Disappointment at trans recognition reform delay

Supporters welcome plans but urge haste amid fears legislation will not pass until 2021

Friday 21st June 2019

Campaigners and supporters have reacted with disappointment at a delay to Scottish Government plans to reform how trans people legally change their gender.

Stonewall Scotland say the proposals will be an “important step towards trans equality” when delivered but warn any further delay will “profoundly impact on trans people’s quality of life”.

Meanwhile, LGBT Youth Scotland said the legislation was “vital” but voiced disappointment at a lack of provisions for under-16s and those with non-binary identities.

Speaking in Parliament, Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Sommerville said she would not introduce legislation “immediately” but instead “proceed in a way that builds maximum consensus and allows valid concerns to be properly addressed.”

A draft bill will only be brought forward following a full consultation, she said.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats fear this could see the reforms “punted into the next Parliament”, which begins in 2021.

The existing process to obtain a gender recognition certificate has been criticised for being complicated and requiring applicants to submit medical information.

Applicants must have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years and produce doctors’ reports evidencing gender dysphoria.

The Scottish Government plans to replace this with a simpler system of self-identification, in which an applicant has to state they wish legally change their gender.

But there are concerns its plans do not provide enough support for non-binary people, who identify as neither gender, nor young people.

Cara Spence, head of programmes at LGBT Youth Scotland, says: “We hope that the Scottish Government will continue to listen to the lived experiences of trans young people and their view that there is a real need to lower the age of the Gender Recognition process to include those aged 16 and 17.

“It is already clear that their views also align with the views of the public, outlined within the previous Scottish Government consultation. We will seek to take the Cabinet Secretary up on her offer to meet with trans young people to hear their thoughts and discuss the impacts of lowering the age limit to 16. 

“We are, however, disappointed that within these proposals there is no provision for under-16s or for those with non-binary identities. This will clearly be disappointing for young people and their families who had hoped to be able to make decisions that are in the best interests of their child and for the significant number young people that we work with who have non-binary identities.”

Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, adds: “It’s important the second round of public consultation doesn’t delay legislative progress and instead focuses on making the system of self-determination work effectively for trans communities in Scotland.

 “…It’s absolutely vital the Scottish Government makes an explicit commitment to uphold their 2016 election manifesto to pass legislation before the 2021 election. Any further delay will allow more fear and misinformation to spread and that will profoundly impact on trans people’s quality of life in Scotland. Trans people have suffered for far too long from inequalities that can be easily removed.”