What you need to know about the Gender Recognition Act

The Scottish Government is currently consulting the public, again, on whether it should make it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised through the Gender recognition Act (GRA).

This could change so much for trans people- but would have no impact, whatsoever on anyone else.

The Gender Recognition Act has the sole purpose to update the process required for trans people to change the gender on their birth certificate. The current process can take up to two years due to bureaucratic hurdles and costs a huge amount.


The change would not alter how trans people use controlled spaces like toilets or single sex services, as the law is already written in a way that works for everyone- within the Equality Act 2010. The GRA would simply allow them to be legally recognised for who they are.


There have been some absolute mistruths perpetuated around the consequences of reforming the Act, which has resulted in some having concerns over it being reformed at all. However, we need to see this misinformation for what it is.


Let’s talk through the reality of what the Gender Recognition Act will mean.


There has become a belief that the GRA will force children who do not conform to stereotypical gender roles to transition. This is not the case.


Both feminists and trans people want to dismantle traditional gender roles, but transitioning is a separate issue. Girls who like sports or boys who play with dolls are never going to be forced into trans identities. In youth counselling, some screening questions may be asked to see if additional support is needed, but very few questions are in fact enough to gather if a child is potentially trans, or simply gender non-conforming. The criteria and standard of evidence are different.


The GRA will not change this.


The argument that people will be able to decide on a ‘whim’ to change their gender is a complete fabrication.


The reality is that it will likely be the case that applicants will swear a statutory declaration that they are sincere in the desire to live in their acquired legal gender. It will then be permitted for the applicant’s birth certificate to be altered.


This is only an administrative process to allow trans people their deserved privacy about their history.

Trans people will likely have declared their actual gender to friends, family, in the workplace, to Doctors, before seeking to change their birth certificate. There is no real way this can be done on a ‘whim’.


Gender can already be altered on many documents without this declaration, from passports to drivers’ licenses. This has had little-to-no impact on crime rates with people ‘pretending’ to be another gender. The only well-known case of this ever happening was an attempt by a Labour party activist to intentionally undermine the party’s gender policy.


The belief that GRA reform would allow men access to female toilets, changing rooms and threaten women’s services, is one that is misguided.


It is actually within the Equality Act 2010 that states single- sex services must be trans inclusive. Cases are always analysed on an individual basis by the providers of the services. The GRA would not threaten any safeguarding already in place.


The GRA will not change the Equality Act, but instead guarantees the safety of everyone, including trans people, who rightfully need access to support services.


The myth, that is peddled profusely, that predatory men will be able to claim that they are a trans woman to get access to women’s prisons can be easily dispelled.


Criminals come from every section of society, no one is a criminal as a direct result of their identity, including being trans.


The Karen White scandal is often used in this argument- but it is important to note that White was not a man ‘pretending’ to be a woman with the purpose to access female prisons, she is a trans woman. The key issue here is that there were no safeguards in place for prisoner’s safety in general. White’s previous history of sexual assault should have meant she was kept away from people, but the repeated failures of the system in following safety procedures meant she was not.


Trans people are not inherently a risk or threat to anyone. In this case, rapists, whether trans or cisgender, are the risk and until we treat the safety of prisoners as a priority, we are ignoring the true source of the problem, and further leaving female prisoners in danger from a much wider range of issues.


It is already law to have trans women in female prisons, the GRA will not change that.


In relation to this aspect, the concern should not be directed at trans people, but at predators.

The overarching myth that women are being silenced for asking questions about the GRA is one that has been entirely twisted.


Questions asked in good faith, where those offering answers to people who are open to listening, will never be opposed.


The tone of the debate around the GRA has escalated to where vehement anti- trans beliefs are rife and aggressive tone is consistently used. So, if you are genuinely seeking to understand the issue more or would like to hear answers that could address your concerns, be mindful of how you approach it. Trans people have every right to be defensive if you seem to be questioning their right to exist at all.


You do not need to be concerned about gender recognition erasing the biological basis of women’s oppression.


By supporting each other and recognising where we have a common cause, we will not lose anything, but have the potential to gain so much.


We are all united in our desire for autonomy over our bodies and the patriarchy is what is preventing us from achieving it. Let’s unite behind that.


Trans inclusion within our feminism is so important.


Please fill out the consultation to reform the Gender Recognition Act and stand alongside our trans friends.


https://consult.gov.scot/family-law/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill/consultation/subpage.2016-07-07.1474135251/


Written by Cailyn McMahon, YSI National Women's Officer

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