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The Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) provides a procedure for a person to apply for a gender recognition certificate (GRC).  Most applicants must provide two medical reports, evidencing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and outlining details of any treatment received

The consequence of receiving a GRC is that the applicant is treated in the eyes of the law as being of their acquired gender. 

In January 2016, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report on Transgender Equality. The report criticised the GRA for its dated “medicalised approach” and recommended reform in line with the principles of gender self-identification.

The GRA extends across the United Kingdom. However, gender recognition is a devolved matter meaning that legislation in this area is within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

The UK Government and the Scottish Government have consulted separately on reforming the gender recognition process, including on whether the requirement for a medical diagnosis in order to achieve legal recognition should be removed. 

There are strongly held views for and against self-identification for gender recognition:

  • Arguments by those in favour of self-identification include that the current process is “overly intrusive, humiliating and administratively burdensome”. Trans people have argued that the requirement for a diagnostic psychiatric report perpetuates “the outdated and false assumption” that being trans is a mental illness. The fee of £140 and associated costs are seen as expensive and there is no right of appeal against the decision unless on a point of law.

  • Those against self-identification are concerned, for example, about the potential for abuse, particularly where this abuse could negatively impact vulnerable women in safe single sex spaces.  Press articles have highlighted the recent case concerning a transitioning prisoner who assaulted women in a women’s prison.  Concerns have been raised that there has been intimidation of those organising and attending meetings to consider the proposals for reform, and that debate has been stifled.



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