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Photography Karollyne Hubert

Trans people in Scotland react to the gender recognition reform bill

‘It’s so hard to hear people speak about this like it’s something bad, something that ‘normal people’ should be scared of’

Yesterday (December 22) the Scottish government passed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill with MSPs voting 86 to 39 in order to approve this historic legislation. This feat has been six years in the making, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon originally pledging to improve the gender recognition process in 2016.

The GRR looks to make the process of legally changing your gender through obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) easier. It is a mostly administrative change. Having a GRC can help reflect trans people’s true identities in the eyes of the law at various key stages of life and death such as allowing them to have an updated birth certificate, get married or enter into a civil partnership as their real gender and be referred to as the right gender at the point of death. When it comes to updating common forms of identification such as passports or driver’s licences to reflect your real gender, GRCs and updated birth certificates are accepted, but in both instances, not necessary. 

In the rest of the UK, the process of obtaining a GRC requires trans people to be assessed by a Gender Recognition Panel, produce two medical reports stating they have gender dysphoria and provide proof they have lived in their gender for two years.

In Scotland, the GRR now allows trans people to now self-identify. Rather than being accessed by a panel, they make an application to the Registrar General for Scotland and do not need to supply medical reports. Rather than supplying evidence that the applicant has lived in their gender for two years, they make a declaration that they have done so for three months and intend to do so permanently. The application is then followed by a three-month reflection period, after which point the case is assessed once the applicant confirms they want to proceed.

The GRR also lowers the age at which individuals can apply for a GRC from 18 to 16, in line with the Scottish age of mental capacity.

In light of the news, we reached out to four young trans people who shared their thoughts with us.


“When the Bill does come into effect, it will do exactly what trans people and our allies have been saying it will do all along: it will make things slightly easier for trans men and trans women to apply for a GRC. It means that I do not need a psychiatric diagnosis to have my gender legally recognised. (Though I have an English birth certificate, so I currently don’t know whether a GRC I obtain under this Bill will allow me to change the gender marker on my birth certificate.) 

“It means that I do not need to submit evidence to a panel of cis people who have never met me, so they can decide if I’m ‘really’ trans. It means that my transness – something I am proud of, something I love, something I would choose every single time if it was a choice (which it is not) – will no longer be compared to a mental illness, something that is ‘wrong’ with me, and must be diagnosed by cis people. I have severe depression and I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation for the last six years. I know what mental illness is, and I know that I have never been happier than these last few months, when people around me see me as who I really am.

“It’s so hard to hear people speak about you being granted rights as though it is a bad thing, something that ‘normal people’ should be scared of. I’ve spent the last three days sitting in the open gallery of the Scottish Parliament hearing just that, from MSPs who get to vote on a Bill that determines the process of how trans people can apply for a GRC when I’m not even sure they know exactly what a GRC is or does.”


“I’m currently 27 years old and I've been transitioning since I was 18. I have wanted to change the gender on my birth certificate for the longest time. There were so many hurdles that were in the way – it’s demeaning that you have to prove to all these other people that you are who you want to be. You know who you are better than anyone else does, and to have to supply evidence is ridiculous. 

“I’m still in the process of applying for my certificate. I have all the documents and evidence and medical reports I need. Even if you have the proof, it’s still difficult to gather it all together and you also have to get a second opinion on your gender dysphoria diagnosis which can be really hard. You have to go to a gender identity clinic and it’s really hard to get an appointment. There are so many people waiting to be seen and it feels like you are taking important medical appointment time away from people who might be trying to get their first appointment or to be seen for something really important.

“This bureaucratic process is especially hard for people with additional support needs to navigate. I have anxiety myself, and I find it really difficult to call people so to call up the clinic and ask them if I can have a meeting and then have to go and speak to staff about it, that’s a lot of pressure. I don’t think my anxiety impacts me as much as it can for other people and I can’t imagine what it would be like for them.”

“I’m really pleased that the GRR has finally passed. I think it’s been a long time coming and it’s going to make a difference to a lot of trans people” – Ellie


“The passing of the GRR is very much a step in the right direction. It's been a really, really long and brutal road to get here. It’s nice to finally win that kind of battle – of course, it should go further but it’s definitely going to make a difference, even if incremental, to the dignity of trans people.

“Making the process easier is a big step forward. Most trans people I know haven't even tried to get one because the process is so long and difficult. It’s also demeaning: it’s a panel of people who’ve never met you, who try and determine if you’re trans enough. It’s really great that’s changing and that it’s now easier as having a GRC allows you to get married in the correct gender and have the correct death certificate.

“Hopefully, there will be more reforms in the future that will see non-binary recognition and an even easier process to access a GRC but we can still take the win for now. I think what will be really important is that in a few years’ time, we’ll see that there have been no negative impacts on women’s rights. And hopefully, that can dilute the vitriol and brutal debate taking place online [around trans rights].

“There are also a few reasons why it’s positive that the age to access a GRC has been lowered to 16. The main one is that this is an administrative change and there are various administrative things you go through at this age: you get a driver’s license at 17, you apply for university and you start applying for jobs. It can be difficult if your documents don’t line up and that can make things stressful when they don’t need to be.”


“I’m really pleased that the GRR has finally passed. I think it’s been a long time coming and it’s going to make a difference to a lot of trans people. I haven’t been able to apply for a gender recognition certificate myself because I’m still waiting for an initial appointment at a gender identity clinic. I’ve been waiting for four and a half years now. That means that I can’t get the psychiatric assessment that the current process requires. Not only that, but I think it is quite a demanding, dehumanising way of doing things and I’m really glad that the new process changes that so I’ll finally be able to access the document that allows me to change my birth certificate. If I was to get married or pass away, then I’d know that the details of my gender would be recorded correctly. That means that when I’m getting married it can be a happy event and celebrated, and I know that I’ve got dignity in death.

“I do think that as much as the bill is welcomed, it’s far from as good as it could have been. There are still arbitrary waiting times – the bill imposes a three-month period that you have to prove you’ve lived in your required gender. I think the bill needs to go further to allow those who are under 16 to be able to get a gender recognition certificate too. It’s also really disappointing that non-binary people won't be included in this legislation so I think it proves that there is a lot more work still to be done in Scotland. However, I do think this is a really significant step forward and that it will go down in history as a really positive day for trans people in Scotland.

“Going forward, we also need to look at the other things that are directly impacting trans people in Scotland right now, in particular health care. There are people like myself who are having to wait incredibly long just to access basic health care. That is absolutely unacceptable. It’s also actually costing the government a lot of money because this current model with the gender identity clinic is so specific and so specialised, throwing more money at the problem doesn’t necessarily fix it. What we need to see is significant reform to trans health care that includes things like allowing and empowering GPS to be able to offer health care for trans people. I think that’s something that the Scottish Government is working on over the next couple of years and I really hope that those improvements will be implemented as soon as possible.”