In the consultation document for the draft Gender Recognition Reform bill the Scottish government has stated there are strong reasons for reforming the GRA. In this article we look to see if any of these reasons stand up to scrutiny.
The ‘strong reasons’ include that, according to some members of the trans community, the current procedure is demeaning, intrusive, distressing and stressful and that there is a need for simplification (para 3.44) and that the process takes too long, is too difficult or too expensive (para 3.24).
There will be many different and welcome ways to achieve the aim “to make trans people’s lives easier”. The problem is that only one solution is now being proposed by Scottish government (and demanded by trans pressure groups across the UK) which involves the removal of medical evidence. Why?
There is no information in the consultation document about the advantages or disadvantages of any other options to make the process easier nor why removal of medical evidence was considered the best and only option. We have asked the Scottish government to publish their analysis of other options and the reasons why they rejected them.
In the meantime we’ve looked into the GRC applications process to find out exactly how difficult and expensive it really is.
How to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate
All the instructions are set out here on the government’s website. There is an application form to fill in (T450). There are some guidance notes to assist you (T451) and an advice line you can call (0300) 1234 503 if you need any extra help. You can also get help and advice from transgender support organisations like GIRES.
Things you will need are:
A cheque for £140
A signed statutory declaration.
A copy of your birth certificate.
If you have lost your birth certificate you can get sent a replacement copy. The cost for this is £11 if you were born in England or Wales, £12 if you were born in Scotland or £15 if you were born in Northern Ireland.
A deed poll certificate.
Anyone over the age of 18 can put a new name on public record for any reason by ‘enrolling’ it at the Royal Courts of Justice. It costs £36.
Proof you’ve lived in your acquired gender for at least 2 years
This could be anything official like a passport, driving licence, payslip or benefits document or even something as simple as a utility bill in your new name and gender dated from at least 2 years ago.
PASSPORT: You can easily get your gender changed on your passport by sending a letter from your doctor or confirming that your change of gender is likely to be permanent. If you want a new name on your passport you can show your deed poll certificate. Guidance is available from the passport office website for transgender people. The application process is the same as for anyone wanting a replacement passport and costs £75.50.
DRIVING LICENCE: You can change your name or gender on your driving licence for free. The application process is the same as for anyone wanting to update their driving licence (e.g. to reflect a change of name after marriage or a change of title to Dr). You don’t need a letter or diagnosis from a doctor this time, just a signed statutory declaration stating your self-identified gender identity or a deed poll certificate showing your name change.
UTILITY BILL: Getting the title or name on a utility bill updated is even easier and always free. The process varies between service providers. Vodafone offers service called ‘Living As Me’ to support an application for a Gender Recognition Certificate. No proof of identity is needed if you want to change your title from Mr to Miss or Mx etc. The name on your bill can be done by showing a copy of your deed poll.
Two medical reports
Your local GP normally charges a standard fee of up to £50 to fill an application form.
A cheque for £140
It costs £140 to apply. You can apply for help paying the fee if you’re getting certain benefits or on a low income.
Is the process for getting a GRC too expensive?
Statutory declaration £20Copy of birth certificate £11Deed Poll certificate £36Proof of living in role (driving license and utility bill) FREEConsultant written report £250Letter from GP £50Application fee £140Miscellaneous costs like recorded delivery and travel expenses £50
Statutory declaration £20Deed Poll certificate £36Letter from GP £50
The government charges application fees for many different entitlements, and there is a large variation in amounts charged: sometimes these fees can be in excess of £1000.
The application fee for adults applying for British citizenship is £1300 and requires documentation to prove residency, £19.20 for your biometric information, £50 to take the ‘Life in the UK‘ test, proof of competency in the English language.
Getting a visa for a non-EU foreign spouse/partner/child costs £1033 per person.
Is the process for getting a GRC too difficult?
For example, an application for Disability Living Allowance consists of 70 questions and requires extensive supplementary evidence such as medical reports plus school and CAMHS reports if the application is for a child. Detailed answers are required about how the child is affected by their disability, ranging from how far they can walk or travel, sensory responses, sleeping, eating, fine and gross motor skills, how much support they need to eat, toilet, self care (or not), get out of or into bed, get to sleep, wake up etc.
Is the process for getting a GRC too intrusive?
The GRA2004 was originally designed to support people living with gender dysphoria. Being given a Gender Recognition Certificate allows someone to replace an official historical document (a birth certificate) stating they were born the opposite sex, and for this change to become strictly confidential (It is a criminal offence to reveal info on someone’s GRC if you have it in an official capacity). This is not a trivial change of status. Having a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria is fundamental to this process and so the need to supply some personal medical evidence will be unavoidable.
This is the same for other vulnerable groups who also need to supply very personal information and have their needs assessed by people who don’t know them (see examples below). Many application procedures are ‘intrusive’ but the need for some level of gate-keeping means that the solution cannot be to simply scrap all eligibility requirements. Instead it is important that the request for personal information is treated sensitively and with compassion.
Claiming Personal Independent Payments (PIP) requires the individual to supply medical evidence and a face-to-face assessment where they are questioned, in depth, about their health condition, and their life. Often decisions are under continuous review meaning the individual must repeat the process many times.
Access to justice for abuse victims requires individuals to provide very personal evidence of childhood or domestic abuse when applying for legal aid.
Is the process for getting a GRC demeaning?
Transgender pressure groups argue that there should be no requirement to provide medical evidence because this contributes to medicalisation of something that is not an illness. Some say that being trans is not a mental illness and so should not require a psychiatric assessment or diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) published its latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and removed gender identity-related health from “Mental and behavioural disorders”. The WHO have done this to reflect the idea that trans-related and gender-diverse identities are not conditions of mental ill health, and that classifying them as such can cause distress. However, to ensure transgender people’s continued access to gender-affirming health care it has not been removed from the ICD but instead reclassified under “Conditions related to sexual health”. A diagnosis of gender dysphoria is still required for medical transition and therefore the same should still apply for legal transition.
Remember, trans people already have the right to self-identify as transgender, to express their gender identity however they wish and to be free from discrimination. This right is set out in the Equality Act 2010 where ‘gender reassignment’ is one of the protected characteristics. Trans people are further protected by hate crime legislation. The GRA2004 set out an additional and optional right, which not all trans people consider to be necessary in order to live comfortably and safely in their preferred identity. This is the right to change your legal sex status to the opposite of that which appears on your original birth certificate. It is the right for a male to become female in the eyes of the law (and vice versa) and it determines who can access which sex-based rights. The resultant impact on other communities which have protected status in the Equality Act means that access to these rights should and must require a higher burden of proof.