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Scotland’s consultation on reforms to gender recognition laws closes soon. Here’s how trans allies can help

Vic Parsons March 12, 2020
Scotland: Gender Recognition Bill consultation closes in five days

Banner at a Trans pride march in Toronto, 2019. (Anatoliy Cherkasov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Scottish government’s second public consultation on potential reforms to gender-recognition laws, published in the Gender Recognition Bill (Scotland), closes on March 17.

The consultation asks people to respond to five key points.

You don’t need to live in Scotland or be transgender to fill it in.

The Gender Recognition Bill (Scotland) will reform the process by which trans people gain legal gender recognition – a right that trans people in the UK have had for 16 years.

The current process by which trans people obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate and change the gender marker on their birth certificate is expensive, overly bureaucratic, intrusive, stressful and out-of-date.

The UK government says that, despite common estimates putting the UK’s trans population at more than half a million people, just 4,910 trans people had actually gone through the process of getting a GRC.

Reforming the process to make it simpler, quicker and cheaper would mean more trans people can access it.

It takes just five to ten minutes to fill in, and is a concrete way of showing your support for trans equality.

Gender Recognition Bill (Scotland): Five questions to comment on.

1. Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must live in their acquired gender for at least three months before applying for a GRC?

Select ‘yes’ to add a comment. Suggest that this requirement should be removed.

There is no evidence to suggest that trans people who are applying for a GRC to update the gender on their birth certificate need to wait any longer to be “sure”.

There is no requirement trans people “live in their acquired gender” to change the gender marker on their other ID documents, so this requirement creates an arbitrary and unnecessary three-month gap between changing the gender marker on a birth certificate and any other ID document.

2. Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must go through a period of reflection for at least 3 months before obtaining a GRC?

Select ‘yes’ to add a comment. Suggest that this requirement should be removed.

As with question one, there is no evidence to suggest this arbitrary requirement – that trans people be forced to wait three months after their initial application before confirming they wish to continue with it – is necessary.

Trans people who’ve reached the point of applying for a GRC have already spent a long time thinking about their gender identity. There is no need to make us wait any longer.

3. Should the minimum age at which a person can apply for legal gender recognition be reduced from 18 to 16?

Select ‘yes’ to add a comment. Bear in mind that this question only covers legal gender recognition for 16- and 17-year-olds, and does not affect the medical treatment that is available to young trans people (unlike what the media has told you).

Tell the Scottish government you support the proposal to lower the age at which trans people can get legal gender recognition to 16. Sixteen and 17-year-olds in Scotland can marry, be employed, vote, and be held legally responsible for their actions. It follows that they should be able to change their birth certificate to reflect who they are.

People under the age of 16 in Scotland can already update their gender marker on their school records, medical records and passports. Ask the Scottish government to allow young trans people under the age of 16 to also be able to change the gender marker on their birth certificate – this protects their privacy, as having a birth certificate (which is needed to apply to university and enter school examinations) with the wrong gender outs you as trans.

4. Do you have any other comments on the provisions of the draft bill?

Select ‘yes’ to add a comment. Non-binary people currently have no legal gender recognition in Scotland – ask the Scottish government to go further with the proposed reforms and recognise that non-binary people exist, are valid, and should have the same right to documents that accurately reflect their gender as everyone else.

Tell the government in Scotland that the Gender Recognition Bill is not a success while it leaves non-binary people out.

5. Do you have any comments on the draft impact assessments?

Select ‘yes’ to add a comment. The impact assessments considered whether reforming gender-recognition laws would affect women.

The Scottish government published the impact assessments alongside the draft bill in December 2019. The Scottish government’s assessments flatly rejected claims that gender-recognition reform would impact women’s rights or present a risk to single-sex spaces.

The Gender Recognition Bill (Scotland) only covers how the gender marker on transgender people’s birth certificates is changed, which impacts on trans people’s privacy when getting married, getting a job or applying for a pension, and how trans people are recognised when they die.

Why is there a second public consultation on GRA reform?

The first public consultation on reforming the GRA was open from 9 November 2017 to 1 March 2018.

There were 15,697 responses, and 60 per cent of people who responded – rising to 65 per cent of people based in Scotland – said they backed plans to introduce a self-declaratory system for legal gender recognition.

In July 2019, the Scottish government said it was delaying plans to reform the GRA and would instead hold a second public consultation on the proposed changes.

This would allow time to conduct an equality assessment to determine whether changes to the GRA would impact on women’s rights – in response to pressure from anti-trans lobby groups.

The equality assessments, published by the Scottish government alongside the draft bill containing GRA reforms in December 2019, flatly rejected claims that gender-recognition reform would impact women’s rights or present a risk to single-sex spaces.

The existing 2004 law and the draft bill both only govern the process for updating the gender of trans people on their birth certificates. Most other documents already operate on a self-declaratory basis, while discrimination laws apply to all trans people regardless of gender recognition status.

For further reading, Stonewall Scotland have comprehensive guidance on the draft bill.

More: gender recognition act, non-binary legal recognition, trans equality, trans rights

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