required to provide six different documents. Things such as payslips, bank statements and gas bills.
Six is a lot. Six is more than you need to get a mortgage.
Who keeps six different pieces of paper for two years? What about people, like me, who transitioned while living at home, and so utilities bills would have been addressed to their parents?
Your ability to change your legal gender could come down to your organising skills, and just plain luck.
Countries that are only just beginning to allow gender recognition, such as Ireland and Norway, have far more progressive legislation than Britain. In some countries, all the process requires is a signed declaration of intent. Where the UK was once leading the way we are now being left behind.