To celebrate Transgender Awareness Week and commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance, we have summarised the current legal landscape for trans people changing their legal gender in the UK and how we need to continue to campaign for more positive reform.
A brief history
Legal recognition of the right of trans adults to change their gender was introduced by the Gender Recognition Act 2004 as a result of years of hard work by campaigners and several cases before the European Court of Human Rights. The law allows trans adults to apply to formally change their birth certificates to record their male or female identifying gender where this is not the same as the gender they were assigned at birth.
Where we are now?
The process for amending birth certificates needs an update. With growing understanding of gender being an aspect of personal identity rather and not a medical or psyhological disorder, trans people should be able to self-identify their wish to change their birth certificate, rather than needing a medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”. The current law also does not recognise non-binary identities, gives a trans person’s spouse a veto and does not include trans people under 18. While the law introduced in 2004 marked a big step forward in UK legal recognition of trans people, more progress is needed.
In 2017 we hoped that reform was coming. The UK Government announced plans to review the law and announced a public consultation to gather evidence. The consultation received more than 108,000 responses which were overwhelmingly in support of reform.
However, disappointingly, we waited until September 2020 for the government to announce its response and when it came there had been a change of heart: the government decided it was not going to reform the law in any meaningful way.
The government did announce that the process to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate will be reformed in an administrative sense – the process will be moved online and the application fee will also be reduced to a ‘nominal’ fee (it currently stands at £140). We also welcome the government’s announcement of funding for three new gender clinics given the current extremely long waiting lists.
We know this is small change and that there is more to do, but this week we wanted to record how the UK has moved forward in recognising trans rights and also remain hopeful that further progressive change is still on the horizon.
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