The Scottish Government published the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill on Thursday.
National LGBTI charities in Scotland have welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill following years of campaigning.
The Bill, published on Thursday, proposes reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, which since 2004 has enabled trans men and trans women to change the sex listed on their birth certificate, currently via a very complicated process.
Many trans people, as well as equality and human rights organisations, have criticised the current procedure as being slow, outdated, and unfair, and say that it falls well below international best practice for legal gender recognition.
Scottish Trans, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland, and LGBT Health and Wellbeing all say the Bill’s proposed reforms will be greatly beneficial to trans men and trans women in Scotland.
When the UK first introduced the Gender Recognition Act in 2004, it was a world-leading piece of legislation.
But in the past two decades, many countries and territories around the world have significantly improved their laws, with nine states in Europe alone ahead of Scotland in this area.
Maruska Greenwood, LGBT Health and Wellbeing chief executive, said there is widespread recognition of the need to reform the Gender Recognition Act despite the strong view of many in society - calling for a balanced and measured dialogue.
Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans Alliance manager, said: “We welcome the proposals in this Bill, that would see a massive improvement in how trans men and trans women in Scotland are able to be legally recognised as who they are.
“The current process is difficult, stressful and expensive, and it reinforces harmful stereotypes about trans people: that who we are is a mental illness, and that our choices about our bodies are not our own to choose to share with others.
“While the proposals fall far short of a law that would enable all trans people in Scotland to be legally recognised as who we are, this important step forward is one that we hope that all MSPs across the Chamber can support.”
The Scottish Government has previously run two public consultations (in 2017/18 and 2019/20) on how the Gender Recognition Act should be reformed.
In both of these consultations, the majority of respondents in Scotland supported the proposed reform to simplify the process, and to move to a system of statutory self-declaration.
The Scottish Government’s Bill proposes to make the following key changes, including the introduction of a system where a trans person can make a formal legal statutory declaration confirming the sex in which they have been living for at least three months and their intention to continue to do so for the rest of their life.
The legislation would also introduce a three month reflection period before a gender recognition certificate would be issued and remove the current requirement to provide a demeaning psychiatric report.
Gender recognition certificate applications would also be open to 16 and 17-year-olds, and the current requirement to provide an invasive medical report describing any hormonal or surgical treatment plans would be removed.
Mhairi Crawford, LGBT Youth Scotland chief executive, said: “We welcome this significant step on a long journey improving trans people’s access to their rights.
“Young people tell us that this is particularly important as they move between education institutions, out of the family home, or start work and significantly benefit from consistent gender markers across their documentation.
“Positively this will be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds, in keeping with the rights and responsibilities afforded to this age group in other aspects of their lives.
“They would also like to see a process put in place for those under-16 to be able to access a GRC and we call for this addition.”
Colin Macfarlane, Stonewall Scotland and Northern Ireland director, said: “It has been six years since the Scottish Government pledged to make this reform. In that time we have had two major public consultations, endless discussion about trans people rather than with trans people about their lives along with daily misinformation about what these proposals will actually do.
“Recent polling suggests a majority of Scots are in favour of the proposed changes. It is now time to get on with the process of legislative scrutiny, which should be done in a respectful way based on evidence and fact.”
The national LGBTI groups say these are very important reforms but claim there are still many further improvements to the Gender Recognition Act that could be made to make Scotland a world leader in trans rights, including provisions for the legal recognition of non-binary people.
The charities are calling for the debate on this bill to be conducted respectfully and without personal abuse, asking all MSPs to support this Bill as an important step forward to improving the lives of trans men and women in Scotland.
Tim Hopkins, Equality Network Director, said: “We are united in calling for respectful debate. Social media is now often a horrible place for trans people, because of the unrelenting abuse.
“Many others, including MSPs, and in particular women and those on both sides of this debate, experience that abuse too. We should all speak out about the unacceptability of personalised abuse or threats in political debate in Scotland.”