So, there you all are twiddling your thumbs and wondering what to do as the long days of self-isolation stretch ahead of you. Yes, you should be reading books, but hopefully you have time to do something quickly for me.
As you may be aware, governments in the UK have been consulting on changes to the Gender Recongition Act. This is because the current system for obtaining a revised birth certificate (and with it a new legal gender) and a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is so complex, difficult and expensive that most trans people don’t bother. Changing your ID such as passports and driving licences is much easier, and who ever looks at a birth certificate anyway? But government officials are concerned that many people have ID in one gender yet are legally a different gender, and they want to change that by making it easier for trans folks to make the legal change.
There were a couple of consultations last year, one in Scotland and one in England & Wales. The Scottish one showed 60% of respondents in favour of a change. Westminster has refused to publish the results of their consultation and the new government apparently has no intention of going ahead with the process, but the Scots have published a bill and opened a consultation on that. The consultation closes on Tuesday (17th).
You might wonder what this has to do with you, as most of you are not Scottish. Well, the Scottish government is welcoming input from all around the world, and you can bet that the anti-trans extremists will be doing their best to flood the consultation with responses favouring their view. Trans people in Scotland have been subjected to weeks of relentless and hostile media coverage, and risk losing their civil rights altogether if this consultation produces a negative result. (Transphobes within Westminster are already calling openly for the repeal of trans people’s civil rights.)
The good news is that the consultation is very easy to fill in. There are just five questions. There’s also a fair amount of background information to digest, but I’ll try to summarise things briefly here.
1. All that this affects is the birth certificate. That has almost no effect on day-to-day life. It governs what gender you can get married in, and what gender you are recorded as when you die, but very little else.
2. Scotland will requre a Statutory Declaration to change your legal gender. A false declaration counts as perjury, which is a serious crime with stiff penalties. It will not be possible to change your legal gender on a whim, or easily change back afterwards.
3. Similar systems are already in place in Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Norway and several other countries outside of Europe.
4. If you have any concerns regarding the safety of women as a result of these changes, please read this article from The Scotsman which summarises the responses of women’s servces in Scotland to the initial consultation (spoiler, they were all supportive of the changes).
Question 1 asks, “Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must live in their acquired gender for at least 3 months before applying for a GRC?” Simply saying No would indicate that you have no concerns, but a message saying that you support the changes would be helpful.
Question 2 asks, “Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must go through a period of reflection for at least 3 months before obtaining a GRC?” Personally I think this is rather silly, but equally it can’t do much harm. If you don’t want to go into the arguments you can safely answer No here.
Question 3 asks, “Should the minimum age at which a person can apply for legal gender recognition be reduced from 18 to 16?” Under current NHS guidelines you can begin medical transition (by taking hormones) at 16, so of course 16-year-olds should be able to change their legal gender along with everything else they will be changing.
Question 4 asks, “Do you have any other comments on the provisions of the draft Bill?” At this point it would be very helpful to ask the Scottish Government to do something for non-binary people. I have worked a lot with organisations from hospitals to domestic violence refuges, and for all of them the lack of any legal recognition of non-binary gender makes it very hard for them to make appropriate allowances for non-binary people.
Question 5 asks, “Do you have any comments on the draft Impact Assessments?” If you are a woman, this would be a good place to say that you do not think that your rights or safety are in any way threatened by the existence of trans people (which is basically the conclusion that the Scottish Government came to).
Some alternative advice, along with discussion of the issues, is available from Mermaids.
The online consultation is available here.
There is no guarantee that the bill will go forward if the consultation delivers a positive result. The anti-trans lobby has plenty of money and powerful friends. But if the consultation delivers a negative result then trans rights in the whole of the UK will in serious danger of being repealed.