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Gender recognition

Overview

To comply with international human rights law, Scotland must have a system for obtaining legal gender recognition. Since 2004, trans people across the UK have had the right to legally change their gender through applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate.

We are committed to reforming the process for obtaining legal gender recognition by removing the current medical requirements and reducing the time that applicants for gender recognition need to have lived in their acquired gender from two years to three months.

The changes will improve the lives of trans people, while ensuring the legislation doesn’t affect the rights and protections that women currently have under the Equality Act.

Actions

We have introduced the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill to Parliament, in line with our commitment in the Programme for Government.

The Bill will:

  • Provide a more streamlined process for trans men and women applying for legal gender recognition
  • Remove current evidence requirements and reduce the length of time the process takes, both of which can be barriers for trans people
  • Empower the Registrar General for Scotland to determine applications instead of the Gender Recognition Panel, a UK tribunal

Background

Gender recognition is the process for changing the sex recorded on a UK birth certificate and obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate. It has been in place for 18 years.

Legal gender recognition is not required for someone to transition socially or medically, or to change the gender or sex recorded on most identification documents, including passports and driving licences.

Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 there are three routes or ‘tracks’ by which a person can seek legal gender recognition: the standard, the alternative and the overseas tracks.

The standard track is most commonly used and this requires applicants to be aged 18 or over, to provide evidence of a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and that they have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years, and to make a statutory declaration that they intend to live in their acquired gender for the rest of their life.

The current process has an adverse impact on people applying for gender recognition, due to the requirement for a medical diagnosis and the intrusion of having their life circumstances considered by the Gender Recognition Panel. We think that trans people should not have to go through this intrusive process in order to be legally recognised in their lived gender. Amending the process will assist in improving the lives of trans people for whom it is important to have that legal recognition, by creating an equally serious but less onerous process.

Parliament’s impartial research service (SPICe) has published a briefing on the Bill. 

Bills and legislation

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill has been introduced to Parliament.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 sets out the current process for gender recognition, which applies across the UK.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it generally unlawful to discriminate against people who have a “protected characteristic”, as defined under the Act. These protected characteristics include both “sex” and “gender reassignment”. The protected characteristic of gender reassignment is not restricted to those with a Gender Recognition Certificate or who have undergone any specific treatment or surgery.

Consultation

We have now consulted twice on our proposals. The first was on the principles of reform and then on a draft Bill.

The first consultation, which opened in November 2017, received over 15,500 responses, with 60% of respondents agreeing that applicants for legal gender recognition should no longer need to produce medical evidence.

The second consultation, which opened in December 2019, included a draft Bill and draft impact assessments. It received over 17,000 responses. While this second consultation was qualitative, an independent analysis of group responses showed that a majority supported reform.

These have been two of the largest consultations ever undertaken by the Scottish Government and the consultation analysis gives us a valuable and comprehensive summary of the range of views which we have taken into account.

The Scottish Government has published the detailed analysis reports of responses to both consultations, produced by independent researchers. We have also published responses from groups and organisations where permission to publish was granted.

More recently, an independent survey conducted for the BBC in February 2022 found that in general, the Scottish public supports reforming the gender recognition process: 57% overall thought it should be easier to get a Gender Recognition Certificate, with 16‑34 year olds and women being the groups most likely to agree.

More information

We have also provided a factsheet giving  more information on definitions, the Scottish Government's current position, the Bill itself and other issues related to the Bill. 

Contact us

If you would like any more information please email: GRUnit@gov.scot

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