We know that there’s lots of misinformation out there about reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and what the negative consequences of changing this law could be. Here, we hope to answer any questions you may have about reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, as well as broader questions about trans equality.
We come to all of our policy positions through a combination of our knowledge of equality law and policy, and consultation with trans people and communities, a broad range of partner organisations, and where necessary with experts such as lawyers. This means our policy positions can and do change. We’ll try and keep this page as up to date as possible.
If you’ve got a question that isn’t answered below, please get in touch with us!
Most of the answers to these FAQs are available in downloadable factsheets or to order as postcards at our campaigning resources page
What is the Gender Recognition Act?
Since 2004, the Gender Recognition Act has allowed trans men and trans women to change the sex on their birth certificates to reflect their lived identity. The sex recorded on your birth certificate is your ‘legal sex’. The current law requires you to:
- Be 18 or over
- Complete a statutory declaration saying that you identify and are living as a man/woman and intend to do so until death
- Have a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria
- Provide detailed evidence of any medical treatments you have had as part of your transition – such as if you are taking hormones, or any surgeries you have had. You must also explain why you have chosen not to have any treatments (this is despite the fact that no medical transition treatments are required to update your birth certificate)
- Provide two years worth of evidence that you have been living in-line with your identity – such as providing other updated identity documents (e.g. passport, driving licence), letters from public bodies (such as HMRC, NHS), and evidence of your name change
If you fulfil the above criteria, you submit an application to a tribunal of doctors and judges, who never meet you, and they decide whether or not you can have your gender legally recognised. If you are successful, they will grant you with a gender recognition certificate. This changes your legal sex. You can then use a gender recognition certificate to update the sex recorded on your birth certificate. There is no indication on your birth certificate that it has been amended, so your trans history is kept private when you need to use your birth certificate in the future.
ID that you would use day-to-day, such as passports and driving licences, can already be changed much more easily by trans people.
No changes to the legal effects of gender recognition are proposed, but there are proposed changes to the process of applying, and who can apply. Visit our pages on self-declaration, age and non-binary to find out more about how and why we think this law needs to change.
OK, so what will any changes to the Gender Recognition Act mean for…
The Gender Recognition Act specifically permits sports governing bodies to restrict participation of trans people who have obtained legal gender recognition, if that is necessary to ensure fairness or safety. This will not change.
The Scottish Prison Service takes decisions about where to house trans prisoners based on comprehensive individualised risk-assessment. The priority is always the safety of all prisoners. A trans woman can lawfully be held in a men’s prison estate if necessary for safety and vice versa. This will not change.
The protected characteristics in equality law, such as race and sex, are legally applied flexibly. The sex provisions protect women from discrimination that happens because of any aspect of being a woman, including your body and the ways you live or are perceived as a woman. All women including trans women are protected. For example, if a trans woman was denied a job because the employer did not want to employ a woman, then that is sex discrimination, whether or not the trans woman has changed her birth certificate sex. Updating the process for changing your birth certificate won’t change this.
There has never been any UK law specifying which toilets and changing rooms trans people must use. The Equality Act supports trans women using female services, and trans men using male services, but allows single-sex services to treat trans people differently where this is proportionate and for good reason. This applies whether or not the person has gender recognition. This will not change.
The Gender Recognition Act already has no requirement for a trans person to take hormones, or have any surgeries, to change the sex on their birth certificate. Obtaining legal gender recognition does not affect the age or conditions of access to any medical treatments. This will not change.
The changes we are calling for would bring Scotland in-line with international best practice. Below are some of the other countries or places that already do some or all of the things our campaign is calling for:
Argentina - Self-declaration, no minimum age
Belgium - Self-declaration
Canada (different for different provinces)
Alberta - Self-declaration, non-binary
Newfoundland and Labrador - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
Northwest Territories - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
Nova Scotia - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
Ontario - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
Yukon - Self-decalartion, no minimum age
Colombia - Self-declaration
Denmark - Self-declaration
Ireland - Self-declaration
Malta - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
Norway - Self-declaration
Portugal - Self-declaration
Spain (different in different regions)
Andalucia - Self-declaration
Community of Madrid - Self-declaration
USA (different in different states)
California - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
Montana - Self-declaration, no minimum age
New Jersey - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
New York City - Self-declaration, non-binary
Oregon - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary
Washington State - Self-declaration, non-binary
Uruguay - Self-declaration, no minimum age, non-binary