Self-declaration from age 16 could be a reality in Scotland for transgender and non-binary people soon.

The Scottish Government have launched a gender recognition consultation today, hoping to bring gender laws here in Scotland up to the best international standard.

The Cabinet Secretary for Equalities, Angela Constance, has launched the consultation on 3 core proposals:

  • Replacing the requirement to provide 2 years medical and life evidence to a panel of strangers, with a simple self declaration system
  • Reducing the age at which recognition can be obtained to 16
  • Options for the legal recognition of non-binary people

Campaigners and activists have welcomed the move, including Scottish Trans Alliance Manager, James Morton.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act. The current process to change the gender on a trans person’s birth certificate is a humiliating, offensive and expensive rep-tape nightmare which requires them to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel years after they transitioned. It makes sense for birth certificates to be brought into line with the self-declaration process already used to change all other identity documents when trans people start living in their gender identity.”

Justine Smithies, trans activist

Justine Smithies, who lives in North East Scotland, started her transition in 2007 and welcomes the announcement today.

“I definitely think its a good idea and long overdue. The requirements to keep evidence for a 2 year period for a panel who you’ll never meet, who will decide on issuing a certificate that costs you £140 for the privilege to live as the gender you know you are, is completely ridiculous. Add to that, the appointments with psychologists and psychiatrists, who usually aren’t exactly nearby to your GP practice, just makes the process so intrusive.”

“I certainly knew who I was at age 16 so I think its the right thing to do in changing the age and making it self-declaration.”

The consultation paper outlines a number of options to positively acknowledge the identifies of non-binary people, who do not identify solely as men or women, including making simple changes to forms right through to legislative recognition.


The move makes Scotland the first part of the UK to begin reforming gender recognition law.  The SNP’s Westminster Equalities spokesperson, Angela Crawley MP, welcomed the consultation, saying:

“These landmark reforms to improve gender recognition laws, in line with international best practice, are a leap forward that will place Scotland among world leaders on trans and non-binary equality. I hope these reforms will also add to the momentum for progress on trans and non-binary equality across the UK and the world.”

Countries including Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, Malta and Norway all have self-declaration systems already in use and countries such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan already recognise non-binary people in documentation such as birth certificates or passports. The proposed changes in Scotland will bring us in line with many of these world leaders.

You can find out more about the Gender Recognition consultation here:

Pink Saltire, in association with Scottish Trans Alliance, produced a short film outlining the demands of trans and non-binary people in 2016, by filmmaker Kate Adair. You can view the short film on our YouTube channel here:

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