After the media frenzy of Caitlyn Jenner’s fabulous arrival, the world is now going transgender crazy (in a good way!). Finally the world is talking about such an important issue. One that many either have no knowledge about or simply do not want to know. It is something that is finally getting the air time it deserves. As the old adage says ‘all publicity is good publicity‘. However there are still many barriers to overcome with the issue of the Trans* community and their representation in our beloved acronym, LGBT. One of the main issues is allowing transgender people to self-define their legal gender.

Transgender people in the UK are forced to pay to prove their identity to a Gender Recognition Panel. This process is humiliating, outdated and unnecessary. However a team of transgender activists are urging the government to introduce an act equivalent to the Irish Gender Recognition Act, and allowing Trans* people to self-define their gender.

The Gender Recognition Act gives transsexual people legal recognition as members of the sex appropriate to their gender (male or female) allowing them to acquire a new birth certificate, affording them full recognition of their acquired sex in law for all purposes, including marriage. The two main exceptions are a right of conscience for Church of England clergy (who are normally obliged to marry any two eligible people by law), and that the descent of peerages will remain unchanged. Additionally, sports organisations are allowed to exclude transsexual people if it is necessary for ‘fair competition or the safety of the competitors’.

People present evidence to a Gender Recognition Panel, which considers their case and issues a Gender Recognition Certificate. If the person involved is in a legally recognised marriage they will be issued an ‘Interim Gender Recognition Certificate’, which can then be used as grounds for annulment of the marriage, but otherwise has no status. After annulment, a full Certificate will be issued.

The Act requires applicants to have transitioned two years before a certificate is issued. It makes no requirement for sex reassignment surgery to have taken place, although such surgery will be accepted as part of the supporting evidence for a case where it has taken place. There was a six-month period from 4 April 2005 until 3 October 2005, where only people who transitioned six or more years previous could apply. Additionally, for two years following implementation of the Act, those who transitioned six years or more previous to application for a gender recognition certificate were required to supply a lesser level of evidence, as such people were likely to have problems in obtaining some of the documentary evidence that would be required of those who had transitioned later. There is also a mechanism whereby those who have obtained legal recognition in recognised overseas jurisdictions may obtain recognition under the Gender Recognition Act with much reduced evidence requirements; such applicants are not required to have transitioned two years before nor to be resident overseas. Successful applicants are entered onto a Gender Recognition Register, held by the registrar general, similar in operation to the Adoptions Register for those who have been adopted.

A Birth Certificate drawn from the Gender Recognition Register is indistinguishable from any other birth certificate, and will indicate the new legal sex and name. It can be used wherever a birth certificate is used, such as for issue of a passport. The birth certificate showing the previous legal gender continues to exist, and will carry no indication that there is an associated Gender Recognition Certificate or alternative birth certificate. Certain authorised agencies, with court permission, may have access to the Gender Recognition Register showing the links between these certificates, but the link will be invisible to the general public. This is the same way that birth certificates drawn from the Adoption Register work.

If you want to have your change of gender legally recognised you need to adhere to the following rules and regulations:

You have to be over 18 years old and have lived in your chosen gender for more than 2 years. If you have changed gender in certain countries outside the UK and you want to have your new gender recognised in the UK, you can apply to the Gender Recognition Panel for a gender recognition certificate.

The Gender Recognition Panel, part of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, assesses applications from transsexual people to provide legal recognition of gender change.

To make an application you must be able to show:
– You have, or have had, gender dysphoria
– You have lived fully for the last two years in your acquired gender
– You intend to live permanently in your acquired gender

Having your gender recognised by the Gender Recognition Panel requires Trans* people to go to pointless expense – whether requiring them to pay administration fees (and having to go through the lengthy and underfunded NHS gender transition system) or paying to attend a private clinic to receive the required evidence as well as paying to be seen by the panel. Furthermore no provisions are made for non-binary gender identities.

The petition currently has over 12,000 signatures. When the petition has over 10,000 signatures the Government responds. When the petition reaches over 100,000 signatures the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Full details of the Gender Recognition Panel guidance can be found here: http://www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/gender-recognition-panel

The full legislation for the Gender Recognition Act can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/7/contents

Sign the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104639