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Policy statement: Gender recognition and trans women's inclusion

You may have seen some negative media coverage recently about proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and how this might affect transgender equality and access to women’s services. This blog post aims to clear up some of these misconceptions and reinforce how important we think collaboration and mutual support is between the women’s sector and LGBTI sector. We view both sectors as natural allies, particularly in working for gender equality and an end to sexism, and hope you’ll agree.

One of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act is to allow for a simple process of self-declaration. At the moment, transgender people have to provide a psychiatric diagnosis, intrusive medical reports detailing any gender reassignment treatments they have undergone, and two years’ worth of administrative evidence that they have been living in their gender in order to gain legal recognition. This process is intrusive, dehumanising, and unfair. It conflates trans people’s identities and lived realities with a mental health condition. It presumes that professionals, and not trans people themselves, are the experts on trans people’s identities. Moving to a process of self-declaration and removing these evidence requirements would acknowledge that it is trans individuals alone who can know their own realities. Moving to a process of self-declaration would give trans people the right to be recognised without being pathologised.

In Scotland, many gender based violence services are already including transgender women on this self-declaration basis. Trans women who are still labelled as male on their birth certificates are able to access women’s services simply by letting the service know they are women. As you know, this right to access services is based on the Equality Act 2010, which gives trans women protections based on their identity, intentions and how they live their life, not whether or not they have received legal gender recognition. Birth certificates are rarely, if ever, used to decide whether someone can start attending group sessions, be placed in accommodation, or be linked up with a mentor. In the decade that this has been the approach to trans inclusion in Scotland, there has never been a case of someone claiming to be a woman to try to access a service in the sector inappropriately. Proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act would simply ensure transgender people are recognised legally as who they are by a simple process of self-declaration: exactly the approach to trans equality that so much of the gender based violence sector is already taking in Scotland.

The Scottish Government will be consulting on reforming the Gender Recognition Act imminently. If you’d like to help us show that the sector in Scotland is united behind supporting the campaign to reform legal gender recognition rights for trans people, you can do so in several ways:

  1. Challenge misconceptions that you hear about the proposed changes, and transgender people. Make it clear that improving the rights of transgender people is one piece of the bigger puzzle of fighting patriarchy –trans rights and women’s rights movements share many common goals.
  2. Share positive media coverage and posts about the proposed changes to the law, showing your support for trans rights.
  3. Submit a positive response to the upcoming Scottish Government consultation – we can support you to do this.