Children could legally change gender from the age of 12
●Proposals include self-declaration and new gender-neutral passports
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.”