Francesca Di Fazio


Scottish LGBTQ+ organisations have welcomed the Scottish Government’s draft bill reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act in a joint statement.

In a public statement released on 17 December, Scottish Trans Alliance, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Health and Wellbeing praised the proposed amendments as "a step in the right direction towards greater equality for transgender people in Scotland."

Spokespersons from these groups praised the bill’s objective to make the process of gender recognition less intrusive and more accessible. 

In 2004, the introduction of the original act came as a significant legislative development, giving transgender citizens the possibility to have their gender identity legally recognised and fully reflected in their paperwork. 

However, the act’s provisions are now deemed outdated. The 2018 National LGBT Survey showed that many transgender people wishing to legally change their paperwork were discouraged from doing so because of the excessive bureaucracy and high costs associated with it.

Under current legislation, a transgender person seeking to legally change the sex indicated on their birth certificate must apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate to the Gender Recognition Panel, which is a tribunal formed by legal and medical experts. Applicants are required to provide medical evidence of gender dysphoria, proof of having lived for two years in their gender identity and a statutory declaration. 

This system has been criticised by LGBTQ+ organisations as demeaning and distressing. The draft bill seeks to address the issue by abolishing the requirement for medical diagnoses and reducing the two year waiting period. 

Under the new bill, applicants would have to live in their gender identity for three months before applying for gender recognition and would then be given an additional three months of mandatory "reflection period" before completing the process. They would also apply directly to the Registrar General, a government official, rather than to the Gender Recognition Panel.

However, advocates still find certain aspects of the draft to be too limiting. Although the legal age to apply has been lowered from 18 to 16-years-old, the new legislation contains no provisions for young people below the age of 16. 

Sophie Bridger, Policy and Research Manager for Stonewall Scotland, said: "We’d like to see the bill go further to recognise non-binary identities, so every part of the trans community can benefit from the legislative change". 

In an official document outlining the draft bill, the Scottish Government pledged to create a working group to address the question of non-binary people’s social inclusion, but confirmed that the legislative reform would not extend gender recognition to non-binary identities.

The draft bill was released on 17 December 2019 after a first round of public consultations held between 2017 and 2018. 65% of Scottish respondents and 60% of all responses expressed agreement with the proposed reforms. 

A second consultation on the draft bill is now open and will go on until 17 March 2020.

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