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While we don’t believe the impact of receiving a GRC (being able to change the sex on your birth certificate) needs to change as this has been working well since it was introduced in 2004, what does need to change is:
Our main issues with the GRA fall into four key areas: Evidence, Self-declaration, Exclusion, and Data
The current requirements for the application process are difficult as they require a large amount of personal and medical information from a long period of time, which not all trans people will have access to.
Even for those who do have all the required evidence, the application for a GRC is long and laborious.
Many applicants are rejected over very minor discrepancies between the evidence they have provided and the (often unseen) criteria on which applications are judged. There are also many hidden costs to an application, including updated identity documents and doctors’ notes, which can be up to £150.
The time, evidence, and money required, as well as the emotional toll of potentially having an application rejected, mean that many trans people do not apply – even those who have otherwise “completed” every other aspect of their transition.
This is very frustrating for many trans men and women who find that this slow, bureaucratic process is preventing them from otherwise just getting on with their lives.
Many trans people know they are trans a long time before they socially, medically, and legally transition, and do not make the choice to do so lightly.
Requiring at least two years of evidence is then an excessively long and arbitrary amount of time to ensure that someone is certain they want to change their legal sex, especially as they also have to make a statutory declaration as part of the process.
The requirement for years of records can also present issues for people who are unable to be “out” as trans due to living in unsupportive environments, or for those unable to access documents proving they have been living in a certain gender as they have had to flee their country of origin.
As this process does not give trans people permission to be themselves, but recognises how they live their lives, the GRA should be changed to acknowledge that trans people themselves are the most knowledgeable about their own gender. This principle is known as “self-declaration”.
The requirement for a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria is also contrary to the advice of bodies like the World Health Organisation, who since 2019 have said that being transgender should be treated as an identity, not as a medical disorder or mental illness.
Obtaining a psychiatric diagnosis can also be very personally upsetting to many trans men and women, who feel that being trans is just a part of who they are, not a disorder that needs to be diagnosed.
There are many trans men and women who do not wish to access gender-affirming medical interventions as part of their transition, and so would otherwise not need a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, but who would then have to obtain one in order to apply for a GRC. This removes agency from trans people about our own transitions.
The current system also only allows for sex to be changed from male to female or female to male, and therefore doesn’t include non-binary people who do not identify as either.
The requirement for an applicant to be 18 or older means that trans young people & children do not have access to the same rights as trans adults because of their age. A report by Amnesty International from 2014 states that “Absolute denial of legal gender recognition to individuals under a given age is not consistent with existing international standards regarding the rights of children”.
While the number of situations where a gender recognition certificate is required are limited, the certificates remain difficult to obtain and therefore not having one could still risk exposing trans people to harassment or discrimination.
For example, a trans person who is starting a new job may be asked for their birth certificate to process their pension. This could out them as trans to their employer if the name and sex on their birth certificate doesn’t align with what they listed on their application. This disclosure could potentially lead to issues with their employment if their employer or workplace is not supportive.
Without a GRC, there is also no certainty that a trans person’s name and sex will be recorded in line with how they lived on their on their death certificate. This does a disservice to the lives and memories of trans people, and could also mean that a terminally ill trans person without a GRC may have to struggle through what can be a long and drawn-out application process in order to have their death recorded in line with how they lived their life.
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Scottish Trans is part of the Equality Network
Scottish Trans is the Equality Network project to improve gender identity and gender reassignment equality, rights and inclusion in Scotland. The Equality Network is a leading Scottish lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights charity.
The Equality Network is a registered Scottish charity: SC037852, and a company limited by guarantee: SC220213.
We are grateful for funding from the Scottish Government