The reform of the Gender Recognition Act (2004) in Scotland caused shockwaves to many so-called feminists on social media in recent days. Furiously blanking through the echo chamber of Twitter were messages and misinformation with J.K. Rowling at the helm.

This was all in the name of “protecting” the rights of society’s most vulnerable, white middle-class women for what they interpret as feminism. You know, the type of liberal feminism that exists only to benefit already privileged white women, while those who live in marginalised communities are discarded to the wayside.

J.K Rowling and many who present transphobic rhetoric like hers are trying to imply that this reform is somehow a threat to women. Specifically, this is a threat to society’s “most vulnerable” women in Scotland; those who have been incarcerated or experienced domestic violence and abuse will be subject to danger, as a direct product of the reformation of the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland, according to her and the choir. Apparently, her non-existent “statistics” and the political expertise of faceless transphobic accounts across the timeline are unequivocal evidence that this is, in fact, true.

This reformation isn’t about J.K Rowling. It isn’t about the hundreds of faceless accounts that continue to holler about the passing of this bill and spew relentless abuse. Instead, this is about trans people and how this bill is a positive step in the right direction for them to be able to live as their true authentic selves without having to endure an outdated, intrusive, and traumatic system that is the current procedure in place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Gender Recognition Act determines how the gender identity of trans individuals is legally recognised. The current system in place in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and previously Scotland is lengthy, invasive, and traumatic. It involves numerous medical assessments, examinations, and psychiatric interviews with multiple practitioners to prove their gender.

It is also mandatory that trans people receive a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria. An additional requirement under the current GRA process in England, Wales, and NI are that trans people must live in their “acquired gender” for more than two years to satisfy the evidence required by a gender recognition panel. These panels are an accumulation of legal and medical professionals that are not even acquainted with the potential applicant. They can approve and deny applications after assessing the evidence provided by the applicant. Applicants must have the consent of their spouse to authorise a GRA application. As a whole, this lengthy and time-consuming process can take nearly half a decade.

Multiple campaigners within the UK have voiced the long-winded procedure that puts an immense amount of pressure on the NHS. This outdated and difficult process, the Gender Recognition Act (2004) system, has resulted in nationwide admin difficulties that seep into trans people’s everyday lives. This includes everyday admin that we as cis people take for granted as simple, including paying taxes, getting pensions, being buried and getting married. Common occurrences within people’s lives are much more difficult for trans people due to this outdated system.

Due to this difficult and time-consuming process, less than 1 in 10 trans people in the UK have gained legal recognition of their gender, according to Stonewall. Prohibiting them from changing their sex on legal documentation and their birth certificates. The arduous and flawed system that is the Gender Recognition Act (2004) is made clear as day when we recognise less than 5,000 people had been able to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate by 2018. 

Comparatively, to the international best practice concerning gender recognition, the process of gaining a Gender Recognition Certificate of 2004 is amongst the most restrictive countries in Europe in terms of gender recognition processes and speaks volumes to how outdated and problematic this system truly is. To give context, countries like Norway, Portugal and Ireland have already passed laws during the last few years that facilitate trans peoples acquiring legal recognition of their gender through self-determination.

Its abundantly clear that the Scottish reform of this outdated act is long overdue and is a step in the right direction. It’s in keeping with best international practices concerning trans rights. For trans people in Scotland, it means they will no longer have to endure the lengthy 5-year process that is seeking a Gender Recognition Certificate. No longer will they have to take a procedure that conflict with their human rights to privacy (as outlined in article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights). 

The claims that this would infringe on cis women’s rights or put them in danger are unfounded, ignorant and selfish.

How would this impede or invade women’s spaces? I am not aware of a women’s organisation or network where you must present a birth certificate to acquire membership. Are you? Probably not.

Memberships and services to various women’s organisations are based on self-identification, not legal documentation and medical examinations. A claim made by Rowling was that multiple women’s organisations had approached the Scottish government with evidence that this reform would harm cis women.

What I found was entirely the opposite. Multiple organisations, including, Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, and Zero Tolerance, made a joint statement to declare the opposite of statements made by Rowling. These organisations have voiced that this bill would be a positive step in the right direction for trans people in Scotland and would not inflict on the rights and spaces of cis women. Hopefully, the Senedd and Westminster will follow suit in updating the outdated GRA that’s currently in place in their jurisdiction, so we can foster systems and societies that are more trans-inclusive.

To those who continue to rage against this positive reform of this act in Scotland: Trans women’s rights are still included within the scope of what all-encompassing women’s rights is. Trans women are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised women within our society. It is rights for ALL women. We must protect ALL women. Remember there is a T in feminisT.

Photo by Samantha Hurley

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