Gender recognition reform legislation published at Holyrood

The proposals would cut the time it takes to obtain a gender recognition certificate, and lower the age from 18 to 16.

03 March 2022

Controversial legislation which aims to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their preferred gender has been published at Holyrood.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill sets out proposals to speed up the time it takes to get a gender recognition certificate (GRC), and would also lower the age at which trans people can obtain the document from 18 to 16.

Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said many people have found the current process for obtaining a GRC – giving legal recognition of their acquired gender – to be “intrusive, medicalised and bureaucratic”.

She said trans people are “among the most stigmatised in our society” as she argued the Bill makes “no changes” to women’s rights.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison stressed the need for a ‘respectful debate’ on the issue (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

While LGBTI groups have welcomed the reforms, some feminist organisations fear there could be a loss of women-only spaces – such as refuges, hospital wards, toilets and changing rooms – which could then impact on women’s safety.

Ms Robison said: “This Bill does not introduce any new rights for trans people. It is about simplifying and improving the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition, which has been a right for 18 years.”

The Scottish Government’s proposals would amend the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, which sets out the grounds and procedures for obtaining legal gender recognition.

The Bill would cut the length of time a person has to live in their acquired gender before applying from two years to three months.

They would then have to undertake a mandatory three-month “reflection period”, confirming at the end of this if they wish to proceed with their application.

However some in the SNP have been critical of the reforms, and earlier this week Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes refused to say if she would support the Bill amid speculation some SNP MSPs want a free vote on the reforms to avoid repercussions if they go against the party whip.

Ms Robison said: “The Scottish Government has always been keen to seek consensus where possible and to work to support respectful debate. That will remain a guiding principle as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

“Our support for trans rights does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to uphold the rights and protections that women and girls currently have under the 2010 Equality Act. This Bill makes no changes to that Act.”

Scottish Trans Alliance manager Vic Valentine 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.”

Polling in February found 57% of Scots support the idea of making it easier to acquire a gender recognition certificate for people who identify as transgender.

However, just 5% of people said they follow debate on the issue “very closely”, with 31% saying they follow it “quite closely”.

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