Back in 2004, for all its flaws, the Gender Recognition Act marked a significant step forward for the rights of trans women and trans men. However, there has been substantial international progress on trans rights over the last decade and the Gender Recognition Act is now outmoded and urgently in need of reform.
The recent Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution on discrimination against transgender people in Europe calls on member states to
“develop quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self-determination, for changing the name and registered sex of transgender people.”
Ireland, Malta and Denmark have already led the way in Europe on this, it is time for Scotland to also reform its law to enable everyone to have their gender identity equally recognised and valued by the state.
We are calling for the Scottish Government to:
1. Remove the psychiatric diagnosis requirement from legal gender recognition to enable self-declaration.
Trans people can change their gender on their passports and other day-to-day documents without having to see a psychiatrist. However, the process to change legal gender on a birth certificate requires an applicant to receive a psychiatric diagnosis and to provide a detailed psychiatric report about their life history, current circumstances and identity in order to prove that diagnosis. This unnecessary and intrusive requirement undermines the personal autonomy of trans people because it places psychiatrists into the inappropriate role of gatekeepers to legal rights. Psychiatry should be about helping people improve their mental health and not about deciding which trans people merit access to their human rights.
2. Reduce the age at which people can get legal recognition of the gender they live as.
Currently a young person under the age of 18 cannot apply for a gender recognition certificate to correct the gender listed on their birth certificate. This undermines their self-esteem, violates their privacy and exposes them to discrimination. Significant numbers of young people are living successfully in a new gender with the full support of their parents and school teachers. Although they could easily satisfy all of the conditions required to receive legal gender recognition young people are discriminated against because of their age. (Legal gender recognition is completely separate from any medical treatment decisions such as starting puberty-blockers.)
3. Provide legal recognition for non-binary people who do not identify as men or women.
The law should be improved to provide legal recognition and identity documents to people who identify as other than men or women. No one should be forced to have a gender listed on their birth certificate or passport which does not correspond to how they actually live and identify. Many countries already legally recognise that some people do not identify as men or women and provide them with legal documents, such as birth certificates and passports, which respect their non-binary gender. (Having a non-binary gender identity is not the same as being a physically intersex person.)