Sisters Scotland

Scottish Women for Trans Equality in Scotland

Women standing up for the equality of ALL women & non-binary people in Scotland


Sisters Scotland ally guidance for responding to the Scottish GRA Reform draft Bill consultation:

After submitting your response, please share this guide with friends, family, colleagues and organisations, encouraging them to respond.

Remember the closing date is 17th March 2020. 

  1. Introduction

The purpose of this guide is to support trans allies who want to respond  to the Scottish Government consultation on a Draft Bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004.  This guide reflects Sisters Scotland’s ([1]) intersectional approach to understanding the structures of privilege and oppression within Scottish society. 

Trans and non-binary people are being targeted in mainstream and social media with inaccurate information and campaigns to deny their human rights.  In solidarity with our trans and non-binary siblings, we urge trans allies to respond to this consultation.  Guidance for trans people wishing to respond can be found here and here.

The Draft Bill is here and consultation responses can be submitted here.  

You do not need to live in Scotland to respond.  

Please encourage others to respond as well.

The closing date for submissions is 17th March 2020.

  • Why is the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 being reformed?

Introduced 15 years ago, the GRA allows some trans people to change the sex on their birth certificates and gain formal legal recognition of their sex. A trans person must gain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) before they can change their birth certificate.  The Government wants to improve the process, bringing it in line with internationally–recognised good practice.

The current process is lengthy, bureaucratic and invasive. As a result, only about 1 in 10 trans people in Scotland hold a GRC.  Although not required to change the sex marker on many other records and documents (e.g. driving license, passport, medical records, etc.) a GRC is essential for changing legal sex.  A GRC also makes other processes less burdensome and removes the risk of being outed each time a trans person needs to show their birth certificate.

  • Will reforming the GRA impact on single sex spaces and services?

No. The use of single sex spaces and services is governed by the Equality Act 2010 and there are no plans to amend this.  Trans men and trans women are already able to access single-sex spaces and services in line with how they are living. ([2]Reform will only change the process for getting a GRC and changing a birth certificate. Neither document is required for using of single sex spaces or services.

  • What does the Draft Bill propose?
  • A system of Statutory Declaration.  The bill proposes replacing the current system, (which requires medical evidence, including a psychiatric diagnosis, and Gender Recognition Panels deciding whether or not to grant a GRC), with a simpler system based on statutory declaration. This means a trans person in future would make a formal, legal declaration confirming they are living in their true gender, and intend to do so for the rest of their life. 
  • Time period before and after applying.  Currently, a trans person must have lived in their true gender for two years before they can apply for a GRC.  The Draft Bill proposes that applicants state in their statutory declaration that they’ve lived in their true gender for three months. After applying, they also must wait a further three months before a GRC can be granted.
  • Lower applicant age.  The Bill proposes a reduction in the age at which an individual can apply for a GRC from 18 to 16, allowing younger people to benefit from the reforms.  (It will have no impact on access to medical treatment for young trans people.)
  • Do provisions of the Bill apply to non-binary people?

The Bill does not include any provisions for offering legal recognition to non-binary people. There is an opportunity within the consultation form to recommend inclusion.

  • What are the five questions in the consultation?

Question 1:  Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must live in their acquired gender for at least months before applying for a GRC?

Reducing the two year time period in which a trans person must show they’ve lived in their true gender is welcome.  However, Sisters Scotland recommends that trans allies respond to the question by asking that the arbitrary three month period be removed.  They can cite that there is no evidence that the period is beneficial or necessary.

Question 2:  Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must go through a period of reflection for at least 3 months before obtaining a GRC?

Sisters Scotland suggests that respondents ask that the three month waiting period after application be removed.  Allies can say that there is no evidence that the three month wait after applying is necessary or helpful.  They may wish to add that they are aware trans people already give considerable thought to their decision to transition before applying.

Question 3:  Should the minimum age at which a person can apply for legal gender recognition be reduced from 18 to 16?

Sisters Scotland recommends responding to say the reduction in age is welcome.  It would bring the process into line with other rights that young people gain from the age of 16 in Scotland (e.g. to work, vote, marry, be held legally accountable for their actions, etc.)

Also, Sisters Scotland recommends calling for a route for young trans people under 16 to update their birth certificates (supported by parents/guardians) to bring these in line with other records and documents they can change (e.g. school, health, passports.)  Since young people use birth certificates for identity more than adults, being able to change these to their lived sex would help ensure their privacy.

Question 4:  Do you have any other comments on provisions of the draft Bill?

General Response

Sisters Scotland suggests that allies say they welcome the Draft Bill with a brief comment about the benefits of trans people no longer needing to collect and present highly personal evidence and medical reports to be recognised as who they are. 

Inclusion of Non-binary people

The Draft Bill does not include provision for legal recognition of Non-binary people, who do not identify as exclusively male or female.  This will leave them with inconsistencies in their records and documents and a lack of recognition in daily life.

Sisters Scotland suggests responses say that legal recognition of non-binary people should be included so they can be recognised in the law, have equal rights and be regarded with respect.  If responding as a non-binary person, it may be helpful to describe the impact of legal recognition would have on you.

Question 5:  Do you have any comments on the Draft Impact Assessments?

The Scottish Government completed assessments to find out if proposed changes to the GRA would impact on other people. Draft reports of all impact assessments can be found as annexes to the consultation document here.  

The Equality Impact Assessment concluded that proposed changes to GRA would have no significant impact on those with “protected characteristics” under the Equality Act 2010. This includes women and girls under the protected characteristic “sex.”

Sisters Scotland recommends allies reply that they support conclusions of the Impact Assessments, including the Equality Impact Assessment. They can add that they understand reforms would not change the current right of trans people to use single-sex facilities related to their lived sex (e.g. toilets, changing rooms, support services.)

Allies can also state that the main Scottish feminist charities already implement policies that are inclusive of trans women and that they agree with the joint declaration of support for GRA reform issued by several Scottish women’s charities. Finally, they can share any other reasons they support GRA reform, highlighting that they do not believe there is a conflict between the rights of trans people and of women and girls.


[1]    Sisters Scotland is an informal Feminist network of cis women and non-binary people, trans women and pro Feminist allies, committed to equality for ALL women and non-binary people in Scotland.

[2]    The Equality Act 2010 only allows for exclusion of trans people from single-sex services that align with how they are living, in very limited circumstances where this is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim,” and on a case by case basis. The law does not allow for blanket bans of trans people.