Hide me!

UK Gov consultation on outdated Gender Recognition Act is a positive step forward for society

Support self-declaration for legal gender recognition

The Scottish Trans Alliance welcomes the UK Government’s announcement of a consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in England and Wales. The UK Government’s promise to consult on reform follows over two years of focused campaigning from transgender equality groups together with pressure from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee.

The Scottish Government has already committed to reform gender recognition law in line with international best practice and has promised to consult on the details at the end of the summer. Like marriage law, gender recognition law is devolved and progress in Scotland positively influences progress in England.

The UK Government’s decision to consult in the autumn on allowing trans people to change the gender on their birth certificates by self-declaration, without having to provide intrusive psychiatric reports and other onerous evidence, is positive step forward for society. It will uphold transgender people’s privacy and dignity and also ensure that their pensions, insurance policies, civil partnerships and marriages are all administered correctly and smoothly. Currently, birth certificates are much harder to change than all other types of identity documents and records so transgender people are often left in limbo with the gender on their birth certificate contradicting all their other official paperwork.

For over 20 years, transgender people in the UK have already been able to change the gender on their passports, driving licences, medical records and employment records by self-declaration at the start of their transitions. It makes no sense to continue to treat birth certificates differently from these other forms of identification and the proposed reform to remove this unfair anomaly is long overdue.

Making it easier to change the gender on birth certificates will not affect how transgender people access single-sex services because they can already use the self-declared gender recorded on their passports and driving licences as identification. Many trans women early in their transitions already regularly use women’s services and facilities without any problems.

Reform of the Gender Recognition Act will not affect the process for accessing NHS gender reassignment services. Medical assessments and criteria for approval to receive NHS hormones and surgeries will remain unchanged.

Sports governing bodies are legally permitted to restrict participation of trans people, even once they have received legal gender recognition, if this is necessary to ensure fair and safe competition. So self-declaration does not create any additional challenges for competitive sports.

There is no evidence to suggest people will falsely change their gender on their official documents. This has not been a problem within any of the existing gender self-declaration processes in the UK or Ireland. It is a serious criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment, to make a false statement on a legal statutory declaration so this provides sufficient protection.

Notes:

1. The Scottish Trans Alliance is Scotland’s national transgender equality and human rights project and is based within the Equality Network, a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland.

2. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Denmark, Germany, India, Ireland, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and also the states of Oregon and California in America all have more inclusive gender recognition procedures than the UK. International best practice is to allow gender recognition through self-declaration, to provide a gender neutral option for non-binary trans people who do not identify solely as men or women, and to allow access to gender recognition for young trans people who have transitioned with their parents’ consent.

3. The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee’s Inquiry into Transgender Equality published its report in January 2016 recommending reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The Scottish Trans Alliance was one of the groups that submitted written and oral evidence to the Inquiry.

Equal Recognition: How the law on gender recognition is impacting on trans lives

 

Read the fantastic article written by Caitlin Logan over at CommonSpace about our Equal Recognition campaign here: http://bit.ly/2rJNhEr

Unveiling our new brand…

We unveiled our new brand identity at the Equality Network Annual General Meeting in Edinburgh last night, 28 February 2017. The launch of the new brand coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Equality Network and the 10th anniversary of the Equality Network establishing the Scottish Trans Alliance project.

 

Scottish Trans - Creating change together - Trans equality in Scotland

The Equality Network’s role is to achieve real and lasting change for LGBTI equality in Scotland, by working together with diverse LGBTI people across Scotland. At the core of the Equality Network’s identity is therefore a new iconic mark. It is a symbol that represents thousands of voices – being heard, being included, and demanding change. It’s the voice of community, change and equality.

The voice icon is an integral part of the brand, appearing in all Equality Network materials and campaigns. The new Equality Network logo retains a human element, but its clear and simple design is a move away from the previous complex logo.

Equality Network logo

Tim Hopkins, Director of Equality Network, said:

“We are pleased to unveil the new Equality Network brand identity. Our new brand reflects our position as a go-to organisation for LGBTI equality in Scotland—active, confident and inclusive. We have chosen a new tagline that clearly sums up what the Equality Network does: “Creating change together“. We are all about getting real change for LGBTI equality in Scotland, by empowering LGBTI people across Scotland and working in partnership.”

In parallel a new identity and tagline has been created for the Scottish Trans Alliance, to help promote our position as Scotland’s centre of expertise on trans issues.

Scottish Trans logo

The new Equality Network and Scottish Trans brand identities have been developed by Glasgow-based Haiwyre Design Ltd. The new brand will be rolled out in a phased approach over the next few months. As part of the brand project, we have already started work on re-developing our two websites. We expect to launch the brand new websites later this year.

The full Equality Network and Scottish Trans brand guidelines will soon be available. Please don’t download the logos from the website, as the quality will be poor. Get in touch if you’d like to request permission to use our logo.

To find our more contact our Communications Officer Jenni Nuppula on press@equality-network.org or 0131 467 6039.

Report from our Equal Recognition: Non-binary seminar

On Sunday, December 11th we held an all-day Equal Recognition: Non-binary seminar. The aim of the day was to bring together non-binary community members and activists with lawyers, academics and other professionasls with knowledge and expertise in this area to start thinking about how non-binary legal gender recognition could and should work in Scotland.

The day was split into two sections – in the morning session, we heard presentations from a range of speakers, talking about topics such as what they wanted from the new legislation, what impact non-binary legal recognition would have on existing laws, and what could be learned from international examples in arguing for non-binary recognition.

In the afternoon, there were three simultaneous workshops – two focused on academic and legal discussions, and one focused on non-binary activism.

You can read a report of the day to find out more about what was discussed: equal-recognition-non-binary-seminar-report

Scottish Trans comments on the UK Government Response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality

Today, the UK Government published their response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality. Whilst the Scottish Trans Alliance welcomes some of the content, overall we think that the response is very disappointing. The UK Government makes reference throughout to the need to collect more evidence or do increased monitoring around certain recommendations, despite the fact that the Committee’s Inquiry already collected substantial evidence, and the Committee based their recommendations on that evidence. We think that a significant part of the UK Government’s response is weak, as it does not set out concrete proposals for making the necessary changes to improve trans people’s rights and lived experiences.

Of course, many issues covered by the Inquiry concern matters which are devolved to Scotland, including the Gender Recognition Act, the spousal veto (which Scotland does not have), NHS services, hate crime, education and prisons. As a Scottish organisation, therefore, our view of the UK Government’s response is of less relevance than that of trans organisations and people in England and Wales! The Scottish Government has already made stronger commitments on a number of issues covered in the UK Government’s response – most notably to reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

Below are our comments on the UK Government’s responses to each of the recommendations made by the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality. We have tried to make it clear where certain areas are devolved to Scotland, and there may already be better practice, or commitment to better practice, from the Scottish Government.

Recommendations 1 & 2 (Cross Government Strategy): Good response – UK Government will report on previous trans equality action plan and publish a new plan

Recommendation 3 (Yogyakarta Principles and Resolution 2048 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe): Disappointing response. The UK Government refuses to commit to Yogyakarta principles, saying current international and domestic legislation is sufficient. UK Government claims to be at forefront of Europe on trans equality, but this is no longer the case. Many countries around Europe (Malta, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium) now have better gender recognition law than the UK.

Recommendations 4, 5, 7 & 8 (Gender Recognition Act 2004): Very weak response. The UK Government says they will review the Gender Recognition Act, but makes no commitment to reform it. The Scottish Government’s position is much stronger and more progressive, and commits to reforming the Gender Recognition Act and bringing it in line with international best practice. This would include implementing all of the changes discussed in this response – moving to a process of self-determination, lowering the age at which you can access legal gender recognition, and legally recognising non-binary people.

Recommendation 6 (Spousal consent): Very weak response – no commitment to remove spousal veto, which was never included in the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, and therefore does not exist in Scotland.

Recommendation 9 (Data protection): Good response on investigating why there have been no prosecutions under Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act (which makes it a criminal offense to reveal someone’s trans history if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate and you have found out in an “official capacity”). Weak response on protecting trans people from outing in court proceedings. The response simply reiterates the existing training and guidance for the judiciary, despite the inquiry having heard that this wasn’t currently protecting trans people from being outed.

Recommendation 10 (Gender reassignment as a protected characteristic): Very poor response – no commitment to amend the Equality Act. The UK Government seem to have fundamentally missed the point that not all trans people will be perceived as having the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ and that is exactly why the revision was recommended.  For example a non-binary person who decided to continue to live in their assigned gender, but shared their non-binary gender identity with colleagues and experienced discrimination as a result of this, is not adequately covered by the ‘perception’ aspect of the legislation.

Recommendation 11 (EHRC Complaints): May be correct that no restriction exists in law

Recommendation 12 (Exemptions in respect of trans people): Weak – agree with the principle of the recommendation, but there is no commitment to amend the law to remove the exemptions as they apply to single-sex services. Whilst increasing numbers of single-sex services in Scotland are basing their policy on best practice and being trans inclusive, this still leaves uncertainty around the extent to which trans people have the right access to services which reflect their gender identity.

Recommendation 13 (Separate gender sport): We don’t have detailed knowledge on the way that this is dealt with in England and Wales to comment at any length. However, the UK Government response mentions improving participation within a wider LGB&T framework, and we hope that this allows for enough attention to be paid to the very specific barriers that trans people face in accessing sport, which can be rather different from cisgender LGB people.

(NHS Services): The UK Government highlights that it is not a lack of financial resources, but a lack of medical professionals with the expertise to work with trans people that is the biggest cause of long waiting lists for trans-specific healthcare. It does not suggest any practical solutions for how to address this problem. NHS Services are devolved to Scotland, and the STA will continue working with NHS Scotland to try to improve access to trans-specific healthcare.

Recommendation 14 (Professional regulation of doctors): Weak response to the clear recommendation for immediate action.

Recommendation 15 (Professional regulation of doctors): Fair response from GMC

Recommendation 16 (Treatment protocols): Fair response, particularly that the UK Government states “Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness”, but disappointing that there appear to be significant barriers to change, and no definite plan for how to move Gender Identity Clinics out of mental health trusts.

Recommendations 17-19 (Treatment protocols): Usefulness of response depends on NHS England action. These recommendations were specific to NHS England – would not have an impact on Scottish healthcare.

Recommendation 20 (The Tavistock Clinic): Usefulness of response depends on NHS England action – and once again this recommendation was specific to NHS England, and would not have an impact on Scottish healthcare.

Recommendations 21 & 22 (Hate crime legislation): Disappointing response on review of English hate crime legislation. Disappointing response on training for police – there is a much better commitment to this from the Scottish Government.

Recommendations 23, 24 & 25 (Recording names and gender identities): OK on review of gender markers; very disappointing response on gender X on passports. New Zealand and Denmark are two countries who don’t legally recognise non-binary genders, but do have gender X passports. It is also unclear why the UK Government think that an introduction of X markers on passports would have to be a legislative change or tied to non-binary legal gender recognition. The UK Passport Office could start issuing gender X passports simply by making an administrative change. It is also unclear why they would approach the International Civil Aviation Organisation about removing gender from passports, but are unwilling to accept the current option of an X.

Recommendation 26 (Prison and Probation services):  Very weak response. The proposed timeline for the working group is 3 years – considering the two deaths in custody in English prisons of trans women within the last year this is not urgent enough. Also unclear how a policy can be “treating someone as the gender they identify with” if it is continuing to house them in a different estate. The Scottish Prison Service has a much better policy on housing trans people in custody, placing them in the estate which corresponds to their gender identity.

Recommendation 27 (Media): Unclear whether Independent Press Standards Organisation and Ofcom are addressing this recommendation

Recommendation 28 (Online services): Unclear whether government action here will be effective

Recommendation 29 (Schools): Remains unclear what happens on Initial Teacher Training, and focuses on past work rather than changes for the future. Education is a devolved matter, so this recommendation does not apply to Scotland.

Recommendation 30 (Schools): Weak response – the use of “age-appropriate and sensitive manner” seems to leave too much room for interpretation – particularly when we know these are the exact types of arguments people will use for not providing trans-inclusive education. Education is a devolved matter, so this recommendation does not apply to Scotland.

Recommendations 31, 32 & 33 (Post school education): OK response – which further highlights weakness of recommendation 30 re: schools

Recommendation 34 (Social care for young people): The promised study is welcome – action is then needed

Recommendation 35 (Lack of sufficient understanding of transgender issues by professionals in the public sector): OK response – however we imagine that all of these services have equalities training that covers trans issues to an extent, and the letter may just get the response of “our staff are aware of their obligations under the Equality Act”. Monitoring of the effectiveness of the training provided is welcome, but it would seem that the inquiry and subsequent recommendation have already indicated that it is inadequate.

LGBTI equality charity welcomes SNP commitments on equality

Scotland’s LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality groups the Equality Network and Scottish Trans Alliance are welcoming the commitments made today by the SNP on LGBTI equality.

Nicola Sturgeon has today made five pledges, three of which relate to the welfare of young LGBTI people. The other two are to reform gender recognition law and to train all police on the investigation of hate crime.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said, “We welcome these commitments from the SNP, which address some key concerns of LGBTI people, and we hope that the other parties will make strong pledges on LGBTI equality.”

The commitment to reform gender recognition law is the key aim of the Equality Network and Scottish Transgender Alliance’s Equal Recognition Campaign.

James Morton, manager of the Scottish Trans Alliance, said, “We are very pleased to see the SNP pledge to reform gender recognition law for all trans people, in line with international best practice. That would mean enabling people to change the gender on their birth certificate without intrusive medical diagnosis, recognising trans people as the experts on their own identities. It would allow young people to legally change their gender, with parents’ support if under 16. It would also mean the law recognising that some people have a non-binary gender, that is, they are neither men nor women. We hope that the other parties will match this commitment and we look forward to working on this with whoever forms the next Scottish Government.”

Nathan Gale, of Non-Binary Scotland, said “By making a commitment to reform gender recognition law the Scottish Government is ensuring that all trans people, no-matter what their gender identity, will be able to be themselves, in all aspects of their lives. Trans people who don’t identify as men or women have just as much right to have the gender they identify as recognised and respected as everyone else. I hope that the next Scottish Government will truly aspire to international best practice and provide for a third gender, alongside male and female, to be recognised in Scottish law.”

The Equality Network and Scottish Trans Alliance manifesto for the 2016 election is here:

http://www.equality-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/LGBTI-Equality-Manifesto-2016.pdf

A briefing for the Equal Recognition campaign to reform gender recognition law is here:

http://www.scottishtrans.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Equal-Recognition-Briefing.pdf

For media enquiries, please contact:

 Equality Network: Tim Hopkins, Director, on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org or James Morton, Manager, Scottish Trans Alliance on 07554 992 626 or james@equality-network.org or Non-Binary Scotland on nonbinaryscotland@gmail.com  

Notes for editors

  •  The Equality Network is a national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex equality charity for Scotland, campaigning for equality and human rights for all LGBTI people in Scotland. We create ways for people to contribute to making Scotland a place where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, can live free from prejudice and discrimination. By giving a voice to diverse LGBTI people across the country, using research evidence and expertise, and working in partnership with others, we achieve change in the laws, institutions and society of www.equality-network.org
  • Scottish Trans Alliance is Scotland’s national transgender equality and human rights project, based within the Equality Network. Scottish Trans Alliance was formed by transgender people in 2006 and carries out campaigning and community empowerment work, along with public sector policy and good practice development, research and training to advance transgender equality in www.scottishtrans.org
  • Non-Binary Scotland is a community group which provides social opportunities for non-binary people and campaigns for non-binary equality and human rights. They support the Equal Recognition Campaign. Contact: nonbinaryscotland@gmail.com.

Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee publishes summary about Trans Equality

The Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee have published a short report about trans equality. The report summarises the evidence given by the Scottish Transgender Alliance to the Committee on February 4th, as well as looking at some other things, such as:

  • Whether the Gender Recognition Act is reserved or devolved
  • The history and development of the Gender Recognition Act in the UK
  • Our Equal Recognition campaign – the three calls, and the evidence that we gave to support the calls
  • Some of the recommendations from the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee report into trans equality
  • The Equality Act
  • Other countries that currently have gender recognition legislation that partially or totally reflect the calls of the Equal Recognition campaign

The European Agency for Fundamental Rights releases a new report about the challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people

Yesterday, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights released a new report entitled: “Professionally fra-2016-lgbt-public-officials_en-page-001Speaking: Challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people in Europe”

The report spoke to staff from a number of professions who are responsible for working directly with LGBT people in areas where we might expect to see particularly good practice in improving LGBT equality – such as doctors, nurses, teachers and law enforcement officials, from a range of EU member states.

Trans Healthcare

The section of the report that talks the most about trans rights is the section on healthcare. The report highlights Scotland’s Gender Reassignment Protocol as an example of best practice for trans healthcare policy.

However, it highlights the ongoing problems for trans people when it comes to accessing healthcare – particularly in comparison to cisgender lesbian and gay people, and also in relation to a lack of understanding about the diversity of trans identities (especially non-binary identities):

“Overall, the findings indicate that trans people are more discriminated against than lesbian and gay people in the majority of EU Member States. There is less social awareness of trans identities than of lesbian and gay identities”

“However, it appears that across the EU Member States the majority of professionals do not take into account the ways that some trans people identify as other than male or female.”

There is also a trans healthcare nurse quoted from the UK talking about the issues faced by some trans people due to a lack of knowledge amongst GPs around trans identities:

“The most common one is when the local GP [general practitioner] has refused to prescribe. That is common. When someone has come as far as the Gender Clinic, has seen us and we have said this is fine, transition is going well, they are stable. Let’s get them onto some oestrogen and antiandrogen and the GP writes back saying they won’t do it.” (Trans-healthcare nurse, United Kingdom)”

This report clearly shows that whilst the situation for trans people in healthcare in Scotland is definitely better than in many EU member states, we must keep working to ensure that there is fair and equal access to healthcare, both trans-specific and general, for our communities.

Scottish Trans Alliance welcomes the publication of the Women and Equalities Committee’s Transgender Equality Inquiry Report

The UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee has published its report of its Inquiry into Transgender Equality. The report recommendations are wide-ranging and we are delighted at the strength with which the report calls for many key improvements.

In particular, we are delighted the report states categorically that the Gender Recognition Act must be reformed to a self-declaration administrative process. Such reform would enable trans people to change their birth certificates without the current red-tape nightmare of submitting intrusive medical and psychiatric reports and years of personal documents to a judicial tribunal panel. We are proud that our Equal Recognition campaign work and the evidence we submitted to the inquiry (both in writing and in person) have been central in helping to secure this recommendation. We call on the Scottish Parliament to lead the way in legislating on the devolved matter of gender recognition.

We are also very pleased the report recommends reforming the Equality Act protected characteristic from the narrow term of ‘gender reassignment’ to the more inclusive term ‘gender identity’. It is vital that all transgender people receive full protection from discrimination in employment and service provision. The Equality Act is reserved legislation so this change needs to be achieved at Westminster.

The report also recommends that once a trans person has changed the gender on their birth certificate, then single sex service providers and employers should not be allowed to exclude them or discriminate. This would bring the letter of the law closer to the good practice standard developed through partnership between ourselves, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and the Scottish LGBT Domestic Abuse project.

The report is the first time any Westminster Committee has acknowledged the importance of addressing the needs of non-binary trans people (who do not identify simply as men or as women). The recommendation that people must be allowed the option to record their gender as ‘X’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’ on their passport is a positive first step forward. We look forward to continuing to engage in detail with both the Scottish and UK Parliaments to increase their understanding of the need to fully legally recognise the identities of non-binary trans people

While the areas of healthcare and hate crime are fully devolved and therefore the Committee could only look at the English systems, we will none-the-less be utilising the Committee’s recommendations to aid our ongoing work improving trans healthcare and hate crime services in Scotland.

We sincerely and warmly thank the members of the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee for all their hard work on understanding so many of the diverse problems faced by trans people and carefully developing achievable recommendations to begin addressing them. We also very greatly appreciate the dozens of trans individuals living in Scotland who helped shape the details of the STA evidence we submitted and the many trans, LGBT, trade union and women’s equality organisations who coordinated with us during evidence submission.

You can read the report at: http://www.parliament.uk/…/transgender-inquiry-report-publ…/

Scottish Trans Alliance gives evidence at the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into Trans Equality

TransInquiry

On Tuesday 13th October at 10.30AM, the Scottish Trans Alliance manager, James Morton, gave oral evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry into trans equality. The session covered a wide range of issues to do with how trans people’s equality is affected by the law, and also trans equality within employment.

You can watch a video of the evidence given on parliament tv

There was a particular focus on:

You can read a summary of the written evidence we submitted to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into trans equality, to give you a background to some of the things James was talking about, as well as our views on other issues of trans equality not covered in this evidence session.

The next session of the inquiry will be on Wednesday, October 28th, when the Committee will be asking Ministers about the evidence they have heard. That will be the final session, and afterwards they will begin writing a report about their findings.