Scotland mulls law to end 'nightmare' rules for changing gender

Tuesday, 17 December 2019 20:20 GMT

A Scottish flag flies between British Union Jack flag and European Union flag outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

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The proposed law would make it faster and easier for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates, and to do so from age 16

By Molly Millar

LONDON, Dec 17 (Openly) - Scotland launched a consultation on Tuesday on reforms that would make it faster and easier for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates, and to do so from age 16.

The proposed law would abolish the requirement to provide medical and psychiatric evidence to a judicial panel when applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, which legally allows trans people to change their gender from the age of 18.

"The current process is viewed by many wishing to apply as demeaning, lengthy and stressful," Shirley-Anne Somerville, social security minister, said in a statement as the three-month consultation was announced.

"The proposals are intended to increase the rights of trans people and for them to feel respected for who they are – this is not at the expense of any other group."

The new law would allow trans people to make the application after living for three months as the gender they identify with, rather than the current requirement of two years, followed by a three-month reflection period before the certificate was issued.

The issue has polarised debate from Britain to Australia, with some feminists arguing that men might pose as trans women to target women and girls in female toilets, changing rooms and rape shelters.

About a dozen governments allow trans people to legally change their gender through self-ID laws, including Argentina, Colombia, Portugal, Ireland and some U.S. states.

"The current process ... is a humiliating, offensive and expensive red-tape nightmare which requires (trans people) to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel," said James Morton, manager of Scottish Trans Alliance.

"The reasons trans people change the sex on their birth certificate are so that they no longer have the worry of being 'outed' by that last piece of paperwork not matching their other ID," he said in a statement.

Marion Calder, a member of the campaign group, which believes "sex is immutable" and opposes trans women's use of female toilets and changing rooms, said the reform was unnecessary.

"Children should be children - they should be able to identify as whatever they may be without a legal declaration," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"That's game over for the rest of their lives."

When Scotland's government first consulted on the proposals in 2018, 60% of 15,500 respondents supported reform.

(Reporting by Molly Millar; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

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