Home > Our Work > Gender Recognition Act Reform 2022 > What is “the Gender Recognition Act”?

What is the Gender Recognition Act?

Since 2004 the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) has allowed trans men and trans women in the UK to change the sex recorded on their birth certificates to reflect their lived identity.

The sex recorded on your birth certificate is known as your “legal sex”.

For example: a trans man, who was originally recorded as female on his birth certificate but who transitioned to live permanently as a man, can use the GRA to change the sex on his birth certificate from female to male.

To change the sex on their birth certificate, an individual has to submit an application to a tribunal of doctors and judges. The tribunal never meet the applicant, but do have the authority to decide whether or not they can have their gender legally recognised and changed on their birth certificate.

If their application is successful, the tribunal will grant the applicant a gender recognition certificate (GRC), which can then be used to update the sex recorded on an individual’s birth certificate.

A gender recognition certificate is only needed in a few instances, such as for pensions and marriages, and in Scotland and the rest of the UK you can change your name and sex on identity documents such as your driving licence and passport without one.

Trans people can use gendered facilities (such as toilets and changing rooms) and single-sex spaces (such as hospital wards and gender based violence services) that align with their lived identity before getting a GRC and changing the sex on their birth certificate. Changes to the GRA will not affect this.

The GRA is about amending an official record to align with a trans person’s lived reality, not about giving them permission to live their lives in a certain way – it’s the Gender Recognition Act, not the Gender Permission Act.

While the certificate does have legal effects, obtaining one is also personally important to some trans men and women as a part of their transition.

Having an important document, such as a birth certificate, not reflect who you really are and how you live your life can be distressing, can remove your right to privacy about being trans, and can open you up to facing discrimination and harassment when you need to use it to prove who you are.


The current law requires that applicants for a GRC:

  • Are 18 or over
  • Complete a statutory declaration under oath saying that they 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 they have had as part of their transition, or why they have chosen not to
  • Provide two years’ worth of evidence that they have been living “in-line” with their gender – this may be in the form of updated identity documents, letters from public bodies such as the NHS, and evidence of having changed their name

The current law is UK-wide. However, birth certificates are a devolved matter, and the Gender Recognition Act can be reformed by the Scottish Parliament.

What is "legal sex"?

The sex recorded on your birth certificate is sometimes known as your “legal sex”.

Changing the sex on your birth certificate marks the point where the way you are living your life is now fully legally recognised.

However, trans people are able to use public spaces and services that reflect how they live without needing to update their birth certificate. They are also able to legally update other identity documents (such as their passport and driving licence) when they start living permanently as a man or woman.

Join our eNewsletter

30 Bernard Street
Edinburgh EH6 6PR

Scottish Trans is part of the Equality Network