GRA Bill Scotland: Reform to ‘simplify’ gender recognition process introduced to Parliament as Shona Robison says ‘predatory men threat not trans people’

The long-awaited Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was tabled at parliament on Thursday as MSPs were urged to take a ‘respectful tone’ during considerations of the reform.

Obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) through the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), currently means applicants have to be medically diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, go through a minimum two year process and be aged over 18.

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Extensive consultation has shown that applicants have found the current system “invasive and intrusive” Ms Robison told Parliament.

Equalities Secretary Shona Robison introduced the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill to Scottish Parliament (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA).

Reforms introduced mean trans people will no longer need to provide medical reports or evidence, and the process will be substantially quicker and made available to those aged 16 and over.

The Social justice secretary also announced there will be no application fee for the GRC as initially noted in the draft bill.

Making a false application for a GRC will be an offense with penalties of up to 2 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

The reform has caused much controversy on both sides – those in favor and those against – of the gender recognition reform.

Many gender critical people who oppose the reform have mentioned the ‘threat to women’s and girls’ as a reason for not passing reform.

Despite saying proposals to the current system would be ‘beneficial’, Meghan Gallacher Conservative MSP said: “The proposals as they stand do not protect women’s rights.

“They do not offer enough protection for women’s safety. The concerns of women are legitimate, they are reasonable and legitimate.”

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However, speaking at parliament today, Ms Robison said: “We must be clear: all the evidence tells us that the cause of violence against women and girls is predatory and abusive men; it is not trans people. We must not conflate the two.

“There is no evidence that predatory and abusive men have ever had to pretend to be anything else to carry out abusive and predatory behaviour.

“I will listen to the views of everyone; parliamentarians in this chamber, and those out with, in a respectful manner throughout the passage of the Bill. I urge everyone to do the same.

“When it comes to gender recognition, and also wider issues concerning trans people, from healthcare to access to services, discussion has often become heated.

“I have often found the tone of debate on social media to be angry, unpleasant and abusive; both of trans people and of those who oppose gender recognition reform. I am concerned about the impact of this all round, but particularly how it further stigmatises and marginalises trans people in Scotland.”

Ms Robison made clear the reform “does not introduce new rights or remove rights”.

She said: “It does not change public policy or prevent single-sex services being offered where appropriate. It does not change rules or conventions in place, and in place for years under the current system, for example access to toilets and changing rooms.

If the the reform to reduce the age to include 16 and 17-year-olds is passed, Ms Robison said there will be support and guidance provided to young people through schools, third sector bodies and National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Mhairi Crawford, LGBT Youth Scotland Chief Executive, said: “We welcome this significant step on a long journey improving trans people’s access to their rights.

“Young people tell us that this is particularly important as they move between education institutions, out of the family home, or start work and significantly benefit from consistent gender markers across their documentation. Positively this will be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds , in keeping with the rights and responsibilities afforded to this age group in other aspects of their lives.They would also like to see a process put in place for those under 16 to be able to access a GRC and we call for this addition.”

Every 16 or 17 year old who applies will be offered – and encouraged to take up – the option of a conversation with NRS to talk through the process.

However, young trans women have raised issues with the lack of non-binary inclusion covered in the reform.

Amy Winter, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said: “Myself and other trans including non-binary young people have been waiting on this moment for a long time and are looking forward to the changes we hope this bill will make for our future. As much as I am excited about the proposed changes I would be lying if I said I was 100% happy with everything.

“I am still saddened by the fact that those of us who are non-binary have not been included. That being said I am in full support of this bill and think it is a massive step in the right direction for trans rights in Scotland. “

Trans people have been able to apply for legal gender recognition through a Gender Recognition Certificate, or GRC, since 2004.

Obtaining a GRC means a trans person is legally recognized in their acquired gender, and can obtain a new birth certificate showing that gender.

Not all trans people have Gender Recognition Certificates and no-one is required to have one.

The UK Government estimates there are up to 500,000 trans people in the UK, of whom only around 6,000 have a GRC.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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