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Scotland moves forward again as Gender Recognition Reform Bill passes

22nd December 2022

Scotland is set to join 34 other countries and states around the world where trans men and women can change their legal gender by self-declaration.

Following months of detailed parliamentary scrutiny and debate, the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament today by 86 votes to 39.

We thank all MSPs who supported the bill, and those who engaged constructively on amendments to it.

There were more than 300 amendments proposed by MSPs. All the wrecking amendments were rejected, and the key principles of the bill remain:

  1. To move to a self-declaration system, removing the need for medical or other evidence
  2. To reduce the minimum age for gender recognition from 18 to 16
  3. To reduce the “living in the acquired gender” requirement before applying, from two years to three months (but see below)

The bill is not perfect. An amendment was agreed to raise the three month “living in the acquired gender” period to six months if the applicant is aged 16 or 17. There is an unnecessary (in our view) three month “reflection period” after application, before your gender recognition can come into effect. And the bill does nothing for non-binary people. But it is a big step forward.

The bill will not come into effect immediately. It typically takes more than a year for a bill to start to operate, because of the time it takes to set up new systems. In this case also, opponents of trans equality have threatened to try to block the bill via the courts. If they try that, they will fail (and will waste a lot of their money), but they might cause a delay.

The past few years, Scotland has felt like it has been going backwards. Trans people, and to some extent LGBT+ people more people generally, have been abused and vilified, on social media in particular, in a way not seen since the Parliament was debating repeal of section 28 in 2000. As in 2000, misconceptions and misinformation about what the gender recognition legislation will do have abounded.

As with section 28 repeal, we are sure that when the GRR Bill is brought into operation, people will see that the negative predictions about its effects were wrong, and it will have widespread support.

A heartfelt thank you from Scottish Trans and the Equality Network to everyone who has supported this bill, including the many thousands of people who emailed their MSPs to support it, and those who spoke out publicly.

After years of increasingly public prejudice against trans people, things have started to move forward. There is a lot more to do. There is a review ongoing to improve gender identity healthcare services. The Scottish Government have promised to implement various recommendations of their non-binary working group. And legislation to ban conversion practices targeted at sexual orientation or gender identity is being prepared for introduction in the Scottish Parliament before the end of 2023.

We’ll be working on all those things, and more.

Thank you for all your support for the Equality Network and Scottish Trans, and for LGBTI+ equality.

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