Chil­dren could legally change gen­der from the age of 12

●Pro­pos­als in­clude self-dec­la­ra­tion and new gen­der-neu­tral pass­ports

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By TOM PETERKIN

Pro­pos­als to en­able chil­dren to change gen­der without parental per­mis­sion are be­ing ex­plored by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment as part of plans to make it eas­ier for in­di­vid­u­als to make the trans­for­ma­tion.

Min­is­ters have an­nounced plans to lower the age at which peo­ple can change gen­der from 18 to 16 as well as con­sid­er­ing op­tions that would al­low pre-pubescent chil­dren aged just 12 to take the step.

A con­sul­ta­tion re­view­ing cur­rent gen­der recog­ni­tion leg­is­la­tion was launched yes­ter­day, which also in­cluded a pro­posal to legally recog­nise peo­ple who do not re­gard them­selves as ei­ther male or fe­male.

“Non-bi­nary” peo­ple would be of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edged un­der the plans, which were an­nounced by equal­i­ties sec­re­tary An­gela Con­stance.

Around 10,000 peo­ple in Scot­land are es­ti­mated as be­ing “trans­gen­der”, which means their gen­der iden­tity is not the same as their as­signed sex. Last year a record 213 peo­ple were re­ferred to Scot­land’s only gen­der iden­tity clinic.

Min­is­ters be­lieve Scot­land should adopt a “self-dec­la­ra­tion sys­tem” for le­gal gen­der recog­ni­tion, a process that would re­move the cur­rent need for a med­i­cal di­ag­no­sis to change from male to fe­male or vice-versa.

The con­sul­ta­tion out­lin­ing the plans to make it “sim­pler and less in­tru­sive” for peo­ple to change gen­der was wel­comed by equal­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions and LGBTI rights cam­paign­ers. Stonewall Scot­land di­rec­tor Colin Mac­far­lane said the re­view was a “des­per­ately needed” step which would help fight trans­pho­bic hate.

But the sug­ges­tion that it could be made eas­ier for pre-pubescent chil­dren to change gen­der trig­gered a fu­ri­ous back­lash from re­li­gious groups and cam­paign­ers for tra­di­tional mar­riage.

Dr Stu­art Waiton, a so­ci­ol­o­gist at Aber­tay Univer­sity, Dundee, con­demned the pro­posal as “state-spon­sored child abuse”.

Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, the Gen­der Recog­ni­tion Act 2004 makes it pos­si­ble for an in­di­vid­ual to ap­ply to a Gen­der Recog­ni­tion Panel and ob­tain a full Gen­der Recog­ni­tion

Cer­tifi­cate. But to do this ap­pli­cants have to pro­duce two med­i­cal re­ports demon­strat­ing a di­ag­no­sis of gen­der dys­pho­ria – a con­di­tion that sees an in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ence dis­com­fort be­cause of a mis­match be­tween their sex at birth and their gen­der iden­tity.

Ap­pli­cants also have to show that they have lived in their ac­quired gen­der for two years. Adopt­ing a self-dec­la­ra­tion sys­tem would re­move those bar­ri­ers to chang­ing gen­der.

The con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment pub­lished by Ms Con­stance said the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment favoured low­er­ing the age at which peo­ple can change gen­der from 18 to 16.

When con­sid­er­ing un­der­16s, the doc­u­ment looked at five op­tions. One op­tion was to stick to a 16-year-old age limit. An­other was low­er­ing to just 12 – an op­tion that was “not favoured” by min­is­ters. How­ever, the other three op­tions ex­am­ined ways of al­low­ing un­der-16s to make the change.

The doc­u­ment said chil­dren aged 12 and over could raise a court ac­tion if they wanted to change gen­der. An­other op­tion would be for their par­ents to make an ap­pli­ca­tion on the child’s be­half.

The fi­nal op­tion said some­one aged 12 or more is “pre­sumed to be old and ma­ture enough” to in­struct a so­lic­i­tor when the per­son has a “gen­eral un­der­stand­ing” of the con­se­quences. A doc­tor or so­lic­i­tor would test the child’s ca­pac­ity to take the de­ci­sion.

Women’s or­gan­i­sa­tions Close the Gap, En­gen­der, Equate Scot­land, Rape Cri­sis Scot­land, Scot­tish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tol­er­ance have jointly is­sued a state­ment of sup­port for re­form of the Gen­der Recog­ni­tion Act.

James Mor­ton, Scot­tish Trans Al­liance Man­ager, said: “The cur­rent process to change the gen­der on a trans per­son’s birth cer­tifi­cate is a hu­mil­i­at­ing, of­fen­sive and ex­pen­sive red-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 “Be­ing able to change the gen­der on their birth cer­tifi­cate to match their other iden­tity doc­u­ments en­sures that their pen­sions, in­sur­ance poli­cies, civil part­ner­ships and mar­riages are all ad­min­is­tered cor­rectly.”

How­ever Dr Waiton said: “In a lib­eral so­ci­ety, it is up to in­di­vid­u­als to make de­ci­sions about their lives for them­selves but this does not mean that we should be cheer­ing on this cul­ture of nar­cis­sism.

“Eigh­teen-year-olds can do what they like with their bodies. But for a gov­ern­ment to sug­gest that 12-year-olds, im­ma­ture young peo­ple, who don’t have the ‘right’ to go to bed when they want, let alone any­thing else, can have gen­der re­as­sign­ment should be seen as a form of state-spon­sored child abuse.”

Si­mon Calvert of the Chris­tian In­sti­tute, added: “Politi­cians must stop and ask them­selves if jump­ing on this band­wagon is re­ally help­ing chil­dren. The more trans pol­i­tics grips our cul­ture, the more young peo­ple are be­ing rushed into dam­ag­ing hor­mone ther­apy and mu­ti­lat­ing surgery by peo­ple mo­ti­vated more by po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing than the best in­ter­ests of chil­dren.”

Thomas Pas­coe, cam­paign di­rec­tor of the Coali­tion for Mar­riage, said: “At 12 a child is too young to un­der­stand the long-term ef­fects of such a big de­ci­sion.”

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